The ambahan is a literary product and poetic expression of the Southern Mangyans of Mindoro, Philippines. Although there are about seven different ethnic groups living in Mindoro, collectively called the Mangyans, these groups are quite distinct from each other as to language, customs, and way of living.
The Mangyans possess a pre-Spanish writing system, considered to be of Indic origin.
The existence of a writing system among these tribes certainly accounts largely for the wealth of literature prevalent among them.
One of the literary products, the one written down most frequently on bamboo-tubes or slats, is the ambahan.
The ambahan is
- A rhythmic poetic expression with a meter of seven syllable lines and having rhythmic end-syllables.
- It is most often presented as a chant without a determined musical pitch or accompaniment by musical instruments.
- Its purpose is to express in an allegorical way, liberally using poetic language, certain situations or certain characteristics referred to by the one reciting the poem.
The ambahan is a chanted verse, but it is changed plainly or almost recited. The rendering of the ambahan with musical pitch might differ from person to person.
The language used in the ambahan differs from the spoken language, though many a word used widely in the daily Hanunuo-Mangyan language is also used in the ambahan-vocabulary. It is quite possible to compile a long list of words (eventually a complete dictionary) that are used only in the ambahan verse.
When a Mangyan poet writes of a flower, he writes of itnot for the purpose of celebrating its beauty or fragrance but to make it an allegory or a symbol of human life, it's problems, and its challenges.
The ambahan is primarily a poem of social character; it finds its true existence in society. It is created by the Mangyans to serve practical purposes within the community. It is used by the parents in educating their children, by young people in courting each other, by a visitor in asking for food and by a relative bidding goodbye or farewell.
The social nature of the ambahan has given rise to a kind of verbal contest. Whenever Mangyans are together, a few of them (often the older generation) will eagerly compete with each other in the ability to recite the ambahan called for by the place and the occasion. Among these occasions are festivities held in connection with reburial.
- Birth and Infancy
- Food and Work
- Hospitality and Friendship
- Old Age