Top Adsense

The Bukidnon People (Talaandig Tribe) of the Philippines: History, Culture, Customs and Tradition [Philippine Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]

The Bukidnon People (Talaandig Tribe) of the Philippines: History, Culture, Customs and Tradition [Philippine Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]

Bukidnon,” from bukid (mountain) and non (people), means “mountain people.” The term was first used by Visayan coastal dwellers to identify the people of the mountains of the province in north-central Mindanao that came to be called by the same name. They are not related to the mountain dwellers of southern Negros, who are also called “Bukidnon” by the lowland Visayan inhabitants.

The native name for the Bukidnon is Talaandig, a designation also used by the Manobo. “Talaandig” derives from talaan (mark) and andig (worth emulating). It is the term by which the western Bukidnon still refer to themselves. The northern Bukidnon call themselves Higaonon or “shrimp removed from the water,” also “one who ascends the mountains from the coastal plains,” referring to their displacement from their coastal settlements to the hinterland. Some Bukidnon groups derive their name from the river valleys they inhabit. For example, the Tagoloanon and the Pulangien are named after the rivers Tagoloan and Pulangi, respectively, but they actually belong to the larger ethnic group of Bukidnon.

The Bukidnon people belong to the original proto-Philippine or proto-Austronesian stock who came from south China thousands of years ago, earlier than the Ifugao and other terrace-building peoples of northern Luzon. Ethnolinguist Richard Elkins (1984) coined the term “Proto-Manobo” to designate this stock of aboriginal non-Negritoid people of Mindanao. Culturally and racially, therefore, the Bukidnon have much in common with the Manobo.

Their language, called Binukid, is spoken by four subgroups: the Bukidnon in the northeastern part of Bukidnon province; the Talaandig in northwestern Bukidnon; the Higaonon in Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur; and the Banwaon in Agusan del Sur. The population estimate in 1988 was 72,000. The 2015 estimate was at 100,000 or more.

History of the Bukidnon People

The proto-Manobo people originally established settlements on riverbanks and along the coasts of northern Mindanao in an era before the birth of Christ. The population grew steadily until the coming of the Sri Vijayans, followed by the conquest of Madjapahit invaders. Those who were driven into the interior came to be called “Bukidnon” by the Visayan immigrants and “Monteses” by the Spaniards.

Although the Bukidnon are now scattered in the hinterlands, their oral tradition reveals that they were once a homogeneous group called Talaandig. Their ethnic unity is also indicated by the existence of the giling, a black scepter still in the possession of the datu of Bugabut, symbolizing the position of the highest datu of the Bukidnon. Another symbol of ethnic unity is the takalub, made of hollow bone or boar’s tusk, which is carried by a datu whenever he travels from village to village to settle disputes among the Bukidnon. It is said to have been handed down from the Bukidnon culture hero Agyu. The Bukidnon people believe themselves to be descendants of Agbibilin, considered the common ancestor of the four ethnic groups of Mindanao—Bukidnon, Maranao, Manobo, and Maguindanaon. He tasked them with the duty to act as judge and arbiter in domestic and intertribal disputes. This royal legacy is symbolized by a “jar of oil,” said to have been passed from Agbibilin down through generations.

Bukidnon woman
Bukidnon woman (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

The Talaandig had to defend themselves against invaders in search of loot and slaves. They fended off Moro raiders from the west and the Manobo and other tribes from the east and south. The warriors would bring back the arm of a slain enemy, hold it up for the families of the victors to strike, and then hang it under the house in preparation for a thanksgiving ceremony for Talabusau, the spirit protector of warriors and of those who run amuck.

Bukidnon man
Bukidnon man (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

It was only around the mid-19th century that Spanish influence was felt in Bukidnon, for the jurisdiction of Misamis province extended to the northern part of the unexplored area. By 1869, a politico-military government was established for Mindanao, and the Misamis-Bukidnon region became one of its six districts. Bukidnon was a part of Misamis until the end of the Spanish regime. During this period, Spanish Jesuit priests were able to enter and propagate Christianity in some Bukidnon communities. Roads were built leading to the converted communities, making the settlements more accessible to outsiders.

The end of the Spanish regime saw the creation of the Filipino nation-state under a new colonial order. This nation-state was comprised mainly of the Christianized areas of the Philippines that were easily absorbed into the American colonial government. The areas of Mindanao that had resisted colonization were also claimed as “insular possessions” of the Americans through the Treaty of Paris. However, because these Mindanao groups refused to recognize colonial rule, they were effectively minoritized.

During the American period, the colonial government implemented a series of Land Registration Acts that legitimized the forced acquisition of the indigenous peoples’ territories. Lands were registered and titled to corporations or individuals, land grants given by chiefs and datus were voided, and Christian settlers were granted more leeway than the non-Christian lumad (indigeous peoples) to acquire land.

Bukidnon became a subprovince of Misamis and later of Agusan in 1907. In 1914, it became a separate province. American documents claim the separation was done to rescue the natives from the exploitation of the coastal dwellers and lowlanders. In truth, the separation allowed the colonial masters to exploit the resources of Bukidnon more directly. Vast tracts of arable lands were converted into plots for rice and corn production. The cattle-raising industry was developed by leasing lands to favored non-lumad allies and foreign businessmen, and converting forests into grasslands. In the 1920s, foreign-owned plantations for the cultivation of high-value commercial products such as pineapples began to operate. The trend toward land grabbing and land conversion, which would intensify in the decades to follow, would result in the rapid denudation of the forests and, in turn, severe soil erosion, landslides, and siltation.

To ensure the inclusion of Mindanao’s wealth and resources in the Philippine nation-state, resettlement in Mindanao was encouraged, resulting in the influx of Visayan migrants and settlers to the region. During World War II, many Bukidnon were forced to leave their lands and homes to retreat into the hinterlands while others organized resistance guerilla units. The vacated Bukidnon territories became vulnerable to resettlement after the war was over. The Bukidnon were reduced to a slim minority, and the less acculturated natives were pushed deeper into the mountains by the influx of settlers. This trend would continue well into the post-World War II period. The logging boom in Mindanao in the late 1950s and early 1960s would see the further impoverishment of the lumad: Their ancestral domains were classified as public lands and then parceled out to big businesses as concessions for large-scale extraction of resources. In the 1990s, the government would also authorize foreign companies to undertake large-scale mining operations in the region.

The late years of the 20th century saw a resurgence of conflict in the region as some lumad groups started to wage rebellions against the big businesses exploiting their lands and to assert their right to self-determination. In 1967, Ricardo de la Camara, also known as Mabalaw, initiated the organization of the Higaonon to protect their lands from the loggers. In 1975, the Talaandig rallied under the leadership of Anastacio Saway, also known as Datu Kinulintang. The Bangsamoro resistance would also see the establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front and later, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Many Higaonon later decided to join the New People’s Army, the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, to arm themselves against the encroachment of loggers. The increasing militancy by which these groups, as well as the hard-pressed landlords, fought for their interests resulted in increased militarization in many areas of Mindanao. But the state’s counterinsurgency efforts, which included arming Christian fundamentalists and paramilitary groups, would only aggravate the conditions further.

The Higaonon resistance can be traced to various interlocking events. In 1972, several Higaonon datus, including Datu Mankalasi, were assassinated when they refused to give big logging companies access to their ancestral lands. In retaliation, the Higaonon waged a pangayaw (revenge-killing). Mankalasi’s son Kalasi then formed Pulang Bagani (Red Warriors) to defend their lands against state and corporate encroachment. Kalasi’s son, Hucad Mandahinog, later integrated Marxist ideas into the group’s ideological line. Opposing accounts point to the Higaonon’s seizing and destruction of a logging company’s equipment as the starting point of the hostilities. The natives had allowed a company the use of their land in exchange for employment and other benefits. However, the company reneged on the agreement and the natives felt swindled. A third account is that Mankalasi was killed for double crossing a Dumagat, literally “coastal-dweller” but signifying “settler” to the Bukidnon. A history of the Dumagat’s exploitation of the Bukidnon had long preceded this singular incident. In the late 1980s, 10,000 hectares of the company’s logging concession was declared as forest reserves, thus suspending the hostilities between the Higaonon and the logging corporation. The resulting logging ban opened up opportunities for the government and the lumad populations to negotiate terms and conditions regarding resource management and land control.

The Bukidnon’s long history of dislocation, minoritization, and forced intermixing with outsiders has resulted in uneven degrees of cultural assimilation among their various groups. Thus, they may be culturally classified into three types: the nontraditional, semi-traditional, and traditional. The first group has been assimilated into the national culture; the second mixes both indigenous and cosmopolitan practices and beliefs; and the third has kept the indigenous culture intact because of its isolated habitat. In 1955 the lowland Bukidnon were observed to have adapted to Visayan ways, while a northern group was still wearing Talaandig costume and practicing tattooing and teeth mutilation. Generally, the only distinguishing marks of the Bukidnon were the tangkulo (male headgear) and their practice of betel nut chewing. However, there are Bukidnon in the mountain forests whose traditions are still intact.

To date, the Bukidnon continue to struggle for the protection and recognition of their ancestral domains, the preservation of their culture and community, the recognition of their indigenous leadership, the assertion of their rights to their cultural artifacts and indigenous knowledge systems as intellectual property, and the preservation of their community against suppression, exploitation, and conflict.

The Bukidnon's Way of Life

The Bukidnon’s major means of subsistence are food gathering and swidden agriculture. The men fish and hunt; the women gather shellfish and jungle roots. Traditional agricultural practice was done through a cooperative labor system called huliga or hunglos, wherein farmers tilled one field and then another in sequence, encouraging communal integration and sharing of harvest.

Harvest seasons are marked by the coming and going of certain constellations that signal the various stages of agricultural production, such as the choosing of the farming area, the clearing of the fields, and the planting and harvesting of crops. Because the forests and farmlands are viewed as the dwelling places of Magbabaya and other spirits, the land is treated with utmost reverence; thus, stages of production are marked with rituals. During harvest, ritual singing begins before daybreak; men and women take turns singing, accompanied by traditional musical instruments.

Hunting is typically done with the bow and arrow. The bow is made out of pliant wood with a strip of rattan as the spring. Arrows for hunting fowl are made of reeds and multi-pronged tips. Metal-tipped arrows are used for hunting deer and wild boar. Traps and pits lined with bamboo and wooden stakes are used to catch monkeys and wild chicken. Lures are set on trees to catch birds. For fishing, the Talaandig use their hands to feel under rocks for small crabs, frogs, snails, shrimps, and eels. They may also dam a shallow portion of the river and collect the fish that gather.

Shifting agriculture continues to be practiced only in remote areas where there is still ample land. Among the Higaonon in Rogongan, Lanao del Norte, marking and clearing the fields begin when the farmer sees the appearance of the constellation giya on a subang (full moon) when the sea is at taub (high tide). The baylan (shaman), the datu, and the farmer then perform a ritual, offering up food, buyo, and, in recent accounts, a bottle of the Tanduay rum, to seek the favor of the spirits of the lasang (forest) and uma (farm). The response of the spirits is gleaned from the call of the limukon, a bird believed to carry omens. If the limukon calls directly in front, directly above, or 45 degrees to the left or right of the ritual practitioners, this is perceived as a good omen and the farmer proceeds to lampas, the slashing of underbrush, and tumba, the felling of trees. If the limukon calls from other directions, the farmer needs to mark another area of the field for clearing. Pagsunog (burning) is done after the brushwood has been cut, the time for burning has been selected, and the remaining upright branches have been leveled. A second fire may be kindled if any vegetation is left. Pugas (broadcasting) begins at the start of the rainy season. Seeds for rice and corn are carefully selected. During harvest, the best crops are set aside, dried in storage racks, and hung above the hearth until the next planting season. Other cultivation crops are ube (purple yam), gabi (taro), mani (peanuts), batung (legumes), and sili (pepper). The period for ani (harvest) is marked by the appearance of brown husks in the fields. The women take charge of the harvest.

