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The Karay-a Tribe of the Philippines: History, Culture and Arts, Customs and Traditions [Antique, Panay Island Indigenous People | Ethnic Tribes]

The Karay-a Tribe of the Philippines: History, Culture and Arts, Customs and Traditions [Antique, Panay Island Indigenous People | Ethnic Tribes]

Karay-a refers to the ethnolinguistic group predominantly located in Panay Island in Western Visayas. “Karay-a,” “Kinaray-a,” or “Hiniray-a” is derived from ka, meaning “companion,” Iraya, meaning “upstream,” and the infixation in, meaning “to have undergone something.” Chroniclers of the Spanish colonial period refer to them as Araya (de Loarca 1903, 124).

The Karay-a population is concentrated in the province of Antique that stretches vertically along the entire western coast of Panay Island that is bounded by the Cuyo East Pass, which is a part of the West Philippine Sea. Antique is bounded on the east by the Madiaas mountain ranges, cutting vertically from north to south. Its three neighboring provinces are Aklan to its northeast, Capiz to the east, and Iloilo to the southeast. However, the Karay-a population is spread out on the upland parts of central Panay, where they are bounded on the north by the Taganhin and Siya mountain ranges, on the south by the Iggabun-Tigaylo ranges, on the east by Mount Baloy, and on the west by Agburi-Mayuqui-Takayan ridges. Thus, they are located across Antique’s three neighboring provinces on Panay Island. They are found in significant numbers as well on Guimaras Island, some parts of Negros Occidental, and Mindanao. The baludnon (lowlanders) call the people in the mountains of Central Panay Bukidnon (from bukid, meaning “mountain”), Panay Bukidnon, or Sulod, meaning “people of the interiors.” Spanish chronicles refer to them as monteses. Their self-designation is tumandok (Magos 1996, 122-23; Jocano 1968).

Antique” is the Hispanized spelling of hamtic or hantic, which means a large red ant or wasp. Antique occupies the western coast of Panay Island, and has an area of 252,200 hectares. The province has 18 municipalities: fourteen on the coast, three inland, and a group of six islands forming one municipality. The coastal towns are Aniniy, Barbaza, Belison, Bugasong, Caluya, Culasi, Hamtic, Laua-an, Libertad, Pandan, Patnongon, San Jose de Buenavista, Sebaste, Tibiao, and Tobias Fornier (formerly Dao). The inland towns are San Remigio, Sibalom, and Valderrama. The municipality of six islands, called Caluya, lies between the islands of Mindoro and Panay.

Antique has four major rivers irrigating its towns, all coming from the mountains along Central Panay, crossing the province horizontally, and all emptying into the Cuyo East Pass. From Mount Madiaas on the north, the Dalanas River passes between the towns of Culasi and Tibiao toward the sea; from Mount Balabag, the Paliwan River passes between Bugasong and Guisihan; from Mount Agbalon, the Cangaranan river passes between Bugasong and Valderrama; and from Mount Tigatoy on the south, the Sibalom River passes between San Remigio, Sibalom, and San Pedro (Fernandez 2006, 112; Otico 1987, 130-132).

The Karay-a people’s language is variously called Kinaray-a, Kinaray-a Bukidnon, or Hiniraya, possibly derived from “Iraya.” Haraya was the language spoken by the majority of the Panay people that the first Spanish colonizers came upon when they arrived between the late 16th and early 17th centuries. A Kinaray-a variant spoken by a few elders in some Bukidnon communities is Ligbok, which has elements and features in common with the archaic language of the Karay-a sugidanon (epic) (Magos 1996, 120-22; Chirino 1604). Despite having a disparate vocabulary, with usage differing slightly from town to town (for example, the English “here” could be rigya, rugya, digya, di-a, depending on the location), Kinaray-a speakers understand one another, whether they come from Antique, Capiz, or Iloilo.

The total number of Kinaray-a speakers residing in the Philippines is at least 1,056,093. They comprise half of Antique province’s total population of 546,000, the other half consisting of migrant ethnolinguistic groups such as the Tagalog, Ilonggo, Ilocano, Kankanaey, Cebuano, and other Bisaya. The total population of indigenous peoples in the province of Antique is 44,899, which includes the Aeta/Ati, the tumandok (indigenous Karay-a) such as the Iraynon and Panay Bukidnon, and a community of the Cuyunon on Caluya Island (NEDA 2011).

In Iloilo province, there are 406,632 Kinaray-a speakers, dispersed among 30 of its 46 municipalities, from the southeastern part of Panay Island and upward along the coast of the province, including Tigbauan, Santa Barbara, San Joaquin, Miag-ao, Tubungan, Igbaras, Leon, Alimodian, Maasin, Janiuay, Lambunao, San Miguel, Pavia, Cabatuan, New Lucena, Passi, Barotac Nuevo, Bingawan, Dueñas, Zaraga, Pototan, Anilao, and Dingle (NSO-PSA 2002; 2002; 2002; 2002; 2002; 2006; 2012; 2013; Surigao 2012; Magos 2015; NEDA 2011).

Situated within the boundaries of Iloilo province on central Panay is the innermost town of Calinog, with a Kinaray-a speaking population of 12,000. Iloilo City, however, registers only 1,261. Two other Karay-a-populated towns in the interiors of Panay Island and within the boundaries of Capiz province are Tapaz, with 15,000, and Jamindan, with 6,000. Ligbok is still spoken by a few elderly people in these two towns of Capiz. Outside of Panay Island, a significant number of Kinaray-a speakers are in Cotabato, Mindanao, at 44,960. There are, moreover, 21,307 in Romblon province; 6,940 in Occidental Mindoro; 4,147 in Negros Oriental, 3,960 Guimaras; 1,184 in Sulu; and 32 in Surigao City (NSO-PSA 2002; 2002; 2002; 2002; 2002; 2006; 2012; 2013; Surigao 2012; Magos 2015).

History of the Karay-a People  

According to the epic Maragtas, Antique once enjoyed primacy among the realms carved out in Panay by the 10 Bornean datusor chieftains, who, fleeing from the tyranny of Sultan Makatunaw of Borneo, bought the island from the Ati or Aeta chief named Marikudo, in a barter believed to have taken place at the mouth of the Siuaragan River. The datus are said to have landed in Malandog, Hamtic, where a marker now commemorates the event. These Malay datus later established the sakup (districts) of Hamtic, Aklan, and Irong-irong. In Hamtic ruled the wisest among the chieftains, Datu Sumakwel, whom Datu Puti designated as the primus inter pares among the seven remaining datus who formed the Confederation of the Madya-as.

Reenactment of the landing of datus in Malandog, Hamtic, San Jose, Antique during the Binirayan Festival
Reenactment of the landing of datus in Malandog, Hamtic, San Jose, Antique during the Binirayan Festival, 2012 (Allan Joy Pacure)

The datus who settled in the Cuyo archipelago and the Calamianes of Palawan are believed to have come from Madiaas (or Panay) Island as well, thus the similarity of the Cuyo tongue with Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Kinaray-a, and Akeanon. Datu Matu-od of Madiaas arrived with a fleet of sakayan (big boats) at Tabunan, Suba, on Cuyo Island. He and his sakup (also “followers”) embraced the Hindu religion, which the early Chinese settlers practiced. Then came the Muslim Datu Magbanua, whose kingdom gradually spread to the Calamianes islands. When the datu of Irong-Irong, also known as Iloilo, paid him a visit, he gifted his guest with a sack of cotchiam (red rice) (Ayala Museum 1972).

In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived and established a Spanish settlement in Cebu. Within a year, Legazpi’s men were deliberately being starved out by the Cebuanos, at the instigation of the people of Mactan and the villagers of Gavi, and with the collaboration of Datu Tupas, who pretended to be submissive to the Spaniards. On 10 April 1566, Legazpi sent his maestre del campo Mateo del Saz, Captain Juan de la Isla, Sergeant-Major Luis de la Haya, and 70 men to Butuan for food. When they had not returned after more than 40 days, Legazpi sent Captain Martin de Goiti to the island of Negros and its neighboring islands to search for them and for food. A few days later, Sergeant-Major de Haya returned with a message from the maestre del campo del Saz that he was collecting 184 cavans (300 fanegas) of rice at the village of Araut (now Dumangas, Iloilo) on Panay Island before returning to Cebu. On 25 July, de Saz arrived back in Cebu with 613 cavans (1,000 fanegas) of rice and the report that Panay was an island with large villages and abundant provisions. Forced tributes from Panay kept the Spanish colonizers in Cebu alive in the next four years. By 1569, however, Portuguese blockades and native resistance had forced Legazpi to abandon Cebu (San Agustin [1698] 1998, 425, 524-529).

Legazpi sent two advance parties, one led by his grandson Felipe del Salcedo to the village of Pan-ay in Capiz, and the other led by Sergeant-Major Luis de la Haya to Araut (or Dumangas). Shortly thereafter, Legazpi’s other grandson, Juan del Salcedo, replaced his brother Felipe to command the new Spanish settlement in Panay. In August 1569, datus Mariclong and Macabug surrendered to Legazpi in Pan-ay village. Over the centuries of Spanish occupation, Panay Island became known as “the granary of the archipelago” and provided the Spaniards stationed in its many islands with rice and meat. Tributes demanded of the colonized natives were gold, cloth, wax, cotton thread, rice, and fowl (San Agustin [1698] 1998, 425, 524-529; de Loarca 1903).

However, the people of Antique were not to be so easily cowed. In the next 329 years, they either intermittently rose in revolt or abandoned the towns where the Spanish troops had forcefully re-settled them in a process called reduccion. Thus, in the 1600s, Antique belonged to Ogtong (now Oton in Iloilo province), from where it was administered. It remained a backwater of the colony until 1793, when it became a separate province.

All throughout the Spanish colonial period, the small number of towns that the Spanish authorities officially recognized belied the province’s large population and the innumerable barrios and hamlets, ranging from 20 to 50, attached to each town. These upland barrios had resisted reduccion and were not tribute-paying residents of the colony (Salazar 1903, 38; Fernandez 2006).

Hamtic was the first settlement that Legazpi granted as an encomienda (land grant) to his officer, Diego Jimenez, in 1570. An encomendero (land grantee) had the right to collect tributes from his native subjects on condition that he saw to their Christian education and baptism. Hence, by 1576, the people of Hamtic had become Christianized so that when the Augustinian missionaries arrived in 1581, they made Hamtic their base (Fernandez 2006, 186-88).

All throughout Spanish rule until 1898, the Karay-a people established a pattern of retreat and rebellion. By 1596, the Augustinians had given up on Hamtic and transferred to Ibajay, which was at the opposite, northern end of the province. In the early 1600s, a friar was assigned to Hamtic again but by 1614, the priest could collect nothing from the people for his sustenance. Three years later, the Augustinians again abandoned it. In 1644, Hamtic was assigned another friar, but he had to receive support from Guimbal in Iloilo province. Until the last day of the Spanish regime in 1898, the friars assigned to Hamtic survived on the support coming from their Order and not from tribute collections (Fernandez 2006, 186-88).

In 1734, in Barrio Carit-an in Patnongon, the priest Francisco Zenzano was killed by spear-wielding Karay-a; so were Spanish priests Felix Zuñiga and Felix Rioja in Valderrama. In 1752, shortly after the reduccion of Culasi, a resident named Manuel Ravelado protested the tribute collection; consequently, all the residents who did not pay the tributes were threatened with death by its first capitan, named Oguid. The residents fled and moved twice more before settling at the foot of the Madiaas mountains, the present location of Culasi (Fernandez 2006, 191-192; Salvilla 1993 vol 4:27).

In 1796, when Antique was separated from Iloilo as a province, Hamtic was declared its capital. Shortly thereafter, it became a virtual ghost town, with only 100 tributes being collected from the area. Within the same period, the upland town of Sibalom, founded in 1737, became the site of a large assembly of 180 female babaylan (healer priestesses), which lasted from 1797 to 1798 (Fernandez 2006, 190).

In 1802, the provincial capital was transferred from Hamtic to the town of Tubigon, which had been renamed San Jose de Buenavista. When the town was made the provincial seat of government in 1802, its native residents became directly subject to abuse from the alcalde mayor (provincial governor). Thus, they rose in a series of uprisings against three out of five governors from 1828 to 1898. The first uprising, which was against Governor Francisco Ureta in 1828, was led by the secular clergy and ended when he was replaced by Antonio Caños. The Augustinians were subsequently sent to replace the secular priests. Governor Caños provoked the second uprising “with his avarice and cruelty.” The third governor, Domingo Benitez, accepted his appointment only on condition that he would have the protection of the friars; thus, he survived a peaceful term. The third uprising was caused by the fourth governor, Iturriaga y Muro, whom the friars themselves found to be so “bad and perverse” that they persuaded Governor-General Narciso Claveria to dismiss him. The fifth and last governor, Domingo Plaza, maintained peace until 1898 (Fernandez 2006, 188-189).

Tigbagacay was one of the last towns “reduced” in Antique in 1863 and subsequently renamed San Remigio. Being an upland town with a hilly terrain, it was an ideal site for clandestine political movements. In May 1888, the Igbaong, a secret organization of babaylanes led by the brothers Maximo and Gregorio Palmero, rose in revolt. Armed with bolos and spears, 800 members of the Igbaong movement, led by Pedro Gallones, marched from the mountains of San Remigio toward San Jose but were stopped at Hamtic by gunfire from Martin Fornier, a Spaniard. Spanish reinforcements from Manila quelled the revolt, and all those who were either caught or implicated were exiled to the shipyard of Iligan in Lanao province, now Lanao del Norte, Mindanao. However, the movement was not totally defeated until seven years later. It was also in this town that the revolutionaries of 1898 assembled before launching their first attack on the Spaniards stationed at Hamtic (Funtecha 2007; Fernandez 2006, 190).

