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BAMBOO WHISPERS, Poetry of the Mangyan

Hanunuo Mangyan poetry is a cultural gem that had been kept hidden – and thus conserved – by these indigenous peoples because of their yen for isolation from the colonized, and later, the modern world. To metaphorically express their everyday thoughts and feelings, the Mangyans inscribed their ambahan with a knife on living bamboo plants, on bamboo tubes or slats. Written in their pre-Spanish syllabic script, their reflections on life from birth to death resonate with all humanity, even today.

BAMBOO WHISPERS, Poetry of the Mangyan features the best 100 Mangyan poetry in two scripts and four languages: the original Hanunuo Mangyan ambahan with translations by poets in Filipino, English, and Spanish. These are accompanied by archival and fine art photographs that show the grace, beauty and vulnerability of a community held together by tradition while embracing the vicissitudes of the 21st century.

The Mangyans also chanted ambahans at gatherings, with over 20,000 preserved in the Mangyan Heritage Center (MHC) archives in digital audio format with transcription. A complete audio copy is available at the Library of Congress in Washington DC for long-term preservation. Written in heptasyllabic verse, ambahans are not only unique for their symbolism, but also because of their communal authorship, with no individual laying claim to provenance of this shared legacy.

The book is a partnership between the MHC and The Bookmark, Inc., with proceeds going to the MHC’s program of teaching young Mangyans how to compose ambahans and write in their script, one of only three remaining in the Philippines, from over a dozen before the Spaniards settled in the sixteenth century.

Bamboo Whispers is a contribution to the Philippine cultural landscape, and a way to preserve, promote, and bring this indigenous treasure to their rightful place in the world and their beloved land.


Antoon Postma (†;), Sylvia Mayuga, Marne Kilates, Quintin Pastrana, Resti Reyes Pitogo, Danton Remoto, Soledad Laviña

Editorial Team:

Lolita Delgado Fansler, Quintin V. Pastrana, Raena E. Abella, and Emily L. Catapang

Copyright © 2017 by The Bookmark, Inc. and Mangyan Heritage Center, Inc.

ISBN: 978-971-569-926-6

Size: 12 x 9 inches | Black & White | 232 pages | Hardcover