The influx of large corporations in Mindanao has had a tremendous impact on the economic life of the Bukidnon. Large-scale land grabbing has displaced the indigenous communities; logging activities have destroyed the environment and made hunting almost obsolete; and the introduction of plow agriculture has caused a shift from swidden cultivation to more sedentary farming methods. Many Bukidnon have been reduced to farm workers, renting farm lots from big landlords to grow crops for commercial production. Those who continue to practice swidden farming are forced to carve out plots in unfavorable areas such as hillsides, ravines, and riverbanks. Since subsistence crops like rice and corn cannot grow in these conditions, farmers have had to shift to more resilient crops like bananas and roots. The rise of the cash economy has altered their cultural values. Sustainable agricultural practices require capital and labor that they either do not have or are discouraged from investing in because they no longer own the lands that they till. Against their traditional values and because of poverty and material need, some Bukidnon engage in anotong (the cutting and trading of wild trees).

In the past, the Bukidnon also engaged in riverine trade with Manobo and Moro groups. They bartered their woven handicrafts, ornaments, mats, bags and baskets for pots, pans, colored beads, salt, sugar, metal implements and weapons, including balarao (shields), bangcao or bangkaw (spears), and kris (fighting knives). They also traded with Chinese businessmen at the coastal areas.

Some women still make pottery and weave hemp and cotton cloth, although these industries have greatly declined because of the entry of trade goods. However, a source of pride for the Bukidnon women is their skill in making applique and embroidered garments. Mat weaving and basketry are done by both men and women. Blacksmiths make knives and spearheads; brass casting is done through the process of wax molding. Gold panning has also become a source of livelihood in other Bukidnon communities.

Bukidnon Tribal Datu

The batasan or balaud (custom law) is based on bungkatol ha bulawan, literally “the golden rule,” a sacred stick on which are inscribed Bukidnon laws and code of ethics. Custom law used to impose the death penalty for crimes such as murder, a wife’s infidelity, and incest. Whoever settled the land owned it. Once it was abandoned, however, it could be claimed by someone else. Trial by ordeal used to be practiced. The accused were ordered to pull out a needle from a pot of boiling water. They proved their innocence if their hand was left unscathed. Disputes were settled by fines of money, animals, and materials like plates and Chinese jars. Crimes are judged according to severity. For minor offenses, fines consisting of certain valuable objects may be charged. Once settled, the offender and the offended cut through a piece of rattan held by the arbitrating leaders with a single blow of their bolos. Murder of a datu is an offense that can never be redressed. If found guilty, the murderer, with all his descendants, is reduced to slavery.

Laws could be revised only after general agreement was elicited in a singampo, a conference of datus. This practice became increasingly necessary with the encroachment of foreign cultures. The death penalty, for instance, had to be revised when the Americans prohibited it. Up to the early 20th century, an occasional singampo was still being called by the datu. Because of the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, custom laws of Bukidnon communities have been recognized through the compilation and institutionalization of Batasan a Dansil. These documents define the territorial boundaries, judicial systems, and cultural histories of the indigenous groups.

The Bukidnon recognize a hierarchy of leadership. The lowest type of datu is the didingkulan, who leads a particular village activity, such as hunting, trapping, fishing, or farming. Several didingkulan, therefore, assist the datu of the tulugan (kinship community). The masicampo, from the Spanish maestre de campo, is the chief datu of the kagtulugan, a settlement consisting of several tulugan. The Bukidnon of different settlements, culturally united in one keleba (district), acknowledge the authority of a datu-datuon, the high datu. Although the political system of the national and provincial government now prevails, the traditional concept of the datu is still strong.

Bukidnon men and women discussing an issue concerning the environment
Bukidnon men and women discussing an issue concerning the environment (CCP Collections)

The datu has two main functions: to judge and arbitrate in matters of dispute and assist the baylan or babaylan in religious ceremonies. He is chosen by virtue of the qualities that he shows in his youth: a sense of fairness, intelligence, curiosity, and a willingness to learn Bukidnon culture and lore. The datu is protected by a group of spirits: Omalagad, Pamahandi, Tumanod, Molin-olin, and Ibabasuk. His guiding spirit is Dumalungdung.

Higaonon tribal leaders in Sitio Tigahon, Dansolihon, Cagayan de Oro
Higaonon tribal leaders in Sitio Tigahon, Dansolihon, Cagayan de Oro (CCP Collections)

A man chosen to be a datu undergoes several ceremonies in his lifetime as he progressively moves a step higher in rank. When he is about 15 to 17 years old, the village may notice that he has the qualities of a good datu. He undergoes the panlisig ceremony to keep evil spirits away from him. He then undergoes pani-ib, an apprenticeship period where he learns the Bukidnon riddles, proverbs, belief system, pantheon of gods, myths, case reference stories, epic of Agyu, customs, and laws. A few years later, he undergoes the panumanuron, a simple initiation ceremony in which the good spirit Tumanod is invited to descend on him so he will become wise in decision-making. Three chickens or roosters—red, white, and black—are ritually sacrificed. The white fowl represents Tumanod and the virtues of purity of heart, wisdom, and sincerity; the red fowl, Talabusaw and the vices of anger and hatred; the black fowl, the evil spirits. He is made to handle simple cases to test his soundness of judgment and knowledge of custom law. Between 30 and 35 years old, he undergoes the ceremony for tagulambong hu datu, which is the first degree of datuship. The root word lambong, literally, “widespread branches,” symbolizes the datu’s ability to protect and feed his people. Thus, his land and granary must be available to all. He is sometimes expected to provide the taltag (bride wealth) for a groom who cannot afford it. At the age of 45 to 50 years old, the gulugundo ceremony, a lavish ritual-feast, acknowledges his lordly status. The last ceremony is the linangkaban, performed when the datu is about 75 years old, venerated as one who has reached the apex of wisdom. He is carried on a hammock when he travels from village to village to judge and arbitrate.

In the past, the datu was also chosen by virtue of his prowess as a warrior. He wore a distinctive dress worn only by distinguished warriors. Polygyny was usually practiced only by the datu, although it was generally allowed to all. A bai (female datu) is chosen if she is childless and has wisdom and other such virtues. Her guiding spirit is Babaion, a term also sometimes used for the female datu herself.

When Bukidnon became a province in 1907, the role of the datu as judge and arbitrator was challenged by the imposition of a new Justice of the Peace Court. In later years, outsiders and settlers would take higher positions in the Philippine government structure, leaving Bukidnon natives to occupy lower-ranking menial jobs. The Bukidnon who were able to occupy official government positions were only those who underwent education in colonial or state-funded schools and universities.

Today, in the same way that the epic hero Agyu fought for the defense of the sovereignty of Nalandangan, the home of the epic heroes, the datu is still expected to fight for the sovereignty of the Bukidnon territories and the right to self-determination of the Bukidnon people.

Bukidnon Tribe Social Traditions and Customs

In the traditional social structure, the datu belonged to the warrior class, which was composed of other warriors called bagani. They wore distinctive garments and tattoos. Women and children who were captured as slaves from other places could be integrated into the family. If so, their offspring were considered free. The offspring of slave women who became the concubines of their owners were also considered free.

Bukidnon community
Bukidnon community (SIL International)

In ancient times, a datu’s daughter was cloistered in a tower or a house set atop a hill that was difficult to climb. Her residence was heavily walled so as to keep the wind out. Such precautions would preserve her virginity and fine complexion and hence command a high bride-price for her. The basic social unit is the family, which may extend to grandparents, aunts, and uncles, all of them living together in one big tulugan (big house).

Betel nut chewing is a prevalent practice for both men and women. The quid, called tinalad, consists of betel leaves, lime, and betel nut. It is placed in a small pouch or brass box that is carried about in the men’s carrying bag or the women’s carrying basket. It has an important function in religious, healing, and social rituals.

The Bukidnon also smoke and chew tobacco. Tobacco may be smoked through small pipes made of clay, wood, and horn. An indigenous lighting device for smoking has been observed in some communities. It consists of two cylinders, one fitted exactly to go inside the other, which has been hollowed out. At the tip, a piece of tinder with some fine sulfur is placed; the tinder ignites when the two cylinders are rubbed against each other in a quick pulling motion.

Bukidnon mother and child, Kaamulan Festival 1990, Malaybalay, Bukidnon
Bukidnon mother and child, Kaamulan Festival 1990, Malaybalay, Bukidnon (CCP Collections)

After childbirth, which is attended by the mangonoyamo (midwife), the afterbirth is wrapped in two layers of cloth and buried either under the ladder or the stove. It is believed to be the infant’s twin, and its soul ascends to heaven and becomes the infant’s guiding spirit. The infant’s name is derived from an event that is related to its birth. Magbabaya, the supreme being, descends to earth to inquire of the infant what manner of death it wants to have when its time comes. If the infant is stillborn, the midwife tries to revive it by spitting the red juice of a chewed tinalad into its mouth. A twin birth is followed by the pagalomo ceremony within three days to prevent sibling rivalry.

An idang (aunt) takes charge of the children, especially a potential datu, who is tutored by his idang on Bukidnon lore. Puberty for both boy and girl means they are now “ready to chew betel nut.” They then undergo teeth filing and blackening. These start at age 10 for both sexes. The incisors are cut horizontally across, about midway of their length, or bored through and inlaid with brass wire.

Video: Tribal Wedding (Talaandig)

Arranged marriages and child betrothal are still practiced among the Bukidnon. Children 11 years old or older are considered marriageable. On the wedding day, the groom and his entourage of relatives carrying items of the bridewealth go to the bride’s house. These may be a bolo, spear, cloth, carabao, cash, jewelry, and so on. Leading the entourage is the tagdasang, who orates on the achievements of the groom’s family, and the tagsaot, who dances a war dance. An idang holds an umbrella over the groom. At the bride’s home, the two families face each other and the taltag is set. A kernel of corn represents an item of the bridewealth to be presented to each relative of the bride. The bride’s idang, for instance, receives a substantial amount of the bridewealth. The wedding ceremony immediately follows: The groom takes a fistful of rice, molds it into a ball, and feeds it to the bride. The bride then does the same, and the ceremony is ended.

Traditional Higaonon wedding
Traditional Higaonon wedding (CCP Collections)

The groom serves the bride’s family during the first few months of marriage. However, after this initial period, the couple’s place of residence is usually near that of the husband’s family. In a polygynous household, the first wife is recognized as the head wife. In more accessible and acculturated Bukidnon communities, women who have been educated in state-instituted schools, particularly those who have been able to leave their communities to study in metropolitan areas or who have become assimilated in the ways of non-lumad settlers, have become more assertive in rejecting customs such as arranged marriages.

Incest taboo is strictly obeyed. The punishment for culprits, now obsolete, was to be caged like pigs on the ground floor of a house, ridiculed, and poked with sticks. Then they were brought to the edge of a cliff and clubbed until they fell, but this penalty was modified in a singampo.

The death of a family member is announced by a person who must turn his back on the person to whom he is speaking. No single person must relay the same information, so several family members must take turns announcing the death to relatives. The corpse is prepared for its journey into the afterworld with a bath and its best clothes. A sharp bolo is buried with it so that the spirit will have a means of clearing its trail and defending itself against evil spirits.

The grave marker is the salimbal, a crown of woven rattan, which will give the dead person’s soul something to do so it will not be lonely. Sometimes, a makeshift roof is assembled over the grave. After the burial, a pangalak (food offering) is laid where the coffin was during the wake. The mourners eat the pangalak; leftovers are then placed in certain parts of the house. Someone leads the prayers meant to drive away the evil spirits that cause death. A long stick with a package of rice fastened to one end may also be placed on the grave to sustain the soul’s journey to the highest mountain. To express their love and sadness, relatives of the deceased let their hair hang loose during the mourning period.

Illnesses are believed to be caused by various things: the wandering of a man’s soul from his body, failure to perform certain religious rituals, disrespect of the elderly, killing of another and refusal to undergo a peace settlement, incest, failure to pay the agreed bride-price in a marriage, failure to repay a debt of conscience, mockery of the epic heroes, cursing of the spirits, irreverence to the spirits, and failure to pray to Magbabaya.

Illnesses are remedied through herbal medicines or with the help of a mananambal (healer). Prayer-rituals are also conducted by the mananambal if the illness is believed to have been caused by spirits. Even with the introduction of modern pharmaceutical medicines through the government health care system, the use of traditional medicines continues to be studied and practiced as cultural heritage as well as a valuable alternative system of knowledge and cure.

