by: Lydia Mary De Leon
"Cuyunon," also "Cuyunin," "Cuyuno," and "Taga-Cuyo," refers to the people and culture of the occupants of Busuanga Island, Agutaya, and Cuyo, the main Island in a group of some 35 Islets in the middle of the Sulu Sea, east of Palawan and southwest of Panay. Comprising Busuanga Island are the towns of Busuanga in the west and Coron in the east. Cuyo mainland include Magsaysay and Cuyo towns. It is located 281.2km northeast of Puerto Princesa City. The term is derived from Cuyo, the etymology of which is undertermined. In 1990, a population of 15,175 (1990 census population by NSO) was spread over the 50-sqkm Cuyo Island, which is defined by a rocky terrain with numerous hills, three of these hills are the Aguado in Igabas, Kayamamis in Lucbuan, and Bonbon in Rizal. The Cuyunon language is accentuated by the peppet sound (the stress combined with the terminal glottal stop) and contains monosyllabic word forms, like kut "touch something," sut "go into," but "suffocate," el "get," buk "hair," bag "loincloth." There is neither a Cuyunon grammar nor dictionary, although a few prayer books have been written in the vernacular.
During the Ice Age, Palawan was linked to Borneo by land bridges which might explain why the flora and fauna of Palawan are similar to Borneo. Archaeological findings indicate that the late Neolithic and early Metal Age saw the influx of the early inhabitants of Palawan, mainly from Indo-China, South China, Malaya, and Thailand. The burial jars, ceramics, and the remains of the dead found in Palawan caves seem to indicate that these early settlers had well-developed belief systems and lifeways.
By the 16th century the Muslim traders from the surrounding areas had established close ties with the inhabitants of the islands, to the point that there were already Muslim villages at the shores of Palawan Island. As trade relations expanded, facets of Muslim cultural and political life were imbibed by the local inhabitants. Soon after, and due to their political superiority the Muslims of Borneo and Mindanao exercised authority over the inhabitants of Palawan. Thus, the people of Cuyo gave the tribute to the Muslims of the Borneo, a custom that persisted until 1588. During this time, the Muslims were also collecting tribute from the Calamianes and were preparing to attack the island of Busuanga.
Palawan's first contact with Spain was when the remnants of Magellan's expedition, including Pigafetta, arrived in 1521 at the main island which they called Pulaoan. They also explored the islands of Busuanga and Cuyo. Fr Luis de Jesus noted that the inhabitants of Cuyo Island had Chinese blood which he said explained their industriousness and shrewdness in trade. De Jesus described the islands as abundant in rice, pearls, fish, exotic fruits, forest products and wildlife.
The earliest attempt to assert Spanish authority over the islands came in 1570 when Martin de Goiti arrived at Cuyo Island and collected tribute worth 200 taels. By 1582, Cuyo with population of 800, was placed under the encomendero of Panay who was under the jurisdiction of Iloilo. Meanwhile, the Calamianes and Paragua (Spanish name for Palawan island) were placed under the jurisdiction of the alcalde mayor of Mindoro. By 1591 Cuyo and Calamianes became separate encomiendas. Spanish governance of the islands during this period was limited to the collection of tribute, a fact deplored by the Spanish friars who pointed out that the people of Calamianes also paid tribute to the government in Borneo.
At the onset of the 17th century, the Spanish missionaries began to sow Catholicism in the islands. By 1622 a group of Recollects under the leadership of Fr Juan de Santo Tomas were assigned to Cuyo to plant the seeds of Catholicism. According to the reports of the Spanish priests, the Cuyunon accepted them warmly, except for the native priests and priestesses who considered the foreign priests as threats to their privileged positions. The friars immediately implemented the policy of reduccion, gathering the inhabitants in one settlement whose nucleus was the church. After several months of assiduous evangelization, the Recollects baptized around a thousand natives. They then implemented the same policies in the island of Agutaya. In 1623 they established relations with the inhabitants of Paragua but found them resistant to Catholicism, as Muslim influence in the island was dominant. To offset this, the Spanish government sent two companies fortified with authority to guard the newly founded town and newly built fort in Paragua. So successful were the Recollects that by 1850, there were already 2,000 Catholic families in Cuyo alone.
