by: Jose Arnaldo Dris
The Maguindanao, literally, "people of the flood plains", occupy the basin of the
Pulangi River. The southern fork of the river flows towards Illana Bay.
In the past the Maguindanao settled along the banks and in the valley regions
of the river. Today they are found in several provinces. In Maguindanao
province, which accounts for 76% of the total Maguindanao population,
they are settled in Barira, Buldon, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Kabuntalan, Dindig,
North Upi, Matanog, Cotabato City, Buluan, Datu Panglas, Pagalungan, Ampatuan,
Maganoy, Datu Piang, Talayan, Sultan sa Barongis, General Salipada Pendatun,
and South Upi. In Cotabato province, they are found in Pikit and Kabacan.
In Sultan Kudarat province, they live in Lebak, Palembang, and Kalamansig,
all coastal towns. In 1988 the Maguindanao population numbered approximately
500,000 (Peralta 1988:7).
The Maguindanao language is part of a subgroup of languages called the "Danao languages". The subgroup includes Maranao, spoken in the Lanao provinces; Ilanun (also Ilanum or Iranun), spoken by a group of sea-based people between Lanao and Maguindanao; and Maguindanao, mainly spoken in Maguindanao, Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat (McFarland 1983:96).
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In the early 15th century, Sharif Muhammad Kabungsuan, an Arab-Malay preacher from the royal house of Malacca, arrived in what is now Malabang, introduced Islamic faith and customs, settled down with a local princess, and founded a sultanate whose capital was Cotabato. The other center of power in the area, Buayan, has an even longer history dating back to early Arab missionaries, who, although not able to implant the Islamic faith, introduced a more sophisticated form of political system. In Buayan, the transition to Islam took a longer time (Ileto 1971:3).
Spanish chronicles reveal that Buayan, and not Cotabato, was the most important settlement in Mindanao at that time. In 1579 an expedition sent by Governor Francisco de Sande failed to conquer Maguindanao. In 1596 the Spanish government gave Captain Rodriguez de Figueroa the sole right to colonize Mindanao. He met defeat in Buayan, and later, was killed in an ambush by a Buhahayen named Ubal. His forces retreated to an anchorage near Zamboanga (Angeles 1974:27-28; Ileto 1971:4).
The rise of the Maguindanao-Cotabato power came after the defeat of Datu Sirongan of Buayan in 1606. From 1607 to 1635, new military alliances were formed, this time with Cotabato. By the 1630s Cotabato had become a coastal power (Ileto 1971:5).
In the early 17th century, the largest alliance composed of the Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, and other Muslim groups was formed by Sultan Kudarat or Cachel Corralat of Maguindanao, whose domain extended from the Davao Gulf to Dapitan on the Zamboanga peninsula. Several expeditions sent by the Spanish authorities suffered defeat. In 1635 Captain Juan de Chaves occupied Zamboanga and erected a fort. This lead to the defeat of Kudarat's feared admiral, Datu Tagal, who had raided pueblos in the Visayas. In 1637 Governor General Hurtado de Corcuera personally led an expedition against Kudarat, and triumphed over his forces at Lamitan and Ilian. Spanish presence was withdrawn in 1663, providing an opportunity for Kudarat to reconsolidate his forces. From 1663 to 1718, Maguindanao influence extended as far as Zambales in the west, Cagayan de Oro in the north, Sarangani in the south, and Davao in the east. In 1719 the Spaniards reestablished control with the building of the strategic Fort Pilar in Zamboanga (Miravite 1976:40; Angeles 1974:28; Darangen 1980:42-45).
The 1730s saw the weakening of the Maguindanao sultanate, as it struggled with civil war and internal disunity. Spanish help was sought by the besieged rajah mudah (crown prince), further destroying the prestige of the sultanate. Thus, Cotabato power became increasingly dependent on Spanish support (Ileto 1971:11-15).
This deepening compromise with Spain led Cotabato to its downfall. Fearing Buayan's reemerging power, Sultan Kudarat II finally ceded Cotabato to Spain in return for an annual pension of 1,000 pesos for him, and 800 pesos for his son. Buayan, under Datu Uto, had, by the 1860s, become the power of Maguindanao. In 1887 General Emilio Terrero led an expedition against Uto; although, he was able to destroy the kota (forts) in Cotabato, he was unable to enforce Spanish sovereignty (Miravite 1976:42; Ileto 1971:16-29).