In the continuing struggle for cultural preservation, the Talaandig have developed the agpangan (frame or design), which is a means of evaluating the changes in the knowledge systems within their community and a guide for acting upon these changes. Agpanganis based on and transmitted through their oral traditions and is used to evaluate, protect, and promote the Talaandig cultural identity. Actions may be gauged horizontally through a concept of timbangan (balance scale) or vertically through a concept of gantangan (measuring scale). Horizontal evaluations maintain the balance between positive and negative influences on the environment. Vertical evaluations help the people manage and distribute the resources of the community according to their needs.

The agpangan identifies three levels of assessment of the political, social, economic, spiritual, and cultural conditions of the community. The first level assesses the relationship between nature and the human body, recognizing that adversity in the environment has a spiritual and material impact on the well-being of the people. The second level assesses the relationships between individuals and the larger community and how they are unified by their communal practices, customary laws, political organization, and indigenous education. The third level assesses the relationship between the indigenous cultural domain and the outside world, examining the impact of external laws and governance, other religions, economic transactions, and formal education on the Talaandig identity and culture.

To the Talaandig, these social conditions are effectively processed with common sense, that is, knowledge is true and applicable only when the subject has been felt, touched, tasted, seen, and heard by the people. In this way, the Talaandig are able to cope with the changes to their environment and the world that surrounds them, augment local knowledge, and retain and assert their own culture and identity.

Bukidnon Religious Beliefs and Practices

Regional differences account for a variety of ways in which Bukidnon cosmology is divided and defined. It may be divided into four worlds: langit (skyworld), kalibutan (earthworld), didalum ha nanad (underworld), and ulagingan (the paradise of the Bukidnon epic characters). Each world is in turn composed of several layers. For example, one of the seven layers of the skyworld is made up of all the designs and patterns used on the Bukidnon clothes.

There are three classes of Bukidnon spirits. The first class consists of the seven spirits called gimukod, residing in every person. Illness is caused by one or more gimukod wandering away from the body. Hence, healing is done with a “soul catching” ceremony called the pagaluno or pag-gimukod. Death occurs when all seven of the person’s gimukod merge into one, which then goes to live on Mount Balatucan. The soul’s journey to Mount Balatucan takes at least a week. The soul must pass through a huge rock called Liyang, carve a notch into the Tree of Record in Binagbasan to announce its arrival, dance the pinagsayawan (ritual dance of atonement), have its hair cut by Panamparan, and partake of a banquet in Kumbijaran, before it is conducted into Kadatuan by the god Andalapit at the foot of Mount Balatucan. Here, the gods judge it as good or wicked. The good souls are sent to Dunkituhan at the peak of the mountain; the wicked are sent to a river at the other side of the mountain, where they fetch water night and day using punctured buckets. The gimukod of the dead sometimes visits their living relatives and must occasionally be offered food and prayers so as not to be offended.

The second class of spirits is the alabyanon, which is subdivided into the magbabaya, pamahandi, and ingkantu or busau. There are six powerful magbabaya and lesser gods. The migloginsal, also known as agobinsal, diwata magbabaya, and apo, is “The All Powerful One,” the creator of the earth. He lives in a house in the sky made of coins. People who see him are turned to water. His name is invoked only by the baylan and only when an offering is made. The magbabaya tominapay is “the spirit who lives under the earth and supports it with his hands.” The magbabaya at the four cardinal points, that is, “where earth and sky meet,” are Dumalungdung, “the spirit in the east whence the sun comes”; Ongli, “the spirit in the west where the sun hides”; Tagalombong, “the spirit in the south whence the waters come”; and Magbabaya Tiponan, “the spirit of the place where the waters of the the ocean unite.” Dumalungdung and Ongli are also the patrons of the baylan.

There are 14 lesser alabyanon. Panglang and her servant Mangonoyamo are females who care for midwives, pregnant women, and unborn children. Gomogonal looks after the spirits of the dead. Talabusau is the patron of warriors and those who run amuck. Gods of domestic animals are Omalagad, the patron of hunters and their dogs, and Amimisol, the protector of chickens and pigs. Agyu or Aguio, an epic hero, is now a spirit who lives on earth and sometimes attends the kaliga-on ceremony. The last seven alabyanon are servants to the kaliga-on.

There are 10 pamahandi, who are protectors of horses and carabaos and senders of good fortune and prosperity. They are generally friendly although an offense against them will cause ill fortune. The ingkanto are nature spirits. The busau (also busaw) or balbal are unfriendly spirits and include the bulalakau, the spirit of the water which lives in the sea, springs, streams, and rivers; the magomanay, the spirit in the baliti trees; the lalawag, the spirit in groves, also the owner of deer and bees; Tagadalama, the spirit living in cliffs; and Tagumbanua, the god of the fields to whom the kaliga-on ceremony is dedicated.

The third class of spirits is the kaliga-on, consisting of 16 powerful beings. They live in mountains, especially in volcanoes. Crude symbols represent them at the kaliga - on ceremonies: The god Lantangon is represented by a small carved wooden figure; four gods are represented by the golon-golon, small bamboo baskets containing leaves and part of a pig’s skull; six other gods are represented by the dagingon, which are bundles each of two or three sticks.

Spirits can also be divided into migbaya and timamanuwa. The various migbaya rule different aspects of the world and are identified through descriptive names, such as migbaya hu pagsakum (ruler of the clearing of land), migbaya hu pangasu (ruler of hunting), migbaya hu wahig (ruler of water), or migbaya hu mamaun (ruler of betel nut). They serve and derive their power from Magbabaya. They can cause illnesses if displeased but can be appeased with ritual offerings such as the panalabugta, a sacrificial ceremony for migbaya hu pagsakum, or with the ibabasuk, which is conducted before the clearing of land for tilling and planting. Timamanuwa, from the Binukid tima (dwell) and banuwa (settlement), are spirits who reside in certain places such as balete trees, large stones, and confluences of rivers and streams. People passing their dwellings need to seek their favor or make small offerings to avoid harm.

Personal guardian spirits can be tumanod, mulin-ulin, espiritu, or dumalongdong. Tumanod, also called insalungana or indungan, are companion spirits given to each person upon his or her birth. They confer special abilities upon a person and communicate with him or her in dreams. Mulin-ulin act as teachers and guides, such that a child with aptitude for learning is called tagulinan ha bata (child possessed by a mulin-ulin). Espiritu, also called mamulig, assist in communicating a person’s needs to Magbabaya. Dumalongdong are powerful guardian spirits that accompany only people of authority: warriors, shamans, chieftains, and medicine men. They are invoked during important meetings and dispute settlements.

Malignant spirits are the busaw, which capture and torment souls of men; kawa, which shadow people for life and consume their corpse after death; sumisigbat, which cause crop failure and illnesses; sumapay, ut-ut, and managkilawan, which eat people; twadhangin, which take on the form of beautiful women to seduce young men; kuk-kuk, which are trickster spirits that carry away children but otherwise do them no harm; and balbal, which are large busaw roaming the mountains, like alagasi, a devourer of men and cattle, and aswang, the alagasi’s spirit dog. The spirit of man is called gimukod and his body, lawa. It can wander, be imprisoned by timamanuwa or busaw, causing illness, or travel in dreams. The magbabaya and the kaliga-on are referred to as diwata, but not the lesser alabyanon nor the gimukod of the dead. The term for any of the spirits is magtitima or tomitima.

The Bukidnon believe in charms. The tigbas is a magic stone that fell from the sky. It is owned only by the datu. A rare kind of stone, owned by a very few Bukidnon, is the tigbas a kilat (teeth of the lightning), because it fell on the spot struck by lightning. It has the power to stop violent storms.

The earth is supported by one male and one female serpent, called intombangol, who lie across each other to form a cross. Their mouths are submerged in the water where earth and sky meet. Their movement causes earthquakes; their breath causes the winds; and their panting creates violent storms.

The baylan performs pamuhat or religious ceremonies, which are held in the various stages of agriculture and of the life cycle, such as house building or preparing a clearing. The baylan’s services are also required to cure an epidemic or diagnose an illness. A person is not called by the spirits to become a baylan. When a person decides to become one, he or she is apprenticed to an experienced baylan. According to folk tradition, the first baylan was taught by Molinolin, patron and guide of the baylan. His assistants are the gods Ongli and Dumalungdung, who help diagnose illness.

Talaandig welcoming ritual for guests
Talaandig welcoming ritual for guests (CCP Collections)

Pamuhat has several stages. The first is panawagtawag (call) or pandalawit (invitation), in which the spirits are invoked to attend the ceremony. Second is the slaughtering of the ritual offerings, usually chicken or pigs. Third is the singing of the gugud or batbat by the ritualists called the palagugud and palabatbat while the food offerings are being cooked. Fourth is a second panawagtawag inviting the spirits to partake of the food. Fifth is the panampulot, in which everyone partakes of the food offerings.

There are five types of pamuhat: pamuhat ha indengana ha etaw, which are addressed to the alabyanon; pamuhat ha dinatu, which are recited by the datu; pamuhat ha in-ayaw, which are prayers dictated by the mulin-ulin through a dream; pamuhat ha dinalinsay, which are prayers directed to Magbabaya during kagbaylan, the ritual gathering of several baylan; and buhaton ha maayad ha etaw, which are prayers of thanksgiving, appeal, or repentance.

The most important and lavish pamuhat is the kaliga-on, which used to last nine days but is now reduced to three. It is the fulfillment of a panaad (vow) made to a god to offer prayers and material things like betel nut, cloth, and animals. The kaliga-on is performed for a bountiful harvest, hunting and fishing, the healing of the sick, before housebuilding, for a successful business venture, and so on. Other kaliga-on ceremonies are the kasaboahan, which is in honor of the god Malibotan and his grandfather, and the magbabaya minumsob, which is held to ensure a happy marriage.

Presently, there is a monotheistic view of Magbabaya as a supreme being. This may be due to Christian influences on Bukidnon religious beliefs and practices. In spite of the influence of Roman Catholicism, the religious practices of many of the Christianized Bukidnon remain rooted in their folk beliefs. In the localized Catholic practice, religious imagery is emphasized, and a penchant for the recitation of novenas may be the Christianized lumad’s attachment to their visual and oral culture. The result is a syncretic religion.

During the American Period, American Protestant missionaries entered Mindanao. Some communities embraced Evangelical Protestantism so thoroughly that they preferred to distance themselves from those who retained their indigenous beliefs. Some Higaonon communities rejected the Bukidnon cosmology of spirits and deities altogether to embrace Jesus as Christ and savior. Conversions in other communities were less restrictive: The community began church services with paalati or limbay (lyric poem), Higaonon traditional songs, and they chewed betel quid during the sermon.

Protestant conversion during the American period was hastened by the Americans’ literacy programs, which included the translation of documents to and from English, hence enabling the lumad to assert their ancestral domain claims to the colonial government. Other Christian denominations that penetrated Bukidnon communities in varying degrees were the Philippine Independent Church, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Baptists, and Seventh-Day Adventists. In Kalabugao, there are Rizalian communities led by a lowlander from Surigao.

The Bukidnon today are consciously asserting their traditional religion as a way of resisting the cultural erosion caused by Christianization. Many Christianized Bukidnon practice the rituals perfunctorily; still others dismiss the relevance of the foreign religion even if they have been labeled Catholic or Christian because, in spite of the changes to their lives, their faith in the religion of their forefathers remains stronger.

Bukidnon Tribal Community 

Because the Bukidnon subsist on food gathering and swidden agriculture, they live in small settlements near forest hillsides or along riverbanks. These settlements are not compact, since each house is built on the farm site. They used to build their houses atop trees or placed high on piles. Long poles extending from the ground to the sides or floor kept these houses stable. Entrance was by a ladder which was drawn up to keep animals and enemies out. During the Spanish and American times, villages based on the plaza-complex structure were established in the lowlands, like the Visayan towns along the coast.

Interior of a traditional Bukidnon hut
Interior of a traditional Bukidnon hut (National Library of the Philippines Collection)

The location and orientation of the Talaandig house is very important. Houses must not be built in flood- and landslide-prone areas like riversides or hillsides. Houses must also be constructed away from places believed to be the pathways or abodes of spirits, such as the tops of hills or the openings of slopes. One also cannot construct a house on a hill in the middle of four slopes, as this resembles a lungon (coffin). It is important to orient the house toward the east to avoid tahus (bad luck) in health and livelihood. Facing the house to the east invites sunlight and opens the house to good fortune.