When the revolutionary movement was launched, Panay became an active area for Katipunan recruitment. Leandro Fullon, a Karay-a studying in Luzon, was assigned by General Emilio Aguinaldo to lead the revolution in his home province. On his way from Cavite to Antique, Fullon picked up 340 firearms and two cannons from General Miguel Malvar at Batangas. On 21 September 1898, General Fullon, with Angel Salazar Sr., Ruperto Abellon, Pedro Ledesma, and Silvestre Salvio, landed at Barrio Inayawan at Pandan (now Libertad) in northern Antique. They captured the town and its parish priest. Under cover of night, they landed at Barrio Lipata, Culasi; the following morning, Fullon and his army marched to the town of Culasi, amid the townspeople’s shouts and cheers of welcome. The Spanish forces retreated to Barrio Tinabunan without a fight. As they retreated further to Tibiao, the Filipino soldiers under Spanish command mutinied and placed themselves under Fullon’s command. A week later, a battle between Fullon’s troops and the Spaniards took place at Barrio Cabaludan in Bugasong. Spanish reinforcements landed at Barrio Igpaho in Barbaza and would have completely defeated the Karay-a had Colonel Angel Salazar and Lieutenant Ignacio Pacete not launched their own counterattacks. The battle cost them 150 lives, while the Spaniards lost 100. Fullon retreated to the mountains of Culasi, and the Spanish commander Colonel Brandeis recaptured the area (Salvilla 1994 vol 7:17-18).

Spanish success was short-lived, however. A respected woman of Culasi, Modesta Xavier, persuaded the Karay-a soldiers under Spanish command to join the revolution. Thus, another mutiny of 200 native soldiers, led by Marcelino Eping, decimated the Spanish officers on 28 October 1898. Colonel Brandeis retreated to Bugasong. Since then, Culasi has celebrated this victory during its annual town fiesta on 20 October (Salvilla 1994 vol 7:19).

As Fullon continued his advance toward the provincial capital of San Jose de Buenavista, more revolutionaries joined him at every town he passed. On 23 November 1898 at San Jose de Buenavista, the Spanish governor Castro Verde surrendered. The Karay-a established a revolutionary government with the following officials: Governor Angel Salazar Sr., Vice Governor Santos Capadocia, and council members Anacleto V. Jimenez (Justice), Jose Fontanilla (Police), and Anselmo Alicante (Finance). Appointed representative to Aguinaldo’s Malolos Congress was Vicente Gella (Salvilla 1994 vol 7:19-20).

General Fullon, Colonel Abellon, and Captain Salvio went on to Iloilo with a battalion to provide reinforcements for the Ilonggo general Martin Delgado, who was holding the Spaniards in Iloilo City under siege. On 10 December 1898, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris; two weeks later, on 24 December, the defeated Spaniards departed Iloilo City. On 28 December, US ships appeared at the Iloilo docks, but American troops stayed on board for six weeks while they awaited orders to invade Iloilo. In the meantime, Fullon returned to Antique and took over as the military governor to prepare for the US invasion of his home province. On 11 February 1899, American troops set foot on Iloilo and thus began the Philippine-American War on Panay Island (Salvilla 1994 vol 7:20).

It was not until almost a year later, on 18 January 1900, that Americans landed at Hamtic. In open battle, the resistance, led by Colonels Martin Maza and Ruperto Abellon, was inevitably defeated by the Americans’ superior firepower. From thereon Fullon waged guerilla warfare from the mountains of Culasi, Bugasong, and Tibiao, with the following officers heading the guerillas: Demetrio Nava at Pandan, Culasi, and Tibiao; Antonio Manipula at Barbaza Laua-an, and Bugasong; Abellon at Patnongon and San Pedro; and Cayo Santos Maza at Hamtic and Dao, also known as Tobias Fornier. The American troops reached Pandan seven months later, on 20 August 1900, a date that is now recalled by the townspeople as Dongkahilwayan. Fullon held out until 22 March 1901, when he surrendered to the Americans at Barrio Jinalinan in Barbaza. In less than a month, the United States established a civil government and appointed Fullon as governor. In 1907, Pedro Jimenez Villavert was appointed Antique’s lone district representative to the first Philippine legislature (Salvilla 1993 vol 3: 76).

A lasting legacy of the revolution to Antique is the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church, also known as the Aglipay Church). It was founded in 1901 by the Ilocano Gregorio Aglipay, General Emilio Aguinaldo’s military vicar general, and Ilocano labor leader Isabelo de los Reyes. Next to Ilocos, Antique had the greatest number of converts to this Filipino nationalist, Protestant sect. In 1903, Aglipay arrived in Antique to convert Filipino Catholic priests to his new church and thereby recruit them into the nationalist movement. Aglipay’s first converts were the people of Sibalom, where he delivered a powerful sermon, the central theme of which was love for one’s country. From Sibalom, Aglipay moved through the province’s towns, where the Catholic secular priests welcomed Aglipay into their own churches to preach. The principalia (wealthy class), who would have been the stauncher pillars of the Catholic Church, converted to the new church not only for economic and political survival but also for protection against the pulahan movement, an anti-friar group, who wore something red (pula) as a distinguishing mark. By extension, its members were also attacking supporters of the Catholic Church (Salanga 1982, 24; Diocese 1981; Worcester 1914, 393; Tan Cullamar 1986, 2).

In 1908, the US Supreme Court ruled that all edifices and cemeteries seized by non-Catholic sects but originally belonging to the Catholic Church should be returned. It ruled further that all sacred or religious objects and images confiscated from Catholic families would be returned to them if they returned to the Catholic fold (Schumacher 1979, 333; Kwantes 1989, 40-42). A principalia family in San Pedro that had converted to the Independent Church was the Moscoso family, from which a martyr of martial law, Antique governor Evelio Javier, descended. This clan converted back to Catholicism after the Supreme Court ruling.

In 1906, the Antique Provincial High School began with 11 elementary graduates, under Principal Francis Slaggea, who was a Thomasite. Twelve years later, Candido Alcazar became the first Filipino principal of the school, by then renamed the Antique High School, which graduated its first batch in 1920. Its first school paper, The Madya-as, came out in 1938 (Salvilla 1993 vol 2:73).

In 1939, in anticipation of the Japanese invasion, Antique became a mobilization center. At daybreak of 12 April 1942, Japanese troops under Major-General Saburo Kawamura’s command landed simultaneously at three points in Panay Island: at Maybato, Hamtic, in Antique; Trapiche, Oton, in Iloilo; and Culas in Capiz (Salvilla n.d. vol 1:17). This led to the formation of the Panay Resistance Movement, divided into the civil resistance movement and the Panay guerilla force, led by General Macario Peralta. The Panay-Negros area was designated by General Douglas McArthur as the 6th Military District. Subsequently, the first submarine-borne supplies for the 6th Military District were landed in Barrio Libertad in Pandan. Guerrillas operated rather freely in Antique, as their mountain bases in Mounts Baloy and Madya-as were located on the border of Iloilo and Capiz. San Remigio continued to be the site of victorious battles for the Karay-a, such as that between the guerillas and the Japanese troops at Barrio Igbakod. Otherwise, the Japanese were garrisoned for most of the time in the capital of San Jose.

Whenever the Japanese did occasionally sortie north to penetrate towns and villages in pursuit of guerrilla forces, the guerrilla warning system worked effectively in evacuating the people. However, there was a place called Badyang where suspected collaborators were executed. Public officials and traders were most vulnerable to charges of collaboration. The mountains of San Remigio were by turns the hideout of Governor Tomas Confesor during World War II and Guillermo Capadocia, where the latter was also killed by the government military in September 1952. Capadocia was a labor leader in the 1930s, a World War II Huk guerilla, a founding member and the secretary-general of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (Communist Party of the Philippines), and at the time of his death, commander of the Huk Regional Command in the Visayas (Salvilla n.d. vol 1:17; Senauth 2012, 61).

In general, Antique has kept a low profile in national affairs. Its mountainous terrain, lined by a narrow coastal plain, as well as its lack of good roads, ports, and other transportation and communication facilities have prevented it from raising its standard of living, despite being a net surplus producer of rice, sugar, and other agricultural crops. The Karay-a also partly attribute the lack of development to politics, especially as they tend to support the opposition as in pre-martial law days, when the president was Nacionalista and the Antique governor was Liberal.

During the snap elections of 1986, Antique’s pro-Corazon Aquino group, led by then Governor Evelio B. Javier (EBJ), conducted a successful campaign for clean elections and against entrenched pro-Marcos forces led by Assemblyman Arturo Pacificador. On 11 February, just after the elections, the charismatic Javier was felled by 24 bullets in broad daylight in San Jose. His body was taken for viewing to the chapel of the Ateneo de Manila University, where he was an alumnus, before he was flown back to Antique for burial. A hundred thousand people formed a three-kilometer line for Javier’s funeral procession. The assassination intensified the tension that culminated in the EDSA Revolt 11 days later.

Protest march during Governor Evelio Javier’s funeral
Protest march during Governor Evelio Javier’s funeral, 1986 (Presidential Museum and Library)

In 1992, Republic Act 7601 declared Javier’s death anniversary as Governor Evelio B. Javier Day, a non-working public holiday in all four provinces of Panay Island. The Hublag EVELIO (Movement for Enlightened and Vigilant Endeavor towards Liberation from Injustice and Oppression) was launched. The San Jose plaza, where Javier sustained the first few bullet wounds before he limped toward the laundry area of a nearby house, is now the Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park (Chan Robles 1992; Salvilla 1994 vol 6:37). On 11 February 2006, Javier’s 20th death anniversary, a month-long commemoration culminated in the unveiling of the EBJ historical marker at the EBJ Freedom Park.

Karay-a Way of Living

Antique’s mountainous topography, lack of fertile plains, and geographical isolation have determined its economic practices and production. It has had to be self-sufficient in food, unlike other regions that can risk total dependence on a cash crop economy, such as Negros, whose primary crop is sugar, or Bicol, which concentrates on abaca. Antique’s primary product has always been palay, which is the people’s staple food (Fornier 1999).

Rice terraces in Barangay Fullon, San Remigio
Rice terraces in Barangay Fullon, San Remigio, 2015 (Katahum Tours)

More than half of the land is mountainous. The narrow plains, which comprise only 1/6 of the land area, accommodate wet rice culture. Two-thirds of the cultivated land is planted to rice, of which the province is a net exporter. The other third is planted to corn, coffee, cacao, mango, peanuts, mongo, sugar, copra, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Much of the highlands have been eroded due to mining by multinational corporations and large-scale logging. Many families engage in fishing in between planting and harvesting.

Spread over 600 hectares in the hinterlands of Barangay Fullon, San Remigio is a cluster of rice terraces being maintained by a community of 700 Iraynon Bukidnon. The annual harvest from these terraces is 36,000 cavans of rice or 257 cavans per family. The self-sustaining community of 700 people consume the rice, as well as the root crops they produce and the animals they domesticate. Another set of rice terraces in Laua-an has been discovered on Google Maps (Soho 2015; Calawag 2015).

Since the 19th century, sugar has been second to rice as crop earner, although its production is not in the magnitude of primary sugar-producing regions like Negros and Pampanga. Two haciendas, classified as “big estates” in 19th-century provincial records, typify the size of sugar production of that period: a 32-hectare one in Hamtic, owned by Doñas Salud Aldeguer and Esperanza Aristegui, and a 64-hectare one in Sibalom, owned by Don Julian Amador. These were but a tiny fraction of the typical haciendas of several thousand hectares in Negros. In 1870, Antique had 248 molinos (sugar mills), which operated according to various levels of technology. Bugasong, for instance, had two mills that ran on steam, eight on hydraulic power, and several that were either human- or animal-powered (Fornier 1999, 158; Fernandez 2006, 190).

Cotton production, which had been so widespread that Spanish encomenderos demanded it as tribute, had died by the end of the Spanish colonial period. The case of Dao might explain why. Dao was a cotton-producing town when the alcalde mayor tried to turn it into an export industry, even promising to give the people cotton gins. In response, the people simply stopped working (Fornier 1999, 156; Fernandez 2006, 185).

From the 1800s to the 1920s, trade in locally manufactured and other goods was conducted between Sibalom in Antique and Miag-ao in Iloilo. In this exchange called carriada, traders used the trails crossing the mountains between Antique and Iloilo (Madrid 1995).

By the 19th century, Antique’s list of major imports included balas de algodon (bales of cotton) and generos de algodon (cotton products), which were essential for Antique’s still thriving hand weaving industry. Iloilo’s homegrown weaving industry had been killed off by cheap, machine-made, foreign textile, which British Vice Consul Nicholas Loney had brought in. Hence, sugar had become its primary earner. Antique, however, did not have the same wealth of options as Iloilo. Eight municipalities of Antique that were primary producers of piña cloth, jusi, and sinamay textiles were Laua-an (also known as Nalupa Nuevo), Valderrama, Bugasong, Barbaza, Dao, San Jose, Sebaste, and Sibalom, all of which had at least 7,000 looms. The province, however, had other export products such as guimaras (packing material), leather, various types and sizes of seashells including cowry and tortoise, rattan, nido (birds’ nest), coconut and its side products, and clay pots. The last was a specialty of Sibalom, which had gained some fame for its “earthen jars for keeping the water cold.” Bugasong is still the best known town for its patadyong (barrel skirt) and piña weave (Fernandez 2006, 190; Fornier 1999, 155; “Province” 2016).

Fishing in Tibiao, Antique
Fishing in Tibiao, Antique (Antique Provincial Government)

Coastal villagers engage in both rice farming and fishing. Without an irrigation system, they plant rice only once a year and fish the rest of the year for subsistence and some cash. Traditional fishing devices that they use are the pamansi (bamboo spears), bubo (fish traps laid on the sea floor), and fishnets called sahid and pukot. A more recent system is the payaw, introduced by Cebuano fishermen in the 1950s. In this system, a balsa (raft) is tied fast to a cement platform that is laid on the sea floor. Baits are placed underneath the raft, and fishhooks and lines are attached to the raft (Magos 1987, 117, 125).

