About the People
The Tawbuid are the most numerous of the Mangyan group of indigenous peoples and live in the isolated interior central highlands on the island of Mindoro, Philippines. Mountains in this region tower over 6,000 feet high. About a two day hike from the coast, the Tawbuid villages are much further inland than those of the Alangan.
The Tawbuid are called “batangan” by the lowlanders, which means “trunk of a felled tree” and a “place,” referring to a place where felled tree trunks may be found, probably a swidden field. The main economic activity of the Tawbuid is slash-and-burn farming. Other names used to refer to them are Bukid, Bu'id, Buhid, and Buhil, despite the fact that there is a separate identifiable group to the south, the Buhid. Local subgroups include the Bayanan and Saragan.
A few of the less traditional of the Tawbuid live near the coast, have been converted to Christianity, and send their children to school. However, this is more the exception than the rule.
Outsiders are generally forbidden, though an occasional visit to an outside Tawbuid village is not unheard of. The Tawbuid are very shy and will usually run away if they see you coming, as they have been taught that foreigners might eat them. Any trade done with the outside world is usually done through the neighboring Alangan villages. Their diet consists only of fruits, plants and vegetables as well as what animals they can kill by hunting. The Tawbuid are terrified of outsiders for several reasons. Originally, they lived on the coasts but were driven inland hundreds of years ago when first the Spanish invaded their territory and later Filipino immigrants who drove them away in order to secure more farm land. Today, mining operations and occasional incursions by rebels continue to threaten this groups existence. Added to this is the animistic view of nature and the fear of spirits who will punish them for even slight infractions of their rules.
About the Project
The Tawbuid people are a sister tribe to the Alangan living deep in the mountains on the island of Mindoro, Philippines. In 1994, church-planting missionaries Tim and Dawn Holbrook had taken the Gospel to the Tawbuid and built up a thriving church, still growing today. Their son John spent his childhood there, learning the customs, language and culture of this remote people group. Seventeen years later, John Holbrook is taking the Gospel to the unreached neighboring Tawbuid people. John‘s mission is a God-thing, directed by the Holy Spirit from the start.
One day several years ago, the Holbrooks had a conversation with Ramone, an elder in the local church in Pandurukan, about taking the Gospel to neighboring tribes. It was a completely new concept to Ramone, and he thought deeply about its implications. That night he had a dream. God showed him the Tawbuid people on an island which was burning up. They were crying and pleading to him for help, for Ramone was standing with the Alangan on a safe island nearby. Then he saw a log lowered between the two islands and he was told that this log represented Jesus. Months later, he had another dream that he and an AFM missionary were taking the Gospel to the Tawbuid. More recently, Ramone had another dream in which God showed him a map of the world and what places the time was right to introduce people to the Gospel. Those that were ready were shaded in green. Those that needed to wait were shaded in red. Then the map zoomed in on the Tawbuid and the color was a brilliant green. The window of opportunity to reach the Tawbuid is now, and John is that AFM missionary who is breaking the ground with this remote tribe.
The Tawbuid are animists. They believe that every part of nature is controlled by the spirits, and they spend most of their lives in fear, trying not to offend any of them or, at best, trying to manipulate them. In these tribes, there is usually one witch doctor for every village or two. With the Tawbuid, one in every ten people is a witch doctor. Satan has a grip on these people and he controls them at his will. Many warriors from this tribe have special spiritual armor provided by the spirits, where knives and even bullets will not harm them, and they are feared by neighboring tribes and national armies alike. The Tawbuid are very shy and protective of their land, and they hire people from neighboring tribes to keep out all visitors. However, after observing the Alangan and the positive changes that have taken place in this tribe since the missionaries first arrived, they have allowed Alangan and anyone accompanying them to visit them as long as an invitation is given. Today, John Holbrook is working within these parameters to try spread the Gospel to the Tawbuid and give the hope and peace.
For further information on this remote tribe, Ed Vallance, an avid travel blogger, offers a secular view of the Tawbuid. His account includes photos, a video, and a blog.
- Population: 15,000 (aerial surveys) up to 36,000
- Language: Tawbuid (Batangan)
- Trade Language: Tagalog
- Religion: animist