Mungan, Heroine of the Ulaging

The name Mungan was new to me. In school, we had discussed Philippine epics and most of them were about the adventures, victories, and foibles of men. But when I thought about wanting my next art doll to depict a female from one of our myths, one of my schoolmates told me about how she had been inspired by Mungan.

The Ulaging is an epic from Mindanao whose hero is named Agyu. One of Agyu's brothers, Banlak, was the husband of Mungan. When Mungan contracted leprosy, Banlak wanted nothing to do with her. Fortunately for Mungan, her brothers-in-law were kinder, more compassionate. They took turns carrying her on their backs to the top of Mount Kitanglad.

One day, before dawn, she started to beat her gong. As the morning sun grew brighter, Mungan fixed her eyes on it, never blinking. The sounds from the gong began to change. They were like laughter and the laughter grew louder and louder.

When Mungan finally took her eyes away from the sun, she saw that the wild plants and even the weeds around her had turned to gold. The leprosy began to leave her body. The scabs that fell from her skin turned into mountain rice birds which flew away. One of them returned with a vial of coconut oil, a gold striped betel nut, and pinipig from the first harvest.

Mungan and the mountain rice bird

Full view with betel nut, vial of coconut, and gong beater at her feet.

There is more to Mungan's story. She was responsible for providing food not only for her people's bodies but for their souls as well. I am not equipped enough to bring her full story to light but I felt that including the bird and its gifts might prompt the viewer to get on Google (or the preferred search engine) to learn more. And if you happen to already know, please share her story with the rest of us.

I used air-drying clay for Mungan's head, arms, and legs. The gong is also made from clay. I took liberties when it came to the costume. The gauzy cheesecloth underneath the dress speaks of the disease she bore. The Manobos have all sorts of incredible beaded accessories but I chose simpler ones for her because it felt right that she should be clad in such.

She has a styrofoam core and two plastic straws wrapped with more clay make up her thighs. I thought it would be a good way to use up plastic--better to be in my sculpts than in the oceans or landfill!

Now that Mungan is finished, I've begun sculpting a new head from paper clay. I have several ideas brewing but haven't really zeroed in on one.

Meanwhile, I do want to share a doll I made when I took an online class with Angela Jarecki. It's a whole new way of painting cloth doll faces--at least for me! I enjoyed it so much, I'm thinking of experimenting by developing patterns of my own. I highly recommend her classes. I took the self-paced one and the instructions are very easy to follow.


The original doll's hat had a satin band but I didn't have anything of the sort that I could use. I opted to use tulle instead. Her nose is also a tad larger than Angela's sample but I was just happy to get that nose drawn on!

That's it for this post. For updates, check my Instagram feed!

All images © Monette Pangan 2018, All rights reserved.