Part of our fanciful reconstruction of our pre-Hispanic past is the casting of datus as kings. Or kings and kingdoms where datus and chiefdoms existed instead.
Datus weren’t kings. They are more akin to a tribal chief, though slightly higher on the evolutionary ladder of political organizations. People offered loyalty and tribute, and in return datus were protectors, traders, warleaders, judge and jury.
A datu derives his power and authority from his ancestry. He jealously guards it and does everything to protect it; including carefully selecting his marriage partners and those of his children.
Material goods, called bahandi (heirloom wealth), represented his earthly dominance; usually in the form of gold, bronze of trade porcelains. Land though did not. Bahandi was worn, traded, given as gifts or loaned out. All ways to gain influence and enhance prestige.
And when the mood struck them, they could even take secondary wives (sandil).
Oh yes, it was good to be the ki…datu.
And this is how the concept of datus should be understood. Where I’m from the Manobos, Higaonons and Talaandigs still have datus. Unlike their pre-Spanish forebears, they do not anymore hold the same power over their communities. Nowadays they are more of tribal elders than chiefs.
Most of the datus today can trace their lineage back to the once ruling families in Mindanao. Several of those in the non-Muslim communities actually belong to what most likely would be called “of royal blood.” There are some though who have been baptized and given the honor and title after rendering service for the betterment of the community. And some of these inducted datus do not even belong to the tribe. But being that the tribe considered their actions helpful, they found it fitting to baptize and declare that person a datu.
In the Muslim areas, most of the datus also still belong to what are considered as the “royal families.” There are several of these Maranao, Tausug, and Yakan royal families who still cling to the title and the supposed influence it has on their communities. Generally, datus (sometimes called as rajahs) among the the Muslims were viewed like that which @iwriteasiwrite pointed out: chiefs. And exercising power above the datus are the sultans.
Bahandi is a term which is still used down south up to now. But its use is no longer limited to heirloom wealth like that of days past. Nowadays it is used to refer to nature’s treasures (bahandi sa kinaiyahan) or the youth of Mindanao and the country (bahandi sa Mindanao ug nasud). Believe it or not, I know a Higaonon young lady named Bajandi.
The use of the term bahandi though is confined only to certain occasions and favored by a select group of people. Due to long history of migrations, changing economic concepts, and lingual assimilation, several terms have taken the place of the word. Treasure nowadays can be quantified as money, land, or material possessions. And these things have their own Cebuano, Tagalog, and English equivalent terms.
Still, whenever it is election time, you would hear candidates use terms like bahandi when referring to the treasures of the Land of Promise. The same thing goes for progressive activists when they rail against the presence of American troops and multi-national companies in Mindanao. They feel that these foreigners are abusing and exploiting the treasures of Mindanao. Ilang gapahimuslan ug gakawaton ang bahandi sa Yutang Gisaad.
By the way, before I forget, datu nowadays, has also become a term used to refer to someone wealthy. And the term is widely used in the Cebuano-speaking areas, alongside terms like adunahan, kwartahan and sapian. Just shows how the term has also been appropriated by Christianized Filipinos for a state of wealth rather than royal or noble lineage.
“To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whoah! Salamat sir! Sorry kung di ko agad napansin na fina-follow nyo na pala ako. Really enjoyed your taxonomy of bloggers and followers! The categories and descriptions were very true :) I am honored to be followed by a prolific writer like you.
Yes I do! But most of my own posts are in words so once in a while I have to mix it up with some pictures from other blogs and websites. I do post my own pictures though, but only on rare occasions. I am not yet that confident with my shots. I can say that my blog is 70% original posts and links from the net, with 30 % reblogs (or re-post?) :)
“Ano ba yan? Wala akong maintindihan!” such was the reaction of the person sitting behind me and my dad on a play at the Pasundayag Northern Mindanao 2011, held at the SM Mall of Asia. The person, who I would assume was Tagalog, was complaining because she couldn’t understand a single word of the play written by a person from Gingoog City, set in pre-colonial Northern Mindanao. Another guy left his girlfriend in the audience and told her he’d come back later because he couldn’t understand the language which was being used. The language, in an effort to exhibit authenticity, foster patriotism and the feel of the pre-colonial Mindanao, was in Gingoog Cebuano.
