by: Ma. Criselda de Leon
The word "Tiruray" comes from "tiru," signifying "place of origin, birth or residence,"
and "ray," from "daya," meaning "upper part of a stream or river."
The Tirurau are a traditional hill people of southwestern Mindanao. They live
in the upper portion of a river-drained area in the northwestern part of South
Cotabato, where the mountainous terrain of the Cotabato Cordillera faces the Celebes
Sea. The Tiruray call themselves etew teduray or Tiruray people, but also
classify themselves according to their geographic location: etew rotor, mountain
people; etew dogot, coastal people; etew teran, Tran people; and etew awang,
Awang people, or etew ufi, Upi people (Schlegel 1970:5).
The Tiruray may be classified into the acculturated and the traditional. The first refers to those who live in the northernmost areas of the mountains, and who have had close contact with Christian and Muslim lowland peasants, as well as with Americans since the beginning of the century. The second refers to Tiruray who have survived deep in the tropical forest region of the Cotabato Cordillera, and have retained a traditional mode of production and value system.
The Tiruray number about 27, 000, distributed in several areas: the coastal region, the northern mountain region, the Upi valley, the Tran Grande River, and Maganoy River regions. This entire mountainous stretch, in the seaward portion of northern Maguindanao, is also home to two other cultural groups who are linguistically distinct from the Tiruray and from each other: the nearby Cotabato Manobo, and the Tboli.
The Tiruray are Malay in physical appearance. Their language is structurally related to those of the Malayo-Polynesian family. But when spoken, it is unintelligible even to their immediate neighbors (Schlegel 1970:5).
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The Tiruray have occupied the same area for several centuries, but they have undergone varying degrees of assimilation and acculturation. It is reasonable to assume that before the Spanish appeared in Mindanao, there were extensive contacts between the Tiruray and the Maguindanao Muslims, particularly since the 15th century. During that time, the people of the Cotabato river basin had been won over to Islam, which had established a sultanate over all of Maguindanao. Attempts by the Maguindanao to subdue the mountain tribes of Cotabato did not succeed, but trade relationseventually flourished between the two groups. The Tiruray came down to the coast bringing forest and agricultural products for trade. Spanish influence in the area came rather late. It was only sometime in the 19th century, towards the end of Spain's colonial rule of the Philippines, that the central government in Manila and the Roman Catholic Church were able to establish a stronghold in Cotabato. A Spanish military garrison was put up in Cotabato City, while a Jesuit school and mission were built near Awang, close to the mountain region. The Spaniards were able to convert a number of Tiruray to Catholicism.
The outbreak of war between the American occupation forces and the Muslim people of Mindanao in the early part of the 1900s signalled the beginning of another phase of colonization. The Americans, through the efforts of a Philippine Constabulary officer named Irving Edwards who married aTiruray, built a public school in Awang in 1916 and an agricultural school in Upi in 1919. The building of roads which ran into Tiruray territory opened up the region to numerous lowland Christian settlers, most of them Ilocano and Visayan, and Upi Valley became the site of many homesteads. The Americans introduced the idea of titling lands as homesteads.
A significant number of Tiruray were persuaded to give up their traditional slash-and-burn methods of cultivation, and they shifted to farming with plow and carabao. This was the beginning of the dichotomy in Tiruray culture: many Tiruray refused to be acculturated and retreated deeper into their ancestral mountain habitat, while others resettled in the Upi valley and became peasants. Many of the resettled and "modernized" Tiruray have been converted to Christianity, as a result of years of evangelization work by "clergy who are either American missionaries, Filipinos from Luzon, or profoundly westernized Tiruray" (Schlegel 1970:9).
Their situation has remained basically unchanged since the American period. Political power is mainly in the hands of the Maguindanao who make up the majority population (more than half a million) in the rural and urbanized parts of the province. Local and provincial leaders, under the local government setup centralized in Manila, are mainly Maguindanao.
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RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
According to the Tiruray, the world was created by the female deity Minaden, who had a brother named Tulus, also called Meketefu and Sualla. Tulus is the chief of all good spirits who bestow gifts and favors upon human beings. He goes around with a retinue of messengers called telaki. Tulus is said to have rectified some errors in the first creation of the world and of human beings.
In the complex cosmogony of the Tiruray, tiyawan can exist between human beings and the spirits of the unseen world. The universe, according to the Tiruray, is the abode of various types of etew or people. There are visible ones, the ke-ilawan (human beings), and invisible ones, the meginalew (spirits). The latter may be seen, but only by those in this world possessing special powers or charisma. It is believed that the spirits live in tribes and perform tasks in the other world, much as they did on earth.