In 1972, the local villagers formed a cooperative to invest in a set of payaw and motorboats, and for five years they engaged in this more efficient fishing system. However, fishing companies from Manila and Palawan arrived with fleets of big fishing vessels and modern equipment, such as a communication system to orchestrate the movements of their boats and sonar to detect the location of the fish. In this system, a kobkob, which is a fishnet several square meters, is laid on the sea floor and therefore assures an enormous catch of fish. By the time these fishing companies departed after exhausting the supply of fish in the area, their operations had already caused the decline of the small-scale fishing economy (Magos 1987, 125-26).

One of the biggest businesses in the provinces is catching bangrus (milkfish) fry. The exclusive franchise for the purchase of bangrus fry is a major forum for competition among elite families, who bid for the municipal concessions every year. The fry are sold to fishponds raising bangrus in Capiz and Iloilo. New prawn-fishing ventures in the late 1980s adversely affected the economy of Antique, specifically the fisherfolk’s cooperatives, which had managed to wrest the bangrus fry concessions from the traditional elite.

Wells are the most common sources of water, particularly in the rural areas of Antique, and are used not only for domestic consumption but also for cement manufacture, agricultural irrigation systems, freshwater fishponds, public works, and health services. The Karay-a have folk methods for locating underground streams that serve as the source for water wells. For these, they use found objects in their natural environment as devices. Though these have varying degrees of efficiency, all have a scientific basis. Devices on which water condensation forms, thus indicating the presence of underground water, are half coconut shells, banana leaves, and porcelain bowls or cups. These are placed upside down at night over different spots on the ground and are inspected at sunrise for drops of condensed water on their surface. An auditory method is to thrust a bamboo tube or a steel bar into the ground to listen for the presence of ground water. The use of a forked twig cut from a guava tree was taught by a European missionary, who also brought in the term “water divining” and “dowsing.” The Antique Provincial Waterworks Task Force uses the forked-twig method for water divining (Otico 1987, 143-50).

The population of Calinog municipality in central Iloilo is predominantly Panay Bukidnon, also known as upland Karay-a or tumandok. Out of 16 barangays in this municipality, 11 have united into an organization called Paghili-usa sang mga Mangunguma kag Tumandok Batuk Dam (PAMATUK Dam) to oppose the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP II). Three dams have been scheduled to be built in the area from 2016 to 2020. The project aims to provide irrigation water for 32,000 hectare of farmlands to benefit 783,000 farmers in the region. The Panay Bukidnon in the area, however, assert that the site of the JRMP II is their ancestral domain. Thus, they have the primary right to determine how to use it for their own livelihood and for the preservation of their indigenous culture (Angelo 2016; Conserva 2015).

Mineral resources have been found in several areas of the province: Libertad has iron, marble, silica, and limestone; Pandan has manganese, marble, and limestone; Sibalom has manganese and semi-precious gemstones; Belison has manganese; Tibiao and the island of Caluya have red clay; Culasi has limestone; San Remigio has semiprecious gemstones; and Barbaza, Patnongon, and Valderrama have gold. However, the municipalities of Libertad and Pandan lie within the 12,009-hectare North Western Panay Peninsula (NWPP), which has been declared a protected zone. It is one of the last accessible rainforests in the region and is the natural habitat of some rare animal species. Local residents have sought the support of environmental activists to protest the erosion, siltation, and pollution that are the side effects of mining in their vicinity (“Potential” 2016; Burgos 2011).

Since 1977, open-pit coal mining has been conducted by the Semirara Mining Corporation (SMC) on Semirara Island of the island municipality of Caluya. The company, which is owned by David Consunji Inc., has earnings of 150 million dollars a year, enjoys a 70% government subsidy on operating expenses, and is subject only to income tax, being exempt from all other taxes, by virtue of Presidential Decree 976. However, its profits have been at the cost of the island’s ecological balance, the local residents’ farming and fishing grounds, and the miners’ lives (“Case Study” 2013).

Seaweed farming is the primary industry of Caluya’s local residents, earning the municipality at least 400 million pesos yearly. It provides employment to 30% of the whole municipality’s adult population, who are engaged in the various aspects of the industry and its related businesses. However, environmental degradation of Semirara Island has shrunk the local residents’ economic resources. SMC’s quarrying activities on the island have resulted in large chunks of land being dumped into the sea, thus killing mangrove forests and coral reefs. Nonetheless, the SMC’s Coal Operating Contract has been extended up to the year 2027, and its area of operations expanded to two other islands—Caluya and Sibay (“Case Study” 2013).

Adding to the devastation of marine life and mangrove forests are oil spills. In December 2005, a barge of the National Power Corporation spilled 210,000 liters of fuel off the coast of Sitio Bobog of Semirara Island, damaging marine life in 113 hectares along the shores and 236 hectares of mangroves (Center 2006).

In June 2008, Typhoon Frank (International name Fengshen) caused the worst floods in the history of West Visayas. Of the region’s six provinces, Antique suffered the third largest damage in agriculture, next to Iloilo and Capiz, at 116.4 million pesos; and second to Aklan in infrastructure, at 120 million pesos. Approximately 2,000 hectares of farmland were totally submerged. The recorded fatalities were 15; 55 were missing. Three years later, in January 2011, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) awarded 60 victims of Typhoon Frank in Antique a total of 4.2 million or 70,000 pesos each for the construction of housing units in Belison. This amount was deposited in the Provincial Treasurer’s Office. The following day, the full amount was withdrawn by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer (MSWDO). As of March 2015, not a single house had been completed but substandard materials had been delivered in the site, as reported by the Provincial Engineer’s Office (Government 2008; Irin 2008; Burgos 2008).

On 8 November 2013, the damage and destruction caused by super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), known to be the strongest storm to hit central and southern Philippines, cost Antique’s agricultural and fisheries sectors 155.737 million pesos. Thousands of hectares of rice fields, banana plantations, mango orchards, sugarcane fields, coffee plantations, vegetable farms, and seaweed farms were destroyed, as well as 21,500 fishermen’s boats (Mondragon 2013).

Of Antique’s total population, 39% live below the poverty line (NEDA 2011). This relative poverty of the province has contributed to a high rate of emigration. Since the turn of the 20th century, a large number of sacadas (migrant workers) serving the Negros sugarcane haciendas have been Karay-a. During the Spanish colonial period, the hacendero (plantation owner) paid for the tax on the sacadas’ cedulas (residence certificates), which they needed to travel out of the province; their fare money; and an advance on their wages to leave to their families. Hence, the sacadas were already mired in debt to theiramo(master) before they even started work in the cane fields. Consequently, the system transformed these wageworkers into a class of indentured servants (Fornier 1999, 175).

A significant percentage of the population of Palawan consists of the Karay-a or descendants of Karay-a migrants, as does the population of South Cotabato. On a per 1,000 basis, Antique is the source of more female domestics below 21 than any other province in the country, except perhaps Samar. Thus, while Karay-a has its historical boundaries in Antique and the interior mountain towns of Iloilo, the Kinaray-a speakers are now found also in certain areas in Palawan, Negros, and Mindanao. Additionally, there are 10,742 documented Karay-a overseas workers or 2.5% of their adult population of 425,744 (PSA 2013). Because of their long history of out-migration, the Karay-a have taken upon themselves the epithet of layas Antiqueños (vagabonds of Antique).

Karay-a Political System

In Maragtas, there were three sakup—Hamtic (Antique), Aklan, and Irong-irong (Iloilo)—governed by a code promulgated by Datu Sumakwel. The code had prescriptions for the regulation of personal and family relations, property, succession, contracts, delicts, and quasi-delicts. Edicts were announced through the umalohokan (town crier). Early Spanish chroniclers observed that the punishment for all crimes—whether these be murder, adultery, or theft—was a system of fines in the form of jewelry or gold. A culprit became enslaved as a result of the crime only if he was unable to pay the fine and had to indenture himself to whoever had given him a loan to pay the fine (de Loarca 1903, 138-40).

Antique Provincial Capitol in San Jose
Antique Provincial Capitol in San Jose, 2008 (Ivan Henares)

Early in the Spanish colonial period, Panay Island was divided into two provinces, each governed by an alcalde mayor, who resided in his assigned province. Hamtic had only three towns: Bugasong, Sibalom, and Hamtic. Thus, Hamtic, from the southern village of Anini-y upward to Barbaza, was under the jurisdiction of Iloilo (then called Ogtong). Its northernmost villages of Pandan, Culasi, and Tibiao were subsumed under the province of Capiz (then called Pan-ay). Each province had an alcalde mayor, who resided in the capital town of the province under his jurisdiction. It was not until 1796 that Hamtic became a separate province and the town of the same name made its capital. In 1802, the capital was transferred to Tubigon, later renamed San Jose de Buenavista (Fernandez 2006, 113-14).

By the end of Spanish colonialism, Panay Island had been divided into three provinces: Antique, Iloilo, and Capiz, which included Aklan. Each had a provincial governor, two public treasury offices, a customhouse, two provincial physicians, and one company of civil guards. There were courts of justice: Civil cases were under the jurisdiction of the Audiencia in Manila and criminal cases under that of the Audiencia in Cebu (Fernandez 2006, 114).

Indigenous Karay-a culture has been preserved by the upland Karay-a, also known as Sulod, Panay Bukidnon, or tumandok, who live in settlements in central Panay Island. Peace and order is maintained by leaders who are not elected by the people but derive their power and authority from the kind of service that they render to the community. These are the baylan (shamans), mirku (medicine persons), and parangkutan (advisers)—male or female—who are called upon to remedy all sorts of ailments and illnesses by performing rites and seances or to interpret dreams. The baylan may also be hired for their knowledge of sorcery. The mirku have a narrower sphere of usefulness, being the herbalists who prescribe the plants suitable for certain ailments. The female mirku may also act as midwives, but this function is minimal because child delivery is known to almost every household. The parangkutan are expected to settle disputes or misunderstanding among members of the household or neighborhood, and cases that involve kinship relations (Jocano 1968).

A woman held in the greatest esteem in Visayan society, and still very visible among the Karay-a (or Panay) Bukidnon, is the binukot, variously defined as “woman who is in the room,” “wrapped up,” and “well-kept maiden” (Bobadilla 1640, Alcina 1668, Jocano 1965). In ancient times she belonged to the royalty, being the datu’s daughter. She was kept closely guarded in her room and was thus relatively fair-skinned. On the rare occasions when she stepped out of her home, she was either borne on the shoulders of carefully selected male slaves or carried on a hammock. When a royal marriage was arranged for her, she commanded a high bride-price. She had the rights and privileges of a chief and could wield authority in her own right (Bobadilla 1640, Alcina 1668).

Present-day binukot have become well known for their powerful performance as epic chanters and as spokespersons of their people. Such a person was Elena Gardoce, circa 1904 to 2002, from the uplands of Jamindan in Capiz and recipient of the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining from the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in February 1992. On her tombstone is the epitaph: “Ang ginbilin lupa bawion para sa tumanduk” (Reclaim the land for the indigenous people). Another binukot, Preciosa “Anggoran” Caballero, also known as Lola Susa, Hugan-an, and Iyay Inar, who died in 1993, was the first binukot epic chanter to be recorded. This was in 1955 by anthropologist F. Landa Jocano, who published two cycles about Humadapnon in separate volumes, under the title Hinalawod: Adventures of Humadapnon, 2000 and 2011.

The manughusay or husay (arbiter) mediates in more serious problems between members of the community. When acting as the chief arbiter involving violations of custom law, the husay is assisted by older members of the community called timbang. As there is no police to enforce whatever decision is made, the efficacy of the husay’s decision depends upon his status in the community. If any of the parties concerned is dissatisfied with the decision, a husay from a kalawakaw, “a place neutral to both parties,” may be requested to reopen the case. This second decision, done by appeal, becomes final (Muyco 2008, 48; Jocano 1968).

Such an authority system has been modified by the barrio political organization and more recently by barangay law. The barangay captain, a vice chair, and kagawad (councilors) are all elected every three years. The barangay captain, parangkutan, and husay may assist each other in settling cases on the barangay level. As a last resort, higher officials of the local government unit (LGU), under the jurisdiction of the municipality, may intervene when called upon by the conflicting parties (Jocano 1968; Muyco 2008, 45-50).

Political power in present-day Antique is held by elite families such as the Fornier, Zaldivar, Pacificador, Javier, Cadiao, and their relatives, either by blood or by marriage. Their scions, relatives, and partners invariably occupy the elective and appointive positions in the province. Starting in 1987, Exequiel Javier, brother of Evelio Javier, was the representative of the lone district of Antique for a total of six terms (1987-1998; 2001-2010) and governor of the province for three (1998-2001; 2010-16); his son Paolo Javier became the representative in 2015. Salvacion Zaldivar Perez was the governor from 2001to 10 (Canja-Navallasca 2010).

In many upland barangays, the shadow government of the National Democratic Front continues to take hold, existing side by side with the structures of the Philippine government. In 1977, binukot Dalama, also known as Elma Villaron, joined the New People’s Army (NPA) when she was 24 years old. This was five years after the group had established a revolutionary school in the vicinity of her village of Aglupacan in Tapaz, Capiz. She had lived a binukot’s sheltered life until age 15 when she gave it up to lend a hand in the family kaingin and do her share of the outdoor chores. Her father, Datu Sardin, had been jailed in Muntinlupa in 1968 for waging a panambian (territorial war) against 16 Akeanon. At the NPA school, Dalama learned the rudiments of western letters and numbers at age 19, besides becoming politicized. In 1987, she had risen to the rank of a commanding officer of the NPA when she was killed in an ambush at Maayon in Capiz. She was 34 years old. She had earned the epithet “the BAR woman” because she carried a Browning automatic rifle (BAR), a firearm normally carried only by the men because of its heavy weight (Bañez 2002, 123-138).

Karay-a Culture, Customs and Traditions

Among the social values most revered by the traditional Karay-a are courtesy and respect for both young and old. Older relatives are addressed as lolo (grandfather), lola (grandmother), tatay (father), nanay (mother), tio (uncle), or tia (aunt), depending on their relation to the speaker. For nonrelatives, women of a generation older than the speaker are called manding (oda in Pandan and Libertad), while those of the same generation are called manang or nang. For males, it is tio, manong or nong. However, courtesy is not only extended to the elderly; a distinctive custom is the belief that it is rude to address a younger person without attaching his or her pet name.

