Atty. Renato Zosimo B. Evangelista: The First Mangyan Lawyer

Atty. Renato Zosimo B. Evangelista

May 25, 2001, the day when Renato Zosimo B. Evangelista became the first Mangyan Lawyer.  His life journey was not easy as a child he was bullied by his classmates in Holy Infant Academy in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. They would tease him about wearing a bahag and told him to go back to where he came from. Harsh words didn’t keep Renato from working hard to reach his dreams, instead he used it to his own advantage, and it was his drive to do good so that he can prove to everyone that a Mangyan could excel too.

 He was born out of an intermarriage that is considered as a taboo, his mother who is the first Mangyan Elementary School Teacher, was brought up by Roman Catholic Missionaries fell in love with a Sacristan Mayor.  His father left them before he was born so he knew little about him.   

The Mangyan community was perceived as intellectually challenged beings and were often discriminated even by fellow Filipinos. He grew up fighting for many things, food, dignity, and especially respect. This pushed him to do well and study law to prove to those that looked down on him that he should be treated equally. He endured walking for hours just to attend high school and out of the hundred that started; he was one of the 20 who eventually graduated from high school.  

 He attended his first two years of college in the Divine Word College in Calapan before he moved to Manuel Luis Quezon University (MLQU) in Quiapo. His education was supported by the same missionaries who took care of his mother. He valued education and wanted to prove to everyone that he can make history so he wrote to different organizations to “be a part of history” by supporting his dream of being the first Mangyan lawyer.

Receiving his college diploma during the 2000 MLQU commencement exercises, he raised the hopes and dreams of his fellow Mangyans and having his grandparents in the audience wearing their traditional bahag made it extra special.  He continued his studies to grab a master’s degree in the United Kingdom and graduated 2005. Up to this day, even if he is based in Manila Attorney Renato Zosimo B. Evangelista will never forget his Mangyan heritage and plans to eventually go back to the mountains of Mindoro.


ORDENES-CASCOLAN, L. (2007). Lawyer from the mountain. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Retrieved from

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The Role of Women from Pre-Hispanic to Spanish era

By: Adrianne Dianne Isabelle R. Saldua


During the pre-Hispanic period, the Philippines had a simple type of culture; the type of education being taught was basic, and it was taught in the standard alphabet, Alibata or Baybayin. As for their living circumstances, they lived in small areas that were spread out called Balangays or Barangays. The Filipinos were mainly concerned with agriculture and paid little or no attention to building structures like churches, temples and places for self-gratification.

The women of the pre-Hispanic era were given importance, they could even hold high characters in communities like healers, priestesses, and they could even handle leadership roles and fight as warriors. As part of the line for the heir and heiresses of a Datu, his daughter could be one of the choices. Men and women were treated equally, they had equal rights. Women had the right to inherit property and they also had important parts in business and trading. They would weave, do pottery and make jewelleries to be used for exchanging in the market, in other tribes and other foreign traders like the Chinese.  They controlled the operations of transactions because their husbands were not allowed to barter unless their wives approved.

The Babaylan

The Babaylan or the healer was usually a woman and when an occasion arises that a man would take this role he needs to dress up as a woman.  They were looked up to because of their wisdom and knowledge.  When problems in communities arise and there are no other means to fix it, the Babaylan is the one to be called; she would perform rituals and chants to drive away the spirits that caused turmoil.

Also, during the pre-colonial period, one of the first few things a man would learn is that he should always respect women. Disrespecting women was unthinkable, if a man does not show respect to a woman, he would be labelled negatively by the society.

In the Ifugao region, women had the right to divorce their husbands, may it be because of infidelity, infertility or if the spouse is unable to provide for the family.

Filipino Women had the power to decide for themselves, they controlled how they lived.They enjoyed equal status with men, were known for their wisdom and knowledge, and enjoyed the privileges of human rights.

The glorious years of the women were destroyed when the Spanish arrived during the 16thcentury. They brought with them their own idea of what a woman is and where she is supposed to be placed in society. From men and women being equal, women were turned into objects of suppression. By this time, education in the Philippines had been altered and was based on Catholicism. Priests stood as the educators.

Spanish Priests

The Spaniards had occupied a large amount of land, thus erecting schools, universities and seminaries. It was not a problem until it led to the spread of the Catholic ideology and the conversion of many Filipinos.  During this period, good education and the opportunity to go to prestigious schools were more prioritized to be available for men. Although some women were able to attend some vocational schools, most were not given an opportunity to an education because the church and the government believed that women should only stay at home. Thus the role of the woman became attached to the home, her duty was to become an obedient and respectful daughter, a good wife and mother.

The ideal woman for the Spaniards is someone who is overly religious, submissive, and obedient. Yes, the typical “Maria Clara”. That “mahinhing dalaga” stereo type was brought to us by the Spaniards. Women can no longer loiter around, run along the meadows, and swim in rivers or climb trees as children. The real Filipina was replaced by the ideal woman dictated by the Spaniards. During the Spanish occupation the woman being subordinate was instilled, men rising as the dominant gender, establishing a patriarchal society that has prevailed and surpassed generations, and is now the prevalent type of society that we follow. The Philippines was controlled by the Spaniards and the Catholic Church. Women were no longer allowed to hold high positions and participate in political activities. She was even snatched of her right to express her thoughts being instructed to stay within the shadows with her lips sealed.

As the Spaniards tried to reduce in importance the role of the woman, the fury and passion that runs in the Filipina blood would never allow this to happen. Pride and honor was definitely worth fighting for and some women repudiated the Spaniards’ way and concept of treating women.

