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BERNARDO LIMIKID

Mansaka ethnic group is found in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley particularly in the cities of Davao and Tagum and other municipalities of the said provinces in Pantukan , Maco Mabini, Mawab, Nabunturan and Maragusan.

The Mansaka are the most dominant ethnic group in Compostella Valley Province. They are said to have lived in the area since the time when Magbabaya (Creator) created them.

A Farming People

They are particular in the management of their economic activities specially in farming: when and where they will establish  their farms. It is important that they do not go into anyone else’s territory. If ever this happens, a tribal war ensues. This is the common cause of inter-tribal war – a member going into the territory of another indigenous group, which causes the death of many members. It is the tribal leader who has the full authority to resolve any problem and ease relationships anew.

The community assigns members to manage the farm. Men are tasked with tilling the land and other farm-related jobs. They do not farm on the same area though to maintain the fertility of the land and to prevent future soil erosion.Women, on the other hand, are tasked to produce clothings and weave mats. They also help in the farm during planting, weeding and harvesting times.

Rituals, as performed by the baylan (ritual practitioner), are done during planting and harvesting season. This activity is done to ask Magbabaya to give them bountiful harvests, and to drive away bad spirits or pests that will damage their plants/farms.

The time of harvest is an occassion for merrymaking. The first meal from their farm produce, is calledpyagsawitan. A ceremony is performed to offer their harvest to Magbabaya. Families and neighbors join and witness the event. They bring food and wine as their contribution. Tribal dances are performed, coupled with singing and the playing of indigenous instruments. Each guest leaves with something from the farm produce.

Besides farming, they also go hunting. Wild pigs, deer, birds and other animals caught are divided/shared among the community members. Fish are also taken from the streams and rivers under commonly observed rules. Fishing is limited only to one’s territory and the tribal leader determines and clarifies such territories.

Tribal customs/practices

The Mansaka’s economic and political life is largely determined by the tribal elders or matikadong who are also baganis or tribal warriors.

As it is with other indigenous groups, any conflict that arises is resolved among the members of the community. The most frequent of conflicts revolves around land and river. Another is when a woman who is about to be married elopes or is taken away by another man. This usually results to a tribal war especially when this is not resolved immediately by the tribal leaders. The man who has taken away the woman is ordered to pay all the expenses incurred for the wedding among other penalties.

The task of a bagani is to protect the rights and lives of the community or clan members. He is called a tribal warrior because of his capacity to fight and protect the community. A Bagani has killed at least 12 people prior to assuming the position. A ceremony is performed by the baylan to proclaim the tribal warriors. During the ritual, a person is tied to a post and is killed by the yet-to-be-proclaimed Bagani with a bangkaw or a spear. Afterwards, a red cloth is tied around his head as a sign of his becoming a Bagani. From that moment onwards, he is to ensure that no one among his community would fall under abuse or be denied of their rights.

The baylan also performs a ritual or ceremony to heal a sick member of the community. If a member becomes sick or is purportedly being punished by the spirit of the river, the ceremony will also be done at the river.

When it comes to courtship, the parents of the girl and the boy makes the arrangements. The boy is expected to help in the farm of the girl’s parents. He also pays, in amount or in kind, the wedding dowry. An elder and a tribal leader officiate the wedding ceremony and sit with them at the table. Part of the ceremony includes an exchange of food (balls of rice and viand) between groom and bride.

About the Author:
Bernardo Limikid speaks Tagalog, Bisaya and Mansaka. He heads the Lumad Mindanao People’s Federation and sits as Cluster Head of the ExeCom of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.