In 1891 Governor General Valeriano Weyler personally led a campaign against the Maguindanao and Maranao. In the next few months, Weyler erected a fort in Parang-Parang, between Pulangi and the Ilanun coast. This effectively stopped the shipment of arms to Uto, who died a defeated man in 1902 (Miravite 1976:42; Ileto 1971:94-95).
During the Philippine-American War, the Americans adopted a policy of noninterference in the Muslim areas, as spelled out in the Bates Agreement of 1899 signed by Brig. General John Bates and Sultan Jamalul Kiram II of Jolo. The agreement was a mutual non-aggression pact which obligated the Americans to recognize the authority of the Sultan and other chiefs who, in turn, agreed to fight piracy and crimes against Christians. However, the Muslims did not know that the Treaty of Paris, which had ceded the Philippine archipelago to the Americans, included their land as well.
After the Philippine-American War, the Americans established direct rule over the newly formed "Moro Province", which then consisted of five district -- Zamboanga, Lanao, Cotabato, Davao, and Sulu. Political, social, and economic changes were introduced. These included the creation of provincial and district institutions; the introduction of the public school system and American-inspired judicial system; the imposition of the cedula; the migration of Christians to Muslim lands encouraged by the colonial government; and the abolition of slavery. Datu Ali of Kudarangan, Cotabato refused to comply with the antislavery legislation, and revolted against the Americans. In October 1905 he and his men were killed (Che Man 1990:23, 47-49).
Department of Mindanao and Sulu replaced the Moro province on 15 December 1913. A "policy of attraction" was introduced, ushering in reforms to encourage Muslim integration into Philippine society. In 1916, after the passage of the Jones Law, which transferred legislative power to a Philippine Senate and House of Representatives, polygyny was made illegal. However, the Muslims were granted time to comply with the new restrictions. "Proxy colonialism" was legalized by the Public Land Act of 1919, invalidating Muslim Pusaka (inherited property) laws. The act also granted the state the right to confer land ownership. It was thought that the Muslims would "learn" from the "more advanced" Christian Filipinos, and would integrate more easily into mainstream Philippine society (Che Man 1990:23-24, 51-52; Isidro 1976:64-65).
In February 1920, the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives passed Act No. 2878, which abolished the Department of Mindanao and Sulu and transferred its responsibilities to the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes under the Department of the Interior. Muslim dissatisfaction grew as power shifted to the Christianized Filipinos; it was one thing to be administered by the militarily superior Americans, another by their traditional enemies, the Christian Filipinos. Petitions were sent by Muslim leaders in 1921 and 1924 requesting that Mindanao and Sulu be administered directly by the United States. These petitions were not granted. Isolated cases of armed resistance were quickly crushed. In Cotabato, Datu Ambang of Kidapawan attempted to incite a jihad (holy war) against the Americans and the Christian Filipinos. This, however, did not take place when the governor of the province mobilized government forces (Che Man 1990: 52-53).
Realizing the futility of armed resistance, some Muslims sought to make the best of the situation. In 1934 Arolas Tulawi of Sulu, Datu Menandang Pang and Datu Blah Sinsuat of Cotabato, and Sultan Alaoya Alonto of Lanao were elected to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. In 1935 only two Muslims were elected into the National Assembly.
The Commonwealth years sought to end the privileges the Muslims had been enjoying under the earlier American administration. Muslim exemptions from some national laws, as expressed in the Administrative Code for Mindanao, and the Muslim right to use their traditional Islamic courts, as expressed in the Moro board, were ended. The Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes was replaced by the Office of the Commissioner for Mindanao and Sulu, whose main objective was to tap the full economic potentials of Mindanao not for the Muslims but for the Commonwealth. These "development" efforts resulted in discontent which found expression in the various armed uprisings, mostly in Lanao, from 1936 to 1941 (Che Man 1990:55-56).
The Muslims are generally adverse to anything that threatens Islam and their way of life. Che Man (1990:56) believes that they were neither anti-American nor anti-Filipino, but simply against any form of foreign encroachment into their traditional way of life. During World War II, the Muslims in general supported the fight against the Japanese, who were less tolerant and harsher to them than the Manila government.
