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Mangyan Treasures and Antoon Postma

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
The Netherlands
January 13, 2009

At this hour of the dark night
we are still together now
on the woven sleeping-mat.
But when the sun will get up
and the stars will be detached,
our bond might break up too.
When we'll ever meet again,
it is not with mortal eyes,
But the eye-sight of the soul.

-translated from a Hanunuo Mangyan poem by Antoon Postma-

Antoon Postma
"Isn't it something that a person of non-Filipino ancestry should open our eyes to the value of our own heritage?"

The lady who spoke these words to me was a teacher at the Far Eastern University of the Philippines, and the person of non-Filipino ancestry was Antoon Postma.

A gentleman of Dutch origin, Antoon Postma has spent about fifty years in the Philippines. In 1958, he arrived in Mindoro, discovered the Mangyan Script, and since then has dedicated himself to sharing this knowledge with Filipinos.

Spanish documentation renders proof of the Mangyan Script being the oldest script in the Philippines. This script has been preserved in the mountains and forests where the Mangyan has not yet been reached by westernization.

Blumentritt and Gardner first discovered this Mangyan script on bamboo at the end of the 19th century. It is from this period that samples of writings from the Mangyan and Tagbanwas was discovered.

The preservation of the Mangyan script is attributed to the "ambahan" which is a poetic form indigenous to the Mangyan tribe. These ambahan have been discovered carved into the barks of trees, and inscribed onto bamboo pieces which were commonly used by the Mangyan tribe as a sort of paper.

"Mangyan Treasures" is a collection of Ambahan translated from Mangyan into English. It is the result of many years of hard work and research.

Today, Antoon Postma tours various universities, schools and colleges, giving lectures on Filipino heritage, the Mangyan script and the Ambahan.

These Ambahan provide us with proof of a vibrant culture that existed since before the arrival of western influences.

In his introduction to "Mangyan Treasures", Antoon Postma lists the following elements as being essential to the Ambahan:

1) a set of poetic expressions

2) with a measured rhyme of seven-syllable lines;

3) having rhyming end-syllables;

4) vocalized as a chant without a determined melody or too much melodic variation;

5) without the accompaniment of musical instruments;

6) recited for the purpose of verbalizing in a metaphorical way certain human situations or characteristics;

7) with the possible challenge of a matching answer in dialogue-fashion (and)

8) in the presence of an interested audience of various size

Antoon Postma with Rochita and Emily

Any student of Philippine history and any who desire to delve deeper into the wealth of our culture and heritage would find themselves enriched by a study of "Mangyan Treasures" and the Ambahan.

Looking through the contents of "Mangyan Treasures", the reader discovers that there are ambahan written for almost every event in life.

Leafing through the pages of this book, one discovers Ambahan starting from Birth and Infancy, going through Childhood, Adolescence, Courtship, Marriage, Old Age and Death.

There are ambahan written about home, problems, sickness, food and work, travelling, and hospitality and friendship.

While some of these ambahan are mirrored in songs/verses in other parts of the world (some of the ambahan in childhood and infancy are reminiscent of lullabies), there are ambahan which reveal a depth of emotion and move the reader with use of language and imagery.

Lolita Delgado Fansler, President of the Mangyan Heritage Center, speaks rightly of Antoon Postma as being a treasure. Not only has his work of translating and preserving these ambahan increased our knowledge and appreciation of our culture and heritage, but it is due to his efforts that these ambahan will be passed on to the generations that are sure to follow.

Si aypod bay upadan
No kang tinaginduman
May ulang madi kagnan
May takip madi kaywan
No kang tinaginduman
Ga siyon di sa adngan
Ga pagtangdayon diman

You, my friends, dearest of all,
Thinking of you makes me sad.
Rivers deep are in between,
forest vast keep us apart
but thinking of you with love,
as if you are here nearby
standing,sitting at my side.

--from Mangyan Treasures, translated by Antoon Postma from the Mangyan Script--

------------------------------------------ -----------------

Mangyan Treasures is available from:

The Mangyan Heritage Center
B. Finnemann Center Calero, Calapan City, 5200
Oriental Mindoro, Philippines

Interested persons may also send email to: mangyanhc@catsi.net.ph

Or visit their website at: www.mangyan.org

----------------------------------- -------------------------

For reactions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to email the author at: Raindancer_68@hotmail.com

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