Traditional Bukidnon hut standing above the ground
Traditional Bukidnon hut standing above the ground (National Library of the Philippines Collection)

A ritual called kagbalay is conducted before the house is occupied to invoke the protection of benevolent spirits and to cleanse the house of malignant spirits. The house is guarded by Anilaw ha Inbatal, who defends the perimeters of the yard; Anilaw ha Lalaan, who protects the yard and dances with shield in hand; Bulasan or Bugkawangan, who guards the steps to the house; Sumagda or Lumaguindai, who inspects everyone who enters the house; and Sinuyda Kahibunan, who receives the guests and offers them betel chew from a container called Gagawingan ha Mingyaw. Activities in the house are under the watch of Diwata ha Manilib or Sunghay ha Manulisuli, who observes whether the household continues to be worthy of protection. On the roof, Masalagya Biyuwan or Makagwas Lagaayaan looks out for encroaching spirits.

The center of authority and ceremonial functions is the tulugan, which is the datu’s residence. It is a large house surrounded by the people’s homes and their fields. This house also shelters the datu’s retainers and fighting men, aside from his family. It is the gathering place during ceremonies and times of danger. A shell trumpet is used to summon the people to meetings. The term “tulugan” is also used to refer to the kinship community or the big house of an extended family.

Because rice cultivation is slash-and-burn, also known as swidden, houses are light and easily demolished. The framework of the house consists of upright saplings across which poles are laid and tied to serve as the base of the bamboo floor. Cross poles join the tops at a height of about 1.8 meters. From the corners, light poles make an inverted V at each end to which a ridgepole is tied. The thatch roof is laid on more poles running from the top to the upper stringers. The walls are of beaten bark or mats, but a space is left open between them and the overhanging roof. Entrance is by a ladder. There is no door to shut out trespassers. Instead, a knot of leaves or cogon grass is tied to the ladder as a sign that the family is away and the place is “taboo.”

The floor is of broad bamboo strips on which grass or rattan mats are laid. Mats are made by lacing cords around narrow strips of rattan, like the pattern of venetian blinds. These mats are also hung on the sides to keep the rains out. The walls are smoked from torches and the kitchen fire. Some houses have separate sleeping quarters for the family. Members of the family that marry build extensions called sibay for their sleeping quarters.

Furniture is sparse. There is a raised seat or bed, which is placed in an alcove near the entrance. Mats serve as beds, tables, and seats. A rattan hammock may hang in one corner. Three stones forming a triangle make up the fireplace. The hearth is the learning center of the Talaandig house, where the family gathers for instruction of the young and for the sharing of narratives and oral traditions. Thus, the elders always ensure that there is enough firewood to last through the evening.

Scattered about are storage, field, and fish baskets. Pottery jars and bamboo sections are used as cooking utensils and water containers. Rattan baskets or racks hanging from walls contain coconut shells used as dishes and spoons. A simple boxlike cradle for the baby hangs from the wall. There are wooden chests and Chinese jars, some of which are antique, acquired through trade on the coast.

Bukidnon Tribe Ethnic Attire, Traditional Costume and Crafts

Traditional fabric for women’s clothing was abaca or hemp but is now cotton cloth obtained through trade. Red, blue, and white strips, or rectangular or square pieces of cloth are sewn together to make a wide saya (skirt). The hem may be adorned with patchwork or embroidered triangles, zigzag lines, or realistic figures, such as the human form, fruits, and flowers. The skirt is held up by a bagkus, a similarly decorated sash, or a golongan, a waistband around which are sewn numerous saliyaw (small brass bells). The ginilangan (blouse) is even more fully decorated, covered with patchwork or embroidered designs boldly outlined in yarn. The patterns on the skirt are repeated on the blouse. The blouse is sinulaman if it is embroidered; ginuntingan if made up of red, black, and white stripes sewn together; and tinudtudan if adorned with patchwork of geometric shapes. The typical colors are black, white, red, and a tinge of yellow. Decorative designs may be applied as borders, overall patterns, corner motifs, or central motifs.

Talaandig women wearing headdresses and traditional garments
Talaandig women wearing headdresses and traditional garments (CCP Collections)

The most common skirt has patchwork of red and white triangles along the hem, and red and white vertical stripes from the waist. The blouse is short enough to leave the midriff bare; it has bell sleeves on which are patched red and white triangles alternated with red and white stripes. In olden times, the women tattooed their midriff with the same geometric designs used on their garments. At present, they wear a white chemise under their blouse to cover the midriff.

The Talaandig dressmaker is called the manunulam. Traditionally, a young woman about to learn how to embroider the Bukidnon garments has to first participate in a ritual attended only by women. An offering of a chicken and prayers to the spirit guardian of embroiderers would ensure that her fingers would be guided by the goddess so that she can sew even without looking at her work. She would be divinely inspired to choose the right color combinations and designs.

That patchwork and geometric decoration of garments is integral to the culture of the Bukidnon is evident not only in their cosmology but also in the terms for different designs. Two of the basic patterns are sinanbilian (zigzag) and linongko (vertical). Lugo is the general term for the geometric patterns. Basic lines are matul-id (straight), kinayog (curved), tagtiyarog (vertical), taghiruga (horizontal), binaligyas (diagonal), balugko (crooked), and sinurigaw (zigzag). There are also half-diamond designs atop a base line and others hanging above the line. A circular design is “scissor work in a circle”; a red half-diamond against a white field is “in.” Embroidery in red and yellow is “colors of a mat.”

Although geometric designs predominate, a considerable number are realistic. Among these are figures of men, women, animals, flowers, and fruits. Examples of clothing designs are the man with bolo, lizard, the leaves of the pinola tree, zigzag, bird, leeches, flower of a tree, design derived from the back of playing cards, and panel design from a handkerchief.

Coloring is done by the “tie-and-dye” process. To color the fabrics, the Bukidnon use indigenous dyes made out of plant, bark, or other materials in their environment. Maliga or malalalab (red) is from the talisay, galuko, ilalama, and kaluluda. Makalawag (yellow) is from yellow ginger or turmeric. Mailum-ilum (blue) is from the bark of the tagum and lamud tree. Malalablalab (orange) is from the bark of the makalumukon tree. Brown is from the leaf of beliya and the sap of banana blossoms. Maitom (black) is from boiling abaca sap with lime, mixing in charcoal and coconut oil, and holding the dyed fibers over the smoke of burning resin.

Bangkol, a large comb with intricate designs incised or inlaid in brass or mother-of-pearl, is fastened to the woman’s hair, which is kept in a bun on the back of her head. Attached to the bun is a roll of hair (or a switch) covered with a headpiece consisting of the panika and kalu-kaplu. The panika is made of two tassels of yarn, falling to either side of the head just behind the ears. The kalu-kaplu is an embroidered triangular cloth pinned to the back of the head and falling straight down. A more elaborate headpiece, worn on ceremonial occasions, is the pinanggahanan, which fans out about 60 centimeters high from a comb fastened to the bun. It resembles a male peacock’s spread-out tail. The base is made of a series of bamboo splinters to which are attached rows of zigzagging yarn that alternate with strings of beads and sequins. Each splinter is topped with a tuft of feathers.

Video: Tribal Handicrafts Bukidnon - Three tribal women of the Umayamnon tribe from Bukidnon showing their handicrafts made from beads, nito and abaca.

Earrings with incised designs, earplugs, or tassels of yarn are worn. Balaring are silver or brass earrings with multiple strings of beads worn from ear to ear and passing under the chin. Salay are necklaces of beads, seeds, or boar’s bristles. The sinakit is a beadwork necklace with numerous coins attached to it. Bukala are bracelets and armlets of brass or shell. Binuklad are bracelets made of red, black, white, and yellow beads. Finger rings are worn up to the upper joints; toe rings are also worn. Singkil, heavy brass anklets with pellets placed in them, make tinkling sounds as the woman walks.

Talaandig men in traditional wear
Talaandig men in traditional wear (CCP Collections)

The men wear coats, full-length trousers, and belts, all decorated with embroidery and applique similar to those on the women’s clothing. Salual or saoal, tight-fitting trousers, consist of two panels, one on top of the other. One design has the upper part, from the knees up, filled with horizontal patterns, and the lower part filled with vertical ones, or vice versa. One panel has rows of inonsoran, large triangles each topped by a three-leaf motif, while the second panel has geometric lines resembling those on a snake’s skin. The latter design is appropriately called baksan, meaning “the pattern on the python’s skin” (Casal et al. 1981). The panaya, an embroidered waistband, keeps the trousers in place.

Higaonon man weaving ambong, Talakag, Bukidnon
Higaonon man weaving ambong, Talakag, Bukidnon (CCP Collections)

Instead of using pockets, the men carry bags, which are worn on the left side and suspended by a shoulder strap passing over the right shoulder. A richly embroidered pouch is the lotoan, in which they can store tobacco, betel chew, food, or other objects of value for safekeeping. Their necklace is the dinakit, consisting of multicolored beaded strands worn closely around the neck. Palikan or panditan, embroidered and beaded headdresses, are worn like a turban and may serve to carry odds and ends. Two corners fall in front of the ears. The third corner falling over the forehead is richly embroidered and beaded. Distinguished warriors wear the tangkulo, a three-or five-pointed headdress. The highest ranking datu wears the sulang-sulang. Each knot made on the two corners signifies a step in the rank. The men today wear their hair short; however, a few still grow their hair and wind it around the head in a knot.

The warrior’s battle gear consists of a padded vest that functions as armor, over which a decorated sash is wound several times around the body passing over the shoulders. Hanging from the belt is a colored kilt, and a krisor fighting knife and its sheath. The sash is both decorative and protective. The kilt is purely decorative.

A charm called the talian is worn like a bandolier. It passes over the right shoulder and hangs down the left side. It is made of several leaves of grass held together with cloth to which are attached shells, pigs’ tusks, magic stone, a miniature carving of a dog’s head, and alligator’s tooth. A talian carved to resemble a squatting monkey may dangle from the breast or a cord. It helps the wearer to sense if an enemy is nearby. Moreover, the water in which it is submerged is believed to have medicinal value.

Like the garments, their weapons are also lavishly decorated. The handle or scabbard of the kris is inlaid with white beads or carved in the likeness of a star. The kalasag is a wooden shield decorated with carvings and paintings, incised with straight or curved black lines, or inlaid with beads or mother-of-pearl. A mirror, called bulan-bulan, and fringes of horsehair may be attached. The knob at the center is both decorative and functional: It is the hub of the design and is the space on the reverse side for the handgrip.

The taming is a round shield woven out of bamboo sticks and rattan strips. The sticks, radiating from a small wooden disk, compose the base under and over which the rattan strips pass. The outer edge is finally held together by woven rattan added to it.

The affluence of the datu may be seen in his possession of large, decorated vases that function as food storage or coffers. Lime for betel chew is kept in worked brass boxes, with small matching ladles attached to a short chain. Another brass case is the salapa, a crescent-shaped container tied to the waist when the Bukidnon travel.

Baskets are made of bamboo, rattan, and pandanus. They are simply decorated with alternating outer enameled strips and dull inner ones. Colored bands of bamboo are also used. The tuba-tuba (juice of the banana blossom) is used to blacken the materials, which are then exposed to the smoke of burning resin. Designs are achieved through four basic weaves and their variants: checker work of uniform size or hexagonal openings, diagonal or twilled design, wickerwork, and the crossed weft design.

The woman’s basket is carried on the back, supported by a strap around the forehead. It is used to transport farm products. The man’s basket is worn like a knapsack: The bands are worn over the shoulders, and the basket is on his back. These baskets are oval-shaped with covers. Large baskets without covers, not for carrying but for general storage, are placed in the fields, in the house, or the blacksmith’s forge. The small carrying baskets of women are of pandanus. Rice bags are made of pandanus or straw. Large wall hangers, in which plates and coconut shell dishes are kept, are made of rattan strips in intertwining loops that form a decorative openwork case.

Mats and rice winnowers are made of wild grass or rattan. A mat may be used as a bed, seat, table, musical instrument, and wrapping for the dead. Crude mats of pandanus are used for drying grains such as coffee. Various colored straws are woven to make simple designs. Coloring materials are extracted from plants, such as talisay, tagom, or banana blossom, and then the dyed object is exposed to the smoke of burning resin.