After independence, efforts to integrate the Muslims into the new political order met with stiff resistance. It was unlikely that the Muslims, who have had longer cultural history as Muslims than the Christian Filipinos as Christian, would surrender their identity. The conflict was exacerberated in 1965 with the "Jabidah Massacre", in which Muslim soldiers were allegedly eliminated because they refused to invade Sabah. This incident contributed to the rise of various separatist movements -- the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM), Ansar el-Islam, and Union of Islamic Forces and Organizations (Che Man 1990:56-62, 74-75).
In 1969 the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was founded on the concept of a Bangsa Moro Republic by a group of educated young Muslims. The leader of this group, Nur Misuari, regarded the earlier movements as feudal and oppressive, and employed a Marxist framework to analyze the Muslim condition and the general Philippine situation (Tan 1977:118-122; Che Man 1990:77-78).
In 1976, negotiations between the Philippine government and the MNLF in Tripoli resulted in the Tripoli Agreement, which provided for an autonomous region in Mindanao. Negotiations resumed in 1977, and the following points were agreed upon: the proclamation of a Presidential Decree creating autonomy in 13 provinces; the creation of a provisional government; and the holding of a referendum in the autonomous areas to determine the administration of the government. Nur Misuari was invited to chair the provisional government but he refused. The referendum was boycotted by the Muslims themselves. The talks collapsed, and fighting continued (Che Man 1988:146-147).
When Corazon C. Aquino became president, a new constitution, which provided for the creation of autonomous regions in Mindanao and the Cordilleras, was ratified. On 1 August 1989, Republic Act 673 or the Organic Act for Mindanao created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which encompasses Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
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Religious Beliefs and Practices
Most Maguindanao follow standard Islamic beliefs and practices. The Quran is considered by all Muslims as the words of Allah (God), revealed to Prophet Muhammad through Archangel Gabriel, and as the source of all Islamic principles. Aside from the Quran, other Islamic sources of law include the Sunnah or Hadith (literally, "a way, a rule, a manner of acting") which recounts the deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad; and the Ijma and Iftinad, a revisable collection of the opinions of Islamic jurists. The Maguindanao believe in the six articles of the Islamic faith: (1) belief in the oneness of Allah; (2) belief in the angels of Allah; (3) belief in the books of Allah; (4) belief in all the prophets of Allah; (5) belief in the judgment day; and (6) belief that the power of good deeds comes from Allah alone.
The Five Pillars of Islam are faith in one God and the four obligations of praying, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one's lifetime. The concept of jihad or natural right to self-defense finds expression in the holy wars of defense when Muslim land and religion are threatened. Warriors of jihad are guaranteed a place in sorga (heaven). The Muslims believe that the world divides into two spheres -- Dar-ar-Islam (Islamic Sphere) and Dar-ar-Hard (non-Islamic Sphere). The first subdivides into four territories: forbidden, namely Mecca and Medina; reserve, namely Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, and other areas controlled by Muslims; canonical, where Muslims are allowed to practise their faith in a non-Islamic country like the Philippines; and irredentist, of which Muslims had control until they were forced out, e.g., Spain and Israel (Isidro 1976:46-52).
Although Islamic influence on the Maguindanao is supposedly deep, their religious culture has tended towards "folk-Islam", which has governed much of their ethics, politics and social behavior. Alongside the Islamic beliefs, indigenous religious systems survive. There is the belief in evil spirits and devotion to gentler ones. Belief in magic provides the Maguindanao with security in the face of immediate danger (Glang et al 1978:35-37). As early as the 17th century, the Englishman Thomas Forrest, noted that just as Islamic practices like circumcision are prevalent, indigenous practices like tiling and blackening one's teeth as acts of socioreligious devotion were still followed.
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Visual Arts and Crafts
As Muslim lowlanders, the Maguindanao, possess a strong weaving and carving tradition (Casal et al 1981). As with all other Muslim groups, the Maguindanao are prohibited from representing animal or human forms in art. This led to the development of an abstract form of artistic representation in Maguindanao carvings and textiles. These designs are also carved on the weaponry and musical instruments of the Maguindanao. For example the birdo (vine) motif usually embellishes the musical instrument called kudyapi, which may be shaped like a mythical animal resembling a crocodile (Darangen 1980:112-113).
