The Culture of the Mandaya in the Philippines

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The Culture Of The Mandaya in The Philippines

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In the Philippines, the Mandaya indigenous group is known for their gaudy and vibrant culture that has been preserved from successive generations and had withstood the colonizations that the country surpassed. The Mandaya people live in Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippine archipelago specifically along the mountain ranges of Davao Oriental. The term “Mandaya” comes from the word “man” when translated to English means “first” and “daya” means “upstream;”when combined together, it means “the first upstream people.” Mandaya also refers to the indigenous group’s language, traditions, customs and beliefs.

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One of the interesting aspect that makes the culture of the Mandaya distinct from other indigenous groups in the country is their culture of dreaming. The practice of weaving and the knowledge system on traditional medicine or healing in the Mandaya culture has been greatly influenced by dreaming. The Mandaya are famous for their traditional textile called “dagmay” which they consider sacred. The designs of the dagmay are interconnected; cutting them will destroy the essence and sacredness of the fabric. According to the elders, the dagmay was bestowed to the Mandaya through a dream by Tagamaling, a spirit linked to life and creation. It was believed that a Mandaya maiden dreamt of Tagamaling who taught her weaving techniques to create the dagmay. From then on, the Mandaya believed that weaving is sacred and a real Mandaya weaver will have to say a prayer before starting her weave. The Mandaya weavers only weave in tranquil areas in their houses.

Dagmay is a handwoven textile made from abaca. The abaca is the extracted fiber from the leaves of banana which is endemic in the Philippines. Dagmay uses a mud-dyeing technique wherein they submerge their tannin-dyed yarns into iron-rich mud for several days. First, they will pound the bark of a tree, then they will boil it together with the abaca yarn. They will then add the mud with a bluish color and let the yarns boil until their desired tone is achieved. With the intricate patterns and details of the dagmay, the traditional clothes of the Mandaya have been known to be one of the most beautiful in the whole Philippine archipelago. The design of the Mandaya traditional clothes include curvilinear patterns, diamonds, crosses, trellises and the crocodile pattern which has been their defining motif.

Another tradition that has been influenced by dreaming in the Mandaya culture is their knowledge system on traditional medicine or healing. In the Mandaya community, a spiritual leader called “balyan” has the ability to heal sick people through the use of traditional knowledge inspired from a dream, prayer called “panawagtawag” and organic medicines. The highest ranking spiritual leader called “kalalaysan” has the possibility of healing a dying patient. Within the Mandaya community, the ability to heal is not only limited to spiritual leaders, it can be done by anyone. Anyone can dream of a cure and he or she will become the healer of the sick people in the community.

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