traditional small scale gold mining northern philippines mountain tribes

a brighter future for the mansaka tribe | ethnic groups of the philippines

Nabunturan The remote forests and mountains of Mindanao have been home to many of the indigenous communities in the island. The majority of these communities are dependent on the land, where they source most of their livelihoods.

The Mansaka tribe found in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley) is part of the Lumad, whose members are described as farming people. However, as their environment has changed in recent years and continues to change, they have been slowly adapting to this transformation in their territory. This leave us to wonder if the Mansaka will be able to safeguard their peoples history and tradition.

The Mansaka people are most dominant in Davao de Oro, with their villages still present today. Mainit Hot Spring is considered the birthplace of the tribe, where legend says the first Mansaka man named Inangsabong descended. The Mansakas also have settlements in the cities of Davao and Tagum. According to historical studies, the Mansaka belonged to a single tribe along with the Mandaya and Kalagan, but the three groups of people have since parted. The Mandaya went to the upper portion of the river, Kalagan occupied the seashore or riverside, while the Mansaka headed up to the mountains. Thus, the name Mansaka meaning first people to ascend the mountain or go upstream derived from the word man meaning first and saka meaning to ascend.

Farming is the major source of livelihood for many Mansakas. They have been farming their land and growing subsistence crops throughout the valley. Since men are in charge of cultivating the land, certain members are chosen by the community to manage the farm. In recent years, the Mansakas have slowly moved away from farming and began searching for alternative jobs to augment their income.

As peace-loving people, the Mansakas actively avoid stepping into someone elses land, since this is a frequent source of tribal war. Such conflicts can result to the death of several members unless a tribal leader mediated and resolved the problem.

A tribal elder called matikadong resolves conflicts in the community. He also acts as a tribal warrior (bagani) who looks after and protects his people. In the olden days, a bagani is required to kill 12 people before one can assume the position. Different rituals for various occasions is performed by a baylan who serves as a tribal priest or a healer of the community. A baylan is said to possess special powers and maintain a close relationship with the Magbabaya (God). Most of them live in isolation close to the forest, where they learn to connect with nature and the spirits. A ritual or ceremony usually includes singing, tribal dances, and playing indigenous instruments.

The more recent developments in the region have brought an increasing number of migrants who now share territory with the Mansaka tribe. The prevalent small-scale gold mining operated by some Mansaka families in Davao de Oro has also altered the livelihood of many people. Some have gone to work in nearby companies where their services are needed, while a great number of the population have moved to far-flung cities to work. However, there are still those that continue to live in the area because it is their home, their ancestral domain.

Today, some Mansakas still live a traditional life in the province, although a great portion of their population have moved to other places or cities in search for a better life. They continue to practice their culture and traditions despite the change in their environment and increasing arrivals of migrants in recent years. With several festivals celebrated in honor of the different tribes in Davao de Oro including the Mansaka, it is certain that the tribe will prosper and their history and traditions will persist.

the mansaka tribe of compostela valley - matador network

Last year I spent a week getting to know and learn more about the Mansaka people who live in and around Compostela Valley in the region of Mindanao in the Philippines. The Mansaka are just one of a number of indigenous groups living in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte, but they are the most numerous in the area.

I learned about their many traditions, beliefs and the changes that are happening within the tribe today, but more importantly, I witnessed an incredible sense of pride, even among the younger generations, and I learned what it meant for them to be called Mansaka.

Considered one of the eighteen indigenous ethnolinguistic Lumad groups in Mindanao, the native Mansaka have continued their way of life during the hundreds of years of migrations and inter-marriages of the Malays, Indonesians and the Chinese.

Although the Mansaka people evolved over time, they were never heavily influenced by the Spanish during their colonization. However, when the Americans arrived many Mansaka were encouraged to work in coastal plantations and adapt to the Christian religion and lifestyle.

Considered the birthplace of the Mansaka people, Mainit hot spring (pictured above) is where the first Mansaka man was from. His name was Inangsabong. Inangsabong had seven wives who eventually settled in different areas of Compostela Valley creating the different Mansaka settlements still present today. Inangsabongs grave and final resting place is said to be at the top of this hot spring.

