Antoon Postma and the Ethnic Mangyans of Mindoro

Antoon Postma and the Mangyan Legacy

Antoon Postma and the Ethnic Mangyans of Mindoro
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Mangyan is the 7th largest island of India. Read the underlying article to know about dutch scholar Antoon Postma and the mangyan legacy in detail.

Mangyans are the original inhabitants of Mindoro, the seventh largest island in the Philippines. They are not warlike, so when Spain conquered the Philippines, they had to settle in the mountainous areas of the island. People, usually in the urban areas of central plain of Luzon with shallow knowledge about their culture, look down on them as uncivilized. They must be, judging from their present condition, being marginalized and neglected.

There is one man, however, and he’s not even a Filipino, who has the persistence and patience to study their dialect and culture. Antoon Postma from Netherlands has been living with the Mangyans for five decades and even has a Mangyan wife and seven children. He is a paleographer, one who studies ancient writings and inscriptions, and is considered one of the best in Asia.

His 50 years with the Mangyans has produced translations of more than 20,000 Mangyan ambahan (poems) and a collection of over 10,000 photographs and artifacts, now within easy reach of scholars and the general public via Mangyan Heritage Center. 

What comes out as the most important among his contributions is the deciphering of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI), the oldest known written document in the Philippines, a metal fragment with ten lines excavated in 1989 in Laguna de Bay and dated around 900 AD.

This document clearly shows that the Mangyans had a rich written culture and trade relations with their Asian neighbors long before Magellan discovered the Philippines in 1521.

In spite of this, I hate to think that all our knowledge about Mangyans and their rich culture will be for naught, seeing no visible signs of support from the government in terms of providing them basic education, health and other services.

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