Maningning Island, Culasi, Antique
Maningning Island, Culasi, Antique (Alexander Moscoso Española)

The names are the terms of endearment given by parents to their children before baptism and are attached to whatever Christian name or nickname they may later acquire. For boys, the pet name can be Toto, Nonoy, Dodong, or Dodoy, while girls are called Nening, Nene, Inday, Diding, or Acay. Thus, while Alberto may already have Bert, Berting, or Abet for a nickname, and Elisa may have Isang, they are still referred to as Toto Bert or Nening Isang. Only parents have the right to drop the pet name and only when they are admonishing their child for some transgression.

The value of dagyawonay (bayanihan) is held sacred by the traditional Karay-a. Relatives, neighbors, and friends all join hands to help one of their own, whether in planting or harvesting rice, building or moving a home, holding a wedding, or burying the dead. In return, everyone is treated to a light meal. The kadugo (blood relatives) have a deeper commitment to this arrangement than others. Marriage between first-degree cousins among the upland Karay-a is common practice, despite church and state prohibitions. However, romantic and sexual relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, brothers and sisters, and parents and children are forbidden (Muyco 2008, 41-42).

Among the Panay Bukidnon, courtship began with the pangagad, which was a yearlong period of service rendered by the suitor to his prospective parents-in-law. This was followed by the patalanha or sikreto, when the suitor, without the woman’s knowledge, met with her parents to express his intentions. Presently, these first two steps of traditional courtship are omitted, and customs leading toward marriage begin with the modern courtship. After the woman accepts her suitor’s marriage proposal, he and his family meet with her family for the pabagti, in which he makes his intentions known to them. The discussion includes the dowry, or bride-price, which may consist of heirlooms and farm animals. When the couple’s families are satisfied with the terms discussed, the suitor presents a tu-os (token gift of agreement) to the woman’s parents, and another day for the pahimpit is set. This is a discussion in greater detail regarding the dowry, the hungaw (wedding), and the punsyon (feast). Before the wedding itself, the groom is subjected to the bayaw-biit, a game in which he must identify his bride-to-be from among seven women, each covered by a cloth. Having passed the test, the groom is introduced to the community. He distributes the bi-it (tokens) to his in-laws, such as a sanduko (dagger) to a sibling; a biningkit (necklace), saipang (blouse), and patadyong (barrel skit) to the mother; and the dapay, “bedsheet with a bird design,” for the bride’s amang (grandfather) (Muyco 2008, 78; Caballero et al. 2015).

On the day of the hungaw, the manughusay reviews the provisions of the tu-os to ensure that these have been complied with. The punsyon begins with the wedding couple and both sets of parents sitting gina-itib (facing each other) and engaging in the pangasi, when they alternately sip rice wine. This is done with a tayok (ladle), which is used to scoop the wine from a sibulan (jar). The amang sings the ambahan, a song in praise of the newlyweds. The ala-salud follows, in which the guests place money in a bamboo tube as a collective gift to the couple. The musicians give the cue for the binanog dance, and the couple’s parents dance with each other’s spouse. Before leaving their daughter to her husband’s care, the bride’s parents recite the pamilinbinlin (counsel) (Muyco 2008, 78-79).

However, a simpler option for the suitor who wishes to begin married life without the punsyon is the pabayaw, in which he publicly expresses his intentions to the community, and he proffers a pig to his prospective in-laws (Muyco 2008, 79).

Polygyny is practiced on the condition that the man can afford to support his wives. All the wives may live under the same roof, or a wife may also choose to live independently. Either way, the first wife’s consent is a prerequisite. In a polygynous household, wives may acquire nicknames as determined by their personality, behavior, or relationship to one another. In an actual household in Barangay Nayawan, Tapaz, Capiz, the wives have the following nicknames: Baw-as (cannot bear children), the first wife; Duri (industrious); Saling, also called Sablayan (flawed), who became mentally ill; Lugpian (cannot be defeated), who will not be subservient to anyone; Francing, the friendly wife; Budak, the stout and heavy one; Punay (a small bird), the petite one; and Simplicia, the simple one. Their husband is named Alyawan, as befits his charming and flighty nature (Muyco 2008, 44-45). The children call their stepmothers iti. Custom law allows divorce for infidelity, cruelty, childlessness, desertion of the conjugal home, or wife stealing.

Burial practices among the Karay-a Bukidnon include the ritual questioning of the dead to inquire as to the cause of death. The corpse is placed in a coffin, which has carvings on the sides and cover. Two or three months after the burial, the bones of the deceased are removed, washed, and wrapped in a black cloth called baghek. These are then deposited in beige Chinese jars, which the family takes with them as they transfer from one swidden field to another. The remains are kept by the eldest son of the daughter and are passed on to the next generation. If a death has been caused by war or conflict, the kadugo of the casualty consults the husay, who shall then speak with both parties to decide on the settlement. This is usually in manggad (wealth) such as a sanduko (bolo) or a gong (Magos 1996, 123).

When the corpse has been readied for the funeral, it is carried out feet first to prevent further deaths in the family in the immediate future. The pararigos (bathing) is done by the family members in the nearest stream three days before the deceased is buried. Sometimes this practice is done after burial. The bilasyon, which is equivalent to the novena for the dead, begins in the evening of the burial. In Antique, however, the bilasyon can last up to a month. During the bilasyon, games such as the bordon and kabatingan are played to while away the time.

Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Karay-a People

In the Karay-a belief system, the ma-aram (male or female healer priest) is the medium through which the spirit world manifests itself by supernatural means. Although babaylan is the more commonly known term for such a person, “ma-aram” is the generic term for various types of healer priests, the babaylan being only one of them. The Karay-a creation myth explains the origin and genealogy of the ma-aram: that the creator god, Tagna-an, was a busalian, “capable of performing supernatural feats,” and thus the most powerful and versatile of all ma-aram. He fathered the first man and woman, Hugna-an and Humihinahon, who were both ma-aram (Magos 1992, xi, 51).

Karay-a anting-anting or amulet
Karay-a anting-anting or amulet (Harper’s History of War in the Philippines edited by Marion Wilcox. Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1900.)

The Karay-a cosmology is composed of seven layers: 1) the base, which is uninhabited; 2) the tubignon, composed of water and populated by marine life; 3) the idalmunon, composed of soil and populated by underground spirit-beings; 4) the lupan-on, the middle layer of the earth’s center, populated by human beings and various engkantu; 5) the kahanginan, the air, sky, and space above the land of human beings, and populated by flying spirit beings; 6) the ibabawnon, the space farther up, populated by ancestral spirits; and 7) the uppermost level, which is where Maka-ako, the Supreme Being, resides (Magos 1992, 51-52).

The lupan-on, which is the center of the world, is Panay, the land of the Karay-a, where stand the Apat ka Kaharigi ka Kalibutan (Four Pillars of the World). These are located near pools of springwater in the mountains of Anini-y, Dao, San Remigio, and Tubungan (Iloilo). There are, moreover, seven sacred mountains: Punta Hagdan and Mount Aliwliw both in Dao, Punta Nasog in Anini-y, Mount Balutinaw in central Panay, Mount Igbiga in San Joaquin (Iloilo), and Mount Inturayan in Miag-ao (Iloilo). These are sites for samba (worship) rituals and are also the best sources of medicinal herbs, especially when these are picked during Holy Week, from Holy Wednesday to Good Friday (Magos 1992, 53-54).

The supernatural beings inhabiting the Karay-a world are the tamawo (deity), kama-kama, muwa, burulakaw, murokpok, mangingilaw, mantiw, maranhig, kapri, sigbin, bawa, mulang, aswang, and Hispanic-influenced dwende. These fall under two categories: the putian (white or good) and the ituman (black or evil). The putian look human but are ethereal, and the ituman are totally black but are visible in the moonlight (Muyco 2008, 56). The ituman are encountered either at high noon or late evening near river bends, watersheds, and wells; dark, lonely spots; and trees and thick undergrowth (Magos 1978, 58). “Aswang” is the generic term for a creature of the netherworld, which takes human form during the day and transforms into a viscera-sucking, flesh-eating ghoul at night. The aswang has a double or is a shape-shifter, and so can appear or change form easily. Townspeople may unknowingly have aswang for neighbors. The maranhig is a dead person that cannot rest in peace until a member of its family takes over its position. The maranhig avoids crossing a stream, which will turn it into worms. These spirits and supernaturals are believed to be the cause of people’s illness and other evils befalling the human race.

Karay-a god Maka-ako
Karay-a god Maka-ako portrayed by Richard de Guzman in a costume designed by Gino Gonzales in Ateneo ENTABLADO’s Labaw Donggon, 2013 (Jojit Lorenzo, courtesy of Jerry C. Respeto)

The kapapu-an is the pantheon of ancestral spirits from whom the supernatural powers of specific types of ma-aram originated: The busalian could make water gush from a rock with a thrust of the spear; the dalagangan could leap improbably long distances and mountainous heights; the dalongdongan had a type of oil called dalungdong, which shielded the owners from harm when they covered themselves with it; the tigadlum had theability to be invisible; and the tigalpu could pass through solid matter. Ancestral spirits are not malevolent, though they may cause illness in a person when they want to remind their family to perform their obligatory rites (Magos 1992, 59-60).

The most revered busalian within living memory is Papu (Ancestral Spirit) Estrella Bangotbanwa, who lived during the Spanish colonial period. The forces of nature came at her bidding, whether it be in response to the supplication of farmers and fisherfolk, or to punish the selfish. It is from her that the correct procedure of the samba rite has been passed on to present-day ma-aram. Her second name, Bangotbanwa, is actually an epithet meaning “the refuge of the people in times of crisis.” In 1961, Catalino Servanes, a ma-aram of Barrio Gamad in Dao, founded the spiritual movement called Palatukuran sang Paghidaet Estrella Bangotbanwa, which aimed to preserve the ma-aram beliefs and traditions by continuing to hold their samba rites regularly in the designated sacred sites, as well as healing rites in the homes of sick persons (Magos 1992, 18, 34-35).

Dungan, literally “companion,” is the key concept in the ma-aram’s ability to diagnose and cure a sick person. One’s dungan is the soul, spirit, willpower, or double. Illness is caused by one’s dungan straying from the body or being stolen by a marukpok (evil spirit). All stolen dungan are imprisoned in cells in caves in Punta Hagdan, Dao. To recover the dungan, the ma-aram holds the bawi (retrieval) ritual. When a person’s illness is caused by the soul of a deceased relative, the ma-aram holds the pabulag sa kalag, which is a ritual for separating the soul of a dead person from a family member to whom it is particularly attached (Magos 1992, 43-49).

At present, there are three types of ma-aram. First is the sirhuano or serruano who offers food to the saragudun, which are spirits that inflict illness on trespassers who have not uttered the formulaic request for permission, “Panabi-tabi” (Please step aside as I’ll be passing by). The serruano has the ability to see the pulahan (red ones), which inflict trespassers with swollen rashes (Muyco 2008, 52, 56). Second is the dalungdungan, who has seven spirit-guides and uses the dalungdong (healing oil) as an aid in recovering someone’s dungan when it has been stolen by a maranhig, ituman, or malain ginhawa (evil breath). The dalungdungan can also fend off these evil spirits before these can inflict harm on their intended victims. Third is the babaylan, who cures an infant that is gravely ill by recoveringits kinamnam (soul or double) from the other world. The healing ritual begins with the babaylan summoning a diwata by striking a metal object against a porcelain dish. When the diwata comes down from its dwelling, which is “the upper level of the kalibutan (cosmos),” the babaylan strikes a tebongbong (bamboo tube) while chanting a dialogue with another chanter who represents the community (Muyco 2008, 52-53).

There are other Panay Bukidnon individuals with extraordinary abilities—the dalagangan (runner) fulfills requests for aid, ranging from illness to good weather, by running on someone’s roof or leaping upward from the ground to the roof, while the buruhisan performs the ritual for the appropriate weather during certain stages of the kaingin (Muyco 2008, 54).

Religion is inextricably intertwined with social and economic activities like fishing and hunting, which are influenced by environmental and ancestral spirits. The samba, also known as the panaet (rite for peace), is the generic ritual held to appeal for rain, a bountiful harvest, abundant fish, as well as protection against crop disease and pestilence. All phases of the agricultural practice begin with a samba. The sagda ceremony, held in March, is a post-clearing chanting ritual of apology to the spirits who may have been hurt when the field was being burned during the clearing process. The panudlak is the pre-planting rite to appeal for rain, held on Good Friday, usually in April. Another panudlak may be held in August, if the farmers observe two agricultural cycles a year. The pangkuyang is a pre-harvest rite to keep pestilence away just when the rice grains are at their ripest. The sanggi is the post-harvest thanksgiving rite, held in October, and the second in February. The various types of samba have the following elements in common: an officiator who is usually the ma-aram, a kuyang (food offering), incense burning, chanting, dancing, and sa-ob (spirit possession) (Magos 1992, 27-31).

The samba sa bukid (mountain ritual) is held to maintain harmony with the friendly taglugar (resident spirit dwellers) and to offer hospitality to the vengeful pangayaw (spirit invaders). The samba-sa-bukid used to be held on three mountains, and the kuyang included a slaughtered cow. The extravagance of the feast indicates the reason for the decline of this tradition; moreover, the challenges to the mountain farmers are now man-made rather than natural, so that appealing to the environmental spirits for help would now be futile (Magos 1987, 114-116).

There are taboos and prescriptions for each stage of crop production, be it rice, corn, cassava, sweet potato, beans, kadios, jackfruit, or coconut. For example, an animal urinating before or during planting or the presence of a menstruating woman in the fields are bad omens. Also, planting should be done during low tide or when the moon is full so that the fruits or tubers will grow large.