Decoration on pottery consists of incised scroll designs placed just below the rim. Wood carvings range from very crude representations of human beings in ceremonies to decorative sections of musical instruments. The wooden doll lantangon in the kaliga-on ceremony has vague lines merely suggesting the eyes, nose, and mouth. It is dressed in white and wears a red headband, and it is placed on a miniature bamboo seat. It is used once, then discarded. In the Bukidnon’s long narrow guitar, the lower end is carved to represent one or two heads of crocodiles or birds, while the upper end represents the tail. Meanwhile, bamboo containers for betel nut are incised with designs similar to those on garments.

Even with the influx of non-native visual art forms such as painting, the Bukidnon’s traditional arts continue to echo. Among the Talaandig, soil painting, which continues to reflect traditional reverence for the land, is taught and practiced in their School of Living Traditions, in their ancestral territory of Songco in the municipality of Lantapan, Bukidnon province. Soil or earth painting is a new art form, begun by Waway Linsahay Saway in the mid-1990s. By the mid-2000s, Waway and ten artists practicing soil painting had formed a group simply called Talaandig Artists. The colors of their art work come from 14 types of clay found in Songco. One of their collaborative works is a mural, 244 x 488 centimeters, titled Memories of the Peoples of the Earth: The Talaandig Revolution, which depicts the contradictions besetting the Talaandig: their mythological traditions versus their troubled history, the invasion of corporate giants versus their farming systems, state interference versus their struggle for self-determination. It was exhibited at the Singapore Biennale 2013.

Bukidnon Tribe Folk Literature, Songs and Folktale 

There are 13 forms of Bukidnon folk literature. The verse forms that are chanted are the antuka (riddle), basahan (proverb), limbay (lyric poem), sala (lyric poem), idangdang (didactic song or ballad), kaliga-on (religious song), and ulaging or ulahingan (epic). Poems that are recited are the bayok-bayok (verses) and dasang (argumentative poem). Prose narratives are the sampitan (case reference stories), nanangen (folktales), gugud or batbat (myths, legends, and historical accounts), and mantukaw (recited narratives about Agyu, the epic hero).

Bukidnon warrior and Bukidnon chief
Bukidnon warrior, left, and Bukidnon chief, right (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

Riddles are not only forms of recreation but are also tests for prospective sons-in-law or datu. Every riddle begins with the phrase, “Antuki nu paraan” (Guess what it is). The following are examples of the antuka:

Minikagi su bakbak

didalem hu yakungan

Tubag su yanggunuban

tampad ku kahulugan. (Manumbalay)

(The frog spoke

under the stone

The big frog answered

at the end of the waterfall. [Gossiper])

Kawayan ta Udyungan

Ha buntung ta Ulaligan

Na hadi’gkapanlibawen

ku kena baya hu datu. (Mga laga)

(A bamboo of “Udyungan”

A bamboo of “Ulaligan”

No one can cut it down

if it is not the will of a datu. [Ladies])

Lubayen binalighut

Ba kad ulien duun hu baya

di nu tangka mahukad. (Ngaran)

(Hair that is knotted.

You will go home to death

but you will never unloosen it. [Name])

Proverbs can be either terse or extended verse forms. The following are examples of the first kind of basahan:

Isan en ubay so hari elegan,

hari no ma oma.

(Near though a place is, you can

never reach it if you don’t walk to it.)

Hare ta himatayan

ta asom tad himataye.

(Before you say anything

think it over seven times.)

The limbay closely resembles the sala in form and subject matter. The following is an example of a limbay:

Tagka alay-alay a

Lagaylay ta Linawen

Tagkasuminanak a

Ta ugas ta lalahidan

Amin ku nga-ay lumay

Ha min ku dayunas

Ha indalag ku kandan

Di dayu ku Dangagen

Pat-an ku Tigbabawan

Salaysay ha sinihay

Kugun dinuyana

Kaduma hu kalaleng

Kupaw hu kulighunuh

Inu man sa timpu duun?

San ku iyaan dia tunged

San pag dagingun

Ku duawangun si nalumay

Ku dagumasmas ki mudan

San ku yan din alaga

Panayu bagsa-on ad

Lapugnu ki tumana

Malugen ad pahagpit

Hu banua hi nalumay

(This is my worry

Oh, flower of Liwanen

I am dreaming of

The young leaves of the other world of death;

If only I had parents still;

That I still had parents,

But they have settled there

On the hilltop where I cannot go,

I cannot climb up to their graves

Which are separated like cogon,

Accompanied by errors,

With mistaken thoughts; I regret my bad acts,

What does it matter then?

Even if there was a chance;

I can hear the loud sounds

Of falling rain on the

Land of my parents

I can hear the falling rain;

Even if there was a chance

Slowly I would still fall

Like drops of rain

It will be difficult for me to drop upon

The place of my parents.)

The sala is a reflection on such emotional topics as love, war, death, and friendship. Following is the “Song of the Rejected Lover”:

Dali danga palangga ha

Angga ha dig balawan

Na, pagka anlo asom

Ha, ka pag kalibukas din

Dao tangki no pa-anay

Hi linduwangi no anay

Na paayon ayoni no so

Pasalin osnogi no so bintana pig larawan

Ko bintana yu manigga

Ko putla yu dig balawan

Ta iyan na anlao asom

Ha yan na nabayao asom

Ha palangga pa long ba a

Ha angga pahambilong a

Ke dowangon yu palangga

Ko lama yu dig balawan

Tag pa ayon a magawad

Ko lama yo dig madin-ayon

Na dao ad asom patolon

Na dao asom pahila-on

Ko mga dason-dason kod

Ha mga domangon kod

So tampoyong ha salamid

So bontod ha pagalongan

Banowa hog sawadon ha

Bangon hag Juevison

Na aman ko dasonan a

Ha man ko dagandanon

Na magbakilid a

Botok a maglisod a kamalig

Ta nong mongngan siliban

Ko ha agong solimanan ko

Ta nong monggo siliban ko ha

Ko maka gakod nod

Ko maka lumanogoman nod

So tig patay langi no

Ha tig balinoknok ki no.

(Sweetheart, little sweetheart,

Darling whom I will never offend;

At sunrise tomorrow

At dawn next day,

Will you look down at me;

Will you peep down at me;

Please hearken to my request:

Look down from your gilded window,

The door with carvings

The window glittering,

The door of my beloved;

Tomorrow will be the day

Next day will be the day,

My beloved, I shall go away,

My beloved, I shall stay in your yard;

In the yard of someone I love:

In the direction

On your yard not far away;

I shall only go near

I shall only go there

If I shall be able to reach,

If I shall arrive at the

Crystal mountain,

The looking glass mountain,

Town of Sawadon,

Town of Juevison;

I f I could reach there

If I could arrive there

I shall put up a shanty

I shall put up a shack;

So I can observe

So I can overhear;

For I shall eavesdrop

I shall try to hear,

When you shall have owned

When you shall have conquered

The one who makes you swoon

The one who makes you sigh.)

The idangdang was originally sung by the idang or aunt, who was tasked to teach the youth proper values and skills like wine making, weaving, and household chores. Some idangdang have evolved into ballads that illustrate a point. One idangdang tells about Manti-ay-ay Manduraw, a Bukidnon warrior who leaves his home vulnerable to attack when he goes off to capture a slave for his wife. A Manobo magahat (outlaw) raiding party sacks his home, abducts his wife, and sells her into slavery for a pandi (tube-shaped cloth) and an ampik (multicolored pandi). Below is an excerpt of a dialogue between the magahat captor and Manti-ay-ay’s captive wife:

Woman to Magahat:

Naka-uba ka sa dagmal

Ta hura no kabalaye

Sa bantugan ko ha hibang

Mu-oy ko sambunotan…

Magahat to Woman:

Sapod-od ka magsubay

Sa maduduya ha sandir

Ta hurra iman magbaya

Ko ibani-ay ko imo duso

Woman to Magahat:

Hura labi mabiro

Ha ulipon sa ngaran ko

Taigtundagay ad ta Lanaw

Tagbaliwas ad pande

Ibaylo ad ko ampik

Ta ulipon sa ngaran ko

Ta ugdop sa tugam-a ko.

(Woman to Magahat:

You have an advantage, oh villain,

You did not find my hero home;

My famous bravest man

Out on a battle of his own…

Magahat to Woman:

You stop talking, worthless slave

Powerless, rightless slave, here

Nobody can stop me if

I thrust the dagger of death.

Woman to Magahat:

It is not a lie

That slave will be my name

They will sell me in Lanao

They will barter me with pandi

They will exchange me for an ampik

Because my name is a slave

And my nickname is worthless slave.)

The kaliga-on are religious or ceremonial songs. These are sung by the baylan and the tumatabok, a group that chants the tabok (responsorial prayer) and performs the dugso (ceremonial dance). The baylan knows the words of the traditional songs, part of which he teaches to the tumatabok, and to these he adds some of his own. Many lines are archaic and not understood. These consist of a few words repeated over and over. Below is an excerpt from the Dagingon, the “Kaliga-Tabok-Kagpugas” (Planting Verses for Women):

Hindog ay kan Dagingon

Yambay so Dalahinaw

Cuisa Sandolng so Lipandong

Abay si Ilangitnon

Pandahinoy bantay ka

Padagulin tanud ka

Sa ighimula ha dakun

Daw igtanum ha damudaw

Ibulasa sa mudan

Ibud-as sa tumama

Daw mataman sa panigbas

Laman ho ipanggabas

Sa man susumo-uk dagat

Daw sumipok layagun.

(Come to us Dagingon

Who sits with the ever pure

Beside the veiled beauty

With the heavenly Deity

Goddess of harvest, please watch

Deity of Abundance, do guard

The palay ready for sowing

And the palay ready for planting

Oh pour the mighty rain

Release the life-giving drops

So that the cutting of trees will end

At the limit we marked

You of the following, ebbing sea

You who blow the sails by day.)

The ulaging of Agyu and other epic heroes are chanted by several bards called palag-ulaging during a kaamulan (a community gathering on occasions like a tribal conference or wedding); or an episode of it may be chanted by a singer for his fellow villagers at the end of a full working day. Except when the singer holds a note indefinitely, the rhythm follows a regular beat of 2/4 time, often giving two measures to one line. Each verse is octosyllabic, following a fixed rhythm of stressed and unstressed syllables. Ideas in the ulaging are chanted repetitively in different words or phrases. Meaningless syllables are trilled or chanted to maintain the cadence.

The bayok-bayok is a verse form that is recited in iambic tetrameter rhythm. Traditionally, it was recited by spokespersons of the bride and groom in wedding ceremonies. At present, the form is used to recite on any topic at any occasion. An example of a bayok-bayok follows:

Ku kalubaybay ha hena-hena

Aman malumasel man

Dung ki pakakulatay

Ku amhay taphaw gahinawa

Ba di ka tag basul

Ben man daduwa sa aldaw

Hari ka tag pamunditan

Ku mabahin si nabayaw.

(That is why we find it difficult

to hold on

To the threshold of the heart

That is why we find it hard

to cling to

An insincere heart

But do not repent

When the sun divides itself in two

Do not regret

When the sun is divided.)

The dasangis a forceful recitation of one’s strong convictions or angry feelings. The first and last syllable of each line are heavily stressed. Below is an example:

Na huata iman

Ta palianaan ta ang kabayasa

Ag ikagiya ta-i ha naka-una

Na mga duma taw dia ta dibaluy

Na iman ta napaliman tad

Sag kinahanglan din

Na yan ta paman palimanan

Sa-i an naumahan

Ku inu kandag ha kubaya

Amun ta matuna-an tad

Sa tuyu dia ha hadig uyun

Ku ig pabuhat ku duun

Ha ma-ayad bay-anan

Ta sa la-ug ha-i sidan

Ta ag supak diay sidan

Hu kamit ha batasan

Hudo ta-i pulus na mga etaw

Ma-ayad ha-i bag labayun hu ulipun

Yan ta-i pakahimu ta dasang

Sa pumili ha magulana ha datu

Ha kinilala hu madakul tungkay

Iyan silbi maghuhukum.

(Now stop there;

We shall listen to what we want to hear

Told by one who has just arrived,

Our companions from beyond;

Now that we have already heard

What they need

Now we shall hear also from

Those who meet the ones who have just arrived

About what they want;

But then we know

That they do not agree with our purpose

Of what I want them to do;

It is better to leave it,

For the truth is that they do not agree,

For they do not follow

Our own customs;

They are useless people,

We may as well sell them into slavery.

