Introduction / History
The Hanunoo live on Mindoro, a Philippine island located just to the southwest of the main island, Luzon. The Hanunoo are also known as the Bulalakao, the Hampangan, and the Mangyan. As recently as the 1950s, the Hanunoo were almost entirely isolated from modern civilization, but today they have begun to develop relationships with other peoples and cultures. The Hanunoo language is unlike many other Filipino languages because it has a written script. As a result, most of the Hanunoo are able to read and write. Interestingly, they write on bamboo, not paper. A densely populated plain covers the entire coastal region of Mindoro. The interior of the island is covered by rugged mountains, and few people live there. Although Mindoro was once a dangerous region infested by malaria, in recent decades, immigrants from other parts of the Philippines have moved there, lending a frontier aspect to life on the island.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Hanunoo communities are usually built in valleys and are often situated to overlook nearby streams. The villages are small, with only five or six homes and no more than fifty people. Houses are made of wood and bamboo and have thatched roofs. The homes, which are built on stilts, are sometimes arranged in rows so that the verandahs connect to each other.
What Are Their Beliefs?
A great majority of Hanunoo grow their own food. They use a method of farming called "slash-and-burn" agriculture, in which a section of forest is cut down, the plant debris burned, and crops planted in the resulting clearing. In new clearings, the Hanunoo plant crops such as corn, rice, sugarcane, and beans. In previously used clearings, they plant secondary crops such as sweet potatoes. Sometimes they grow bananas and papayas in even older clearings. After several years of use, the clearings are left to lie fallow and will usually be used again after at least two years. In addition to farming, the Hanunoo rely on their domestic animals to provide them with food, although the people only slaughter the animals on festive occasions.
During major feasts, young men and women court by exchanging love songs. A man will be accompanied by fiddles, guitars, nose flutes, and harps, as he sings a song expressing his affection for the young woman. The woman answers with a song of her own. Marriages are arranged only after the families of the couple have given their mutual consent. The husband goes to live with his wife's family in order to repay the debt he has incurred by marrying their daughter.
The Hanunoo are animists, which means that they believe animals and aspects of nature have spirits. Some of the most important spirits are guardian spirits called kalag. To gain the favor and goodwill of the kalag, the Hanunoo sacrifice food and glass beads to them.
What Are Their Needs?
In addition, the Hanunoo believe the kalag are pleased when customary legal rules are strictly followed. Should the people stop sacrificing or observing customs, the kalag will allow evil spirits called labang to afflict the Hanunoo. The labang attack a person's soul, causing illness or even death.
To combat illness, the Hanunoo call in a shaman, or priest, known in their language as a balyanan. The balyanan has control over the spirits living in rocks; the balyanan sends these rock spirits to attack the evil spirits causing the illness.
The Hanunoo live in poverty and are isolated from most aspects of modern life, including education and medicine. Even greater than their physical needs are their spiritual ones. They desperately need to hear of the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. They also need Christian material translated into their language. Much prayer and further evangelism are keys to reaching these precious people with the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to bless the efforts of missions agencies working among the Hanunoo.
Pray that God will call Christian doctors, educators, and other laborers to Mindoro.
Pray that Christian evangelical materials will be translated into the Hanunoo language.
Pray that God will give Hanunoo believers boldness to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a holy Hanunoo church for the glory of His name!
Scripture Prayers for the Hanunoo in Philippines.
Bethany World Prayer Center