While good spirits abound in the world, there are also bad spirits who are called busaw. They live mostly in caves and feed on the remoger (soul) of any hapless human being who falls into their trap. At all times, the Tiruray young and old are aware that the busaw must be avoided, and this can be successfully done if one possesses charms and amulets. With the good spirits, it is always necessary and beneficial to maintain lines of communication. But the ordinary human being cannot do this, and so the Tiruray must rely on the beliyan or religious leader.
The beliyan has the power to see and communicate with spirits. If a person falls ill, and the spirits need to be supplicated, the beliyan conducts a spiritual tiyawan with them. Human illness, in so far as the Tiruray is concerned, is the consequence of an "altercation," a misunderstanding, between people and the unseen spirits and these formal negotiations are needed to restore the person's health and harmonious relationship with the spirits. In effect, therefore, the beliyan as a mediator between spirits and human beings is a specially gifted and powerful, kefeduwan.
In an account written in the late 19th century by Sigayan (the first Christianized Tiruray, christened Jose Tenorio), the beliyan was described as a person who could talk directly to Tulus and even share a meal with him. The beliyan would gather people in a tenines, a mall house where the shaman stored the ritual rice, and tell them about his/her communications with Tulus. The beliyan would dance with a wooden kris in the right hand, small jingling bells hanging from the wrists, and a decorated wooden shield held by the other hand. The shaman made the men and women dance, for that was the only way the people could worship Tulus. The beliyan also prepared the ritual offerings to Tulus, and played the togo, a small drum, for the supreme being. The same account avers that the Tiruray believed in heaven, a place where they go after death. There was also a hell-like place called naraka, but this was for the Maguindanao, "because their god was a different one" (Schlegel 1970:372).
The ancient belief in Tulus and other cosmological beings has remained. And so has the belief in the efficacy of charms and omens. These are particularly relevant in the hunting activities of the Tiruray, whose basic charm or talisman is the ungit. This is fashioned from several kinds of "mystically powerful leaves and grasses, wrapped in cloth and bound with vine lashing" (Schlegel 1979:235). This is handed down from father to son, and down the line. The kinds of plants that make up the charm are strictly kept between father and son, as revealing this to just anybody will cause the charm to lose its potency. The hunter carries the ungit on his body, and rubs it all over his dog and horse. The ungit is believed efficacious not only in snaring or catching game, but also in attracting women sexually. If so used, however, "it loses its power as a hunting charm."
Omens rule the life of hunters, as they presage misfortune. A hunter will not proceed on a hunt if any of these occurs: he hears a person sneeze as he is about to set out; he hears the call of a small house lizard; he has a bad dream in which he gets wounded, falls, or dies. He will give up the hunt if the animal he intends to catch is seen while he is setting up the trap.
Rituals to establish good relations with the spirits accompany each significant stage of the Tiruray agricultural cycle. Four times within a year, all the households belonging to the inged participate in a community ritual feast known as kanduli. Feasting on food, particularly glutinous rice and hardboiled eggs, and ritual offerings to the spirits are the two characteristics of these annual celebrations. The preparations for the feast are generally done in the major settlement within the inged, which is also the focal point of all activities. In the preparation of the food, a significant ritual act is already performed: the exchange of portions of the glutinous rice among all the families. When it is time to consume the ritual food, a family would then be actually partaking of some of the rice that has come from every other family in the whole neighborhood. The bonding of the community and of all individual members through the food exchange is implicit in the practice. The significance is further underscored by the fact that "in the course of the cultivation cycle, every family of the neighborhood had contributed its labor to each field on which the rice was grown, and it is the effect of these communal meals to give ritual expression to this interdependence" (Schlegel 1968:64-65).
The four kanduli rituals of the agricultural cycle are: maras, "marking festival" which is held on the night of the last full moon before the marking of swidden sites for the coming cycle; retus kama's, "festival of the first fruits of the corn," which is held on the night following the first corn harvest from a neighborhood swidden; retus farey, "festival of the first fruits of the rice," which is celebrated on the night following the first harvest of rice from a swidden; and matun tuda, or "harvest festival," which is held on the night of the first full moon when the rice harvest from all of the settlement's swiddens has been collected.