There are a number of visual differences in the attire worn by the different generations of Mansaka. In general, Mansaka fashion tends to use a lot of lines with shapes such as diamonds and squares versus the use of circles. When looking at old photos of Mansaka women you will notice that most had very prominent bangs showing, and this can also be seen in the photo above of the older Mansaka woman. Their bangs are part of their fashion which again use the straight line theme.

Large earplugs, or barikog, in their earlobes, shell and wood bracelets, and circular silver breastplates, or paratina, are also common elements of Mansaka dress which are becoming harder and harder to find.

The headdress that Bia Sheena Onlos, a young Mansaka leader from Tagum City, is wearing above is a common piece being adapted by the younger generation. Likewise, the panahiyan is the eloquent stitching on the shoulders and is an important part of Mansaka dress. You can clearly see the reddish panahiyan in Sheenas dress above.

Here a Mansaka man takes an early morning bath by the river. Many Mansaka still live in rural places like this, however, more and more are migrating to the city as they become better educated and more opportunities become available. The term Mansaka derives from man meaning first and saka meaning to ascend, and therefore means the first people to ascend the mountains or go upstream.

Before traveling to Compostela Valley I had the impression that the area was mostly flat and surrounded by mountains like a typical valley. I didnt realize that the area is actually a very large province with numerous rivers, mountains and settlements. The dense tropical forest fills with clouds after an afternoon rainstorm.

Below you see Bia Carmen Onlos Dansigan, a Mansaka Baylan (priest and leader) wearing her traditional dress. A Baylan serves his or her people as a priest and as a healer. They are called by the spirits to the ministry of healing and have a special relationship with the supreme being, the Magbabaya (God). They perform the different tribal rituals and can sense when bad things might happen.

Traditionally, Baylans prefers to live in isolation closer to the forest where they can commune with nature and the spirits. Many of the remaining Baylans now live closer to the city and dont retain that close spiritual relationship. Bia Dansigan is very active and lives in the mountains where she constantly communicates with the spirit of Magbabaya, which is also referred to as Diwata.

The betel nut, seen held in the hands below, is the seed of the fruit from the areca palm and is communally used by different indigenous groups throughout the Philippines and tropical Asia. Mansaka are also fond of chewing tobacco and it is often loosely held on the outside of the lips.

You will also notice the shell and wooden bracelets and the circle silver breastplate (paratina) that were once used by many of the Mansaka women. The material for the wood and shell bracelets were traditionally traded for because they could not be found in the valley.

For centuries the Mansaka farmed their land and grew subsistence crops in patches of shifting agriculture throughout the valley. They grew corn, camotes, vegetables, fruits, upland rice and even some cash crops such as coffee and abaca. Although this type of subsistence farming is still present in the region, a number of factors forced many Mansaka to find alternative forms of income. One of these factors during the 1960s and 1970s was the increased number of upland settlers, due to new logging access roads and large mining companies hiring Visayan migrants.

Likewise, security tensions over land with armed groups such as the NPA (New Peoples Army) led many Mansaka to look for alternative sources of income. Gold panning started in the rivers which eventually led to more sophisticated means of mining as knowledge increased and larger corporations arrived.

A Mansaka man collects stones on the river edge which will be processed with the hopes of extracting a small amount of gold. The Philippines is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which contains much of the worlds copper and gold resources. Compostela Valley province is often dubbed the golden valley or the gold mining capital of the Philippines.

On the right, you see a young man collecting soil and rocks inside a family owned gold mining tunnel. Aside from mining companies which employ thousands of local workers, small-scale gold mining has emerged as an increasingly important livelihood for people throughout Compostela Valley, including the Manasaka and other indigenous groups.

Apex Mining, on paper, is the third largest gold mining company in the country and employs hundreds of Mansaka from surrounding barangays. They told us we needed to obtain permission from them to photograph there and demanded to see my camera to delete any photos I had already taken. Fortunately, I didnt give them my camera but agreed to leave, was polite and did not make a scene.

Apparently, in April of this year their facility was attacked by the NPA (New Peoples Army) who burned equipment and, although unreported by the company, some of their security guards were killed. I can understand why they were a little on edge.

The head of security kept telling me it was private property, although I knew full well it is Mansaka ancestral domain only being leased by the company. When my guide told them he was from the tribe, security became very polite with us, however we decided not to push the issue of shooting more even though we probably could have.

