The Ayta Magbukun of Mariveles, Bataan


The Ayta Magbukun tribes of Bataan constitute one of the 5 main groups of Ayta tribes in Central Luzon and is the least known of all Ayta groups.

They live in the village of Biaan in Mariveles, Bataan, situated on the edge of a remaining forest cover and watershed area of Mariveles Mountain.

With countless generations of Ayta Magbukun calling this forest their home, it has become the Ayta's ecological niche.

This ecological setting has become a focal point of their existence and subsistence.


Basic Demography and Population Structure:

As of December 2009, the total population of the Aytas of Mariveles, Bataan is 107, comprising of 21 families. There are 63 (59%) males and 44 (41%) females, and 72 or 67% of the total population belongs to the 0-30 age group.

Social Organizations & Institutions:Ayta

Of the 21 nuclear families, 17 of them directly belong to the Maingat extended family. The remaining 4 nuclear families do not compose a single family grouping but are still in close association with the Maingat clan.

The Ayta Magbukun's Socio-Political Life:

Democratized Tribal Council, composed of elected Ayta
officials made up of one Chieftain, two tribal kagawad
(councilors), secretary, treasurer & auditors.

Ayta Magbukun culture operates through the interdependency of the Ayta's (access to) natural resources and their traditional beliefs and practices. This dependency has put the Aytas in a precarious position, for one binding factor emerges among the several facets of the Ayta cultural system, and that is - rapid change.


A main road that is currently under construction can be found snaking its way through Mt. Mariveles, passing by the Ayta's village.

The Mariveles-Bagac Highway will be a main thoroughfare connecting the western municipalities of Bataan, and will also be the main access road for the future homeowners of an exclusive luxury resort, the Camaya Coast.

Recent developments such as the road and electricity are threatening the Ayta's way of life. Electricity has brought with it forms of entertainment such as videoke(a form of karaoke) that attract outsiders and has increased the Ayta's exposure to negative influences such as alcohol and gambling.

An even greater concern is that these two new elements have made this area even more attractive to developers and lowlanders alike, thus further compromising the Ayta's claim to their ancestral domain.

It is within these changes that the Ayta Magbukun of Biaan continuously balance their way of life – challenging the Ayta's resiliency as individuals and as a society.

A closer look at Mariveles, Bataan:

mapThe Mariveles Mountains are in southern Bataan province, near the entrance to Manila Bay, and rise steeply from sea level to 1,420 m.

The area of forest coverage includes both lowland & montane forest, including mossy forest.

Currently, there has been a motion by the local government to demand that Congress place the Mariveles mountain range under NIPAS to be converted into a national park.

Bataan was declared a national park in 1945, covering 31,365 ha. The area was reduced to 23,688 ha in 1980 by virtue of Proclamation no. 1956. It is proposed a natural blankkpark under the National Integrated Protected Areas System(NIPAS)


Livelihood Practices of the Ayta Magbukun

AytaGathering activitiesAyta

bullet point pangangalakal,pamamatibat,
or pagdadanso (women
foraging for wild tubers and
freshwater shellfish)

bullet point pamumuay (harvesting honey)

Hunting activities

pangangati (trapping Red
Jungle Fowl or labuyo)Ayta

pangangaso (hunting wild
boars and monkeys, and
very rarely, deer)

paninilo (setting traps for
wild boars and wild cats)

Other sources of livelihood:

pag-uuling (charcoal production)

wage-working for the cattle ranchers near their community

elementary agriculture, planting in their gasak (swidden fields)
sweet potatoes, cassava, bananas, etc.


Of these practices, two are considered the Ayta's main sources of livelihood:

Pamumuay or honey gathering

Male members of
the tribe practice pamumuay.
Ayta boys start their pamumuay training at a young age.
By the time they are teenagers, they are able
to gather
honey on their own, climbing the forest's highest trees to harvest it.

Among the Ayta, an unharvested beehive is considered an individual's private property once it has been marked.


Smoke is used from a lighted torch
made out of leaves to drive the honeybees away.

They are able to harvest up to 1-2 gallons of honey (10 to 20 350 mL bottles) from a large panilan orbeehive.


Pag-uuling or Charcoal Production

At the onset of the rainy season, the Ayta begins their charcoal production. With the honey-rich dry season over, the Aytas shift to another subsistence strategy. Charcoal is of high demand in the town's market.


Large-scale charcoal production in itself is an unsustainable practice and is even against the law. The Aytas, however, reason out that charcoal making is a traditional practice of theirs and that only dead and dried forest trees are used.


The Ayta Magbukun Beliefs & Practices

AytagreenThe Ayta Magbukun believes in Diyos (God) as the Supreme Being.
Exposure to Christianity has had much influence in the religious practices of the tribe.

Preferences toward various Christian
groups range from Catholic to Protestant, often depending upon the favorability of the current priest or individuals ministering among them.

Despite the many outside influences, the Ayta's have retained their traditional perspectives, interweaving
the new with their cultural beliefs.


Ayta Ethnomedicine, the Ayta cosmology

Ayta Magbukun's worldview is deeply linked to traditional animistic concepts.
A mix of basic Christian beliefs – a syncretism ascribed to their being predominantly Catholic while at the same time staying true to their remarkable relationship with nature.

or spirits are believed to dwell in both the physical and meta-physical world, in the rocks, trees, rivers, in the underworld, in the clouds, and in their nawini, the Ayta physical body.

Mga Anito the spirits

The anito entities, according to Ayta belief, are categorized into two; the good anito and the bad anito.

Illnesses are caused by bad anitos (malaut na anito), the cure of which can only come from the opposing benevolent force of the good anito (mabuting anito).This system of traditional healing based on anitos or spirits is generally called kagun.

Kagun refers to the local shaman. It also refers to the good spirit (or anito). Kagun, in the general sense, refers to the consolidated system of traditional Ayta belief that revolves around the eternal opposition of the good and the bad anitos.


An integral part of this system of belief involves humans, the Ayta themselves, and how they relate to these anitos.

Bad anitos, once displeased, can cause illness. They can also dwell in the Ayta body, therefore possessing it.

Good anitos on the other hand are able to heal an Ayta
afflicted by the bad anito.

However, good anitos need human vessels in order to do this – and these are the Ayta traditional healers. Once a healer acquires a kagun or good anito, he develops a close and intimaterelationship with those spirit entities.

Kagun and Biomedicine Relations Ayta

Even with the onset of medical missions as well as the increasing accessibility to Barangay Health Workers, the Ayta ethnomedical system of kagun continues to be revered by the Ayta community as an essential healing practice. Kagun is intimately tied with their worldview. With two medical systems of their choice, it is noteworthy that among the Aytas, one does not discriminate against the other. Aytas believe that there are illnesses that only a kagun can cure as much as there are also maladies that only western doctors can heal.

At the same time, however, while the Kagun continues to exist as a reputable healer, their exposure and access to biomedicine has altered the Ayta's approach to their own health practices.

The Kagun themselves, recognizing the advantages of modern medicine and perhaps the limitations of their own capabilities, have adapted their methods in order to incorporate the convenience & availability of biomedicines.

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