By 1659, however, and due to lack of funds, the friars were forced to abandon the islands, with the exception of Cuyo and Agutaya. The Vacuum left by the friars was immediately exploited bye the Chinese pirate Cheng Cheng Kung, who demanded that the islands be placed under his rule. To counteract the Chinese presence, the local leaders of the islands requested the national colonial government to facilitate the return of Spanish missionaries, preferably the Recollects. By 1715 the Spanish rule was established once more, as proved bye the increase of "Christian souls" to 18,600. Aside from evangelization, the friars also undertook administrative work in the islands, particular training the natives of "indios" to become local leaders.
Meanwhile, the growing Spanish influence over the islands was challenged bye the Muslims who asserted their presence bye continuous attacks on these territories which they perceived as their own. Because Palawan was located between Christianized Luzon and Islamized Minadanao, the Palawan island group became the battleground of the struggle between the cross and the crescent.
In 1602 a group of Muslim ships from Borneo raided Cuyo and its neighboring islands, capturing in the process over 700 people. Within the same year, the Calamianes were also attacked. In 1603 the Maguindanao took more people captive and collected tribute from the localities. In 1632 Fr Juan de San Jose of Cuyo was captured and released only after tow years and in exchange for a P2,000 ransom. Again, in the summer of 1636, a Muslim captain named Tagal under Sultan Kudarat looted the churches in Cuyo and Calamianes. In Cuyo, on 20 Jun 1636, Tagal's forces captured the natives who were unable to flee, burned the town, and killed three friars. More Spanish priests were killed in subsequent attacks bye different groups of Muslims. By 1646 the Muslim leaders of Jolo, Guimbahanon, and Borneo conspired to launch joint attacks against the vulnerable Spanish-dominated islands.
To protect themselves, the Recolllect missionaries and the christianized natives built fortifications and garrisons. In 1638 Fr Juan de San Severo led the building of fortresses which protected the churches in Cuyo, Agutaya, and Culion. To stop the Muslim attacks, the Spaniards applied dilatory tactics and diplomatic double dealing, negotiating with Borneo while revitalizing and building their own military capabilities. The diplomatic efforts resulted in the acquisition of the whole island of Paragua, which was given to Spain bye Borneo in 1705.
As a matter of policy, more fortresses were built in the Christian-dominated towns of the islands, a timely decision indeed as the Muslims renewed their attacks during the 1720s. The Muslims attacked Cuyo in 1722, but they failed to overrun the fortress and defeat the combative natives. Bye the 1730s the Muslims stepped up their harassment and attacks on the fortresses in Culion, Paragua, Calatan, Malampaya, Dumaran, Linapacan, Taytay, and other bastions of Spanish rule. A this time, Cuyo's ability to protect itself became evident, as the Cuyunon foiled another Muslim attempt to invade the island bye a fierce counterattack which defeated the Muslims and gained arms for the natives. During the 18th and the 19th centuries, Palawan was microcosm of the fragmented society that was the whole archipelago. The natives of the province were divided: some, like the Molbog and Jama Mapun were under the jurisdiction of the Muslim sultanate of southern Philippines; many, like the Calamianon, Agutaynon, Cagayanon, And Cuyunon, became Christianized and fell under the Spanish government; while the rest, like the Batak, Tagbanua, and Palawan, continued their precolonial existence, practicing their ancient native religion.
In the early years of the 19th century, the resurgence of prehispanic native religion among the Cuyunon despite 200 years of Catholic indoctrination, greatly bothered Cuyo's parish priest, Fr Pedro Gilbert de Santa Eulalia. The priest noted the still widespread worship of the souls of ancestors and the prevalence of rituals of the babaylan or babylana (native priest/priestess). This was cause for worry since the Cuyunon were considered as among the most Christianized in the islands.
Another phenomenon that upset the Spanish authorities was the fact that 2/3 of the Cuyunon still celebrated the feast honoring the Diwata ng Kagubatan/Virgen del Monte (Enchantress of the Mountain), periodically held atop Mt Caimana in Cuyo. The situation led the Spanish authorities to intensify their evangelization and governance efforts. Spain's effort to achieve national control over the archipelago resulted in the organization of politico-military provinces in designated territories. During the 1840s Cuyo became the capital of the politico-military government of the Calamianes, which also administered Agutaya, Culion, Busuanga, Linapacan, and Coron. Meanwhile, Puerto Princesa became the capital of the politico-military government of Paragua in 1872. Soon the Muslims stopped their attacks. By 19 Nov 1886 the chieftains from Sulu and Jolo signed a treaty with Don Joaquin Ybanez of the Spanish armada, recognizing the Spanish authority over the entire Paragua.
