Jacob Maentz | The Mansaka

Photo © Jacob Maentz -All Rights Reserved
The Mansaka live in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley in the region of Mindanao in the Philippines. Essentially farming people, they are choosy as to there they cultivate their lands, and seldom encroach on other lands.  Their name means “the first people upstream,” derived from man (“first”) and daya (“upstream or upper portion of a river”).

The Mansaka are known for their distinctive costumes and ornamentation, involving tie-dyed textiles and embroidery. Their farming practices slash and burn cultivation. They live mainly on rice, various tubers, and bananas. Houses, which may contain up to three family units, are organized into kinship-based neighborhoods and always placed within eyesight of each other.

Jacob Maentz documents the lives of the Mansaka in his 'The Mansaka of Compostela Valley' photo story, in which he tells us that the Mansaka; although many are Christians, still embrace many of the traditions and beliefs passed down to them over time.

His lovely portrait of Datu Sucnaan (above) is of one of the last few Balyans or priests of the Mansaka Tribe. I encountered a number of Balians (or Balyans) on the island of Bali, and these, like Datu Sucnaan, are faith healers who are extremely well regarded by the Bali islanders, and who are often the primary go-to for medical treatments instead of hospitals and clinics.

You shouldn't miss Jacob's essay with much larger photographs on Maptia, one of my favorite storytelling platforms. You can find it here.

Jacob Maentz is a documentary and travel photographer based in Cebu, Philippines. He's keenly interested in documenting issues related to the human condition, culture, and humanity’s interactions with the natural world. He has worked with corporations, humanitarian organizations, publishers and advertising agencies and his work appeared on television commercials and billboards to magazine and book covers. Much of his documentary work is represented by Corbis Images.
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