This causes debate,

The old datu will elect

He who is well known by many,

He will serve as the judge.)

Among some Bukidnon communities, dasang is also called dinatu and is used exclusively by the datu to welcome visitors, to express their opinions, or to boast of their prestige and/or the merits of other people.

The sampitan is an anecdote illustrating a point relevant to the occasion, such as arbitration, a wedding ceremony, or installation ceremony for a datu. One sampitan tells of a datu’s servant who acquires wisdom by eavesdropping on his master discussing with a fellow datu how to settle a feud. Another sampitan recounts the origin of the lumbu-bulawan, a hand-to-hand combat between two leaders of conflicting parties before the peace talks. It is said that Apu Lingaling abducted Apu Manda Lawi’s wife. The neighboring datu intervened to settle the dispute, but Apu Lingaling first demanded a duel with his rival before any decision was made.

Two rival datu in lumbu-bulawan or hand-to-hand combat over the wife of one of the datu
Two rival datu in lumbu-bulawan or hand-to-hand combat over the wife of one of the datu (Illustration by Ara Villena)

One folktale explains the origin of the monkey. A woman was dyeing a piece of cloth when the boiling water splashed onto her hand. Her two children laughed at her, and because of this, they were transformed into monkeys, and the shell spoons that they had been using became their tails. Their fingernails were black because they had been helping their mother to dye the cloth.

Tales are told of a man named Walu, who was immaculately conceived by his mother Maragway. Walu is a recurring comic character in Bukidnon folktales. Although lacking in intelligence, he manages to conquer obstacles through luck or unconventional means. In one story, Walu goes fishing and catches a monkey instead. Mistaking it for a fish, he cooks the monkey whole with the intestines still inside, and so the food ends up smelling like feces. In another story, Walu, with his son Higit, dives under the river to wrestle with a large salamander he had seen from the surface, not realizing that what he had seen was just a reflection of the salamander clinging to a tree by the river.

There is a series of folktales about unlikely creatures, such as a monkey or an abatora (larva) marrying a princess. In these stories, the creatures propose to the princess and successfully undergo a series of challenges to win her hand. During the marriage, the creatures eventually reveal themselves as human to their wives, typically by shedding their skin while they are bathing in the river.

In a similar vein, another folktale tells of a child named Juan who undergoes extremely difficult challenges in order to be able to marry a princess. However, the princess is deceitful, as she has been secretly sharing her bed with the prince she likes, and she orders the child to go through impossible tasks in the hope that he would fail them. The boy turns the king’s entire kingdom into gold, retrieves for the princess a necklace, ring, and earrings from an eagle that is capable of swallowing him whole, and secures a golden bolo from a snake living in the depths of a very deep cave. After he accomplishes these three tasks, he is transformed into a beautiful young man. The princess then falls in love with him, but he denounces her and her deceptions, refusing to let her sit beside him. Riding the eagle, he travels to the middle of the ocean and dives down to its depths to confront the snake that guards another princess, who is locked in a tower under the sea. They return to her father’s kingdom to formalize their marriage and build a kingdom of their own.

Juan, a Bukidnon folk tale hero, rescuing a princess under the sea
Juan, a Bukidnon folk tale hero, rescuing a princess under the sea (Illustration by Ara Villena)

In a folktale that bears the marks of the Bukidnon’s turbulent history with outsiders, a boy named Pedro lives with his old, blind grandmother. The king has killed his father and taken his mother, leaving the child and grandmother in abject poverty. One day, Pedro snares one of the monkeys that had been stealing his meager harvest of corn and camote. The monkey pleads for Pedro to spare his life and not to seek vengeance upon them for eating his crops. In return, the monkey promises to carry out the will of God and avenge Pedro’s parents to the king. Pedro agrees, the monkey vanishes, and the years pass as Pedro’s farm flourishes. Years later, the monkey returns in the form of a beautiful lady and escorts Pedro to the king, telling the king it is the will of Magbabaya that Pedro be married to his daughter. It is revealed that she was the king’s guardian spirit until the king resorted to fighting and abuse. The king, now repentant, agrees to the will of his guardian spirit and of Magbabaya. Pedro then becomes a prince by virtue of his marriage to Princess Veronica.

The Bukidnon also have gugud or batbat on the creation, the flood, the first man and woman, and the origin of the different races. It is recited by a palagugud during important events such as rituals, peace settlements, and marriage ceremonies. It is said that before heaven and earth existed, there was the banting, a very bright space surrounded by a rainbow. Three beings dwelt there: the one-headed Mulug Nanguyawuyaw, the ten-headed Dadanhayan ha Sugay, and the one-headed, winged being named Diwata Makabugnaw. Mulug decided to create the earth and the human race with the cooperation of Dadanhayan. At his every request, Dadanhayan would reply, “Yan ka magbaya” (Your will be done). And that is how the supreme being came to be called Magbabaya. Magbabaya formed seven human figures in his image and left six of them with Dadanyahan who, without Magbabaya’s permission, finished them according to his own desire. Magbabaya and Dadanhayan dueled over this until their iron weapons sank into the earth. These became the minerals that the human race would later forge into its own weapons and modes of transport. Finally, Magbabaya kept the seventh figure and gave up the six figures that Dadanhayan had tampered with. His figure became the first man; Dadanhayan’s six figures became the incantu, environmental spirit custodians; Talabugta, who guards the soil; Ibabasuk, who guards the plants; Bulalakaw, who guards the water and its creatures; Mamemelig, who guards the forests and its creatures; Lalawag, who guards the bees and their honey; and Mamahandi, who guards the people’s wealth. The bits of clay that were cut from the figures as they were being molded became the other living creatures. The flying creatures came from the armpits; fish and other animals that are caught by the fingers came from between the fingers; animals carried on the back, like the deer and wild pig, came from the back; animals that are ridden on like horses, cows, and carabaos came from between the legs.

The three celestial beings of banting Bukidnon folktale
The three celestial beings of banting (Illustration by Ara Villena)

The celestial bodies began when the sky was so low that a woman who was pounding rice kept hitting it whenever she raised her pestle. She hung her beads and her comb on the sky, but when she began pounding the rice, the sky flew up and took her ornaments with it. Her comb became the moon and her beads became the stars.

“Kalikat Hu Mga Etaw Dini Ta Mindanao” (The Origin of the People of Mindanao) indicates how the Bukidnon’s ancestors immigrated to Mindanao. Two brothers, Beleb and Balaoy, came from across the seas to settle on the island now called Mindanao. A long drought caused Balaoy to leave the coast and move inland as he followed the remains of a big river that had dried up. He settled by a lake that had likewise shrunk. He was the ancestor of the inhabitants of northern Bukidnon. Another origin myth traces the common ancestor of the four ethnic groups of Mindanaon—Bukidnon, Maguindanao, Maranao, and Manobo—to Agbibilin, who alone survived the Great Flood.

Later recitations of the gugud integrate influences from outsiders but continue to serve as mechanisms for the preservation of Bukidnon communities. For instance, the gugud has been used effectively in their struggle for self-determination. To rally the various Bukidnon groups, Datu Kinulintang recited three gugud to emphasize the unity of their people under a distinct cultural identity as Talaandig.

The first gugud tells of how Magbabaya caused the Great Flood because the people of the earth, descendants of Adam and Eve, had become sinful. While in the west he had Noah build a great ark, in Mindanao he came to the patriarch Nabis ha Panggulo and advised him to ascend to heaven with three of his four sons to witness the purging of the sinners. The fourth son, Nabis ha Agbibilin, was left to climb the highest peak of Mount Kitanglad, where he waited in safety for the rains to pass. After the flood, Magbabaya bade Agbibilin to go to the next mountain where a woman named Ginamayun had survived. They married, had four sons and four daughters, and settled in Bulan-Bulan. That was the first tulugan. The children grew older and married each other in intervals according to the will of Magbabaya. As their number grew, they spread to different parts of Mindanao. While Saulana’s children stayed in Bulan-Bulan, Alauya’s went to the west (Lanao), Saguntuan’s to the south (Cotabato), and Sabuntung’s to the east (Butuan). The descendants of the four sons then built their own tulugan in the various places where they settled, regrouping only when Agbibilin, in his old age, sent for them to teach them traditional healing rituals before he died.

As years passed, Saulana’s descendants became the Talaandig, Alauya’s the Maranao, Saguntuan’s the Maguindanaon, and Sabuntung’s the Manobo. However, conflicts began to arise between the groups and two Great Wars occurred. The Talaandig, as inhabitants of the sacred place Bulan-Bulan, were tasked to be the peacemakers of the four groups. The First War was due to territorial disputes and it ended through a peace settlement clarifying the boundaries between the groups. The Second War pitted the Maguindanaon-Maranao alliance against the Manobo-Talaandig alliance, brought about by an insult thrown at the wife of the Maguindanaon leader. This triggered a retaliatory attack that escalated to a full-scale war. One day, Dignanawan, the Talaandig leader, approached the wife of Lambituun, the Maranao leader, who had been left alone in their home while her husband was at war. She received him in place of her husband and became pregnant by him. Before Dignanawan left, he gave her gifts of seven slaves, money, and gold, and bid her to tell her husband to sheathe his sword until the child was born and not to name the child for the child must claim it at Palintauwan when he grows up. The child grew into a fine warrior and, when he came to Dignanawan in Palintauwan to claim his name, he was called Aliga, for he was the boundary guard and bridge between the four groups. Dignanawan asked for Lambituun’s forgiveness and, soon after their reconciliation, the four groups gathered to settle their peace.

The second gugud traces the origins of the Bukidnon to the time of the Great Drought. The two sons of a widow, Bala-us and Bala-as, were instructed by Mulin-ulin to sail the sea. Upon reaching a large island, the brothers separated ways to search for water. Bala-us found a tributary of the river Pulangi in Mount Ngisawan, while Bala-as found a lake in Mount Kapayagan. The two decided to live separately where each found water. Bala-us married Bai Baboy Bagunsaribu and begot the Maranao; Bala-as married Bai Nanginlayenen and begot the Talaandig, Higaunon, Tagoloanon, and Pulangien.

In the third gugud, Agyu and Banlak built a fortress in Nalandangan and helped the community of Kalambagohan to prosper. As years passed, the community began to change. The Spanish came and changed the names of the people: Bankal was turned into Nikolas, Agyu into Pedro, Ikwang into Monica, and Tabagka into Casiana. Agyu’s mother, Ondayag, a baylan, was told by her mulin-ulin to leave Kalambagohan with her family, but their plans were foiled, and Monica and Casiana were taken prisoner at the church. Agyu then traveled far to the east, leaping over seven hills at a time, to secure 30 kilograms of beeswax for their ransom. The family fled from one place to the next, constantly pursued by Spanish soldiers. In Kibalwa, they were confronted by Makadingding, a monstrous swine that could cover the sun, and Ondayag bid Agyu to charge at it without hesitation. At Agyu’s attack, the Makadingding fell and became a small pig, which Agyu butchered and shared with his family. The deities were pleased with the family and thus turned them into immortals and welcomed them into Nalandangan.

A mantukaw is an episode of the Agyu epic cycle, recited in contemporary Binukid or Visayan, depending on the language the listener understands. While the literary qualities of the epic are kept intact, the mantukaw makes the epic more available to more people, since the ulaging is chanted in archaic Binukid.

The adventures of Agyu have been compiled and translated as The Epic of Nalandangan. This epic is also present among the Ilianon and northern Cotabato Manobo. Before the epic is sung, a pamada or invocation to the spirits and guardians of the ulaging is recited.

The chanting of the ulaging begins and ends at Nalandangan, a seaside fortress where Agyu and other heroes live. Its descriptive names include Nangkapukaw Nangumbaw (fame achieved overnight); Landang Naguyaw-uyaw (supreme peace); Dagunalan ta Yugung (blasting place of thunder); and Lingkaan ta Madaging (home of the thunderstorm). Nalandangan is perceived as the territory of Agyu and his people and must thus be protected at all costs. These convictions continue to echo in the Bukidnon’s continuing struggle for their ancestral lands.