Bedecked in clothes based on Northern Mindanao’s Higaonon tribe, the play was about the beginnings of Gingoog City and how its fertile land, bountiful waters, and forests, made the place suitable for families and livelihood. The tranquility of the place however, was disturbed by another tribe which wanted to seize the territory as part of their conquests. The play would end with the people of Gingoog defending themselves against the invaders and preserving the way of life they had prior to the attacks of the other tribe.
While I did pay attention to the play and relished the use of pre-colonial settings and the use of old Cebuano terms commonly used in Gingoog, I could not ignore the reactions the play was getting from the Tagalog audience at the mall who were complaining and making fun of the presentation just because they could not understand it. They probably expected a play about pre-colonial Northern Mindanao to be written in Tagalog and presented in that language for them. I guess that’s the problem with a play written in another language, it does not show subtitles like those in a DVD movie.
A couple of weeks earlier, when Agnes and I went on our trip up north to Ilocandia, I myself was in that situation of bewilderment with the language which was being used before me. As soon as we boarded the bus at Cubao, Quezon City, Ilocano was already being used not only by the driver and conductor, but also by every passenger in the bus, and we had not even left Metro Manila. Instead of complaining, I sat down and observed the people around me and tried to pick some words which I think stood for those used in Tagalog and Cebuano. Agnes, being familiar with Ilocano, would also help me understand those which left me confused. I would later be able to pick some words which I used in talking with some people in Laoag and Vigan.
In Samar, I encountered a man with a bolo who had gone berserk after he had an argument with a neighbor he found arrogant. Apparently his neighbor was a dayo to the place who he considers to be condescending. From a distance, you would not want to get near the guy, especially if you see the blade he was holding. But being that the farmers I was accompanying would be passing through the stretch of road he was standing on, I and my fellow video documentor Paping, had to talk to the guy as the farmers walk by. Since this was Samar, the guy was spewing out words in Waray and neither Paping nor I knew the language. But sensing that Waray had some common words with Hiligaynon, we spoke to him with words we knew would calm him down and explain who we are and why we were passing through. And we did just that.
I have always found it fascinating that the Philippines’ archipelagic composition has given it several ethno-linguistic identities, each one speaking for the different indigenous communities which have long thrived in the country. These communities with their languages and traditions have survived the efforts of foreigners and even fellow Filipinos to make them abandon their ways for political, social, and economic reasons. They have withstood Christianization, colonization, and even “nationalism.”
In a country which has been blessed with more than 7,000 islands, 100 languages and dialects, it is our various ethnic traditions and culture which give us our unique flavor of national identity. And this rich multi-cultural heritage will only be preserved if we learn to appreciate these different ethnic and linguistic identities. This is the reason why I could not understand some Filipinos who tend to equate the use of language, more particularly Tagalog, to evoke the so called feelings of nationalism.
In my experience moving along the national highway from Mindanao to Manila during the Sumilao March, I have been able to observe that while the use of Tagalog is useful in initiating communication with locals, it is more helpful and respectful to learn and use some words and phrases used in the local language.
To believe that one is a Filipino nationalist when one uses Tagalog instead of any other language is to ignore the fact that beyond the Tagalog speaking areas, the language is hardly used by other Filipinos outside the classroom. In fact, progressive activists, despite their preference for Tagalog “nationalist” songs, speak in Waray, Hiligaynon or Cebuano when speaking to the crowds in Tacloban, Bacolod, and Cebu. The use of these other languages is their way of professing their sympathy with the masses and nationalism.
I always find it disturbing when I see and hear TV shows, movies, and radio programs which poke fun at other Filipino languages. In the same way, I find it myopic that some Filipinos consider you a nationalist only when you profess your love of the country and the people in Tagalog. While at the onset, the former idea may seem bad and the latter admirable, they are actually the same animal coated in the different forms. Both ignore the fact that the various provinces and cities in the country have different languages which when used in their older or purer form evokes feelings of nationalism for these Filipinos outside Metro Manila.
The idea of a Philippines moving as one country out of varied ethnic and linguistic communities can only move forward if we Filipinos do away with the feelings of condescension against our own countrymen from the areas outside Metro Manila. And this can start with developing an interest in the different ethnic and linguistic communities of the country. So long as Filipinos judge other Filipinos’ love of the country and the people on their proficiency in Tagalog, there will always be a great divide between the Metro and the rest of the country. There will always be Filipinos who are made to feel that they are not Filipinos just because they don’t use words like po and opo.
