a Hanunoo elder displaying one of his prized possession: the bolo
The Hanunoos are one of the 7 Mangyan tribes in the island of Mindoro. Of the Mangyan tribes, only they have their own script. The Hanunoos are concentrated in the town of Mansalay in Oriental Mindoro where they settled in 53 sitios (small villages).
Here are some of the interesting personalities I've met one weekend in Sitio Hawili in Brgy Panaytayan while doing outreach work with some volunteers from Black Pencil Project:
under a drizzle
An elder prepares his nga-nga under a drizzle. Nga-nga is a mixture of betel nut, lime, and other spicy stuff, wrapped in mint leaf and then chewed. Older men of the tribe still wear their traditional bahag (loin-cloth) and usually carries a small sling bag which I'm guessing would contain ingredients for their nga-nga, among other things. I tried to take a portrait of him but he dismissed me with a wave of his hand.
a toothless smile
Aside from his toothless grin (thanks partly to nga-nga) he is equally proud of one of his prized possession: his bolo. Every adult (men and women) have in their possession some form of short or long blade - an indispensable tool in the forest.
His name is Lawaan Bado, an elder of Sitio Gaang. He was a bit reserved the first time I met him, but soon warmed up to me as I try to strike a conversation every chance I get. One of the elders, Berek, translated for me and I tried to use whatever words I gleaned from conversations with others in the past 1.5 days. At first he did not like to have his picture taken but in the end agreed to pose for us, after he saw how good he looked in my camera's LCD.
I asked him how old he was and he said he does not know anymore, but he knows he was just about 3 years old during the Japanese occupation. That would make him about 73 years old.
He asked me if I had some drink with me, I presumed it was liquor. Told him I did not but we brought some locally made cigars. Turned out he does not smoke and prefers his "nga-nga" over tobacco.
One of the volunteers said, "He good-humoredly refused toothbrush when we first offered. Resigned to the hopeless case for a pearly white teeth".
Berek is one of the leaders of Sitio Boro boro. His son and son-in-law are para-teachers in his sitio. Helped me on several occasions with my conversation with some of the elders by translating.
intent on knowing our intentions
Berek intently listens to our group's presentation. He is one of the vocal elders, asking questions about our group and our intentions. At one point he stood up and asked us point blank: "What do you want in return?". With all the boxes of school supplies and equipment and food we brought, I understand why they are wary of our motives. They must have come across a cunning tribe of lowlanders called "politicians" before. We told them we want nothing in return except to put what we will be giving to good use.
Mario is one of the locals in Sitio Hawili. He would agree for portraits but won't look directly into the camera. I always see him with his grandchildren.