The fisherfolk in the coastal villages continue to hold the samba sa dumaday-o (ritual for alien sea spirits) more regularly, because fishing is a more dangerous occupation than farming, requiring the appeasement of malevolent sea creatures. The procedure for the samba sa dumaday-o is essentially the same as that of the samba sa bukid. It is held in the late afternoon, though the kuyang, which consists of betel chew, drinks such as tsokolate and bino, and kinarot (native food prepared solely for the ritual), is prepared in the early morning. The kinarot is cooked in wrappings of banana and coconut leaves, woven into various shapes and sizes, and named accordingly: inalupi, bagodbod, puso, bulo, sinapal, panyasi-an, and himoyo. These are laid out on sawali leaves on the part of the beach where the samba is to take place. Each food item represents an object or shape in the sky, such as a star or a cloud, which, for the fisherfolk, forecasts the weather; thus, these are arranged as prescribed by the ritual leaders (Magos 1992, 32; 1987, 122-23).

The samba begins when the ma-aram, with a red headkerchief and a red sash running diagonally from one shoulder to the waist, sits on a pillow in front of the offering. The sea spirits are invoked and told the reason for the samba. The ma-aram entices them to come by dancing to the tune of guitars and other musical instruments, waving a small bowl of live coals mixed with kamanyang (incense), ringing a small bell, and offering the kuyang on the sawali mat. When the ma-aram becomes sa-ob and goes into a trancelike state, the spirits are manifesting their presence and communicating through the ma-aram. Ritual leaders numbering between 6 and 10 take turns at the ritual dancing. The last dancer tosses a spear toward the sea to conclude the ritual. The sea spirits’ acceptance of the spear signals their acceptance of the villagers’ act of respect and appeasement (Magos 1987, 123-124).

When a Karay-a dies, the surviving loved ones on earth hold a proper mag-anito ritual to the god Pandaque so that the dead person’s soul will be allowed into Mount Madya-as, the home of the dead. Otherwise, it will be taken by the gods Simuran and Siginarugan into the lower regions. (The souls of deceased Ilonggo, who are the coastal Panayanon, are taken by the god Sisiburanen to another mountain in Borneo.) On Mount Madya-as stands a very tall tree, on which the god Sidapa marks the lifespan of every newborn Karay-a (de Loarca 1903, 124-125).

At a person’s death, the babaylan holds the pagbilog (to form) ritual, which prevents the dungan from liquefying, a form that the aswang likes to devour (Muyco 2008, 53). Now a solid form, the dungan arrives at a lake, where Banglé waits to carry it across. But the dungan must first answer a litany of questions from Banglé. If he admits to having had more than one wife, Banglé gladly bears him on the shoulders to carry him across. A dungan who admits to a lifetime’s bachelorhood is made to swim across the sticky water while holding on to Banglé’s pubic hair. Bagubu, deity of the stream that the dungan must next cross, asks him the same questions. After arriving at Mount Madya-as, he participates in a cockfighting game. If his living relatives have performed the burial ceremonies correctly, he undergoes a strengthening process in the haramyangan (rest house). He is finally received into the center of Madya-as, where he continues to live as before until he transforms into a spirit-guardian.

Aglipay Church in Pandan, Antique
Aglipay Church in Pandan, Antique (Suzie Ismael)

Residual elements of these indigenous beliefs manifest themselves at random moments, despite the dominance of the Catholic Church. Roman Catholics comprise 68% of the province’s population. The rest are Iglesia Filipina Independiente (or Independents, also known as Aglipay), Iglesia ni Kristo, Buddhist, Muslim, Evangelicals, other Protestants, and those belonging to non-denominational sects (PSA 2013).

Karay-a Villages and Community

Most of the towns of Antique are coastal. Rather than radiate outward, the towns are strung along the main provincial road. Except for the province’s three inland towns, it is rare for a town center to be farther than 500 to 800 meters from the seashore. Nevertheless, most towns have the standard plaza-iglesia-municipio-escuela (plaza-church-municipal-hall-school) layout.

In upland villages, houses are generally set apart. In the areas inhabited by the monteses or Sulod, the houses are in clusters of five to seven. The Sulod people have their settlements on the upper streams of the Pan-ay River in Capiz province. They live in one-room houses on stilts with walls and floors made of bark of trees, cogon roofs, and tree trunk ladders. These houses are dispersed, numbering only about five to seven per neighborhood, and often located on hillsides. The boundaries of settlements may be creeks, which become the main water supply. Because the people can trace kinship relationships, distances are no barrier to day-to-day interpersonal relations. They are brought together by religious activities and obligations, and social gatherings, large or small. Occasions for large gatherings are weddings and wakes, whereas those for small gatherings are drinkfests and for the barter of food hunted or caught in streams. There is also mutual service and labor extended in the building of a house, cooking of food during feasts, and other activities. Therefore, the Sulod communities form a more or less homogenous society.

By the end of the Spanish colonial period in 1898, most of the towns of Antique had churches built of blocks of cut coral (or lime) stone and ashlar masonry, or rectangular blocks of stone so tightly fitted together they required no mortar. In the provincial capital of San Jose, all the public structures such as the church, municipal hall, and school building were made of such blocks, and it had relatively excellent roads. Bugasong’s church, built in 1880, was made of slates, lime, and galvanized iron. Its cemetery, built in 1886, had a stone enclosure and stone chapel. It had two stone bridges and several ditches of rough stone-and-mortar. Attesting to the town’s relative affluence were the residential balay-nga-bato (houses of wood and stone) (Fernandez 2006, 189, 195). The Gella-Azurin House on Gobierno Street, San Jose, is a balay-nga-bato known as “the province’s oldest heritage house.” It functioned as a hospital for World War II guerillas (Segador 2016).

Azurin House in San Jose, Antique
Azurin House in San Jose, Antique (CCP Collections)

The first church of Barrio San Pedro, built in 1888, had walls consisting of tabique pampango (thin wall Pampango), which are panels of woven bamboo slats. A popular tale is that the church burned down when its roof of cogon grass was accidentally set on fire by the friar’s pet monkey. The second church was made of ashlar masonry. It measured 77 x 14 meters and had a cruciform structure with three doors: the main front portal and a door on each side. Its ruins, consisting of the first level of the facade and walls, stand to this day. The convent was a balay-nga-bato; the municipal hall, school buildings, and residential houses were all of nipa and bamboo (Fernandez [1889] 2006, 189; Cabigas 2012).

The ruins standing to this day in Patnongon hint of the grandeur of its public structures built in 1872 to 1879. All made of blocks of coralstone, these were destroyed by American aerial bombings in World War II. The stone church was the most spacious; the convent the most beautiful. The town had a stone bridge. In 1896, a lovely garden was added to the plaza. Still standing are parts of the cemetery’s gate and walls, lined with niches. Also surviving are the walls and facade of the Casa Real (municipal hall), its imposing structure looming over the townspeople going about their daily lives. The convent has been restored and converted into the St. Augustine’s Academy (Fernandez [1899] 2006, 191; Cabigas 2012).

San Juan Nepomuceno Church in Anini-y, Antique
San Juan Nepomuceno Church in Anini-y, Antique (CCP Collections)

The church of San Juan Nepomuceno in Anini-y is the only original church of Antique standing intact. It was built by a succession of Augustinian parish priests over the old wooden structure constructed in 1845. The old structure, measuring 45 x 12.5 meters, rises over an even older church founded in the 1600s and measuring 33 x 13 meters. The facade of the stone church is composed of two basic shapes, both of equal height: the rectangular lower level and, above it, the triangular pediment. Two Corinthian columns flank the main entrance, thus dividing the facade into three equal sections. The simplicity of the facade is relieved by an arched row of rosettes over the main entrance and another row of rosettes over each of the two niches flanking the main door, as well as on the side walls. Complementing these decorative rosettes is a pair of rose windows standing above the two niches. The triangular pediment, which is the upper level of the façade, has a grander niche at the center, framed by smaller pilasters and crowned by a pediment. A pair of smaller rose windows flanks this upper, central niche. Attached to the church’s facade is the three-tiered belfry with a dome-shaped roof. Its base is square, and the two upper tiers are octagonal (Simbahan 2014).

Great was the influence of the Spanish colonizers on the architecture of Antique. On the other hand, the ruins of the Libertad watchtower and a Spanish fortress in Tobias Fornier (formerly Dao) serve as reminders of the Muslim marauders who pillaged coastal towns from Negros to the Ilocos.

Karay-a Arts and Crafts

Lukay (palm leaves) are woven to form puso, heart-shaped pouches for boiled rice. In 1637, the Panayanon were creating six types of puso: puso nga linalake (masculine puso), which was esquinado (with angular corners); puso nga pinawikan (shaped like a sea turtle); puso nga binuwaya (crocodile-shaped); puso nga ibaiba (like a rice basket or earthen jar); puso nga galangan (star fruit or balimbing); and puso nga paholan or pinaholan (like a rectangular piece of wood). These rice pouches still hold a prominent place in the food offerings that the community prepares for the samba ritual that is officiated by the ma-aram. Pamalongpong (palm tree branches), on the other hand, are house decorations seen particularly on fiesta days, whereas palm leaves or branches laced together or interwoven are used as sunshades (Nocheseda 2011, 252-53).

Detail of Karay-a patadyong
Detail of Karay-a patadyong (Rosalie S. Matilac Collection)

Karay-a buri mat
Karay-a buri mat (Nicanor G. Tiongson Collection)

Several towns in Antique have the distinction of producing quality craftsware, from the salakot and sawali of Belison, the bamboo craft of San Jose, the ceramics of Sibalom, the pottery of Bandoja, Tibiao, to the mats of Pandan and Libertad. The loom-woven patadyong (barrel skirt) from Bagtason, Bugasong is well known throughout Panay for the quality of its material—silk threads—and its elegant look.

Professional photography in the Philippines may be said to have begun with Spanish-Antiqueño mestizo Felix Laureano (1866-1952), born in Patnongon and raised in Bugasong. He went to Ateneo Municipal de Manila in 1883, held his first exhibit in Madrid in 1887, and participated in the 1888 Exposicion Universal de Barcelona. He established studios in Spain, British India, and Iloilo City. His photographs depict 19th-century Filipinos engaging in recreational activities such as betting on cockfights and watching bullfights, or going about their everyday life in both rural and urban settings, as depicted in his photographs “En el baño” (In the Bathroom) and “Cuadrilleros” (Laborers). His book of 37 photographs and essays about the Philippines, Recuerdos de Filipinas (Memories of the Philippines), 1895, was published in Spain, and the English edition, 2001 and 2014, in the Philippines. Although Laureano returned to stay in the Philippines from the 1930s until his death, his photographs were shown to the Philippine public for the first time only in 2015 at the University of the Philippines Visayas-Iloilo, in an exhibit titled From Barcelona to Bugasong (Julian 2015; Burgos 2015).

Edsel Moscoso (1952-2008) of Bugasong was one of the 13 Outstanding Young Artists named by the Art Association of the Philippines in 1975. A graduate of the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines, he held his first solo exhibit at the Kilusang Gallery and participated in local and international exhibits in such countries as the United States, China, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. He was known for his “manscapes,” paintings of ordinary people such as sakadas (plantation workers), vendors, peasants, fisherfolks, and salt-makers (Delos Santos 2009). In 2008, his paintings graced the walls of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland for the celebration of Philippine Independence (Ferrano 2008).

Multimedia artist Alan Cabalfin is a watercolorist, painter, weaver, ceramic artist, sculptor, and filmmaker. He served as the art director of Museo Antiqueño in 2007. Sourcing his clay from Sibalom, he conducted workshops for potters in Bari to expand their designs from the functional, such as the banga (water jar), kuron (round bottomed-pot), and sig-ang (stove), to giftware and bric-a-brac, such as animal figurines, and candle and lamp holders. Cabalfin is also a stage designer for sarsuwela and ballet productions; commercial stage shows like beauty pageants; and exhibits, galleries, and museums such as the RVM Historical Museum, the Heritage Hall in Quezon City, the Lourdes College Museum in Cagayan de Oro, the Evelio B. Javier Gallery and the Museo Antiqueño in San Jose, Antique, and the Guimaras Provincial Museum and Monument in Jordan, Guimaras. Cabalfin’s solo exhibits focus on indigenous Karay-a traditions, particularly the binanog dance. Binanog sa Siyudad (Binanog in the City) is a triptych showing three binanog dancers in a postmodern context. In 2010, he held Binanog: Panay Bukidnon on the Rise, a solo exhibit in New York. In 2011, the Karay-a Arts Festival was the venue for his solo exhibit, which had the same title as his triptych (Delos Santos 2011).

Karay-a Literary Arts

Antique paktakon (riddles) may be a combination of phrases like:

Kon nagadayang wara

it sulod

Kon nagakulob may

unod. (Kalo)

(If it faces up, it has no


If it faces down, it has

contents. [Hat])

They can also take the form of concisely worded statements, as in:

Tao nga lantyog duro iya

bunga. (Niyog)

(A tall man with many

fruits. [Coconut])

Or they can take the interrogative form, as in:

Ano nga pispis indi

kahapon sa kahoy?


(Which bird cannot perch

on a branch of a tree?


While some riddles have only one line, most have two with assonantal rhyme and a syllabic count ranging from 4 to 13 syllables. There are also three-to five-line riddles. The tercets rhyme is in AAA and ABA patterns; the quatrains in AAAA and AABB; and the five-line stanza in AAAAA. Structurally, the Antique riddle consists of one or more descriptive elements, where the subject is compared to a dissimilar or unrelated object. Sometimes, the riddle has only one descriptive element, which is either literal or metaphorical.

Many of the riddle images consist of the subject’s comparison to parts of the human body. Some riddles use the sexual organs as metaphors, without hint of immodesty or vulgarity. For example, coconuts represent a tall man’s testicles. Of the 477 riddles that have been documented, 78 deal with this kind of imagery. The next most frequent theme consists of kinship and friendship ties, indicating values attached to close family and personal relationships. Individually, the most recurrent image is that of the house (21 instances), followed by the fish (12), the head (11), lower limbs and mothers (10 each), and friends and brothers (9 each).