The tales of Agyu, his three brothers, and sister reveal the Bukidnon people’s customs and their history of warfare. Once, when he was killed by a brother who did not recognize him, he was brought back to life by his mother who spat tinalad on him. Many of the tales recount the war exploits of the four brothers. They raided towns to take the women and children as slaves. More than once, Agyu dueled with a man whose wife he desired. He was killed by Mansalgyom, whose wife Agyu saw up in a tower. To express his desire for her, he asked her for a betel nut. When she refused, Agyu laid his head on her leg and slept from weariness. And this is how Mansalgyom found him. Because the sword of Mansalgyom could not pierce Agyu’s skin, he took Agyu’s own sword, which he drove into Agyu’s breast.

The ulagingen (epic heroes) were fierce warriors, including women and children who were unafraid to go to war. Matabagka, Agyu’s sister, was one of the heroes of this epic. The first two songs that center on Matabagka come in an English version with English titles. In “The Warriors of Sagila Attack Nalandangan,” the first song of the epic, Matabagka proved her fighting courage when she held the fortress against invaders at a time when all the men and older boys, numbering 1,000, had sailed away on some war exploit. While the women and children wept helplessly, Matabagka put on her armor and with shield and spear, hovered in the air like a dragonfly over the invaders, slaying them until Agyu, her brother, arrived and the enemies were finally repulsed.

The second song, “Matabagka Searches for the Deity of the Wind,” shows Matabagka’s cunning and sense of duty. Having learned from her brother Agyu that the deity of the wind, who was also the son of the sun god, was planning to put Nalandangan under his power, she conceived a way of stopping him. She went to the deity’s citadel and won him over by her subtle charms until she became a trusted mistress. Then, as the deity slept, Matabagka stole his taklubu (armband), in which his strength and supernatural power were hidden. Matabagka later married this deity to end forever the enmity between the two lands.

Another epic centering on the hero Baybayan exists among the Bukidnon, although only fragments of it have been collected so far. The best-known fragment recounts the mysterious circumstances of Baybayan’s birth, his mission to lead his people in a journey seven times around the sea, and his ascension to heaven. Some versions identify him as a brother of Agyu; others recount merely chance encounters between these two men.

Bukidnon Music and Traditional Dance 

Video: Talaandig School of Living Tradition Gawad CCP para sa Sining Gawaing Pangkultura

Bukidnon songs are usually monophonic, that is, sung with a single melody, and are sometimes monadic, that is, sung with a one-phrase melody. The singer embellishes with slurs and trills, gliding up and down the scale, at times holding a high note and then lowering it to a fast recitative that fits four to six syllables in one beat. Examples of Bukidnon songs include the idangdang, some of which have evolved into ballads; the sala, which have a slow, melancholic tempo; the limbay, which have a faster and lighter tempo, and; the kaliga-on, which are religious or ceremonial songs. The last are sung by the baylan and a group of girls. When they sing, the girls hold cloths in front of their faces to cover their mouths. At one stage of the ceremony, different groups of girls sing different parts of the songs simultaneously, while the baylan chants independently, usually in a different time and key.

Bukidnon Tribe Women playing the takumbe or two-stringed drum zither made of bamboo, and men playing the kudlong or boat lute
Women playing the takumbe or two-stringed drum zither made of bamboo, and men playing the kudlong or boat lute (CCP Collections)

In some Talaandig communities, songs may be panganinay (prayer for help), panggana (prayer for inspiration), or panlibay (prayer for entertainment), which includes lullabies. Among the Higaunon are sung dindinay, songs that consist of the repeated syllables “dindinay” and “dindin,” and bayok-bayok or bayek-bayek.

A highlight of the kaliga-on ritual is the pamamayuk chants, when attending priests and baylan take turns in chanting, to the kinulintang rhythm on the dagingen, an indigenous hanging xylophone believed to be the dwelling place of Dagingen deities. The kaliga-on are answered with tabuk, songs sung by women, which are of two types: the melasmatic singing of lyrics, called hagalhagal, and the high-pitched chanting of unintelligible syllables, called sagyawan or sinagyawan. The ulaging, on the other hand, is recited in three styles: umanen, which is hard-hitting and syllabic; nanangen, which is more brooding and melismatic; and ilangiten, which is prolonged and high-pitched. Among the Talaandig, a second singer intersperses philosophical sala into the recitation of the ulaging.

Bukidnon Tribe Musical Instruments Higaonon men playing bantula and agong, Talakag, Bukidnon
Higaonon men playing bantula and agong, Talakag, Bukidnon (CCP Collections)

Musical instruments are either indigenous or acquired by trade. The tambol, also called gimbe or gimbal, is a two-faced drum made of small, hollowed-out tree trunks covered with pigskin at each end. The bantula, also called tagungtung, is a section of bamboo with a slit on the side and rhythmically beaten with a stick. Agung or brass gongs, although not indigenous, are used. The dagingen is a special instrument used during kaliga-on ceremonies. Women, though, could also beat time with their hands on the mats.

There are two types of bamboo flute: The lantoy is small and short, about 30 centimeters long; the pulala is wider and about a meter long. The kubing is a bamboo mouth harp. Ring flutes include the kunsi, also called yangyang, and the smaller tumpuy. A shell trumpet called budyung is used to signal villagers when there is danger. The dayuray is a one-stringed violin. Another type of native violin is made of bamboo and covered with a leaf, a piece of bark, or leather. The strings are of hemp. The bow is of bamboo to which are attached hemp strings. The saluray (native guitar) is a bamboo tube on which narrow strips are cut lengthwise then raised and tightened with wooden plugs. Another type of guitar is the artistically carved two-string kudlong (boat lute), representing either a mythical or real animal. The takumbe, imported from the Banwaon and Manobo, is a two-stringed drum zither made of bamboo, played by plucking one string and beating the other with a stick.

Today, younger Talaandig musicians have begun to integrate large log drums, similar to the African djembe, into their drum music. Artists such as Waway Saway, who joined a band and traveled to different places, also consciously fuse Bukidnon indigenous sounds into the contemporary music that they produce, record, and play for different audiences. Waway Saway and the Talaandig Band’s influence and reach has also given rise to increased attention given to other Talaandig musical groups in Bukidnon.

Many of the Bukidnon dances are mimetic, such as those imitating the movements of a hawk and of men stealing, courting, or having intercourse, the last being very risque. The most common dance is the binanog, in which one or more persons, male or female, hold cloths in their hands. They bend their wrists backward and forward; their extended arms go in circles, to and fro in slow graceful movements like the hawk, whose flight the dance imitates. Music is furnished by two or three women who beat a brisk rhythm on a mat with the palms of their hands. Sinakaysakay is a woman’s dance. The dancer holds a shield in each hand and raises and lowers it as if flying. Meanwhile she circles, keeping time to the music, as in the binanog.

Bukidnon women performing a traditional dance during the Kaamulan Festival in Malaybalay, Bukidnon
Bukidnon women performing a traditional dance during the Kaamulan Festival in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, 1990 (CCP Collections)

Other mimetic dances are the pangalingot (honey-gathering monkey dance), binakbak (frog dance), bubudsil (bird dance), inuwak (crow dance), tininggaw (dance of the tinggaw bird), and the pinigkit (cripple dance). These are entertaining solo dances performed in kaamulan, weddings, and after the kaliga-on rituals when everyone has eaten and the atmosphere has turned festive. In the pangalingot, a man comically mimics the movements of a monkey gathering honey, to the rhythmic sound of the tambol. He wanders in search of a beehive, accidentally pokes one, and frantically runs around with imaginary bees after him. In the binakbak, a man maintains a squatting position with both hands on the ground between his legs. He hops all throughout the dance, to the accompaniment of the agung. In the bubudsil, a woman mimics the timid movements of the budsil bird in search of food. The saluray provides the music. In the inuwak, a man wearing a red headkerchief pretends to be a young crow perched on a tree, moving its wings in delight as its mother feeds it. He remains stationary throughout the dance, in a sitting position with legs folded crosswise before him. The tambol or agung provides a rhythmic accompaniment. Some dances are simply named after the music that accompanies them, such as the inagung (gong dance) and the tinambul (drum dance).

The sa-ot is performed at a wedding. At the head of the groom’s party is the tagdasang, who loudly proclaims to the public the proud lineage and accomplishments of the groom’s family. He is followed by the tagsaot, a man carrying a shield and long spear to which a bell is attached. He dances furiously, with rapid movement of the feet, but keeping time to a martial drumbeat. He charges, with spear held aloft and retreats, covering himself with his shield, intent on warding off evil spirits that may harm the groom. The groom is third in line, with his idang holding an umbrella over him. Relatives carrying items of the bridewealth make up the rest of the entourage. Presently, the sa-ot also precedes the Bukidnon entourage in a parade. Variations of the sa-ot are the kinalasag (dance with the kalasag), sinagubayan (slow dance), and pigtebakan (fighting dance).

An occupational dance is the sinalumpi, performed at harvest season, when the people dance as they pound rice on mortars. Their pestles and leglets with bells provide the rhythm. The pig-agawan, meaning “to grab,” is a dance in which there is much dramatic action: grabbing, fighting, insulting, pushing, hurting, and crying, as three maidens fight over one man to be their husband. The maidens are dressed in their finest attire, with feather combs and beads covering their hair, neck, and chests. Each tries to attract the man by showing off their physical attributes, gyrating to danceable music or laying a beautifully embroidered scarf on the floor, hoping that the lover will choose to lay his kris on her scarf. The man moves from maiden to maiden, leaving each either crying or angry with disappointment as he proudly moves away. The three women grab the man from one another, hitting and pushing until the weakest begins to cry and one is chosen.

Lagoras is danced in connection with kaliga-on ceremonies. It is danced by two girls, who hold each other’s hands and swing them forward and up, hold them an instant, and then swing them back. They circle right, then left, slipping one foot toward the other. At one point in the kaliga-on ceremony, the girls sing as they make a half-circle around the dapolan (ceremonial place). Dugso, meaning “dance,” is performed solemnly and reverently because it is part of the kaliga-on, which is related to thanksgiving, appeasement, supplication, and consultation of nature spirits. A fire is built or a table laden with food is placed in the middle of the place where the dance is to be performed. The baylan stands beside the fire, singing his prayers as the dancers perform around him and the fire. The smoke of the fire is believed to carry the thanksgiving offering up to the gods. On the other hand, the dancers’ act of stamping their feet is meant to awaken the underworld spirits, who will then witness this act of worship.

There are now over 12 versions of the dugso. Each village has developed a version based on the basic footwork but there are variants in formations, body movements, costumes, and use of ritual props, ranging from a bowl of fire to anahaw leaves, to wide scarves. The similarities, however, are in the use of colorful feathered combs, ankle-length skirts, bell-sleeved blouses, and brass bells tied to their upper legs. For some dugso, these bells furnish the only music and produce varied rhythmic sounds as the dancers execute the steps. They are believed to be the best sound to the ears of the diwata. Others have a two-faced drum as accompaniment.

A dance that developed during the Spanish colonial period is the diyandi, which assimilates Higaonon and Maranao cultures in a Catholic ritual. It had been part of the Spanish strategy to win over the indigenous people by throwing colorful fiestas that attracted their attention. The diyandi, known as the dance of the youth, is performed during the Catholic religious fiestas of Señor San Miguel and Nuestra Señora del Rosario. It is conducted in front of the church or on the streets in front of the houses. The dancers, aged 6 to 12, are dressed in traditional Higaonon and Maranao clothes and sing in Cebuano, Maranao, or Higaonon. Sometimes, they perform the dance from house to house in exchange for tokens or rewards. The songs usually end with the cry, “Viva Señor San Miguel!” or “Viva Santo Rosario!” Today, the diyandi is danced by older people and has been ascribed a more religious rather than festive significance as handog (offering) or panata (prayer) to their patron saint. It has also become more distinctly Cebuano. Costumes remain dominantly patterned after traditional clothes but infuse retail ornaments like sequins and beads.

Dances that seem to have recently developed in some Bukidnon settlements include the buwa-buwa (cradling dance), iniskala (happy dance), salumpi (mortar dance), pinisi (rope dance), dalan-dalan (line dance), kinindaan (old-style dance), and pamugas (rice-planting dance).


Since 1977, the provincial government of Bukidnon has sponsored the annual Kaamulan Festival, which is held in Malaybalay City from mid-February to 10 March, to celebrate the anniversary of the province when it was created in 1917. The root word of “kaamulan” is amul (to gather), which traditionally refers to a celebratory gathering of the Bukidnon people for such occasions as the installation of a datu, a wedding, a thanksgiving ritual at harvest time, or a peace pact. During this festival, the seven tribes indigenous to the province—Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon, and Umayamnon—come together to reenact their rituals and perform their music, song, and dance.