A typical Maguindanao blade is the kampilan, usually handled with both hands, and used for cutting off heads or splitting the body from top to toe. The handle of the kampilan features the naga ("S"-shaped abstraction of a mythical serpent) in the form of a gaping mouth. The head above the mouth is usually adorned with reddish fibers, turning the handle into a manelike figure (Lane 1986:177).
Oulan (weaving) is traditionally done on a very simple backstrap loom. The process involves the methodical interlacing of warp and weft threads. The warp yarns or "verticals" are spread between two bars, one of which -- the cloth bar -- is fastened to the waist of the weaver by a string. The other bar -- the warp bar -- is affixed to a small tree, a post, or a wall. To apply tension on the warp, the weaver leans against the backstrap as she generates pressure against a piece of wood in front of her outstretched legs. The weft threads or "horizontals" are rolled inside a shuttle, which is passed, back and forth, through the warp openings. Additional decorations are made through supplementary warps and wefts inlaid over the basic matrix. The Maguindanao batek (color) and design process is basically resist-dyeing, the assumption being that uncontrolled color spread can be resisted by binding, knotting, stitching, or applying wax or paste to the parts of the yarn. The technique produces the desired pattern, design, or motif (Casal et al 1981:130-132).
The Maguindanao malong (tube skirt) displays more commonly the ikat (literally, "to tie") design. Before weaving, the warp or weft or both yarns are secured with waxed threads. One common ikat design is the eight-pointed star, which is reminiscent of the "radiating-core" motif (Casal et al 1981:132-134).
Silver inlaid lutuan (betel boxes), gadur (jarlike containers), and panalagudan (pot holders) epitomize Muslim brassware. Indicating wealth and status, these objects decorate the affluent Maguindanao home. The gadur come in pairs and are dignified objects with minaretlike tops. They are profuse with silver-inlaid scrolls and various geometric shapes. Betel boxes come in sets of four or at least have four compartments to accommodate the four betel chew: bunga (areta nut), buyo (fresh pepper leaves), apug (lime powder), and damp tobacco leaves. These brassware usually have either silver or white-metal inlay, and are ornamented with okir designs (Casal et al 1981:155).
Other metalcraft adorned with okir motifs are the sundang (sword), the gulok (knife), the panabas (long knife), the dilek (spear), the badung, the kris and the bongalambot, the hair clip worn by female royalty (Glang et al 1978:15).
The baluyan (carrying baskets) found in Maguindanao are usually open plaited with a cover and a handle, and are generally made of bamboo with some nito trims. Other basketry include the salakot (hat), an example of which is the tapisan hat made of finely split soft-strip bamboo over a coarser bamboo frame. Indigenous designs are added either by changing one-over-one weaving to extended twill patterns, or by introducing into trims or smoked bamboo a contrast to the natural. The tapisan hat is worn over a turban. Another type of hat is the binalono salakot made of finely woven reed, which, sewn together with thread, is shaped into a dome. A coconut shell and a piece of carved wood top the hat. Like the tapisan, the binalono salakot is worn over a turban.
The Maguindanao have recently developed their own mats, which are circular in shape and made from seagrass. Colors used are red, green, and blue. These mats measure 180 cm in diameter. Other types of basketry made from seagrass include colorful small containers -- round or square -- with covers and handles and fans (Lane 1986:183-187).
Maguindanao kadyun (pottery or earthenware) include the kuden (cooking pot for rice and viands), the lakub (vessel covers), the paso (tub for washing rice and vegetables), the buyon (drinking water jar), the kararo (small drinking water jar), the tampad (jar for storing water or salt), the baing (open front jar for parching coffee or grains), the simpi (a covered bibingka or rice cake baking pan), the dapuran (elongated, floored stove), the sinokuran (steamer pot), the binangka (a buyonlike jar but with decorated shoulder), the pamu-mulan (flower pot), the torsian (coffee pot), the ititi (tobacco jar), the tutugan (square ember holder), and the lagan (cooking spot for fish) (Scheans 1977:74-75).
Maguindanao pottery is made mainly through the "turn-modeling" technique, where a turntable, as well as a paddle, an anvil, and a broken rim, are used to mold and shape the pottery (Jose-De La Cruz 1982:8-9).
