RUMSUA
Ancestral Traditions
Filipino Culture & Heritage

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Culture & Arts

The Philippine Archipelago, with 7,107 islands, is located in Southeast Asia, south of Taiwan, east of Vietnam, and north of Indonesia.

 
Uplifting Our Heritage

Filipino Combat

Traditional Weaving

Ethnolinguistic Groups of the Amianan
  Negrito
    Benguet
    Ifugao
    Bontoc
    Apayao
    Abra
    Kalinga
    Ilongot
    Ivatan
  Ilokano

Dagusan Shrine

Miscellaneous Photos

Links on other ethnolinguistic groups and cultural interests

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Uplifting Our Heritage 

“Having been colonized for so long, we have to rediscover ourselves. European culture is the legacy of kings and the commerce of bankers. Our own culture has been merchant suppressed by centuries of colonial subjugation. For us, therefore, development is an aspect of decolonization, and that cannot be achieved without restoring to our people the pride of identity.”
                                          
                                          Ferdinand E. Marcos 
                                                     (Cited in the foreword of The Children of Lam-ang,
The Educators Press, Quezon City, 1984)


Colonization of our ancestors is an event of the past, but the effects still linger. We, the Filipinos, have thousands of centuries in the making of a people with an indigenous psychological and sociological structure that we function and view life. Although we stand in the present, our future can become much more rich and meaningful if we learn of our roots and incorporate the various traditions that made us who we are. Uplifting our heritage – our ancient traditions – is to “rediscover ourselves


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Pictures tell a thousand words. The following are photos of various aspects of the cultures of the amianan or northern Luzon.

 Filipino Combat

The combat systems of the Philippines are diverse, which is further influenced by individual style, region, and geography. The majority of Filipino combat styles known throughout the world are mainly from the Visayan regions. Styles from the amianan are rarely seen; one reason being that the people tend to keep to themselves.

The following photos are still shots, therefore not providing the entire scenario.

Apostol delivers a horizontal strike with a pang-or (truncheon) while cousin Jessie Dancel moves into a squating lean, executing a crushing blow.

As Dancel withdraws his buneng back, Apostol leans to the left while executing a fatal blow with the pang-or to a vital area, which also disrupts the launching of Dancel's attack.

Demonstrating the use of the assiw, a pole used for carrying goods. Assisting are Vance Apostol and Alex Pablo. Opening demonstration for the exhibit, "Weapons of the World," San Diego Museum of Man, Balboa Park.

 

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Traditional Weaving


Abel
 (weaving) of the Ilokano and Itneg has an aesthetic significance, used in daily life and ritual. Below are examples of blankets consisting of various geometrical motifs.

This pinilian-type abel denotes a karayan or river.

 

A binakol subtype called tinaleb, sometimes referred to as sinan paddak ti pusa or cat's pawprint.


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Ethnolinguistic Groups of the Amianan


The amian (northern Luzon) is home to various ethno-linguistic peoples inhabiting coastal lowlands, valleys, and mountain ranges. For those inhabiting the Cordillera region, the acronym, BIBAK, was formed to represent the following major ethnic groups: Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao/Abra, and Kalinga. 

The following photos, several of which are old, are of these BIBAK peoples and other ethnic groups of the amianan.

 Negrito

The Negritos, are the descendants of our aboriginal people. Found throughout the Philippines, they are called by their respective names including: Aeta, Ita, Alta, Agta, Dumagat, etc. The Negritos live in close connection to nature and possess an impeccable amount of knowledge and wisdom that most modern societies have lost.

 

 

 

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Benguet
 

Benguet is home to the Ibaloi, Kankana-ey, and Kalanguya. Famous in Benguet are the Ibaloi mummies found in Kabayan.

 

Ibaloi girl hauling bundles of rice.


Ibaloi elders during a ritual for one of the mummies. Photo Copyright © Alexis Duclos.