The pasyon is an intrinsic part of the Philippine religious experience. I won’t say we love it, but it does resonate among Philippine Catholics. To the point that some have argued that the pasyon was one of the key mechanisms behind the rapid Christianization of the country and even gathering broad mass support for the Revolution.
The idea is that the pasyon, with its elements of suffering and redemption, resonated with the pagans of yore and the low-land Catholics of the 19th century. It’s an age old trope, in truth. Something that to which we are viscerally attracted: Suffering, pain, loss, redemption, rebirth. In other words, what we suffer today pays in eternity. Granted, we are not unique in that regard; the fallen hero who rises again is a trope seen in many different cultures. Revolutionaries (so is argued) by connecting and utilizing the very traditional structure of the pasyon were able to convince the masa to support their movement. Though, how this worked with non-Christians and the more educated is another argument entirely (not to mention one of the flaws of the “pasyon as Philippine revolution” idea).
So, why is it that we, Filipinos, are attracted to this idea of suffering so much? Is it truly the idea of rebirth, or is the pain that connects us with the pasyon? There are elements of both likely involved. But, consider that in the Philippines what we see the most, what we indulge in the most, is the aspect of pain, of suffering. That very well be a by-product of our colonial experience, or it could be related to something as mundane as the agricultural calendar. A historian once remarked off-hand that when you overlay our agricultural calendar over the Catholic calendar two things pop out immediately: Easter typically falls in the midst of the dry season, the hottest time of the year. When the pasyon is viewed through the lens of an agrarian culture, it’s adherence becomes somewhat understandable. The Christ figure takes on the same connotations that the anitos (village gods) used to: Sacrifice to ensure a bountiful harvest. It is a pre-harvest type of ritual.
The other of course deals with Christmas, or when our older pagan brethren used to begin the process of harvesting bounty. The feasting to celebrate the birth of Christ and to celebrate post-harvest was a natural match. It is an idea that bears closer study.
There is the distinct possibility that the pasyon really did resonate with the ‘pagan’ Filipinos: That they did connect to the idea of suffering and rebirth and redemption. As one of the vehicles through which we were colonized, the study and understanding of Christianity within our context holds a powerful attraction. Why was it that, within such a short period of time, low-land Filipinos were Christianized? The idea of eternity beyond is a powerful attractor. But what if it truly was something stronger, something more visceral that all that? When you look at the unique strain that is Philippine Catholicism, we see different cultural markers than other countries: the Virgin Mary (ours was somewhat of a matriarchal pagan society), the Santo Nino and the Suffering Christ.
One little remarked aspect of the early religious colonial experience is that we were not Christianized through the Bible; instead through other texts, like the Catechism. There was a level of study and inculcation in Catholicism that was unique to our experience. But, from the roots of Catholicism in the country, the pasyon form was influential. While the first known published account did no show up until 1703, it is highly likely that orally it was extant.
Much like Churches and fiestas, the pasyon offers insight into almost four hundred years of Philippine experience. Its importance evolved as we did. When it arrived on our shores, it was a vehicle for Christianization. By the 19th century it was a structure that helped explain kalayaan and sell revolution. Like Catholicism, the pasyon become Filipino.
Reblogging @iwriteasiwrite's thoughts on one of the Philippines' distinct traditions and activities during the Holy Week. May we all take time to re-examine our lives in these next few days as most of the country takes time out from the usual economic, social and political issues. Have a meaningful Holy Week guys!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”—Mark Twain
“The sea, the sea is everything! Its sovereign mass
brings to me atoms of a myriad faraway lands;
Its bright smile animates me in the limpid mornings
And when at the end of day my faith has failed me
My heart echoes the sound of its sorrow in the sands.”—Jose Rizal, Mi Retiro, as translated by Nick Joaquin
“As to honor, fame, or benefit that I might have been able to reap, I agree that all that is especially tempting to a young man like me of flesh and blood with so many weaknesses like anybody else. But as no one chooses the nationality or race in which he is born and as at birth, privileges or advantages inherent in both things are already in existence, I accept the cause of my country in the firm belief that He who has made me a Filipino would know how to forgive me for the mistakes that I commit, considering our difficult situation and the defective education that from birth we receive. Moreover, I do not aspire either for eternal fame or eternal renown; I do not aspire to equal others whose conditions, faculties, and circumstances could be and are in effect different from mine. My sole wish is to do what is possible, what is in my hands, the most necessary. I have glimpsed a little light and I believe that it is my duty to teach it to my countrymen.”—Jose Rizal to Fr. Pablo Pastells, SJ
Aside from Palm Sunday being the start of the Holy Week, it has also been a day which always brings me back to the concept of a life of service and of sacrifice. The Bible and Roman Catholic dogma has taught me that the palm fronds were used by the some crowds in Jerusalem in their celebration of Jesus’ entry into their city, a celebration which would be short lived since by tradition, Jesus would also die by the week’s end.
