By: ZYMosende (Taga Barangay Magsaysay, Poblacion Mainit)
April 10, 2002
“Hala gadjud kamo, iton na an mga kongkista, pamanaw pa kamo… aja gadjud kamo panhigabai.” Lolo Bitoy (Vedasto Villamon Libarnes Mosende, 1886-1994) to his grandchildren.
My old folks use the word “kongkista” referring to the old indigenous mainitnon “kongking” or known in Philippine anthropology as the “mamanwa”.
“Kongkistas” resemble that of the “aetas” or “negritos” of Central Luzon, one of the most known indigenous tribes in the Philippines, also known to be the first Filipinos. They are short, black in complexion, with kinky hair, and with round heads.
My Lolo Bitoy, as clearly indicated in his comments above, and together with older Mainitnons (I believe), strongly believes that kongkings could “makagaba!” “ Aside from “gaba” they are believed to cause “suuk” and “saak”.
Gaba and suuk seem to be the same. When you get the smell these natives as they pass by you… you develop nausea and/or unusual internal trouble… that eventually will give fever and tiredness (panhawoy nan mga joints). Then the “tadjhop”, “tawas” and/or “atuyob” will be prescribed to you by the old folks!
“Saak” is a specific “suuk” (according to Lola Tisay). When you get “saak”… you vomit a lot and oftentimes you get the other symptoms of the “suuk”.
So, when we were young (as if again grabe na katiguyang kuman, hehehe), when we see “kongkistas”, we go hide for our lives.
Aside from associating these people of “gaba”… we, who have lived longer in Mainit, will remember them as “roaming” people. We see them roaming around the town during special occasions, right! These “mamanwas” are mostly prominent during fiestas – in any barrio in Mainit. Although they are seen during Christmas, New Year and other festive holidays.
Especially during fiestas, the “kongkings” (I am using mamanwa, kongking and kongkista interchangeably), visit houses, like any other “mamis” (mamistahay), to join the household in celebrating the feast of the place through sharing a meal. But unlike the “dumagat” or “civilian” (hehehe, meaning dili native), they go to houses whose residents they do not even know – well, not as acquaintance. And, usually, after the first group (or first few mamanwas) receive a “good” treatment – meaning, they have eaten well (bisag nagtindog didto sa ilayom nan kasagingan suud sa abo) and that they got some “BH” (bring house) – news will spread of that house. One will surely expect endless groups of mamanwas coming in and shouting (some will just yell in a gentle way) “lumon, maayong pistah!”. One will notice that the groups have already gone to several households because you will see them carrying plastic bags (usually transparent) filled with cooked rice and viand.
As I have said, they visit houses not only during fiestas but also during holidays. Basically, they can be considered beggars… they beg for food… money… clothing… or anything under the sun.
In the earlier times (circa 1960s), aside from the not-so-nice-image about mamanwas, according to my Titas, these Mamanwas come to town and bring goods to exchange for food, clothing or money. Usually these include wild orchids, “kamangyan”, “kayape”, “uway”, “lagos” and etcetera. My folks usually look forward to the coming of the mamanwas. Kayape is the fruit of the uway (rattan). Although I have neither tasted nor saw it myself, according to Lola Tisay, its golden (yellow) in color and tastes very sweet. Lagos is the stripped skin of the uway and usually used for tying nipa shingles (a local roof material common in Mainit).
I have already outgrown the fear of getting near these Mamanwas. When I got older, I realized that they are normal human beings just like me… but in several aspects different because of their culture. For me, the “suuk” (and other sickness believed to be caused by Mamanwas) which my Lolo really feared for us were, in fact, true. Well, at least for me, it is…. because these people have a very peculiar smell or body odor. And this odor is usually horrible that little children get sick. Well, that is over an above the reality that they too are potential carriers of diseases common to people who do not have the proper hygiene.
Going back to their odor… My family, especially Daddy Yonie, has a special bond with the marginalized people (or the unusual ones e.g. Enggoy, Aming, Rizalians, migrants, etc)… one of them are the Mamanwas. And so, in several occasions I had opportunities of going with Daddy and friends to Sito Gasipan, Brgy. Cantugas, where the Mainit-based Kongkitas usually reside. I met a number of them, but I could particularly remember the families of “Mauinon” and “Boboy”, the former an elder member of the community, and the latter a younger tribal-leader who had also a chance of joining the Citizen Arm Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). I fondly remember them because they call or describe us (Mosende brothers) in kinongking as “dagmirawan oryental” – meaning handsome human beings (hehehe, bukad isab an atay)! In those exposures, I have learned that these people do live in very small houses. Think of a regular-sized rectangular table (around 4’ X 10’), put a four (4) arm-sized poles as support, cover it with netted bamboo sheets used as walls and roof it with nipa shingles… amo na iton an ila bayay! And in the field, during the night, they do burn leaves and other smoke-producing materials to keep them warm and away from mosquitoes during their sleep. Here where their odor comes from. They seldom take a bath or if they do, they just use laundry soap (Mr. Clean bar). When they go down to the town (kun mulugsong sa lungsod), they just walk under the heat of the sun. And so odor that causes “suuk” comes out.
I have one final memory about this interesting group of Mainitnons. Remember in the early 90’s, during the happier and earlier times of the money pyramiding scam in Surigao, otherwise known as ABM? Because of the “easy” multiplication of money (an investment of P100 will yield around P5,000 in 45 days – or more like to that effect)… the business spread all throughout Surigao and that has reached the Manmanwas. Aside from getting the full cash reward, one could also opt to get appliances like refrigerator and others. Here is the story… the first few mamanwas did the wise move. They too opted to get appliances and one family got a ref because they were told that they could store fish, vegetables, and meat for days without getting it foul. And when they reached their beloved Mainit, prior to their going home to Gasipan… hala gadjod… kinumprahayay nan amo ra kay kutob… to their hearts content they bought kilos and kilos of balolong, luyab, pijanga… ayna tanan. But after a few days… all the goods in the ref got spoiled. Investigation revealed that the Mamanwas in Gasipan do not have electricity at that time (kuman jaon na?).
I do not mean anything to downgrade or discriminate the Kongkistas. I am writing this because I am sure that you have all sorts of accounts about your encounters with them, who are also “Mainitnons”. I believe that you, in one way or another, do have the same beliefs about them. And the truth is, not many among us Mainitnons have seriously considered knowing this indigenous treasure of ours. There is so much to learn about them… their language, their culture… a lot! I hope this will ignite a soul to devote a time in doing research about the kongkistas. And by learning about them… we will also know their concerns… their problems, their vision… which, we could do something about to make better their lives. (Amen hehehehe)
(Glossogobius giuris) is a freshwater fish native to Mainit Lake. It is called “biya” in Tagalog and “white goby or tank goby” in English. The term “pidjanga” is also sometimes fondly used to refer to the Mainitnons, the people of the Municipality of Mainit, a town in Southern Philippines. This blog hopes to capture potentials of Migrants Pidjangas for the Development of our Town by attempting to document development issues, folk stories, and current concerns, about the Pidjanga — both the fish and the people.
Maradjao karadjao, Pilipinas!
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CBCP News: Mining threatens 4th largest freshwater lake in PH
SEVEN are in the town of Mainit, Surigao del Norte... of the 15 exploration permits (EP) that the Regional Office 13 (CARAGA) of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Environment department approved as of June 30, 2010.
Read more at www.cbcpnews.com and Surigao Today.
Read more at www.cbcpnews.com and Surigao Today.
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