Gabriela Silang

Gabriela Silang and Gregoria de Jesus were some of the prominent FIlipina icons of the revolution. Gabriela Silang took over the rebellion in Ilocos when her husband Diego Silang died.  She fought for freedom from the Spaniards until she was captured and beheaded on September 20, 1763 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

Gregoria de Jesus

Gregoria de Jesus fought alongside her husband Andres Bonifacio as a member of the Katipunan. She was regarded as the “Mother of Philippine Revolution”.  She was also the first Filipina that was able to decipher the code of the Katipunan.

The freedom of women was suppressed because the Spaniards realized that women in the Philippines were very important and was regarded highly and that fact scared them. It was different from what they were used to, coming from a land where patriarchy ruled and men were the stronger ones.

The Filipina was enslaved when the Spaniards came, along with the country where she lived in.



Virola, M. (2007). The role of women before european occupation of the philippines. Retrieved from the-philippines

Constantino, R. “The Miseducation of the Filipino”. Ang Sitema ng Edukasyong Noon at Ngayon.Paaralang Teresa Magbanua.

Tujan, A. (1999). Transformative education. Manila: IBON Partnership in Education and Development.

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The Philippine Abaca Industry

The Philippine Abaca Industry

By: Adrianne Dianne Isabelle R. Saldua

Musa Textilis or the Abaca plant is indigenous to the Philippines. This tree like plant resembles the banana, however, they differ from each other through these characteristics; the leaves of the Abaca are narrower with pointed ends and a dark green colour. The banana leaves are broader with a light green shade.

The abaca plant

the banana plant

The parts of the Abaca plant are relatively smaller than that of the banana and its fruit is not as palatable. This plant can easily be mistaken for a banana plant.

For abaca farmers the most important part of this plant is the stalk which is the source of the fiber. Stronger than cotton and two times stronger than the sisal fiber, abaca is considered as the strongest fiber there is. The abaca industry is mainly played by a series of players namely the farmers, strippers, classifiers, traders, fiber exporters, and processors. This product is known worldwide as the “Manila Hemp” which placed the Philippines in a top spot for the export of the product.

raw abaca fiber

Sadly, the abaca prices have been going down and it has affected the livelihood of the many abaca strippers that are relying on the product for their daily needs.

abaca stripper

The prices went down from 67 pesos of a kilo of excellent grade fiber to 37 pesos in less than a year in 2008 ( Sarmiento Jr, 2009). The decline of the abaca industry has affected many families like the family of Felix Tresvalles, a 59 year-old abaca stripper who took his own life due to depression. When the police interviewed his wife, she said that the constant worrying of how he will support his family after the prices collapsed drove him to give up on his battle versus poverty.

Luckily, thanks to the go green campaign and the craze for organic products, the abaca industry is recovering. 2009 was considered as the Year of the Natural Fiber and that was when the increase in the demand for the abaca fiber was expected to make its comeback. The demand for the fiber locally and worldwide started increasing with the fashion industry taking on the clean and green style for clothing the demand started to peak a little further.

Yellow wrap made from abaca designed by Dita Sandico Ong is exported around the world.

With around 90% of the fibers being exported from the Philippines (“The return of,” 2009) there was no doubt that the industry was indeed starting to get back in shape. Abaca products are now being sold everywhere, bags, mats, rugs, purses, paper wrappers, chairs, other furniture, slippers, rope and even abaca soap is sold in the market.

abaca soap

This has done good things for our economy earning about US$76 million a year and employed 1.5 million people for the year 2009 (“The return of,” 2009). Being only cultivated in certain provinces in the Philippines like Sorsogon, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Catanduanes, Northern Samar, Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Sulu, and Surigao del Sur by around 94,000 Abaca farmers, the total fibers produced over a year is 78,000 tons which is valued at over P6 billion (“The return of,” 2009). By 2020-when the goal of expanding farms to 32,600 hectares-abaca fiber production is expected to reach 152,000 metric tons (“The return of,” 2009). In 2001, the market’s rise was temporarily put in limbo because of the problems with the recession in the United States. In 2005, the production was increased that helped the abaca market to recover. After two years of fruitful production, it hit its lowest mark with 60,723 metric tons due to bacterial infections and destructions from a series of storms that hit the country (“Production and market,”). Despite the many problems, the production level sky rocketed to its highest production for the decade with 77,389 metric tons for the year 2008 (“Production and market,”). This was because of the doubled efforts of the provinces to produce the fiber naming Catanduanes as the “top producing province”.

This plant is truly a treasure of our country. The fibers it produces are so versatile that being known for its great strength it is used to make footwear, high strength rope, vacuum cleaner bags, paper used in some currencies, door mats, and other durable specialty paper. It is also being made into those thin delicate products like, filter paper, tea bags, lens tissue, carbonizing tissue, sausage skin or meat casings, base paper, and cigarette paper.

abaca tea bags

abaca sofa

abaca slippers

No wonder that the demand for Abaca fiber is starting to surge and countries like the United States, China, United Kingdom, Japan, France and South Korea are among the top countries that import the products. The United Kingdom alone imports an average of 7,501 metric tons or 48.5% of the ten-year average exports (“Production and market,”). Among our Asian neighbours, Japan accounts for the biggest share in the market with 87.8% of the annual metric ton of fibers imported by Asian countries (“Production and market,”). They use abaca fiber with the materials that they use to print the Japanese yen as a security feature to avoid counterfeiting.

Japan's yen banknotes contain up to 30% abaca

With the whole world “going green”, the art and fashion industry embracing the use of Abaca and the constant export of the Manila Hemp, the Abaca industry will be back on its feet taking the Philippine economy with it and saving the environment at the same time.



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Sarmiento Jr, J. V. (2009, May 7). Abaca industry strippers’ lives hanging by a thread. Retrieved from       

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