In addition to metaphors, the riddles frequently use personification, often giving proper and pet names to subjects. Another common rhetorical device is the paradox, where contradictions are resolved upon proper scrutiny. Other riddles contrast, like the bamboo shoots wearing clothes when young and going naked when old enough.

Some riddles are cleverly phrased so as to mislead the guesser: The first line is the hook, the second line is the riddle in itself. The solution can be reached by ignoring the first line completely. Another set of riddles play on the meaning, syntax, sound, and spelling of the words. The question may be totally unrelated in logical terms but find meaning in rhyme and meter as the only link between question and answer (Puedan 1988,135-50):

Pakton mo pakta. (Laton kag lata)

(Guess it, guess. [Basket and can])

Some riddles can be overtly sexual:

Ubaha bayo mo hay tirawan ta. (Saging)

(Take off your clothes and I will taste you.


Matigdas kang akong pagguru,

kang akon paggabut malum-ok kag nagaturo.

(Tinapay ginbutang sa kape)

(It was hard when I put it in;

it was soft and dripping when I pulled it out.

[Bread dipped in a cup of coffee])

In Antique, there are at least 350 hurubaton (proverbs) that have been documented. These reflect a serious, realistic attitude toward life, free of illusions, yet revealing behind the severe veneer a subtle humor and optimism. Here is a typical example, all translated by Al A. Puedan (1988):

Kon indi ikaw mag-antos, indi ka gid magsantos.

(You can’t be a saint if you don’t sacrifice.)

The same optimism shows in expressing the dichotomy in life and reconciling opposites and contradictions in proverbs such as:

Maputi man ang tulabong peru sa likod kang

karbaw nagatongtong.

(A heron has white feathers but it perches upon

the carabao’s back.)

The rich and boastful can get a dose of realism with a subtle reminder that life is transient:

Hinugay daganas, linaw

Balao si kasulgan dayon

Dagaya ka lang kon tig-ulanon

Apang bangag ka man kon ting-adlaw.

(Quiet, pool!

You think you’d always flow?

In the rainy season you’re full

but come dry season, you’re empty.)

For life to last, it must have meaning:

Ang bulak kon malaya

Ang sipad mataktak sa duta

Apang ang kahumot nagpabili

Sa sinipad nga sang init ginkaging.

(A flower withers

its petals fall to the ground

but the perfume remains

in the heat of the sun.)

The Karay-a are also great believers in universal justice, where the good get their fair reward and the bad their punishment. In view of their agricultural lifestyle, there are many allusions to planting:

Ang kahoy nga gintanum mo kar-on,

makabulig kanimo sa parabuton.

(The tree you plant today will help you


Their diet of fish shows in this truism:

Warat ginamus nga indi magsungaw.

(There is no fish sauce that won’t smell.)

As industry is a prized trait, an industrious person is related to one born to wealth:

Ang tandos nga tawo, bugto kang


(The industrious person is the sibling of

a rich person.)

Work, in fact, is not the problem but accomplishing it is:

Ang obra indi makapatay, pero ang

pagpalibog amo ang makapatay.

(Work can’t kill, but worrying does.)

So the person who applies himself/herself does not starve because:

Ang tawo nga paralagaw may surolod

sa kararaw;

Tungod man sa iya kabakas, makadawi

sang bisan sa takas.

(One who forages will have something

in the basket;

Because of one’s industry, one can catch

fish even ashore.)

Thrift is strongly advised:

Ang tawo nga indi magpurot kang

sibit, indi magmanggad kang himpit.

(One who doesn’t pick up a pin will

not become rich.)

Ang tawo nga mahakog madunlangid

sang bokog.

(The extravagant person will have a bone

stuck in his/her throat.)

Self-reliance and determination are encouraged:

Ang bato bantiling sa padayon nga tulo

sang tubig nagabalhin.

(The stone will move if water

continually drips on it.)

Other values are foresight, prudence, and moderation, whereas haste is seen as counterproductive:

Samtang wara pa ang uran,

preparar ka ron sang kapote.

(Prepare your raincoat before the rain.)

Indi pagpaurani ang imo asin.

(Do not expose your salt to the rain.)

Kon ikaw nagadali, hinay-hinay lang.

(If you want to do things fast, take it


Education is of paramount importance:

Ang gamut sang kaalam nga nunuo

Mapait labi sa batyay kag apdo

Apang kon mamonga may karimis

Labis pa sa dugus nga matam-is.

(The root of knowledge

Is more bitter than tree bark and gall

But it bears fruit

Sweeter than the sweetest juice.)

Matam-is man ang tuba nga lina

Nga gintayong mo sa imo baba

Apang marimis gid kon imo masagamsam

Ang tayuk sa dugos sang kinaalam.

(Tuba may be sweet

To put into your mouth

But it is not as sweet

As the wine of knowledge.)

In form, Antique proverbs range from brief prose statements to pithy verses. As verses, they come in rhymed couplets with 4 to 14 syllable lines, in tercets with rhyming last syllables, and in quatrains. There is a liberal use of simile, metaphor, and personification. The metaphors are rich in images of flora and fauna, food, religious beliefs, and household artifacts found in the province.

A rhetorical feature of many Antique proverbs is parallelism of structure, often accompanied by contrast and rhyme.

Pira ka tuig nga quintipon; pira ka oras

lang nga gastohon.

(It may take years to save what may

take hours to squander.)

Contrasts are heightened with the use of the same word in a pair of phrases or the dropping of predicates, as in (Puedan 1988, 154):

Bag-o nga hari, bagño nga ugali.

(New king, new lifestyle.)

Duro sugid, laban butig

(Much talk, mostly lies.)

Statements made by binukot leaders to express the tumandok’s right to their own land have begun to spread among their people as aphorisms:

Sa lupa ako nga daya nabuhi, sa lupa

nga daya ako mapatay.

(On the land I have lived, on the land

I shall die.

[From Lola Elena Gardoce Francisco,

circa 1904 to 2002])

Kung madura ina nga lupa, kami

nga mga tumanduk madura.

(If the land is lost, we tumanduk will

be lost.

[From Evelita “Ka Mera” Giganto

Gedoris, 1957- 2011])

Panawag ka namon nga mga tagabukid

mga buki. Tungod sa Hublag gin

taw-an nanda kami it dungog.

(You call us country people yokels.

Because of the Movement we are

now looked upon as honorable.

[From Elma “Dalama” Villaron,

circa 1953 to present])

Elena Gardoce, epic chanter from Panay
Elena Gardoce, epic chanter from Panay, 1992 (CCP Collections)

The sugidanon or epic of Panay, which is called Hinilawod by F. Landa Jocano and Sugidanon by Alice P. Magos, has multiple versions by various chanters but all in archaic Kinaray-a, called Hinaraya or Ligbok. Hinilawod is composed of cycles centering on the heroes Labaw Donggon, Humadapnon, and Dumalapdap. These three brothers were later to rule over the sakup of Panay. “Labaw Donggon,” 1965, in Jocano’s Hinilawod, was chanted by Ulang Udig, of Lambunao, Iloilo; “Adventures of Humadapnon (Tarangban I),” 2000, and “The Adventures of Humadapnon (Tarangban),” 2011, were chanted by Ulang Udig’s cousin, Hugan-an, in Sitio Siya, Taganghin, Capiz. The epic tradition is handed down through generations of binukot who are trained from childhood to chant the epics of their people.

The brothers of the Karay-a epic Hinilawod: Humadapnon, Labaw Donggon, and Dumalapdap
The brothers of the Karay-a epic Hinilawod: Humadapnon, Labaw Donggon, and Dumalapdap (Illustration by Rommel Joson)

The first cycle of the Hinilawod epic is about Labaw Donggon, who initially takes two wives: Gimbitinan, with whom he has a child, Asu Mangga; and Anggoy Doronoon, who bears him his second child, Buyung Baranungun. He seeks a third wife, Yawa Sinagmaling, who is married to Saragnayon. For seven years Saragnayon fights Donggon and succeeds in imprisoning him in a pigpen. Meanwhile, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap search for their lost brother. The search is pursued by Asu Mangga and Baranungun. Another seven-year battle ensues, this time between Donggon’s captor and his two sons. Baranungun discovers Saragnayon’s secret from his grandmother, the goddess Alunsina, and kills the ferocious beast that holds Saragnayon’s heart. The weakened Saragnayon is killed by Asu Mangga. Thus, Donggon returns home, and his powers are restored when his two wives perform the ritual dance with a magical kerchief. In the end, the family of three generations is happily reunited. Gardoce chanted the opening verses of this cycle of Hinilawod when it was performed during the First National Theater Festival at the CCP.

In the first cycle of Humadapnon, the titular hero, accompanied by his brother Dumalapdap, sails off in search of a woman to marry. He offends the binukot of Tarangban and is imprisoned in the cave by the powerful binukot Malubay Hanginon. Nagmalitung Yawa is persuaded to rescue Humadapnon. She transforms into a man named Buyung Sunmasakay and defeats the thousands of binukot in Tarangban. She performs a ritual to release Humadapnon from his trance. This done, she transforms back into Nagmalitung Yawa and flies back to her island home. In the second cycle of Humadapnon, the titular hero, his brother Dumalapdap, and his betrothed Nagmalitung Yawa sail from Halawod to find a precious biday (boat) called Timpara Alimuon. Throughout the voyage, Nagmalitung Yawa fends off Humadapnon’s persistent advances. The two brothers, with Nagmalitung Yawa’s help, kill Paglambuhan, who has been keeping the Timpara Alimuon in his fortress. The victors sail back home to Halawod on the biday. Nagmalitung Yawa deflects Humadapnon’s advances by directing him toward Paglambuhan’s widow. Humadapnon stays too long with the widow, so Nagmalitung Yawa sails away on the biday. Dumalapdap calls Humadapnon back, and they all return to Halawod. After Humadapnon and Nagmalitung Yawa’s wedding, the two brothers depart to conduct Dumalapdap’s courtship. Paglambuhan comes back to life, and Nagmalitung Yawa’s mother, Matan-ayon, thinking that Humadapnon is dead, makes Nagmalitung Yawa pregnant to compel her to marry Paglambuhan. Humadapnon returns, kills the newlyweds, and returns home to Pan-ay. Nagmalitung Yawa is brought back to life and after some resistance, she is reunited with Humadapnon.

Humadapnon courting Nagmalitung Yawa, with the help of an enchanted tree and three messenger birds
Humadapnon courting Nagmalitung Yawa, with the help of an enchanted tree and three messenger birds (Illustration by Rommel Joson)

The main chanter of Sugidanon is Federico “Tuohan” Caballero, and the performance was transcribed and translated by Alice Magos and others. It consists of ten cycles, which are published in ten volumes. In Book 1, Tikum Kadlum, the titular character is an enchanted dog that causes trouble for its master, Datu Paiburong, when it rouses the ire of the monster, Makabagting. In Book 2, Amburukay, Buyong Labaw Donggon acquires Amburukay’s gold pubic hair for his kudyapi (two-stringed lute), but now he must marry her. In Book 3, Derikaryong Pada, Labaw Donggon has sealed his betrothal to Matan-ayon with a gold necklace but is a reluctant husband-to-be. In Book 4, Pahagunong, Labaw Donggon is transformed into a sea turtle, so Pahagunon of the underworld abducts his wife Ayon. In Book 5, Kalampay, a giant crab helps its master abduct Labaw Donggon’s wife by turning itself into an island with betel nut trees. In Book 6, Sinagnayan, Labaw Donggon goes on a quest to rescue the sister of his wife Matan-ayon from Sinagnayan, whose life-force is in an egg in a lion’s heart. In Book 7, Balanakon, the god of the sky world tries to prevent Balanakon from sailing into Labaw Donggon’s territory, and so a long-drawn battle between them ensues. Book 8, Humadapnon, is a more detailed version of the Hugan-an/Jocano version. In Book 9, Alayaw, an enchanted tree and threemessenger birds help Humadapnon court Nagmalitung Yawa. In Book 10, Nagbuhis, the aged Matan-ayon, Labaw Donggon’s wife, prepares to hold a ritual at which she will transfer her supernatural powers to her daughter Malitong Yawa. The circumstances of the ritual reveal Humadapnon’s promiscuity, and Malitong Yawa asks her grandmother Laonsina to take her up to the sky.

Persistent in Karay-a myths is the belief that things began as reactions to emotional stimuli experienced by the gods and other cosmic characters. For example, land originated from a fight between the sea and sky. In “Why the Dead Do Not Come Back to Life Anymore,” Pandagwan, Lubluban’s husband and maker of the first fishnets, catches a big shark, which dies by accident. This incident so disturbs the goddesses and so angers Kapta that he casts a lightning bolt on Pandagwan, who dies instantly; his soul goes to Sulad and stays there for three days. After being forgiven and resurrected, Pandagwan returns to earth but Lubluban, who has already married another, refuses to see him. The dejected Pandagwan goes back to Sulad, and Lubluban decrees that henceforth, Pandagwan and all the dead can no longer return from the grave.

In “Why People Are Grouped That Way,” the origins of social classes are attributed to the time when Sikalak was roused from his deep sleep by the children laughing and giggling at his nakedness. Those who were peeping through the cracks of the bamboo wall and laughed aloud at him became slaves; those who merely smiled by the stove near the fire became free people; those strolling outside became travelers; and those inside the room who did not laugh became the datu and lakan (noble).

A fable may function as a social or political allegory, as well as an origin story about the people’s cultural forms and practices. The following fable fulfills all these functions, with the binanog dance being a key element in the narrative: The banog (hawk-eagle) calls for a patawili (assembly), to which all the animals respond. As they arrive, the banog welcomes them with a dance. In the meantime, the balabaw (rat) has gone to fetch the urang (prawn). The balabaw makes the urang take the mountain route instead of the river. Dehydrated, the urang dies. The banog accepts the balabaw’s explanation that the urang did not survive the trip. The banog continues to dance, clapping its wings, chirping, whirling, and finally, soaring to the sky. The balabaw gapes up at him, and the banog glimpses the urang’s antennae in the balabaw’s mouth. Angered by the balabaw’s duplicity, the banog orders the balabaw roasted and its parts divided among the animals in the assembly. The bukaw (owl) volunteers to do the task, but instead keeps the roasted rat for itself. Outraged at the bukaw’s betrayal, the banog vows to hunt it down from then on. Since then, the bukaw goes out only at night to avoid the banog (Muyco 2008, 68-70).