The inged families prepare small bamboo tubes filled with glutinous rice, and this they will offer to the spirits at the ritual marking of the first swidden site. Men and women of the neighborhood congregate at a clearing, and they proceed in single file, as gongs are being played, to where the first swidden for the year will be marked for burning. Arriving at the site, they setup a small platform where they lay down the tubes of glutinous rice. Everyone listen attentively to the omen-call of the lemugen bird, which is believed to have the power to convey messages between human beings and the spirits. The first ritual marking is meant as a song of respect for the spirits of the forest, seeking permission to begin cutting down trees. The owner of the field interprets the omen-call, and there are good signs and bad signs depending on the direction of the call. There are four good directions: selat (front), fereneken (45 degrees left), lekas takes (45 degrees right), and rotor (directly overhead). Any other direction is considered bad. The ritual laying of the food and the wait for the omen-call is repeated around the four corners of the swidden until a good omen is heard.
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VISUAL ARTS AND CRAFTS
Early Tiruray costumes, including the weaponry which formed part of their accoutrements, differed according to the place of habitation. Thus, men of the "downstream people" who lived near the towns and the Maguinadanao population wore long trousers and waist-length shirts. Their weapon consisted of a kris carried at the side, a spear held like a walking stick, a fegoto (wide-bladed kris) slung over the shoulder, a dagger tucked at the waist, and either a round shield called taming or an elongated one called kelung. Those who lived along the coast wore G-strings and shirts. Their weaponry consisted of benongen, a blade similar to the kris but smaller than the fegoto; a spear, a bow and a quiver of arrows (which even children carried around). These arrows were tipped with kemendag, the poisonous sap of a certain tree. The men from the mountains wore short trousers and the same cut of the shirt as the other groups, although they tended to have less body covering despite their mountain residence. Their weapons consisted of the kris, spear, bows, and arrows.
Tiruray women, in general, wore a sarong called emut, made from abaca fiber. They wore shirts like the men, which was nearly of the same general cut, except that the women's blouse was form fitting, while the men's shirt hung more loosely. Since Tiruray women never developed the art of weaving cloth, their dress material came from outside sources. The women also wore rinti, a series of brass bracelets of different sizes, extending from the wrist and up the forearm; a brass cord and belt decorated with small jingling bells which they wore around the wrists; brass anklet rings, necklaces of glass beads and colored crystals; and the kemagi, a necklace made of gold. They also sported wire earrings from which hung small shell ornaments. The Tiruray women were never without a knife and a small basket which they carried wherever they went.
Both men and women wore the sayaf, a shallow conical hut made from buri, worn as a protection against the heat of the sun (Schlegel 1970).
These costumes and weaponry of the late 19th century were worn by nonacculturated Tiruray. However, the downstream people of the same period were already dressed in the manner of the Maguindanao, who were the nearest source of acculturating influences. In recent times, these acculturated Tiruray have adopted "modern" ways of dress, while the Tiruray of the interior may still wear the kind of dress their forebears did, but without the panoply of weapons which used to be a normal part of their habiliments.
The Tiruray have not developed the arts of traditional cloth weaving, metalcraft, and pottery, but have excelled in basketry. They are, in fact, one of the most accomplished basket weaving groups among the country's cultural communities. In recent times, many traditional patterns and designs in Tiruray baskery have incorporated "contemporary" adaptations, and even borrowings from other ethnic styles, because of the market. Nevertheless, even in "modern" designs, the Tiruray's skill in traditional basketry shows, as evidenced by the evenness of execution and the symmetry of shapes. Before being split for weaving, the bamboo material is first smoked black. These blackened strips of bamboo are then combined with unsmoked, uncolored strips of natural bamboo in a weave pattern that can have multiple variations.
In the 1960s traditional carrying baskets with or without covers were "developed for sale to a tourist market," and some Bontoc baskets were even brought to the Tiruray basket makers by the Episcopalians. As a result, some features of Bontoc basketry were adopted by the Tiruray, such as bamboo foot in the carrying basket, and fitting covers on small boxes with split nito braids, which served as both stopper and finishing edge (Lane 1986:187). Other types of baskets developed by the Tiruray through this process of adoption were nestled boxes, open baskets with square rigid foot rims, nested sets of open basket planters, and trays. A nested set of open basket planters may have 12 pieces in all, ranging from the largest with a height of 40 cm to the smallest with a height of 22 cm. No mold is used, and yet the proprotions are remarkably exact, each basket snugly fitting into the next larger one.
Another complicated piece of basketry is the coined storage jar, which uses various shades of nito. The variation in shades results in a subtle pattern, even without a consistent design. The handle is made from a length of split rattan bound with nito strips in alternating shades of natural brown and dark brown.
All iron tools used by the Tiruray have been procured through trade with the Maguindanao. In recent years, however, a few Tiruray have been learning the art of blacksmithing from their Maguindanao neighbors, and one of hem, according to Schlegel, even fashioned the Tiruray's first bellows forge needed to turnout rudimentary iron blades.