Filipino Catholics hold their palm fronds to receive a blessing from a priest inside a Church on Palm Sunday in Quezon City. (Demotix Images)
For me, palm fronds, like Roman laurels, always represented the temporary acclaim accorded to a person for a particular moment. For the Romans, a crown of laurel was usually given to victorious generals in their triumphal entry into Rome, (supposedly as a protection against evil spirits) and they wore robes with palm designs (palms for them represented victory). While the general was in the parade, a slave would be holding a golden crown above his head while saying “Respice post te! Hominem te memento." Such was the Empire’s way of reminding their public servants (since most of their generals were also Senators) of the temporal nature of power, influence, and social stature. It was a reminder that everything in life is fleeting.
Althought this was something which I had not exhaustably discussed with any of my teachers back then, even with @jboygonzalessj, I think it is safe to assume that when Jesus went triumphantly into Jerusalem, he knew of the possibility that he would be arrested, charged, and even imrpisoned by the Jewish and Roman authorities. Considering that he had always been a harsh critic of the practices of the Pharisees and has achieved some acclaim as a teacher and leader of men, it can be inferred that the authorities were keeping an eye on him. And being conscious of the socio-political climate of the period, Jesus must have also been aware of how the Roman authorities have dealt with the Zealots and other groups which have been considered to undermine Roman and even Jewish authorities. Still Jesus persisted.
The persistence of Jesus reminds of the actions of some of the heroes in Philippine history. In trying to dissect the significance of Roman Catholicism to the lives of some of the country’s heroes, it can be said that some did live out some portions of their lives either intentionally or not, according to the stories in cathechism which they grew up to. Foremost among those heroes would be the national hero Jose Rizal. Like Jesus, Rizal, after spending years in Europe for studies and propaganda work for greater freedom for Filipinos, decided to go back the Islands in the hope of making significant and lasting contributions to the lives of his people. Of course, after writing two novels which had criticized the Spanish authorities in the Philippines, and several articles exposing their abuses and practices, he must have expected a very vigorous and excited welcoming committee which would accord him the deserved honor. Still Rizal persisted.
And then there was Ninoy Aquino. Like Rizal, he had been a harsh critic of the power which held sway over the Philippines. But unlike Rizal, he would be fighting against a fellow Filipino who deemed himself more powerful than the people and the democratic system which elected him president. He had been a harsh critic of the Marcos administration, especially after the president declared martial law and enacted a news constitution, which was tailor-made to Marcos’ needs. He had been thrown and kept in prison for quite some time until he was allowed to leave the country for health reasons. Despite having barely recovered from his operation in the US, he decided to return to the Philippines. He knew of the risks involved, in fact he travelled under an alias so as to make sure that he arrived without being detected by the authorities. Of course, like Rizal, there was a welcome ceremony waiting for him. Still Ninoy persisted.
Filipino Catholics hold their palm fronds to receive a blessing from a priest inside a Church on Palm Sunday in Quezon City. (Demotix Images)
I view Palm Sunday not only as the start of the Holy Week but more importantly as a day when we all look into our lives and prepare ourselves for the greatest challenges that we should face. It is a day which reminds me of the willingness of Jesus and those Filipino heroes to confront their fears and persist in the service of others despite the threat of pain or death.
The palm fronds, which are by tradition blessed by the parish priest and displayed by Filipino Catholics in altars or on the doors of their houses are kept for a year until they are offered to be burned on Ash Wednesday - symbolizing how life at first is green, eventually withers to brown, and later consumed by fire leaving only ashes for reminders to the living. And such is also how the life of those who have dedicated themselves to serve others is often lived: a youth of idealism going into an old age of wisdom, eventually consumed by the burning desire to live for others, leaving to the future generations only reminders of a life lived in service.