The local river water has been this color (and considered biologically dead) since the time Apex mine came into the area in the 1970s. I was told that before people used to take baths and catch fish in the river. However, many of the tributaries leading into this river still provide a clean water source, including the Mainit hot spring.

Above two Mansaka men are hauling sacks of earth from a family owned underground mine. According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, small-scale production such as this brought in roughly 34.1 billion pesos to the Philippine economy in 2011, compared to 88 billion pesos for large-scale gold mining.

However, this type of work can produce enough family income to elevate their economic status, providing educational opportunities to their children and grandchildren that were not available two generations ago. My guide and his siblings were able to study in Tagum City because of the money provided from this operation.

Below you see gold in its final form after being processed in a small-scale mining operation. This is roughly one gram of gold taken from a single sack of rock. Its worth about 1300 pesos ($30) when sold locally.

In 2012, Mainit was declared as uninhabitable after it was hit by Typhoon Pablo (Bopha). Because the area is prone to landslides, and with a number of deadly landslides happening during the typhoon, the Philippine government decided to close all public schools and barangay halls in the area.

Many of the current landslides occurring are due to the widespread deforestation that happened by large logging companies starting in the 1960s. Despite this, the Mansaka people who call this home do not want to leave their land and continue living in the area. The land itself is declared and certified ancestral domain for the Mansaka.

Above you see the sun coming up over the town of Mainit in Compostela Valley. Although this area is now prone to landslides it remains an important area for the Mansaka people. Unfortunately, a decade ago, Mainit was also the primary dumping ground for poisonous cyanide waste from the Apex Mining.

Here a woman and her child sit outside a classroom at the public elementary school in Mainit, Compostela Valley. The school has been closed since Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) hit in 2012, but is still being used to house families. Typhoon Pablo was the strongest tropical cyclone to ever hit Mindanao, making landfall as a Category 5 super typhoon.

On the right, you see Mansaka children in the town of Mainit waiting for free school transport, provided by Apex Mining, to bring them down the mountain to the nearest public school. The Mainit public elementary school was closed in 2012 after Typhoon Pablo and will not reopen as the area was declared uninhabitable by the government.

Life in rural Compostela valley is much like that of other places throughout the country. There is a strong connection to the land as it provides food and livelihoods for most people. Although, there does seem to be a little more disposable income because of the jobs provided by gold mining. When compared to other indigenous groups I have visited throughout the Philippines, the Mansaka do not seem to be as dependent on their shifting crops as some other groups still are.

Its also a bit unique in that so many rural families have regular employment that occupies most of their time. Even in these more rural locations the Manaska are highly organized, with a strong leadership structure and written customary laws that should be followed.

Above Bia Dansigan watches over her grandchild while her father is out working at Apex Mining. Like many Filipino families, raising children seems to be more of an extended family-based or communal effort.

Early Mansaka houses were built on treetops or in bamboo groves as a precautionary measure against surprise attacks and raids. Today, the most common Mansaka dwelling is a one-room house based on what I was told is a Christian design.

One of the Mansakas traditional methods of cooking is called liorot. Meat and root crops are placed together with simple herbs (lemon grass, salt, pepper, ginger) inside a hollow bamboo tube and cooked over a fire.

This is the first time I have tasted or seen this method of cooking although it is also common among some other indigenous groups here in the Philippines. For example, the Aeta around Pampanga are known for this style of cooking as well. There is a bit of preparation involved to cook this way, which is likely one of the reasons why now it is mostly only done for special occasions or when families have visitors.

Above Datu Dansigan is collecting bamboo in the mountains which will be used for liorot cooking. Traditionally, this type of work would have only been done by the women of the family. Women were responsible for all of the house chores, cooking and farming while the men protected the land. Today, roles have started to change even in more rural communities.

Bia Dansigan (together with her grandson) preparing camotes (sweet potatoes) and gabi (yam) which will be placed inside the bamboo pole and cooked over a fire. Today this traditional method of cooking is usually only used for special occasions or when there are visitors. The root crops were harvested earlier in the day from the mountains and the chicken was killed immediately before being used. I was lucky enough to have this unique meal cooked twice for me during my one week stay.