Two Kabayan mummies. Note the extensive tattoos on the adult mummy on the left. Photo Copyright © Alexis Duclos.

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Ifugao

Cultural anthropologists often compare the Ifugao to the Naga of Northeast India and Myanmar. Their 2,000-year-old Banaue Rice Terraces are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Eight Wonder of the World.

Ifugao marriage ceremony.

 

Ifugao warrior posed by his display of skulls.

 

Anthropomorphic statues, called bulul, are used during agricultural and healing ceremonies.


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Bontoc

Bontoc is the dominant ethno-linguistic group in Mountain Province. The name also refers to a sub-province.

Bontoc warrior with chaklag breast tattoo and suklung (hat), playing a kalaleng or nose flute.

 

Bontoc girl wearing a lufid (skirt) supported by a wakis (sash).

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Apayao


The people whom occupy Apayao are called Isneg. Their land, which is considered a last frontier, has great agricultural potential.

Isneg family.

 

Isneg man donning the sippattal.

 

The sippattal is a chest piece made from mother of pearl and beads. It is worn by both men and women, and serves as a status symbol.

 

Yapayao (Isneg) females from Dumalneg, Ilocos Norte. Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer.


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Abra

The people of Abra are known as Tinggian but call themselves Itneg. Cultural anthropologists call them the "ancient Ilokanos" due to several factors including physical characteristics, culture, and linguistics.

Whipping ritual at a funeral done to make the male attendees feel sorry as the relatives of the deceased. Photo from Fay-Cooper Cole's, The Tinggian.

 

Woman in full traditional attire. Photo from Fay-Cooper Cole's, The Tinggian.


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Kalinga


Kalinga identifies both the name of the people and their province. They are a proud group of people who have maintained much of their culture.

Kalinga warrior armed with shield and spear.

 

Kalinga female wearing a wealth of heirloom beads.

Benicio Sokkong, Kalinga cultural practitioner and instrument-maker. Photo by Melissa Jeffrey. Sokkong's music can be heard on www.intangible.org/Features/kalinga.

 

 





Kalasag (shield)

Aliwa (headaxe)


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Ilongot

The Ilongot inhabit the Sierra Madre and Caraballo Mountains on the eastern side of Luzon. They are excellent metalworkers.

Ilongot man wearing batling earrings that signify him as a noted headhunter.

Batling, made from the red beak of the hornbill.


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Ivatan

The Ivatan occupy Batanes Island, located between Taiwan and northern Luzon. Their language, Chirin nu Ibatan, or Ivatan, is practically the same language spoken by the Yami or Tao on Orchid Island, an island off the coast of Taiwan. 
Burial markers shaped like boats are one of the mysteries excavated by archeologists. The Vikings of Scandinavia where the only known culture to create such markers till the Ivatan graves were discovered.

Ivatan woman wearing the traditional vakul headdress, constructed from abaca fibers. Photo from Batanes Museum Foundation Cultural Tour.

One of the many boat-shaped grave markers on the islands. Photo from Batanes Museum Foundation Cultural Tour.

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Ilokano

Historically, all ethnolinguistic groups that occupied the northwestern portion of Luzon, including Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, and La Union, were called Ilocano to distinguish them as coming from these regions. In time, the title  denoted the people and language, distinct from other ethnolinguistic peoples that occupy the same area.

Ilokanos emigrating to the Cagayan Valley. M.M. Newell.

 

Ilokano woman smoking hand-rolled tobacco. The older generation is known for smoking their cigars with the lit part inside the mouth. Denniston, Inc.


Traditional Ilokano kattukong (hat) made from the bottle gourd-type tabungaw vegetable, complete with outer edge and inner weavings. 