The origin story of the tulali (bamboo flute) involves two crocodiles named Manunggong and Mandurriao. Manunggong, the bigger one, is domineering, but Mandurriao refuses to be subservient to him. And so they fight at every encounter in the river. One day, it is revealed to them that they are actually brothers. The two weep over their near fatal mistake. The music of the tulali comes from the weeping sound that these crocodiles make (Muyco 2008, 109-110).

The precolonial primacy of Karay-a suffered during the Spanish and American periods when Hiligaynon became the language of the elite. Writers born in Kinaray-a-speaking communities of Iloilo and Capiz were constrained to write in Hiligaynon, like Delfin Gumban of Pavia, Iloilo; Flavio Zaragoza Cano from Cabatuan, Iloilo; Ramon L. Muzones, author of Margosatubig, and Conrado S. Norada of Miag-ao, Iloilo; Santiago Alv. Mulato from Maasin, Iloilo; and Jose E. Yap from Dao, Capiz (Ani 1991, 12). Antique province itself contributed significantly to Hiligaynon literature through its homegrown, older-generation writers: Augurio Paguntalan, Ernesto Nietes, Manuel Tondares, Jose Santillan Jr., and Bernardo Barcebal are from San Jose; Ireneo Mapas, from Sibalom; Lilia Balisnomo, from Culasi; Rex F. Salas and Leoncia Mercenas, from San Remigio; and Teodulfo Naranjo, from Hamtic (Delos Santos 2003, 8).

In 1977, during Governor Evelio B. Javier’s term, a government paper called Antique Karon (Hiligaynon for “Antique Today”) included a literary section, “Hiniraya.” It serialized Russel Tordesillas’s fantasy novel, Hustisia sa Espada (Justice by the Sword), and published Hiligaynon poems by Ernesto Nietes and Bernardo Barcebal. In the same paper was a pioneering section in Kinaray-a, “Mga Lihi, Paratihon, kag Toromanon kang Aton Kamal-aman” (Superstitious Beliefs and Traditions of Our Ancestors), bylined Olang Alo (Augurio Paguntalan) (Delos Santos 2003, 20-21).

The first national journal that published Kinaray-a poetry was Ani 10: West Visayas Issue, 1989, published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The contributors were Maragtas S.V. Amante, Alex C. Delos Santos, Ma. Felicia Flores, Ma. Milagros Geremia-Lachica, and Jose Edison Tondares. In the same year, almost the same writers, plus Leah Marlie Lourdes Pagunsan, Gerry Antoy, and Moi Magbanua, founded Tabig/Hubon Manunulat Antique, also known as Antique Writers’ Guild. Its first poetry exhibit, in May 1990, was called Sangka Hakup nga Antique. The group was also largely responsible for compiling and editing the contributions to Ani 19: Kinaray-a Issue, 1992 (Delos Santos 2003, 22, 39).

In the mid-1990s, two literary contests in Kinaray-a were sponsored by a new cultural organization, the Paranubliun Antique, an alliance of all artists’ groups, besides individual writers and artists. Its first contest, in 1994, was the Padya Paranubliun sa Panulatan (Paranubliun Literary Awards), for poetry, nursery rhymes, and drama. The following year, categories for traditional forms were added: the banggianay (poetic debate), pagdayaw (complimentary verses), and komposo (ballad). The winning pieces were anthologized in Una nga Paindis-indis sa Kinaray-a, 1994; Dag-on, 1995; and Dagya, 2001. In 1997, the provincial government itself sponsored a binalaybay (poetry) contest (Delos Santos 2003, 31).

The Paranubliun Antique’s newsletter, Kanuyos, published grassroots writing. Children’s books that it published are Hiniraya: Sugidanun ni Humadapnon kag Mali (Hiniraya: Story of Humadapnon and Mali), 1998, which was cited by the Philippine Board of Books for the Young (PBBY); and Alamat ni Nogas kag Anini (Legend of Nogas and Anini), 2001, which received the Alab ng Haraya award from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) (Delos Santos 2003, 29-30).

Kinaray-a works-in-progress that received the CCP Literature Grants were Milagros Geremia-Lachica’s poetry collection, Antike: Lupa kag Baybay sa Pinggan (Antique: Land and Sea on a Plate) in 1990; Alex C. Delos Santos’s poetry collection, Dandansoy: Mga Kanta kang Pagbiya kag Iban Pa nga Panghayhay (Dandansoy: Songs of Departure and Other Lamentations), 1992; Maragtas Amante’s essay collection, which included “Wanhaw Nagapanglinti si Tatay” (Why Father Curses), 1994; Geremia-Lachica’s collection of plays, which included Ang Pagkamatay ni Mr. Dela Cruz (The Death of Mr. Dela Cruz) and Ang Umagad ni Ponso (Ponso’s Son-in-Law), 1995. In 1994, the NCCA sponsored a West Visayas poetry contest, in which Acay Flores won the first prize for “Pagbatiti kag Pamilinbilin sa Ginalauman” (Nurturing the Last Words for Hope) (Delos Santos 2003, 24-28).

Hiligaynon magazine, which had been in hiatus shortly after martial law was declared, was revived in 1992. It published at least three Karay-a stories, all in 1993: “Flores de Mayo” (Flowers of May) and “Sag-ub” (Dipper) by Delos Santos; and “Si Luisa, Biktima” (Luisa, Victim) by John Iremil Teodoro (Delos Santos 2003, 28).

Palanca-award-winning John Iremil Teodoro has published more than 10 books of poetry, short stories, and essays in Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, and Filipino. His poetry collections in Kinaray-a are Hinabol nga Pagtuo (Woven Faith), 2004; Mga Binalaybay kang Paghigugma (Love Poems), 2008; Arkipelago kang Kasingkasing (Archipelago of the Heart), 2009; and Kataw kang Burnham Park (Mermaid of Burnham Park), 2014. Anghel sang Capiz: Mga Maikling Kuwento sa Hiligaynon at Filipino (Angel of Capiz: Short Stories in Hiligaynon and Filipino), 2009, is his short story collection; and Pagmumuni-muni at Pagtatalak ng Sirenang Nagpapanggap na Prinsesa (Reflections and Rantings of a Mermaid Pretending to Be a Princess), 2007, is his essay collection. Teodoro is known for writing poetry with gay themes and for his use of the national language described as “Visayan-laced Filipino.” Alex C. Delos Santos’s poems, short stories, and plays in Kinaray-a depict marginalized Antiqueños: women, homosexuals, and the impoverished class. His short story, “Ang Sastre” (The Tailor), about a homosexual who left his home-barrio because of discrimination and returned walking tall and proud, has appeared in two anthologies. His book of Kinaray-a literary history, The Rise of Kinaray-a: History and Anthology of Contemporary Literature in Antique, 2003, serves as a bedrock for literary scholars and critics of Kinaray-a literature.

Genevieve L. Asenjo writes in Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, and Filipino. Her Palanca-award-winning short stories in Hiligaynon are collected in Komposo ni Dandansoy (Composo of Dandansoy), 2007, with Filipino translation; another short story collection, taga-uma@manila kag iban pa nga pakipagsapalaran (from the-farm@manila and other adventures), 2005, is in Kinaray-a. Two poetry collections are Pula ang Kulay ng Text Message (Red Is the Color of the Text Message), 2006, and Palangga, ang ulan/Beloved, the rain, 2015. A novel, Lumbay ng Dila (The Tongue’s Lament), 2010, is in Filipino that is mainly English-Tagalog.

US-based poet, fictionist, and playwright Milagros Geremia-Lachica continues to write in Kinaray-a. Her poetry collection ang pagsulat...bayi/writing is...woman, 2006, presents her main preoccuptions, which are motherhood, marriage, and the daily lives of women in the countryside.

Other writers in Kinaray-a are Remigio B. Montaño, Sammy Julian, Antonio Aguilar Jr., Herminio Cajilig, Armando Acido, Lucena Tondares, Ritchie Pagunsan, Ma. Aurora Autajay, Odango Alentajan, Remy Muescan, Samuel Cesar Rubido, Jasper Bungay, Danilo Nabua, Cor Marie Villkoan, Genevieve Arnaez, Francisco Javier III, Carlo Tamba, Stephen Louie Checa, Dreamrose Petinglay, Albert Fred Magluyan, Generoso Opulencia, and Early Sol Gadong (Delos Santos 2003; Alunan 2015).

Karay-a Music, Songs and Rituals

The core of the Karay-a performing arts is the sugidanonalso known as Hinilawod, which is chanted by the binukot and passed on to younger-generation chanters, male or female. Contained within this epic are scenes depicting the Karay-a’s indigenous rituals, such as those for courtship, war, healing, creating a person’s life, restoring it, and retrieving a person’s dungan from its prison cave.

Performer at the Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival in Calinog, Iloilo
Performer at the Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival in Calinog, Iloilo, 2015 (Bombette Golez Marin)

The gods and heroes of the sugidanon each owned a gong: Burulakaw’s was the buysawang, literally “fire and light”; Makaylong Hunusan’s was the magkahunodhunod, “many resonances”; Labaw Donggon’s was the tawag-linaw, “clear and sound”; and Humadapnon’s was the magkahuwang-huwang, “echoing sound” (Muyco 2008, 105).

Barasalan (musical instruments) consist of the agung (gongs), tambur (drum), subing (mouth harp), tulali, tikumbu (bamboo idiochord), suganggang (bamboo buzzer), and litgit (two-stringed bowed instrument). Although the kudyapi plays a central role in an epic cycle of Labaw Donggon, it is no longer in use among the tumandok. However, a more recent addition to their barasalan is the gitara (guitar) (Muyco 2008, 110-113).

Gongs that are of current use among the tumandok are the lamba (“like a cow’s moo”), with a low-pitched, large sound; the sungayan (“like an animal with horns”), with a high-pitched sound; lumakday (“traveling”), whose sound reaches great distances; pabuaya (“image of a crocodile”), with a crocodile design incised on its body; magkahurao, whose sound “reverberates through the mountains”; and the kamangyan (“like the embers of burned kamangyan leaves”), with “a wide resonance, like smoke” despite being the smallest gong. These gongs are played in all punsyon, such as the binanog courtship dance, weddings, healing rites, samba rites for farming and fishing, community gatherings, and funerals (Muyco 2008, 105).

Couple dancing the binanog during the Binanog Festival in Lambunao, Iloilo
Couple dancing the binanog during the Binanog Festival in Lambunao, Iloilo (Bombette Golez Marin)

The tambur and agung provide the rhythmic accompaniment for the babaylan, who dances the binanog steps while chanting the hanggab. This is done when the babaylan conducts a luy-a luy-a, a ritual to find the cause of a person’s illness. She places a piece of ginger (luy-a) on the patient’s head while chanting the hanggab, as in the following excerpt (Alunan 2015, 482-83):

Basi ginsinda ikaw kang diwata,

Basi ginsinda ikaw kang aswang sa balay,

O, maputi nga dalaga sa burotlakan kang adlaw,

kari ka,

Bawion ang sinda kag tawo sa balay.

Bawion ang tanan nga masakit nga balatyagon,

Aghalay don ako kang patadyong,

Tanda sang pakamatuod kon ano ang


Kon nabugnohan kang kalag,

Pakaaydon don ninyo si [name of patient].

Kon amo ang kabangdanan.

(Perhaps the spirit has cursed you

Perhaps the witch in the house has afflicted you,

Oh, white maiden in the east where the sun

rises, come now,

Remove the curse and the evil presence in the


Take back all the ailments suffered

I am hanging this patadyong

As proof of whatever the cause is.

If a spirit has spoken to you,

Please heal [name of patient]

If that is what ails them.)

Hispanic influence is evident in Philippine folk songs, to which the Karay-a music tradition is no exception. About a hundred folk songs of Antique have been documented, nine of which are ballads: “Juanita,” “Sa Baryo sang Burok-burok” (In the Barrio of Burok-Burok), and “Esing” deal with love’s frustrations and tragedies; “Composo ni Dieme” (Ballad of Dieme), “Sa Baryo sang Camad” (In the Barrio of Camad), and “Sa Banwang Culasi” (In the Town of Culasi) take off from the senseless deaths of certain persons; and “O Mga Senyores” (O Dear Sirs), “Kanta sang Pagsulod sang Hapon” (Songs about the Arrival of the Japanese), and “Composo Guikan sa Guerra” (Ballad from the War) recount experiences during World War II. With the exception of the last two songs, the Antique ballads cluster around a single event. The stories are told dramatically, using dialogue for emotional impact.

Children’s songs range from the ili (lullaby) to adaptations of Tagalog and English originals. Greed is parodied in “Tatay Beroy Tikwaog”; spinsters are satirized in “Nagtanum Ako Pinya” (I Planted a Pineapple). Mothers ask their children to perform “Ang Tatlo ka Pato” (The Three Ducks), complete with hand gestures imitating ducks flying and rear ends waddling. “Lubi-lubi” (Coconuts) is a mnemonic device to remember the months of the year. “Ang Tilapia” (The Tilapia) tells of an impetuous fish, who escapes from the aquarium.

Love and courtship songs are still sung as serenade, which are prevalent during harvest time when girls from out of town help their kin in the fields. While modern swains have been heard to strum old pop tunes like “Serapin sang Gugma” (Angel of Love), “Pagkalum-ok” (Softly), “Ako Ining Kailo” (I Am a Poor Lover), “Bilin sang Kabuhi” (My Life’s Desire), and “Didto Nayon sa Bukid” (There in the Mountain). The most popular of these are “Sa Pugad sang Pispis” (In the Bird’s Nest), “Karom kay Tingadlaw” (Now That It’s Summer), and “Maghirupay Kita” (Let’s Share Our Love). The last invites the beloved to share the lover’s affection, so that they could be like two birds on a bough.