The literary elements of the Maguindanao include folk speech and folk narratives. The folk speech is expressed in the antuka/pantuka/paakenala (riddles) and bayok (lyric poems), while the narratives may be divided into the Islamic and folk traditions. The Islamic includes the Quran; the tarsila or genealogical narratives; the luwaran, an embodiment of customary laws; hadith or sayings of the Prophet; the quiza or religious stories. The folk tradition comprises the tudtul, (folktales), and the epics Raja Indarapatra, Darangen, and Raja Madaya.
For the Maguindanao, riddles promote friendship in a group. They are also tools for basic pedagogy. The structure of a Maguindanao riddle consists of an image and a subject. There are four types of image: comparative, descriptive, puns or puzzles, and narrative. The Maguindanao believe in a basic unity underlying the various aspects of the environment and this belief is reflected in the use of often conflicting image and subject in the riddles (Notre Dame Journal 1980:17).
Riddling involves a group of people, one of which is the riddler. If one volunteers to be a riddler, he/she has to have a riddle ready or else be subject to dtapulung (ridicule), which is given not as a criticism but as part of the riddling tradition. The Maguindanao consider bad riddlers as those who add to or subtract from the "original" text of the riddler. Riddling can take place anytime and anywhere as long as there is some form of group activity in progress; it can be done during work or recreation or both.
Ambiguities of answers can be settled by an old man or somebody who is respected in the barangay (the basic political unit). In this sense, riddles allow a certain flexibility in their solutions; that is, they point to various logically possible solutions, thus providing some form of basic pedagogy. An example of this would be:
It is here, it is there. (Wind)
There are, however, other possible answers: cradle, for example. Riddles also represent the world view of the Maguindanao. For example:
Cannibal in the forest,
that eats only a head. (Hat)
Although cannibals and hats do not share anything in common, they are reconciled with the use of metaphors such as: "that eats only heads".
Other beliefs involving riddling is that it should not be done at night, so as not to invite the participation of evil spirits. Another belief associated with riddling at night is the avoidance of the word nipai (snake). If the use of the word cannot be avoided, euphemisms are resorted to, e.g., "big worm" (Notre Dame Journal 1980:20-25).
Maguindanao verses are expressed through such forms as the ida-ida a rata (children rimes sung in chorus), or through the tubud-tubud (short love poem). For instance:
Pupulayog sa papas ka pumagapas apas
Ka tulakin kon ko banog
Na diron pukatalakin
Ka daon kasakriti.
Kanogon si kanogon nakanogon ni ladan ko
A pukurasai mamikir a ana palandong a dar
Na di akun mapkangud a bologang ko sa gugao
Ka Oman akun ipantao na pusulakan a ig
O matao kandalia.
Flying hard, the swift is
Trying to catch up with the hawk
But he cannot equal him
Because he is far too small
Woe, woe unto me
Worried from thinking of a loved one
And I cannot let my feelings prevail, express my love
Because everytime I want to reveal it
Stops it in its way.
Composed in metaphorical language, the bayok is resorted to when a cautious and euphemistic expression is required. An example (Wein 1983:35-36):
Salangkunai a meling
A malidu bpagimanen,
Ka mulaun sa dibenal
Dun-dun ai lumaging
A paya pagilemuan
Ka mumbus sa hakadulat
Na u saken idumanding
Sa kaludn pun na is
na matag aku 'ngka maneg
di ku mawatang galing.
T'is hard to trust in you,
For untrue leaves could sprout
Dun-dun fond of chatting
T'is hard believing you
For cheating buds may show
Once I [start to] fondle
From the sea
You would just hear from me
My darling, close to me.
Salsilas or tarsilas are family heirlooms that trace one's line of descent; they are used to ascertain noble lineages that may go back to the days of the Kabungsuan. For example, a tarsila recounts the adventures of Datu Guimba who leads the first group of Maguindanao to Labangan. According to the account, he marries the local princess Bai-alibabai and adopts the title Datu sa Labangan. The next to arrive at Labangan is Datu Buyan Makasosa Kanapia, an adventurer, who marries a Maranao. Together, Datu Guimba and Kanapia rule Labangan. Other datu arrive in time, namely: Datu Maulona Taup Consi and Datu Canao Sultan Maputi (Alfanta 1975:4-5).