In the 19th century, the Spanish government used Culion as a leper colony, and as penal colonies for both political and criminal offenders. As resistance against Spanish colonialism grew during the second half of the 19th century in Luzon and the Visayas, the territories of the present Palawan province became useful as dumping ground for "subversives" or oppositionists caught bye the government. During the late 1890s, 50 native soldiers of the Spanish guardia civil defied colonial authority and released some 235 deportees or political prisoners. However, the Spanish government suppressed the insurgency and eliminated its leaders.
When the Spanish authorities left after the defeat of Spanish colonial rule, the government of Emilio Aguinaldo designated Hermogenes Constantino as commissioner for Palawan. But Constantino and his men-supposedly revolutionaries from Luzon-abused their authority, exploited the people and used their positions for personal benefit. Upon the order of Baldomero Aguinaldo, Rufo Sandoval replaced the corrupt Constantino as the head of Calamianes and Paragua. Sandoval was warmly received in the islands-except in Cuyo, which became the bastion of American colonialism. The foremost pro-Americans in Cuyo were its local head Clemente Fernandez along with propertied and prominent personalities like Ricardo Fernandez, Jose Manuel Fernandez, Jose Manuel Rey, Alfonso Clemente Encarnacion and Abdon Diego. These men decided to welcome the American control over Cuyo even before the Americans arrived.
To secure the revolutionary government, Sandoval assigned Fabian B de Leon and Pedro Concepcion as representatives of the newly installed republic in Cuyo. Meanwhile, Sandoval had to track down the stubborn americanistas of the island. To control the island, travel to Panay was likewise restricted. However, de Leon and Concepcion were eventually outmanuevered by the local elite who scorned being ruled by the Tagalog leaders. The two were finally banished from Cuyo and failed to regain control of the Cuyunon.
On May 1901 Lt Day of the Department of Mindanao and Jolo sent an American ship to Cuyo. The Americans occupied and asserted their authority over Puerto Princesa on 29 May 1901. During the period of the Philippine-American War, the Cuyunon acquired the reputation of being the "most pronounced Americanistas in the archipelago." Cuyo was inaugurated as a local government under the new colonial government, which, under the leadership of a pro-American army, reported that the Filipino revolutionaries were effectively neutralized. The Cuyunon gladly accepted the education offered by the new colonizers. According to official US reports, even the elderly Cuyunon scholars spoke and sang songs in English.
Depressed economic conditions in Cuyo bye the end of the 19th century necessitated immigration to the other islands, like Panay, to trade fish and harvest rice, Mindoro to cut sugercane, and Manila to engage in commerce. Palawan drew swidden farmers in the 1910s and 1920s and larger scale homesteaders in the 1930s and 1940s. Overpopulation and the encouraging accounts of out-migrants who returned to Cuyo in wartime induced an upsurge of out-migration in the immediate postwar years.
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Agriculture is the island's main occupation. Traditional swidden farming produces rice, corn, sweet potatoes, manioc, and yams. Planting takes place in lat April or early May. Cuyo's swidden yields have tended to be unsubstantial. Fishing in Palawan's seas, the secondary occupation, renders enough marine foods to be marketed in Manila. Offshore fishing requires nets, traps, and hooks and lines; various onshore techniques are employed to gather crab, shrimp, octopus, shell, sea urchin, sea cucumber, seaweed, and jellyfish.
Cuyo's marginal share in the prewar market economy accounted for the relative lack of social differentiation and generally egalitarian outlook due to scarce land, markets, and investment opportunities during the period. Carpentry, basketry, mat weaving, and coconut wine collecting have generated small income. Copra has been lucrative only for a few big landowners. The outmigration of natives, mainly of average social standing, has significantly changed Cuyo's socioeconomic patterns. The island has minor docks and small airstrip for light aircraft.
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Cuyo island and its neighboring islets are divided into two municipalities, Cuyo and Magsaysay.
The municipality of Cuyo, which is the area's commercial and cultural capital, encompasses 1,742.5ha and a population of 11,283 (Prudente 1977). It includes the barrios of Maringiam, Suba, Pawa, San Carlos, Capenayan, Lubid, Manamoc, and Balading and Funds in Bisucay.
