Surat Mangyan and Ambahan Teaching

A Hanunuo Mangyan pupil inscribes an ambahan in Surat Mangyan on bamboo slat
Inscribing ambahan in Surat Mangyan on bamboo slat


The Mangyan Syllabic Script is a pre-Spanish syllabic writing system of the Hanunuo-Mangyans of Southern Mindoro. According to Antoon Postma (2002), it continues to exist until today because of their “relative mountain isolation, engraving it on bamboo joints or slats with small pocket-knife.”   The Mangyans used to inscribe on bamboo tubes their poems called ambahan using their syllabic script called Surat Mangyan.   However, as more and more young Mangyans are exposed to modern education, it is feared the writing system and poetry would become extinct. 

In response to the request of the leaders and elders of the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe for the Surat Mangyan to be taught in Hanunuo Mangyan schools  to keep it alive, the MHC  sought the endorsement of the Department of Education Indigenous Peoples Education Office (DepEd IPsEO) for DepEd schools to accommodate the teaching of the script during regular class hours.  Through the financial support from the Ala-Ala Foundation and the United States Embassy, Manila, the teaching of the script in 5 schools started in the second half of school-year 2012-2013.  The project has been implemented in partnership with the Mangyan Mission and the Hanunuo Mangyan Peoples Organization – Pinagkausahan sa Hanunuo Daga Ginurang (PHADAG).  

In the school-year 2013-2014, the project covered additional 5 schools through the grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its  School of Living Traditions (SLT) program.  

This school-year 2014-2015, through the grant from the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, the Surat Mangyan and Ambahan are being taught in 11 Hanunuo Mangyan Schools not covered by the previous project.