After the bamboo is filled with different meats, herbs and root crops it is placed over an open fire where it cooks, creating an inclosed oven type of heat inside the bamboo. The result is a delicious meal with simple yet unforgettable flavors.

The Mansaka have a wealth of different songs, riddles, stories, poems and other narratives that are shared and told at different times. The Balyan is often the one who recites these, narrating the tribes different customs and traditions. That evening Bia Dansigan even sang a song about my visit there and told me I was now part of Mansaka history. Im still waiting to get the song translated to see exactly what was said about me!

The Mansaka also possess a wide array of musical instruments, giving life to their songs and dances. Above you see Datu Aguido Sucmaan holding his kudlog (two-stringed guitar) in his home off of the national highway leading into Tagum City.

Like Bia Carmen Onlos Dansigan, Datu Sucnaan is one of the last few Balyans or priests of the Mansaka Tribe, a vanguard of the Mansaka culture and tradition. His family were one of the original settlers of Brgy, Pandapan, in Tagum City. He recounted to us how the national highway was built and the history of where the city got its name.

Datu Sucmaan is also a skilled dancer, though in his late eighties he recounted how he and his wife Bia Maura danced at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and even for the former First Lady Imelda Marcos during one of her birthday celebrations. His wife Bia Maura passed away three years ago and Datu Sucnaan is now left to continue teaching younger Mansaka kids about the art and meaning of their traditional dance. Before we left, he showed us their picture as a young couple. He told us, Its very hard to continue going on when youve been married for 54 years, its so lonely.

From my short visit with the Mansaka I felt encouraged that many initiatives are taking place to help safeguard traditions and their peoples history. There is even an indigenous peoples university in Davao City where indigenous youth can study and receive practical education that is relevant to them. There is a small museum for the Mansaka being made in Tagum and there is an annual festival (Kaimonan Festival) every October to celebrate the different tribal songs, dances, and music.

Sheena Onlos, the young Mansaka leader whose portrait I shared near the beginning of this story, shops with her two sisters for clothes in the market area of Tagum City. Sheena told me that she will often wear her traditional Mansaka dress around the city and doesnt feel any kind of discrimination. Likewise, at the city hall you will see a number of men and women dressed in traditional clothing, especially those who are working in the office of Sheenas father, Datu Onlos, the indigenous peoples representative for Tagum City.

Sheenas father, Datu Onlos, attending a weekly city council meeting in Tagum City. Datu Onlos is the indigenous peoples representative for Tagum City allowing him to make decisions that will help protect local indigenous peoples rights and welfare.

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, allows mandatory indigenous representation in all policy-making bodies and in local legislative councils. There are also indigenous peoples representatives installed at the barangay level throughout Tagum.

Happy times with Datu Onlos and his family, telling stories in his home one evening while his family was hosting me in Compostela Valley. It should also be noted that this was the evening of his 30th wedding anniversary, yet he still took time to show me around, share stories of his people and cook some delicious liorot.

This story is part of the Katutubong Filipino Project, an initiative I founded along with my wife Nahoma, to bring about awareness of the Philippine archipelagos indigenous peoples by visually documenting their slowly disappearing and changing cultural heritages.

gold mining in guyana damages environment, threatens amerindians

The report, titled All that Glitters: Gold Mining in Guyana, notes that the Guyanese government has failed to reign in wildcat miners and protect the rights of indigenous populations. It also says the mining has caused deforestation and mercury pollution, which can cause severe public health problems, and worsened malaria in the region.

Medium and small scale gold mining as currently practiced and regulated inflict severe environmental, health, and social damage on the areas and people near mining operations, said Bonnie Docherty, clinical instructor at the IHRC. This is a classic case of the link between environmental damage and human rights abuses. By contaminating the countrys rivers, gold mining is threatening the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous people.

The report studies the small and medium scale gold mining on Amerindian indigenous communities and analyzes the regulatory environment in which these abuses occur. It notes that are four flaws in Guyanas legal system that have exacerbated the ills of gold mining: giving priority to subsurface rights over surface rights; failing to fully implement environmental regulations from 2005; under-enforcement of its current regulations; and weak monitoring of medium and small scale mines, which the report notes represent the majority of those in Guyana.