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Among the many Mindanao Lumad groups, the agung-a suspended bossed gong with a wide rim-is the most widely distributed brass instrument, and the most developed agung ensembles are those of the Tiruray and the Bagobo (Maceda 1980:643).
The Tiruray kelo-agung or kalatong ensemble is composed of five shallow-bossed gongs in graduated sizes. These gongs, which have very delicate sounds, are played by five men or women. The smallest of the gongs, called a segarun, leads off with a steady beat, and the four others join in with their own rhythms. The kelo-agung is used in various occasions, such as agricultural rituals, weddings, community gatherings, victory celebrations, curing rites, rituals for the dead, and the entertainment of visitors. The musical pieces played on the kelo-agung include antibay, fot moto, liwan/kanrewan, turambes, and tunggol bandera.
There are several other musical instruments used by the Tiruray in everyday and ritualistic occasions.
The kubing is a jew's harp made from a special variety of bamboo. The idiophone is known by this name in several Muslim and Lumad groups in the south. Among the Tiruray, the kubing is used for courting as well as for entertainment.
The togo is a five-stringed bamboo tube zither, which may play the same pieces heard on the gong ensemble. It is a solo instrument, but several zithers are often played all at once. This chordophone is played by two women. One of them holds one end of the bamboo tube as she plays a melody on three strings. The other woman holds the other end, and plays a drone on the two other strings. This instrument is important because it can substitute for the kelo-agung. It shares a similar function and may be heard during the same occasions when the kelo-agung is played. In addition, the togo accompanies songs and dances.
The fegerong is a two-stringed lute with 5 to 11 frets. This instrument is used for courtship and entertainment. Part of the repertoire of the fegerong are the musial pieces laminggang and makigidawgidaw.
The two bamboo flutes of the Tiruray are the falendag and suling. The falendag is the lip valley or deep-notched bamboo flute. Its construction makes possible lip control of the air flowing into the tube, allowing for a degree of tonal control and sensitivity not possible with flutes of similar dimension but differently-shaped blowing holes, such as the suling or short ring flute. The suling is also called by this name among the Maguindanao, Manobo, Bukidnon, Tausug, and the Palawan. It is a duct flute, the sound of which is produced by adjusting the ring on the mouthpiece in relation to the blowing hole. The pitch of the suling has a higher range than the falendag's and can similarly express specific emotions, such as the sobbing of a girl who has just been told by her parents that she is about to be married.
The Tiruray have a wide range of songs for various occasions. The balikata is a song with improvised text, sung to traditional melodies; it could be a melodic pattern used for debates, pleading of cases, plain conversation, or it could be a very specific song about the singer's experience with the field researcher's tape recorder. The balikata bae is a common lullaby, in which the mother tells the child to sleep soundly, and grow up as strong as the rattan vine. The lendugan is a love song, a poetic description about the beauty of courtship, comparing it to flowers; it also refers to a type of melody or a certain mode, such as a lullaby or cradle song. Some lendugan also desribe the lifeways of the Tiruray. The binuaya is a narrative song that tells stories of great events in the distant past. The siasid is a sung prayer invoking the blessings of the god Lagey Lengkuwos, and the nature spirits Serong and Remoger. The foto moto is a teasing song performed during weddings. The meka meka is a song of loyalty sung by a wife to her husband. The melodies of songs like foto moto and meka meka are often rendered on the kelo-agung and other instruments.
One of the more notable Tiruray dances is the mag-asik, literally, "to sow seeds," performed by girls in Nuro, Cotabato. The dance begins with a large piece of bright-colored cloth or material placed on the ground or on the middle of the floor. The women go around this cloth with small, heavy steps, their arms and hands moving about in graceful fashion. The dancers wear tight long-sleeved blouses of shiny material, in various colors, and a peplum along the waist. Tiruray women favor bright red, yellow, blue, orange, purple, and black. They wear a patadyong as a skirt which goes all the way down to their anklets. They may also wear a necklace made of gold, beads, or old silver coins, which goes all the way around the neck and reaches down to the waist. The rich wear metal belts about 15 cm. wide. The sarong hangs on the left shoulders of the dancers, and only their lower lips are painted.
Two other types of Tiruray dance are: the kefesayaw teilawan, in which the dancers imitate bird movements; and the tingle, a war dance, in which two rival suitors fight for the affections of a maiden. Both dances are performed during wedding celebrations and other festivities. E.B. Maranan
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