The Maguindanao Luwaran is a set of encoded adat laws that deal with murder, theft, and adultery, as well as with inheritance and trade. The laws apply to all regardless of class, and has since become the basis of modern Islamic jurisprudence (Darangen 1980:33).
The Hadith are the sayings and practices of the prophet Muhammad, collected, compiled, and authenticated by Islamic scholars. Hadith constitute one of the sources for Islamic law and jurisprudence. They are also used to explain and clarify certain points in the Quran. The language used is Arabic.
Religious quiza are stories written in Arabic, and are used by the imam to teach Islam to children. An example is the "Izra-wal-Miraj", which tells the story of why Muslims pray five times a day. The Prophet Muhammad is awakened one night by the angel Diaba-rail. The Prophet then rides on a burrak and travels to Masjid-el-Agsa in Jerusalem, where he sees a bright light that leads to heaven. Each layer of heaven has a different color. On the seventh layer, he hears the voice of God, and sees heaven and hell. On the way down, he is instructed by Moses to ask God that the number of prayers be reduced from 50 to 5 times daily. His request is granted.
Maguindanao tudtul (folktales) are short stories involving simple events. Two examples are presented.
The "Lagya Kudarat" tells the adventures of the two children of Lagya (rajah) Mampalai of Lum who are blown away after Mampalai laments the lack of viable partners for his children. These two children are Lagya Kudarat and Puteli (princess) Sittie Kumala. Puteli Kumala is blown to a forest where she meets a kabayan (in all Maguindanao stories, this character is associated with an old unmarried woman). The kabayan adopts her, as she earlier did the prince named Sumedsen sa Alungan. Although Kumala and Sumedsen live in the same house, they never speak to each other. Later, because of peeping toms, Kumala leaves and Sumedsen goes with her. They find their way to Lum, where a happy reunion takes place. Sumedsen eventually marries Kumala. Meanwhile, Lagya Kudarat is blown to Kabulawanan. There he meets another kabayan who allows him to live with her. One day while hunting, Kudarat hears the game of sipa (rattan ball kicked with the ankle) being played. He proceeds to the direction of the game and is invited to play. Not knowing how to play, he accidentally causes the sipa to fall in front of the princess who is sitting beside the window. She throws him her ring and handkerchief. The marriage between the princess and Kudarat is then arranged. After the wedding, Kudarat feels homesick; his wife then suggests that they go back to Lum. There is a happy reunion. A week later, Kudarat and his wife returns to Kabulawanan to live with his in-laws (Notre Dame Journal 1980:3-6).
"Pat-I-Mata" narrates the story of two brothers -- Pat-I-Mata and Datu sa Pulu. The former rules Kabalukan while the latter reigns over Reina Regente. Pat-I-Mata is so-called because he has four eyes; when his two eyes sleep, his other two are awake. He is also known for his cruelty to women, marrying them when they are beautiful and returning them after they have gone ugly. Because of this, the people of Kabalukan can no longer tolerate Pat-I-Mata's cruelty. They approach his brother and ask for his help. The Datu sa Pulu tries to advise his brother but to no avail. He then decides to kill Pat-I-Mata. So he builds a cage. Seeing the cage, Pat-I-Mata asks what it is for. The Datu replies that it is constructed to protect them from an incoming storm. Being greedy, Pat-I-Mata asks for the cage saying that the Datu can make his own anytime. The Datu pretends to hesitate but later accommodates his brother's wishes. When Pat-I-Mata and his followers enter the cage, the Datu orders the door shut. Realizing that he is tricked, he says before being thrown into the river: "Never mind, my brother. We would always be enemies -- and we will never be reconciled till eternity. I would die but I pray that whenever you go riding on a boat in the river, my spirit will capsize it" (Notre Dame Journal 1980:7-8).
Maguindanao epics are chanted and antedate Islam, the elements of which were later incorporated. The epic Raja Indarapatra deals with various characters, many of whom are imbued with supernatural powers. One portion of the epic tells the story of how two brothers, Raja Indarapatra and Raja Sulayman, save Mindanao from terrible creatures (Gagelonia 1967:288). Another portion deals with the birth of Raja Indarapatra, who is said to come from the union of Sultan Nabi and his cousin. The plot revolves around a trick the cousin, who is well versed in black magic, plays on the Sultan.