Our observations confirmed that the areas around mines resemble a moonscape of barren, mounded sand and mud, Docherty said. Since small scale miners typically wash the topsoil away in order to get to the gold-bearing clayey soil underneath, the sites of former mines are quite infertile and incapable of supporting regenerated rainforest.

The report calls upon the Guyanese government to implement institutional reforms to curb the environmental degradation caused by mining and to protect the rights of the Amerindian community by limiting locations where mining can take place, implementing mining laws already on the books, promoting education of Amerindians and miners on mining safety, and encouraging cooperation between miners and local communities.

She adds that the international community can also play a role in addressing the mining problem. The biggest role the international community can play is to push Guyana to fulfill its obligations under international law, she explained. Specifically, international financial institutions, which are significantly involved in Guyanas economic development, have a duty to use their influence to promote sustainable practices that protect the rights of Guyanas most vulnerable inhabitants.

Mining in Venezuelan Amazon threatens biodiversity, indigenous groups. Troubles are mounting in one of Earths most beautiful landscapes. Deep in the Venezuelan Amazon, among ancient forested tabletop mountains known as tepuis, crystalline rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls, illegal gold miners are threatening one of worlds largest remaining blocks of wilderness, one that is home to indigenous people and strikingly high levels of biological diversity. As the situation worsens a series of attacks have counted both miners and indigenous people as victims a leading scientific organization has called for the Venezuelan government to take action.

Illegal mining threatens forest, biodiversity, natives in French Guiana. As Europe frets over climate change and deforestation, threats to Europes largest tropical rainforest are mounting, according to reports from French Guiana. While French Guiana is best known for its infamous Devils Island penal colony and as the main launch site for the European Space Agency, which is responsible for more than 50% of the states economy activity, most of the territory is covered with lowland tropical rainforest. French Guianas forests are biologically rich with some 1,064 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, and 5,625 species of vascular plants according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Center.

Biofuels, logging may spur deforestation in Guyana. Growing timber exports and rising interest in biofuels are raising concerns that deforestation could accelerate in the South American country of Guyana. Guyana is a small, lightly populated country on the north coast of South America. About three-quarters of Guyana is forested, roughly 60 percent of which is classified as primary forest. Guyanas forests are highly diverse: the country has some 1,263 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and 6,409 species of plants. According to an assessment by the ITTO, forests in Guyana can be broken down as follows: mixed forest (36 percent), montane forest (35 percent). swamp and marsh (15 percent), dry evergreen (7 percent), seasonal forest (6 percent), and mangrove forest (1 percent).

Amazon natives use Google Earth, GPS to protect rainforest home. Deep in the most remote jungles of South America, Amazon Indians (Amerindians) are using Google Earth, Global Positioning System (GPS) mapping, and other technologies to protect their fast-dwindling home. Tribes in Suriname, Brazil, and Colombia are combining their traditional knowledge of the rainforest with Western technology to conserve forests and maintain ties to their history and cultural traditions, which include profound knowledge of the forest ecosystem and medicinal plants. Helping them is the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization working with indigenous people to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests.

site specific: heterogeneity of small-scale gold mining in ghana - sciencedirect

Critical variability in small-scale mining actors and practices remain essentialized.One-day catalog highlights varying mining team organization and diverse technologies.Study demonstrates the heterogeneity of small-scale mining practices.Reflects need for greater attention to particular socio-technical dimensions of SSM.

The past decade of booming gold prices profoundly expanded small-scale mining (SSM) around the globe, with an estimated 25 million miners now participating in this industry. Despite increasing acknowledgement of the diverse actors and technologies involved in SSM operations, critical variability in SSM mining populations remains subsumed within an essential category of poverty-driven, labor-intensive activities undertaken by uneducated, iterant populations in rural areas of developing nations. Likewise, the technologies and environmental practices employed by miners at finer scales in SSM assemblages warrant further characterization. This paper therefore examines the socio-techno dimensions of SSM in Ghana, drawing upon fieldwork conducted in 20122013 in central Ghana. A one-day catalogue of SSM operations within a 1-km radius of a community highlights the varying organization of mining teams and deployment of diverse technologies in a particular socio-ecological context. This work demonstrates the heterogeneity of small-scale mining practices, reflecting the need for greater attention to the complex organizational and technological dimensions of SSM in evaluating the nature and implications of this industry.