Ethnic Groups of the Philippines


The largest of the eight Mangyan tribes is the Hanunoo Mangyans, who are dubbed the “artisans of the Mangyans.” They are a highly civilized and cultured Mangyan group, with a population between 15,000 to 17,000. They grow their own food mostly through slash-and-burn farming and are known for their beautiful handicrafts, such as baskets (bayong and balulang), beadwork, and mats. Another thing they are famous for is their ancient burial grounds.

The Hanunoo speak the language of the same name, also spelled as Hanunó’o. Though modernization has forced the Hanunoos to learn English and Tagalog, they still retain proficiency in their own language and script. The Hanunoos’ writing system, called Surat Mangyan, is descended from the ancient Sanskrit alphabet. Its syllabary is composed of 18 characters; 3 vowels and 15 consonant-vowel combinations. These are usually found scribbled on bamboo trunks using a bolo-shaped knife.

The artistic Hanunoos dwell in Bulalacao, Mansalay, and some parts of Bongabong, all in Oriental Mindoro, and in San Jose in Occidental Mindoro.

Mangyan Artisans

Hanunoos put a lot of care in their art forms, as displayed by how they represent their ethnic origins through their weaving. Their weaving technique called habilan allows them to produce intricately designed and expertly executed woven cotton goods. In fact, through social enterprises, they have established partnerships with both local and international commercial entities that make their cotton handicrafts available to be purchased.

Aside from habilan, the Hanunoo are also known for their hand embroidery of authentic clothing called ba-ag (loincloth) and balukas (shirt) for men, as well as ramit (an indigo-dyed short skirt) and lambung (blouse) for women. The visual motif most associated with Hanunoo embroidery is called the pakudos, characterized by symmetrical, cross-shaped designs and signifying protection from harm. This design can also be found on their bags made with split nito or red-dyed buri.

Hanunoo men and women have distinct handicraft skills. The men create weapons, such as blades for knives, axes, bolo, spears, and carve the handles and scabbards for the blades. Women, on the other hand, spin, dye, and weave cotton cloth and basketry, such as purses and betel-nut carriers, that are round or polygonal.

Hanunoo music is reserved for celebrating festive occasions. They range from lullabies, recollections of wars, lamentations, stories, and harana or love poems when courting women. The instruments they play include several kinds of flutes such as the palawta, pituh, and bangsi, and a type of aerophone budyung. Their two idiophones are the buray dipay and kulatang, and they also have an agung ensemble.

Hanunoos can be distinguished whether they are true Mangyan or not by their rutay or “clothing.” The males’ long hair is tied on one spot using a panyo, and they wear ba-ag and balukas. The females, on the other hand, wear ramit and lambung. Both males and females wear hagkus, a willed rattan belt with a pocket, and females also wear hulon, a belt made of nito. More importantly, bead necklaces and bracelets are worn by both sexes. The beads are also used for magical, religious, and judiciary purposes, as well as adornments by lovers, as cure for sick people (white beads), in rituals held by the pandaniwan, and for paying fines.

Culture and Religion

Similar to other Mangyan tribes, Hanunoos are known for their solidarity, fellowship, and the harmonious connections that they share across all ages. They also embrace the traditional courtship ritual called harana, and once the Mangyan couples are finally married, the husband lives with the wife’s family as repayment for the debt he has incurred by taking away the daughter of the family.

Also similar to other Mangyan tribes, Hanunoos are animistic and believe in animals and nature spirits. They especially believe in the guardian spirit kalag, and as a result, they sacrifice food and glass beads to win its favor.



Ethnic Groups Philippines. Hanunoo people
MANGYANS – Occidental Mindoro Getaways. Mangyans
Out of Town Blog. The Mangyan Tribe of Mansalay Occidental Mindoro
Mindorenian’s Community. The Mangyans
Filip + Inna. Introducing the Artisans of Hanunoo Mangyan