"Aeta", "Ayta", "Agta", (Ata, "Ate", and "Ita" was probably derived from the root word, "it" which means "black" as inferred from the Tagalog term itim and the Bisayan term itom. The Mamanwas are the mountain people who are black-skinned, small of frame, kinky-haired, snub-nosed and with black eyes. Generally, they are short with an average height of 1.35 to 1.5 meters.

In Mindanao, the Aeta known as the Mamanwa lives in the northeastern provinces of Surigao and Agusan. The term Mamanwa means "First Forest Dwellers", derived from "man" (first) and "banwa" (forest). However, they are popularly called "Kongking" because of their kinky hair. The term could be derived from the word "conquista", the conquered ones. The Mamanwas still use their own dialect when they communicate among themselves although most of them can now speak the dialects of the lowlanders.

According to anthropologists and archeologists, one theory suggest that the Mamanwas are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Philippines who arrived through land bridges that linked the country with the Asia mainland some 50,000 years ago. According to Dr. Jaime Peralta, chief anthropologist of the National Museum, the Mamanwas of the region are the oldest existing group of people in the Philippines. The Aetas came later than this period.

Way of Life

The Mamanwas rely on the subsistence economy which is a hand-to- mouth existence. They are many food-gatherers who move from one place to another depending upon the supply of food found in the place. They gather rattan poles, orchids, tubers, nuts and honey. As food gatherers, they use a variety of traps and hunting methods. Hunting intensifies during reiny season from November to April. In the forest, Mamanwas set up the bayatik (spear traps) and the gahong (pit traps) for animals like deer, wild pigs, monitor lizards, iguanas, monkeys and large birds.

Socio-Political System

The political system of the Mamanwas is largely based on respect for elders who exert control over judicial affairs and mentain peace and order within the band. The system is informal one, a prouduct of significant Mamanwa traits such us frankness and lack of desire to power and influence for self-interests. Generally, Mamanwas are peace-loving people.

The band can be cosidered as a demoacratic political organization. The man duty of the chieftain, usually the elder, is to mentain peace and harmony with the band.The accepted rules or or laws are those norms enriched by tradition.The chief is also a Tambayon, an eloquent speaker, a good counsellor or arbiter.

Today, Mamanwas are predominantly found in the hinterlands of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur crisscrossing the vast Diwata mountain ranges.


Kulturang Karaga
Published by Department of Education, Culture and Sports

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