Thomas Gibson (1990) has written, “rather than compete in performing acts of courage, Buid youth are most likely to spend their time learning love poems with which to court young girls” (p.131). Although love poetry is not confined to peaceful societies, it may suggest for the Buid of Mindoro Island in the Philippines that they focus on peacefulness instead of aggressiveness.
Gibson indicates that the Buid and a neighboring society in the hills of southern Mindoro, the Hanunoo, preserve an ancient script, the primary purpose of which is to write poetry. He says that victory in love-making due to effectively memorized poems represents the exact opposite for the Buid from conquering people due to bravery and aggression.
A story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Saturday provides additional information about the Mangyan peoples, the collective name for all the hill societies of Mindoro Island. It features particularly the Buid and the Hanunoo.
The journalist mentions the ancient Baybayin script used for their writing and their poetry, referred to as “ambahan.” She says the first Westerners to mention the Mangyans were Spanish friars in the 16th century. Friar Juan de Medina described them as “simple, honest, temperate people,” though he also thought of them as “savages.”
The native Buid and Hanunoo writing systems probably originated in India 2,500 years ago; the scripts are related to Sanskrit and Indonesian. Their poetry was written on bamboo trees, which may be why they escaped the attention of the friars and survived. While older Mangyan people still write poetry using the ancient script, apparently the younger people no longer do so.
The article mentions a special exhibit during January at one of the major museums in the Philippines, the Ayala Museum in Metropolitan Manila. The theme of the exhibit is “The Mangyans of Mindoro: Myth and Meaning.” It was prepared by the Mangyan Heritage Center in Calapan, a city on Mindoro. The article opens and closes quite effectively by quoting a couple of the Ambahans.