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Dagusan

By Virgil J. Mayor Apostol
October 2008




About a month ago, I had a Jyotish consultation with Dr. Tanmay Goswami who, in the process, saw that I needed to express the artist in me. Then after Carol Kouchi Yotsuda told me of the upcoming Hawai’i Craftsmen 41st Juried Statewide Annual Exhibition, she, too, expressed that I should do more art and encouraged me to enter a piece. “Ahaaah…,” I told myself. This was my opportunity to create my first official art piece that was to be juried with chances of being chosen for the exhibition in Honolulu, which was being held within three weeks.                   
The first week was a period of decision-making and commitment. By the second week, it was decided that I would create a rendition of a dagusan or shrine, but could I do this within 14 days?! After throwing out ideas and careful planning, I finally envisioned the completed project in my mind’s eye. I searched a couple of lumber shops for hardwood and narrowed it down to a piece from South America, known as ipe, which is so dense that it sinks in water. The people at the lumber shop warned me, however, that I was dealing with a wood that lets out a toxic dust when sanding. They added that the wood is also so hard that it refuses nails and has a blunting affect on cutting edges.
After I cut each piece of wood into their proper dimensions, I drilled the holes for the nails and rope. Sanding had to be done with an electric sander in a well-ventilated place. Checking that all measurements were precise, I glued the hardwood framing to the platform and allowed it to dry overnight. For the meantime, the posts and roof frame were cut from strawberry guava branches. 
The following day, I realized that the pieces were just not fitting properly due to inaccurate dimensions of the platform. Disappointed, I just stared at my unfinished piece with thoughts of abandoning this project. I could not let it go, however, since I had already completed the piece in my mind's eye as previously mentioned. Mustering enough confidence and determination, I took a hammer and carefully pounded out the framework. After adjusting the edges of the platform, the whole thing was then re-glued. 
The next day, I began driving the nails through the holes and into the platform. In spite of existing holes, the nails were just too weak and were bending. Even after purchasing tempered nails, they still would not go through. Fearing the possibility of cracking the wood, I was forced to drill the holes a little larger, which finally allowed the nails smooth entry.
The tedious part was thatching hemp fiber on the roof, an undertaking of at least nine hours. A couple of trips were made to the beach in search of stones and driftwood; not any ordinary pieces but those that imparted graceful curvature. Black gravel was collected by skimming the surface of the sand at certain places where the tides had washed it ashore.
The evening before submitting my art piece, I stayed up till four in the morning meticulously working on it. I finally had to hit the sack, but it was just a matter of hours that the sun would light the sky. When dawn broke, my body clock pried my sleepy eyes ajar. "Just a couple more hours of sleep," I told myself. But that couple of hours extended to four. Upon waking, I was struck with a sense of urgency, realizing that I had only four more hours till the jurying began. Incomplete with my work, I still had to create and attach feet for the platform and assemble the posts and roof framing with twine.
Time was flying, and so was I as I sped off to the Kaua’i Community College where the art jury was taking place. Scurrying through the doors with art piece in hand, I was the very last person to submit my entry. 
The next couple of hours brought suspense. Was my art piece, which I had spend intense hours in the making, accepted as part of what was to be a prestigious exhibition? The juror was Jan Peters of Del Mano Gallery, a big-time name who juries art across the US. 
When I returned to pick up my piece and find out the results, I saw that my piece was the last one sitting there, all the others already picked up by their repective owners. One of the assistants nonchalantly expressed that my piece was not among those chosen. Nevertheless, receiving the opportunity to meet Peters and obtain direct feedback, however, was to me, a winner. 
What Peters explained was that when she juries an art piece, so many considerations are taken into account. With my piece, she pointed out how the series of holes on the frame were a distraction. Asking what the holes were for, I explained that my intent was to thread a thin rope through the holes creating a zigzag design, but this was left undone due to my lack of time. She also mentioned the need for attention to binding, pointing to how the roof was hastly and sloppily tied to the posts. Her face caught an element of surprise, however, when I told her that this was my first art piece created, followed by her comment that I had developed roots for my newfound talent to grow.     
Since the jurying has ended, I was able to thread the rope through the holes and redo the binding. In our shrines and around homes, it is common to add the skulls of animals. In this case, I added the jaws of the parrotfish to add to the shrine's tribal look. 
    Whether or not my art piece got accepted, I was also on another mission for creating it. You see, I had this dream one morning, before waking. In my dream, I interacted with this attractive female mangngallag, or shaman, who had petroglyph-looking tattoos on her back depicting ancestors. She turned to me with eyes gazing deeply into mine, and with a gentle, yet authoritative voice, exclaimed:

 

“Do not look at the roof that covers your head, but at the ground on which you walk.” 

The message was conveyed. I woke up and immediately wrote the details of this profound dream. It was certainly a message that held an implication for my life’s journey, which I needed to meditate on. I also took it as a message to share to the citizens of the world. 
For those whom I have shared this with, their personal interpretation revealed how the message was significant in their current lives and their own personal journey.

The Mangngallag's Message in Context to the Dagusan

A dagusan is a shrine. It can also be a place where an atang or food offering is given. Literally, a dagusan is also a gathering place. 
My art piece as a healing shrine for the spiritual path provides the one sitting in front of it, a visual to the mangngallag’s message, which holds an unlimited abundance of meanings. For example, when I shared the message to one Hawaiian kupuna or respected elder, he saw it as a sign of returning to the aina or land that sustains us.
In the context of not looking at the roof that covers our head, one of my interpretations is that the roof represents false comforts, distractions, or certain scenarios in life that hampers our spiritual growth, if we get caught up in them. Due to the brightness of the roof, one cannot help but initially glance at it. Part of the process is in keeping focus on the path that is set within. 
The ground on which we walk, our path in life, will certainly bring one important question: where does the path that I walk on lead? The journey that we lead in the NOW will determine where the path has been and the direction it will take.

    Along the path in the dagusan is a stopover to a stone monument, symbolizing our reverence and sacred connection to nature. At its base is a stone altar on which, in this case, salt (purification) and root of the balite, or banyan (a tree connected to the spirit and cosmic worlds in Filipino culture) are offered. As a whole, the stone monument and altar symbolizes the importance of taking time along our journey to pay homage and gratitude for a harmonious life.
At another section of the path is one more stone monument entwined with roots, symbolizing our stability and connection to our ancestors and descendants. The roots that run deep into Mother Earth anchor the knowledge and wisdom, and cultural traditions that are passed on from generation to generation. 
As we continue on our spiritual path, utilizing the experience and wisdom that we gained along the way, we will eventually attain higher levels of being, as symbolized by the driftwood mountain. 
Once again, as the female mangngallag exclaimed: “Do not look at the roof that covers your head, but at the ground on which you walk.”

      

Ariel roots of the balite, a tree symbolizing the shamanic cosmic regions, and which is also used in traditional Filipino medicine.

Teeth of the mulmol or parrotfish. The term mulmolan means to savor on something.

Close up of ipe hardwood. The zigzag rope design represents a karayan or river, which also represents two of the cosmos regions.

The ground that we walk - our spiritual path in life - will ultimately determine our destination.

The Dagusan was previously displayed in the Lihu'e airport window as part of an exhibit titled, "Expressions in WOOD," designed by the Garden Isle Arts Council. The display is part of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority Greetings Program, sponsored by the County of Kaua'i.

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Miscellaneous Photos


Apostol (left) squaring off with Angel Galas during BIBAK's participation in the parade that launched the Filipino Fiesta. Honolulu, Hawai'i, 2007.

 

My cousin, Efraim Manzano, proudly represents Filipino culture by donning the traditional baag (loincloth) when he participates in marathons and the grueling Ironman Triathlon.

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Links on other ethnolinguistic groups and cultural interests

Siuala: Ding Meangubie

An excellent site on Kapampangan culture, by Michael Pangilinan, 

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