The municipality of Magsaysay encompasses 1,800 ha and a population of 7,070 (Prudented 1977). It includes the barrios of Igabas, Emilod, Lacaren, Balaguen, Los Angeles, Rizal, Lucbuan, Canipo, and Cocoro.
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SOCIAL ORGANIZATION AND CUSTOMS
Social contact is close and frequent in Cuyo Island. The Cuyunon work in groups when farming, fishing, and even when accomplishing small chores like cleaning house. However, as livelihood activities demand less time than effort, leisure is a main occupation particularly during the postharvest months from October to December. The folk habitually visit with their neighbors, and the men often have casual drinking sessions after work. There are more formal and organized socials like dances where friendships and courtships are pursued as well as baptism, birthdays, and weddings. Chuchgoing is central to traditional life, and the Lenten rituals become primary social events. In gratitude for requests granted by the saints, notably Santa Cecilia, cilia festivities are held and highlighted bye the roasting of pig. During the yearly village fiesta, the komedya is performed for the more affluent in their private residences and for the public in the plaza. Its production expenses are defrayed bye minimal admission fees, which may earn a little profit for drinks. Morning mass, cockfights, and games complete the celebrations. Although the fiestas are well attended, the meals prepared are comparatively simple. Cuyunon socials are generally more time consuming than expensive, but are considered obligations that promote self-esteem and group harmony.
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ARCHITECTURE AND COMMUNITY PLANNING
From the sea, Cuyo Island's first visible landmark is a lighthouse bye the pier. Many of the streets leading to the within the town have already been cemented. The town has preserved the hispanic plaza-iglesia structures. Dominating the town center is Cuyo's 1860 church, convent, and fort. Nearby stands a schoolhouse, and a monument of Dr Jose Rizal. The original complex of stone and mortar was a square with four bastions. The present complex, which occupies 1 ha, is a solid rectangular edifice with walls 10 m high and 2 m thick. It has a tall belfry and watchtowers; its canons which face the sea are now fired only during town celebrations.
Houses are more dispersed in the barrios outside the town. These are several variations of the traditional bahay kubo of nipa and bamboo. Most are raised above the ground with the living quarters on the second floor, a silong for storage underneath, and a kamalig for additional storage in the backyard. The newer and larger houses now use contemporary materials, mainly concrete, wood, and galvanized iron - sometimes with lighter native materials.
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Indigenous Cuyunon music still survives in instruments such as the batungtung (bamboo slit drum), palakupakan (sticks with bamboo clappers), subing (jew's harp), and lantoy (nose flute).
The tipanu band, a fife and drum ensemble, and the de kwerdas, a string band, supply background music on important social occasions. They also accompany singers and render dance music like the plamundo-pundo. The tipanu is reserved for the ati-ati, sinulog, and komedya.
Both ensembles use available instruments and instrumentalists. The tipanu core is basically two drums and four to seven transverse mouth flutes with six finger-holes. One or two tipanu nga maitley (small flutes) and three or four tipanu nga mabael (larger flutes) are played with a redublante (snare drum), bombo (big drum), and sometimes a pair of platilyo (cymbals). The de kwerdas has two or three byulin or sabel (violins), and occasionally a gitara or sista (guitar), a baho ( six-stringed bass), a banjo, and a bandurria. In Cuyunon music the akompanimento refers to the harmonic accompaniment-principal or primers to the first or highest voice, and segunda to the second.
Cuyunon songs suggest the islanders' various occupations from farming to tippling tuba (coconut wine). Fisherfolk and sailors often sing about the sea (Fernandez and Fernandez 1975:5):
Ako ay mi layang pasiak Panambantaman mi pamalanak
Porabil ako mapilak kong nagasolong Don nganiang dagat.
I have a fishnet with shells as the weight. I use it for catching "tamban" and "banak."
Before I throw the net, I wait for the tide to come in.
Lyrics are poetic although simple and unsentimental. They convey wisdom, practicality, and falzism even in playful children's songs (Fernandez and Fernandez 1975L2-3):
Taringting paglayog don, Ay ikaw tateban den.
Pagsot sa liyang-liyang, Sa batong malinang-linang.
Taringting fly away now, For the high tide will soon come.
Enter the eaves Among the smooth stones.