Raja Madaya is believed to be an original Maguindanao work since many of its elements -- language, metaphor, objects in the tale -- are Maguindanao. On the other hand, other elements in the epic point to foreign origins (Wein 1984:12-13). The epic involves various narratives one of which tells about the childless Sultan Ditindegen. In his despair, he prays for a child, promising to give it to a dragon. His wish is granted; but in time, a dragon appears to claim the now grown Princess Intan Tihaya. Hearing about Intan's plight, Raja Madaya comes to the rescue (Wein 1984:14).
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The Maguindanao have many types of musical instruments: the kudyapi or boat lute, the suling or bamboo flutes, the kubing or jew's harp, bamboo zithers and bamboo scrapers, the most important, the kulintangan ensemble. The kulintangan ensemble consists of five instruments. These are the kulintang (a series of eight-graduated gongs), agong (wide-rimmed gong), dabakan (goblet-shaped drum), gandingan (set of four thin-rimmed gongs), and babandir (small thin-rimmed gong). Taken as a whole, the ensemble is called palabunibunyan (an ensemble of loud sounding instruments). It is heard in various occasions like weddings, water baptism called paigo sa ragat, and curing rites called kapagipat (Butocan 1987:17).
The kulintang is arranged horizontally from largest (lowest in pitch) to the smallest (highest in pitch), and laid over an antangan (wooden frame). These are played by striking the knob of the gongs with a pair of basal (light wooden sticks).
The agong, played exclusively by men, is a large kettle-shaped gong. It displays a high busel (protrusion or knob) and a wide takilidan (rim) of approximately 30 cm. Other parts of the agong include the pakaw (collar), biyas (face), and bibir (mouth). It hangs from a horizontal pole or wooden frame and is played when the player holds the knob with his left hand, and strikes the gong with a mallet in his right. The agong is also used to announce an emergency and to mark the time of day. Moreover, the sound of the agong is believed to possess supernatural power.
The dabakan is a goblet-shaped drum with a single head covered with goat, lizard, or snake skin. The instrument is played by striking the head with two thin bamboo sticks, each 50 cm in length. Traditionally, the instrument is played by a woman sitting on a chair.
The gandingan is a series of four graduated gongs with a thin rim and a low central protrusion. They hang in pairs facing each other, and are played by a woman who stands in between them. She uses two mallets, one for each pair, to strike at the knobs.
Finally, the babandir is a small gong with a thin rim and low central protrusion. The instrument produces a metallic sound when struck with thin bamboo sticks. There are three ways of playing the babandir. The first way is by striking the suspended gong with a pair of sticks. The second way is by striking the gong's rim with one stick while holding the rim with the left hand. The third way is by laying the instrument upside down and striking the gong's rim with two sticks (Butocan 1987:19-24).
There are four types of musical pieces played in the palabunibunyan: binalig or sirong, sinulog, tidtu, and tagunggo. The first three are heard in various kinds of festive occasions. When a performer plays in minuna (traditional style), the first piece should be a binalig, then a sinulog, then a tidtu. The tagunggo is used mainly in rituals, and is used to accompany the sagayan dance. Tidtu pieces are played fast to display one's virtuosity and are often heard in musical competitions. Binalig pieces are played to express different emotions like anger, love, and joy. Sinulog pieces, on the other hand, are played slowly in a flowing manner to express loneliness. It is said that sinulog pieces can make its listeners cry and is best played at night or early dawn (Butocan 1987:25-26).
A mster kulintang player is Amal Lumuntod, who innovated and popularized the binalig style. Performing solo, he is known for "his sudden stops, the use of rests, more plays for the left hand, a fast right hand melody, and an unpredictable introduction traditionally done through a middle gong" (Gawad CCP 1991). Recording of his music have been made. For his virtuosity Lumuntod has been invited to perform in Manila, Hong Kong, Iran, and Europe, and was given the Gawad CCP sa Sining in 1991. Among his students are kulintang performers like Danungan Kalanduyan, Madendog Kamangsa, and Ussop Tanggo. A group that has also distinguished itself in the kulintang is the Maguindanao Lilang Lilang.
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CCP Encyclopedia of Arts