Panaytayan, Oriental Mindoro
A common cultural aspect among cultural communities nationwide is the oral tradition characterized by poetic verses which are either sung or chanted. However, what distinguishes the rich Mangyan literary tradition from others is the ambahan, a poetic literary form composed of seven-syllable lines used to convey messages through metaphors and images. The ambahan is sung and its messages range from courtship, giving advice to the young, asking for a place to stay, saying goodbye to a dear friend and so on. Such an oral tradition is commonplace among indigenous cultural groups but the ambahan has remained in existence today chiefly because it is etched on bamboo tubes using ancient Southeast Asian, pre-colonial script called surat Mangyan.
Ginaw Bilog, Hanunoo Mangyan from Mansalay, Mindoro, grew up in such a cultural environment. Already steeped in the wisdom that the ambahan is a key to the understanding of the Mangyan soul, Ginaw took it upon himself to continually keep scores of ambahan poetry recorded, not only on bamboo tubes but on old, dog-eared notebooks passed on to him by friends.
Most treasured of his collection are those inherited from his father and grandfather, sources of inspiration and guidance for his creative endeavors. To this day, Ginaw shares old and new ambahans with his fellow Mangyans and promotes this poetic form in every occasion.
Through the dedication of individuals like Ginaw, the ambahan poetry and other traditional art forms from our indigenous peoples will continue to live.
The Filipinos are grateful to the Hanunoo Mangyan for having preserved a distinctive heritage form our ancient civilization that colonial rule had nearly succeeded in destroying. The nation is justifiably proud of Ginaw Bilog for vigorously promoting the elegantly poetic art of the surat Mangyan and the ambahan. (Prof. Felipe M. de Leon, Jr.)
National Living Treasures Guidelines