Some songs are infused with humor, which does not preclude profundity (Fernandez Fernandez 1975:3):
Nagbilin si Nanay lomismo si Tatay,
Akeng pangasa waen and babai nga boray,
Ang babai nga boray adorno sa balay,
Ang babai nga boray kong mag-arek maloay.
My father and mother advised me
That I marry a blind girl
A blind girl will serve as an ornament at home,
A blind girl kisses softly.
Sandaw, the Cuyunon lullaby using either the pentatonic scale or the western diatonic scale, soothes the child with pleas and promises.
The Cuyunon youth celebrate love with song during the postharvest corting season. The cancion, a popular serenade, is sung with the strumming of a five - or six-stringed guitar in the distinctive puntyal manner. Parting is a familiar concern in Cuyunon love songs. Examples of love songs are "Napopongao Ako,""Ang Gegma,""Ploning,""Daragang Taga Cuyo,""Konsomision,""Ako Maski Bayan,""Tiis Manong Pido,""Nagpamasiar Ako," and "Komosta." Here are the lyrics of the last two (Fernandez and Fernandez 1975:10).
Nagpamasiar Ako Napamasiar ako sa malapad nga siodad,
Nakapotay ako, papel nga malapad. Na basako rendaang manga libirtad,
Ang naga norobian, sarang pa mabelag. I went strolling in a wide city.
I picked up a wide paper. From it I read, the sweethearts
Can still be parted. Komosta
Komosta komosta dawat ang alima Tanda sa pagbelag ara dipirinsia,
Ogali soltiros ogali daraga Naga rilasionan sa mayad nga leba.
Let me shake your hand As a sign of separation without hurt feelings
It's but natural that we fall in love And then forget...
Music also marks the occasion of death. Pa Hesus is sung for a person on the brink of dying, repeated over and over as a way of entrusting the soul to God and driving away evil spirits.
Bereaved families are entertained with singing games during the pulao (wake). The participants sing "Koirdas di la Bordon" as they pass around a ring; the one who holds the ring at the end of the song is made to sing. Similar rules apply to kotao-kotao except that the game centers on a boy and girl holding a handkerchief (Fernandez and Fernandez 1975:14):
Kotao kotao kong aga kotao kotao kong apon,
Mapatay sa gegma baridad sa getem.
Indi maingaranan and pito ka birso
Ang panyong palaran itaplak sa olo.
Crowning in the morning, Crowning in the afternoon,
Die of love, but not of hunger. The seven verses cannot be mentioned,
But the lucky handkerchief must be placed on one's head.
Punebre music is played during the burial procession. Sarabien, a dirge recounting the life of the deceased, is sung to the cries of mourners swaying bye the graveside. Kalylywa is sung during All Saints Day on the first of November.
Some song forms treat broader themes. The composo ballad narrates factual events, particularly tragedies. It is often delivered during fiestas with the music of a string band and at times the dancing of boys and girls. The livelier erekay, originally a swidden planting song, is performed in happy gatherings. It favors the topics of love and sex (sung by an elder). In parlando-rubando syle, it may be accompanied by a four-stringed instrument called yuke. The cancion can venture into livelihood and nature subjects like layang and pasiak.
Native yuletide songs such as the "Pinagbalay,""Pastores," and "Tambora," are being replaced by modern Christmas carols. Of Cuyo's festivity music, among the most well preserved are the songs and chants of the Ati (Fernandez Fernandez 1975:24):
Sangka Mi Ati
Sangka mi ati kami tao sa bokid Sami mi bolawan, mangitit pa sa oring.
Wa-ay wa-ay toboan kami paray Sa balay magsobra sa bantolina.
Only One Aeta We are people of the mountain,
We are gold, as black as charcoal.
Wa-ay. Wa-ay may rice grow abundantly,
In my house may it grow and overflow.
Other religious music are "Maghimaya ka Hati" and "Santa Barbara Doncella," for seeking refuge from a storm; "Ave Maria Stella," for the Blessed Virgin Mary, sung by women during wakes, while planting, or as a protection from illness; gozos, for a sait at the end of a novena or a procession during a fiesta; litania, for the Virgin after a rosary and a novena; and alabado, for the Virgin and the Blessed Sacrament.