Bukidnon People in Media Arts


Several mediumwave and longwave stations operate in Bukidnon. These are typically operated by religious institutions for evangelical purposes, such as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’s DXDB-AM 594 Radyo Totoo; by corporate or corporatized institutions for news and entertainment, like the University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network, Inc’s DXWB-FM 92.9 Wild FM and the Manila Broadcasting Company’s DXIQ-FM 106.3 Love Radio; or by universities for educational and noncommercial purposes, such as Central Mindanao University’s DXMU-AM Development Radio.

The concerns of the lumad are the focus of the community radio station DXJR-AM 1575 Radyo Lumad, which began airing in 2017 amid the martial law imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte in Mindanao. Stationed at Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, DXJR is owned by Rizal Memorial Colleges Broadcasting Corporation and operated by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, and Kodao Productions. The station focuses on amplifying underreported facts about the plight of the lumad, disseminating indigenous knowledge, and delivering national and international news to the local communities.

The largest television stations in the country also have transmitters in Bukidnon, such as GMA Network and, before the renewal of its franchise was revoked in 2020, ABS-CBN. These channels often have time slots for local programs in the local languages, particularly news and magazine shows. The Department of Education’s DepEd TV began airing educational shows for all grade levels on IBC-13 for 12 hours a day, six days a week during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Bukidnon’s lush mountains have provided a scenic backdrop to several mainstream romance films. Most famously, it features in Love Me Again, 2008, where Angel Locsin and Piolo Pascual play lovers forced apart as the ranch businesses in Bukidnon fail and work opportunities in Australia open; and in Forever and a Day, 2011, which stars Sam Milby and KC Concepcion in a template romance travel movie. Featured with less exoticism and romance, Bukidnon is also one of the destinations in the travel adventures of the beauty contest-hopping group of gays in Charliebebs Gohetia’s The Thank You Girls, 2008.

Since the days of projecting Bukidnon cinematically as a place of adventure and romance, films have gone more seriously into realities and issues faced by the Bukidnon people. In 2011, Nef Luczon produced the full-length documentary Migkahi e si Amey te, Uli ki Pad (Father Said, “Let’s Return Home”), where a Tigwahanon tribe contends with the issue of succession after the death of their chieftain. As his children have all drifted to the urban cities to work, his adopted son takes on the challenge to rebuild the community instead.

A short documentary, Kiri Lluch Dalena’s Gikan sa Ngitngit nga Kinailadman (From the Dark Depths), 2017, exposes the violence and impunity experienced by the Higaonon in the hinterlands at the hands of military and paramilitary groups as they fight to keep their ancestral domains against agro-industrial corporations. Produced by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region (RML-NMR) and shot in the Pantaron Range, the film provides a harrowing glimpse of the daily abuses and tortures faced by indigenous communities in the Mindanao hinterlands.

In 2016, police rained bullets on hungry farmers protesting government inaction amid a prolonged drought in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, where many Bukidnon and Manobo groups reside. No less than 16 died during the violent dispersal. The Kidapawan Massacre was famously covered by the independent news outfit Kilab Multimedia in the short documentary, Bullets for Rice: The Massacre of Protesting Farmers in Kidapawan, 2016.

Julienne Ilagan’s Kauyagan (Way of Life), 2018, tackles issues of identity and cultural shifts among the Bukidnon in the story of Piyo, a datu’s heir who runs away on the day of his proclamation and returns 10 years later as an aspiring musician, after being incarcerated for rebellion. As part of Ilagan’s advocacy for the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, the production strives to feature folk artists from Mindanao, with Jefferson Bringas as Piyo, Bayang Barrios as Piyo’s mother, and a cameo appearance by Datu Waway Saway, who also did the film’s music with Datu Aliman. It was first screened at the 2018 TOFARM Film Festival.

With the growth of regional film festivals and their sustained cycles in various areas of Mindanao, including but not limited to Cinema Rehiyon, the Mindanao Film Festival, and the Cinemagis Northern Mindanao Digital Film Festival, more short films and music videos are being made by and about the tribes of Bukidnon. Films are also being produced in schools, state universities, and film workshops, and by video bloggers, journalists, and travelers to Mindanao, increasing visibility hopefully not only of the Bukidnon peoples’ culture but also their various struggles as a people.

Sources 2022. “Radio Stations in Bukidnon Province, Philippines.” Accessed 3 January,

Bagual, Emanuel. 2011. “Waway Saway: Hero of Talaandig.” Yahoo! News, 8 March.

Balansag, Camilo. 1986. “Notes from Miarayon.” Tambara 3 (December): 17-35.

Brandeis, Hans. 2008. “Music and Dance of the Bukidnon of Mindanao: A Short Introduction.” Kinaadman 30: 67-120.

Casal, Gabriel, Regalado Trota Jose Jr., Eric S. Casiño, George Ellis, and Wilhelm G. Solheim II. 1981. The People and Art of the Philippines. Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History.

Ching-Unabia, Carmen. 1976. “An Exploratory Study of Bukidnon Folk Literature.” MA thesis, Xavier University.

———. 1985. “‘Gugud’: A Bukidnon Oral Tradition.” Asian Folklore Studies 44 (2): 205-229.

———. 1986. “The Bukidnon at Batbatonon and Pamuhat.” PhD diss., University of the Philippines –Diliman.

———. 2000. Bukidnon Myths and Rituals. Quezon City: CIDS, University of the Philippines.

Claver, Francisco. 1973. Bukidnon: Politics and Religion. Quezon City: Institute of Philippine Culture.

Cole, Fay-Cooper. (1910) 1956. The Bukidnon of Mindanao. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Culas, Norma Celiz. 1987. Costumes of Selected Cultural Communities in Bukidnon. MA thesis, University of the Philippines – Diliman.

Cullon, Vincent, SJ. 1968. “The Spirit World of the Bukidnon.” Asian Folklore Studies 27 (2): 17-25.

———. 1970. “Social Change and Religion among the Bukidnon.” Philippine Studies 27: 160-175.

Demetrio, Franciscio. 1994. “The Bukidnon Myths of Sickness, Death and Afterlife.” Philippine Studies 42 (4): 415-430.

Department of Education. 2020. Division Memorandum No. 259 s.2020, October 9. Accessed 3 January 2022.

Edgerton, Ronald K., and Becky Richards Edgerton. 1982. “Growing Up in a Frontier Town: The Bukidnon Experience in Malaybalay.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 10 (3): 117-40.

Elkins, Richard. 1984. “An Extended Proto-Manobo Word List.” In Panagani, Language Implementation and Evaluation: Essay in Honor of Bonifacio P. Sibayan on His Sixty Seventh Birthday, edited by A. Gonzales. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines.

Forever and a Day. 2011. Cathy Garcia-Molina, director. 105 min. Star Cinema.

Gikan sa Ngitngit nga Kinailadman. 2017. Kiri Lluch Dalena, director. 27 min. QCinema International Film Festival and Sine Tres Marias.

Hartanto, Herlina, and Cecil Valmores. 2005. “Facilitating Collective Action and Enhancing Local Knowledge: A Herbal Medicine Case Study in Talaandig Communities, Philippines.” International Food Policy Research Institute.

Kauyagan. 2018. Julienne Ilaga, director. 90 min. Universal Harvester.

Kilab Multimedia. 2016. Bullets for Rice: The Massacre of Protesting Farmers in Kidapawan. YouTube video. Accessed 31 Dec 2021,

Lane, Robert F. 1986. Philippine Basketry: An Appreciation. Manila: The Bookmark, Inc.

Lao, Mardonio. 1985. Bukidnon in Historical Perspective 1. Musuan: Central Mindanao University.

———. 1987. “The Economy of the Bukidnon Plateau During the American Period.” Philippine Studies 35 (3): 316-31.

Llamzon, Teodoro A. 1978. Handbook of Philippine Language Groups. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Love Me Again. 2008. Rory Quintos, director. 118 min. Star Cinema.

Luczon, Nef. 2014. Migkahi e si Amey te, Uli ki Pad. GMA News TV.

Lynch, Frank. 1967. “The Bukidnon of North-Central Mindanao in 1889.” Philippine Studies 15 (3): 464-82.

Marbella, Hermelina Ching. 1976. “Some Fundamental Characteristics and Distinctive Features of Selected Central Bukidnon Dances.” MA thesis, Cebu Normal College.

Masinaring, Manggob Revo N. 2011. “The Higaonon: Pushed Deeper in the Mountains.” In Lumad, edited by Germelina Lacorte, 79-86. Baguio City: Tebtebba Foundation.

Navidad, Estrella. 1995. “Diyandi: Alaala ng Kahapon, Panaad sa Kasalukuyan, at Larawan ng Tunggalian.” MA thesis, University of the Philippines – Diliman.

NCCP-PACT. 1988. Sandugo. Manila: National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Olea, Ronalyn. 2018. “Radyo Lumad, voice of Mindanao’s tribes.” Bulatlat, November 22.

Opeña, Ludivina R., and Ametta Suarez Taguchi. 1975. “Bukidnon Folk Literature.” In Dialogue for Development, edited by Francisco R. Demetrio. Cagayan de Oro: Xavier University.

———. 1979. “Olaging: The Battle of Nalandangan.” Kinaadman 1: 151-229. Translated and annotated by the Philippine Folklife and Folklore Research Center, Xavier University.

Paredes, Oona Thommes. 1997. “Higaunon Resistance and Ethnic Politics in Northern Mindanao.” The Australian Journal of Anthropology 8 (3): 270-90.

———. 2006. “True Believers: Higaunon and Manobo Evangelical Protestant Conversion in Historical and Anthropological Perspective.” Philippine Studies 54 (4): 521-59.

Provincial Government of Bukidnon. 2015. “Kaamulan Festival.” Official Website of the Province of Bukidnon. Accessed 9 April.

Quijano, Ilang-Ilang. 2019. “The Struggle for Community Radio in the Philippines.” World Association for Christian Communities Global. Accessed 1 January 2021,

Quimpo, Nolan et al. 2003. “BALAY: An Ethnography of Indigenous Houses of Northern Mindanao.” Unpublished manuscript. Department of Tourism, Cagayan de Oro City. Monograph.

Revel, Nicole. 2006. “Memory of Voice.” Keynote lecture at the 10-ICAL Conference, Puerto Princesa, Philippines. Accessed 2 March 2015.

Reyes, Raniel SM. 2014. “Subjugation, Immanent Critique, and Cruz: Adorno on Aesthetics and the Possibility of Emancipation.” Kritika 8 (1): 119-35. reyes_june2014.pdf.

Reyes-Tolentino, Francisca. 1946. Philippine National Dances. Manila: Silver Burdett Company.

Rodil, Rudy B. 2003. “Re-establishing Order in the Community and its Connection with Biodiversity Conservation.” Paper presented at the Seminar Workshop on Conflict Transformation and Biodiversity Conservation. Country Village Hotel, Villarin St., Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City, 11-13 July.

Saway, Victorino (Datu Migketay). 2004. “Global Responsibility and Local Knowledge Systems.” Paper presented at the Bridging Scales and Epistemologies in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Conference, Bibliotheca, Alexandria, Egypt, 17-20 March.

———. 2005. “The Ulaging Epic and the Survival of the Talaandig People.” In Literature of Voice: Epics in the Philippines, edited by Nicole Revel, 75-84. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

———. “The Talaandig.” 2015. National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Accessed 23 March.

“Talaandig Artists.” 2015. Singapore Biennale 2013. Accessed 9 April.

Tangian, Ma. Cecilia B. 2011. “The Higaonon Farm Shifting Cultivation and Its Ritual Practices at Rogongon, Lanao del Norte.” The Mindanao Forum 24 (1): 99-119.

The Thank You Girls. 2008. Charliebebs Gohetia, director. 145 min. Brooklyn Park Pictures.

This article is from the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition.

Title: Bukidnon

Author/s: Rosario Cruz-Lucero (1994) / Updated by Louise Jashil R. Sonido (2018 and 2021), with additional notes from Linda Burton, Ramon A. Obusan, Francisca Reyes-Aquino, and E. Arsenio Manuel


Publication Date: November 18, 2020

Access Date: August 09, 2022

No comments:

Got Something to Say? Thoughts? Additional Information?

Powered by Blogger.