A few songs commemorate Palm Sunday. The Lenten pasyon narrates Christ's life and death. Also sung during Holy Week are "Amante,""Ameng Diyos", "Crucifixus", "Perdon", "Pange Lingua", "Stabat Mater", and "Regina Coeli" (for Easter). Notable of the songs offered to the Virgin during the Flores de Mayo are "Dios te Salve, Maria", "Ang Trese sa Mayo", and "Daygon ta si Maria at Venid."
Cuyunon dances have evolved from native and Spanish influences. Among these are the pastores (the Christmas dance of the sheppherds), the chotis (from the German schothische), lanceros de Cuyo (local French guadrille), birginia and virgoere (virginia reel or square dance), paraguanen (a romantic comic duet), and la jota paragua (a Castillan-type jota using bamboo castanets and manton). The island is known for the mazurka de Cuyo, a social dance with characteristic mazurka steps. Another popular dance is the pinundo-pundo, a stylish wedding dance marked by sudden pauses, its first two parts, featuring solo dances of the boy and the girl, are followed by the suring, a love play between the couple. Forms found in other regions, like the kuratsa, pandangao, and habanera have also been adapted by the Cuyunon.
The Cuyunon have developed the art of merging song, dance, and drama. Cuyo's sayaw is a colorful enactment of a story heightened by the music of a string band. It is presented by five pairs of youth arranged in two lines, fully costumed and made up, and bearing props like flowers, crowns, and even knives. After an introductory dance, the leading couple proceed to relate the tale, sometimes using verse. The topic may be anything, from everyday occurrences to special events like winning the sweepstakes. This story is then interpreted in dance and ended with a finale.
Tambora is a depiction of the nativity, traditionally performed by Christmas carolers in Cuyunon or Spanish.
Yearly on August 28, Cuyo Island celebrates San Agustin's feast. On the eve of the fiesta, a cultural presentation featuring the traditional performing arts and sometimes a separate show of modern songs and dances may be presented. The feast day is begun with a morning mass ( sometimes a High Mass officiated by the bishop ) and followed by the ati-ati, a legacy of the Aklanon. Folk from the nearby islands board barotos (boats) to view the parade which recreates the confrontation of San Agustin and the native "savages". Participants portray the Aeta by darkening their bodies with soot and painting their faces with anyel (indigo). They don foot-high headgear of coconut ginit fiber adorned with chicken feathers, and decorate their costumes with coconut leaves. The men, clad in loin cloths, carry spears, bows and arrows, or bolo. The women, wearing patadyong and beaded necklaces, carry baskets with a trumpline. The costumes may be modified to distinguish the groups representing the various tribes.
The participants form tow lines, one of men and the other of women. The director signals the start of the singing by striking his cane on the ground. This is followed by a spontaneous dance characterized by sways, hops, jumps, and the jerking of weapons accompanied by chanting; the director also signals the end of the dance. The teniente (barrio head) and his family may recite a series of verses. The director is then approached bye the last to recite, customarily the teniente's youngest child.
As the floats of San Agustin and other saints enter the church at the end of the procession, the participants kneel, prostrate themselves, or sing while performing skipping steps before the images. The merrymaking intensifies when the alcayo, a dancing clown, chases the ladies, stopping only when coins are thrown to him on the ground. The alcayo collects the coins with his mouth.
Meanwhile, the pnapatan perfomance are staged in front of various houses for a fee. These are mostly excepts of the komedya and ati-ati known as komedya sa kalye and ati-ati sa bukid, the performers of which use simpler clothing than in the more elaborate full-length performances. Ati-ati sa bukid is sung and danced to celebrate a fruitful harvest. Today it is usually danced by young boys wearing masks or indigo-panted faces.
Another pantomime, inocentes, recreates the descent of the "savages" from the hills to pay tribute to San Agustin. Wearing coconut fiber masks and red striped shirts, the participants frolic and fence with sticks.
Komedya or moro-moro performances are larger (with some 50 actors) and more refined than the ati-ati. The clash between the Mustlims and the Christians is further dramatized by background music; commonly used tunes are the pasadoble, marchas, giyera, and kasal.
The same subject is portrayed by the sinulog. The Christians are identified by their black costumes, kampilan, and elongated shields; the Muslims by their red turbans and waistbands, and round shields. The participants may wear masks or paint their faces. Both groups, usually of six dancers each, sometimes perform to the beating of tin cans. Alternate steps of offense and defense, e.g., advancing and retreating, with corresponding movements of weapons, are followed by circular formations simulating scenes of strategy plotting.
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