“Sang Diutay Pa Ako” (When I Was Small) is about a maiden being courted who sets impossible conditions for her love. Another rejection song is “Igso-on sa Tabuk Nayon” (Godbrother across Our House). “Ang Gugma” (Love) advises ladies to choose their husbands carefully, whereas “Dalawidaw” (The Dalawidaw Bird) has a happy ending, with the girl reciprocating her suitor’s love.

Songs that have been adapted in other Visayan tongues include “Lumabay-labay” (It Passes By), which compares the sweet things in life, like love, to smoke which dissipates; “Dandansoy,” which was composed by Roman who hailed from Culasi; and “Ay Kalisud” (Ah, Misery). The last two are standard numbers in the repertoire of Visayan singers and are well known nationally. Other love songs, which invariably speak of lost love and heartache, include “Mamingaw nga Dalamguhon” (A Lonely Dream); “Mahapdi ang Dug-han Ko” (My Heart Aches); “Pispis nga Adarna” (The Adarna Bird); “Ang Pana-ad” (The Promise); “Rosing, Yanang Yuhom Mo” (Your Smile); “Nadura ang Paglaum” (Hope Is Lost); “Ginamingaw Ako” (I Feel Lonely); and “Nene Ati.”

Work songs include fishing songs like “Si Tarok, Ang Belong-belong” (The Belong-belong Fish), “Ang mga Manunura nga Ansyang” (The Ansyano Fisherfolks), and “Si Felimon.” The last two, and the nonfishing song, “Ako Mananggete nga si Ikot” (I Am Ikot, the Tuba Gatherer), have references to tuba (coconut wine), indicating that they are generally sung during drinking sessions. “Si Filemon” is a tongue twister because the song is repeated over and over, with the various vowels converted to the one called out by the song leader: “A!”—“Sa Falaman, Sa Falaman …”; “U!”—”Su Fulumun, Su Fulumun”; and so on.

Drinkers’ old favorite is “Dandansoy, Inum Tuba Laloy” (Dandansoy, Drink Laloy’s Tuba). But the work songs and humorous songs do equally well: “Nagligad ang Adlaw” (A Day Has Passed), “Bisan Tamun Ati” (Though We Are Aetas), “Sa Banwa sang Kape” (In The Town of Coffee), “Kalantahon sa Adlaw-adlaw” (The Everyday Song), “Puyayang” (Jelly Fish), “Tahur” (Gambler), “Si Manong, Si Manang,” “Ako ang Prinsipe” (I Am the Prince), and “Manok nga Bukay” (My White Rooster). The first four songs use metaphors for the genitals and for intercourse.

Three poignant songs express grief over the death of parents: “Binhi sang Paghigugma” (Seeds of Love), “Ang Ilo sa Iloy” (A Motherless Child), and “Ako ang Nailo” (I Am an Orphan). These are sung during funerals. There are songs that praise knowledge and winged creatures; there are also game songs. Two wedding songs, “Inday, Himus-himusa” (Inday, Prepare Your Things) and “Laylay” have similar patterns. There are instructions to the woman to prepare her things as she is getting married, and to the man against maltreatment of the wife lest the relatives take her back. The response is that the woman can no longer be separated from the man because they have been married by a priest.

A composer of the new millennium is Maria Christine Muyco, whose compositions fuse elements of Filipino indigenous music with Western and other Asian classical traditions. Her works of chamber music are “Pagba Bagtas Bagtas,” 2006, and “Agit-it,” 2009. In a similar mode are her choral compositions, “Wasak na Lupa , ” 1993; and “Lupang Tinubuan,” 1994.

Karay-a Folk Dances

The predecessor of all Karay-a dances is the hampuro, which simply means “dance.” In the sugidanon, it is the wedding dance of Humadapnon and Nagmalitong Yawa. As described in the sugidanon, the bayhunan and lisyun-lisyun open the dance, with the dancers stretching their arms sideways like a gliding bird’s. They use the panyo (shawl or handkerchief) while doing the simbalud (with flapping arms) (Muyco 2008, 96-97).

The binanog, which is derived from the hampuro, has become the mother of all Karay-a dances, because its dance steps, arm movements, and use of paraphernalia have provided the basic elements for other Karay-a dances, resulting in numerous variants of this generic dance. The binanog consists of the following steps and movements. It starts with the bayhunon or lisyun-lisyun, in which the men, with panyo in hand, and the women, with a shawl, walk back and forth. They stop on opposite ends of the dance space and stretch their arms sideways like the wings of a banog. The simplest steps are repasu, followed by the kaykay, which is like “birds scratching the ground.” The body is isduyung, or arched. The sadsad (footwork) is the stamping of the foot to create an accent, such as the turuba, which is to stamp three times. Burtu, isul, and pahangin are backward steps, combined with sadsad. In the simbalud, the dancers flap their arms in various ways and directions, including holding them upward as if about to take off in flight. Tirik-tirik (whirling) is a movement of heightened excitement as the dancers prepare for the pinanyo. The pinanyo is a game of pursuit and evasion, with the women trying to capture the men’s handkerchief with their shawl. These are done in playful ways, such as the wayway, in which the men and women let their panyo hang down by holding one corner of it, and the si-ud (the man’s handkerchief around his neck), combined with pabuyung-buyung (twirling). Besides the binanog, there are steps in imitation of other birds and animals: pinunay (like the green pigeon), inuwak (like the crow), tinikling (like the rail), binukaw (like the owl), binalud (like the spotted pigeon), kinabog (like the bat), and inurang (like the prawn) (Muyco 2008, 97-99).

A wedding is an opportune occasion for a demonstration of the Karay-a’s current repertoire of dances. In Anini-y town, the pamalaye is highlighted by the groom’s parents performing the soryano for the bride’s parents. Later, the wedding procession is led by the all-male sinurog dancers, with a raucous performance of shouting and the beating of drums, empty cans, basins, and other noise makers. Other sinurog dancers shake their spears, bolos, and daggers. The color motifs of the dancers’ garments are red and black. They wear a frightful mask, red trousers, a black long-sleeved shirt (camisa de chino), red headkerchief, and a black sash. Their fierce appearance and noise-making are meant to drive away malignant spirits who are envious of the newlyweds’ happiness (Reyes-Tolentino 1946).

At the reception, the newlyweds are showered with gifts of cash and valuables as they dance the pandang-pandang, shaking and clapping their hands, bowing to each other, and swaying and hopping from side to side. This is followed by the newlyweds’ parents dancing the kandang-kandang, which, though danced to a tune similar to the pandang-pandang, is livelier and more energetic. The urukay from Anini-y also has the parents-in-law dancing with each other. This is a contest for supremacy between the male and female, with the male literally trying to bring the female down to her knees and on all fours between his legs; but he gets his comeuppance from the woman, who elbows him away (Reyes-Tolentino 1946).

There are dances in Antique that are variants of the waltz: the escopiton malandog of Barangay Malandog, Hamtic, which resembles the kumintang; the regoniza of San Jose, which is performed for guests of honor; the yano pandaninio of Pandan town, which is a “delicate dance”; and the celebratory salidsid of the island town of Caluya, which has vigorous movements, with “body twists, trunk jerks, knee bends, and tapping steps” (Reyes-Tolentino 1946).

The kuratsa, identified with the Visayans, is of two types: the kuratsa San Jose and the more complex kuratsa Tibiao. The haplik is performed by two pairs, with each girl using her patadyong as a prop. The virgo-ire, from virgo-eres, meaning “you are a virgin,” is performed with kumintang movements by a barefoot girl in patadyong and camisa. The town of Tibiao has the itik-itik, which is named after ducklings (Reyes-Tolentino 1946).

Karay-a Luwa, Traditional Games and Wedding Ceremonies

A Karay-a tradition that has spread to Iloilo and elsewhere in Panay is the recitation or singing of the four-line luwa at wakes as a penalty in games played during the bilasyon. These games include the bordon, where the players form a circle and designate a king and queen. The “it” or matakaw  sits at the center. A ring is secretly passed around while the group sings the bordon song, an excerpt of which follows (Alunan 2015, 499):


Madamu nga lugar akon ginhalinan,

Parte Aurora, sakop sing sidlangan,

Madamu nga dalaga akon nakit-an

Solo ikaw, Inday, ang akon naluyagan.


Nonoy, kun maluyag ka kay Inday,

Mahimu ka balay,

Indi pag-gus-on sang uway,

Kundi gus-on sang imo laway.


To many places I have been

To Aurora, part of the east,

Many maidens I have seen,

You alone, Inday, are whom I desire.


Nonoy, if you desire Inday,

Make her a house.

Do not bind it with rattan.

Bind it with your spit instead.)

Meanwhile, the matakaw must guess who holds the ring before it reaches the king or queen. If he or she guesses right, the person tagged becomes the matakaw and has to render a luwa. If the ring reaches the “ruling couple,” the matakaw renders a luwa and continues being the “it.”

Luwa rhyme is in an AAAA pattern, but sometimes appears in AABB. In rare instances, the luwa may have only two or three lines. The luwa are generally in Kinaray-a, but some participants deliberately use Tagalog or ungrammatical English for comic effect. The luwa is rich in figurative language; similes, metaphors, and personification are freely used. But the humor greatly depends on the use of irony.

Another game is kabatingan. The players form a circle and pass around a hungut (coconut shell) with the flat part of the forearm while singing the kabatingan song. Whoever drops the coconut must render a luwa. A variation is padala kon sinta, where a lighted coconut midrib is passed around. Whoever is holding the midrib when the flame dies out recites or sings the luwa. The themes range from love, courtship, and domestic problems, to bawdy and silly topics.

The games can transform into a lively exchange of luwa between the boys and girls—a public form of courtship and matchmaking (similar to the siday or courtship joust, another indigenous poetic form). Verbal attacks, vulgar topics, and poking fun at physical handicaps are conventions meant to be humorous rather than vicious and taken as part of the fun.

Nuptial ceremonies among the Sulod are replete with prototypes of theater, literature, song, and dance. The pabagti is the ceremonial meeting of the two sets of parents, who pretend ignorance of the couple’s engagement so that they may formally confirm it. The marriage negotiations are conducted in a siday sa pamalaye (poetical joust), in which the girl’s family again pretends ignorance of the boy’s intentions. Part of the joust includes the haggling over dowry. This accomplished and the boy duly accepted, the panghagad, or the boy’s service to the girl’s family, begins. He brings to her house symbolic objects, such as banana leaves, which signify the virtue of “righteousness giving shade and protection to the couple in their life’s journey” (Jocano 1968).

The wedding day begins with the hungaw, another poetical joust between two spokespersons. This is recited as the wedding entourage takes some numbered steps from the gate to the stairs of the house. After the wedding, the punsyon begins but is regularly interrupted by another poetical joust, in which the bride is referred to metaphorically as the “flower of the house.” For such occasions, heirloom plates called lahang and the sibulan, the ancient Chinese jar in which rice wine is fermented, are taken out of storage and used.

Karay-a Comedia, Zarzuela and Festivals

A komedya performed by Hiraya Theater Company
A komedya performed by Hiraya Theater Company (Alex Delos Santos)

Stage productions that are of Western origin are the Spanish comedia and the zarzuela, which were both adapted by Christianized Filipinos into the komedya and the sarsuwela, respectively. The last known Karay-a komedya staged in San Jose was Gimeno Rugerra, 1979, produced by Genaro Encarnacion for the town fiesta. However, there are still komedya being staged in barrios such as San Antonio in Barbaza and Bari in Sibalom during fiestas. A sarsuwela in Kinaray-a is Mabudhion nga Kasing-kasing (Vengeful Heart), 1948, by Cornelio E. Amaran of Mojon, San Jose, Antique. Hantik-i, by Bernie Salcedo, is a musical dance drama, about Datu Sumakwel. It was produced by the provincial government for the Binirayan Festival of 1983. Songs popularized by the local, cause-oriented, cultural group Ambon in the late 1970s were included in this play. A play staged in Culasi was Bahandi sa Aminhan (Legacy from the North), 1998, written by Father Pablito Maghari in collaboration with theater artist and local historian Marcos Dubria. Although the script is in Hiligaynon, it tells of the heroism of two women of Culasi, Modesta and Carmen Xavier, who save the lives of guerillas during World War II (Delos Santos 2003, 17-19).

The annual Binirayan Festival is the Karay-a’s celebration of the mythico-historical story of the landing of the 10 Bornean datus on the shores of Barrio Malandog, Hamtic. Binirayan (the term means “where they landed”) is an elaborate song-and-dance reenactment of the event at the same place. It begins with the Biray, a spectacular fluvial parade, and progresses through the two-day festival to other events such as the Bugal kang Antique Awards, an awarding ceremony for Antique achievers; Lin-ay kang Antique, a beauty pageant; and the Pasundayag (Showcase). The first Binirayan Festival, as conceived by then Governor Evelio B. Javier as an affirmation of the Karay-a’s Malay’s origins, was held on 30 April to 1 May 1974. It died with him in 1986, was revived on 29 to 30 December 1999, and is now held annually in April. A sequel of sorts to Binirayan is Council of Balangao in Culasi, the site of the gathering of the Bornean datus and their chief Sumakwel for a thanksgiving ritual after their settlement of Panay (Portal 1999; The News Today 2016; “Art and Cultural Heritage” 2016).

An ongoing yearly event is the reenactment of the apocryphal story of Judas hanging himself after his betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. In the early evening of Black Saturday every Holy Week, an effigy of Judas with a wooden phallus portruding through a slit on the front of his tunic is paraded around the capital town of San Jose and toward the plaza of Barrio San Pedro. Here, a 25-foot bamboo tripod stands with a noose dangling from its apex where the three bamboo poles meet. While an elderly woman sings the lamentation from the pasyon (passion of Christ), the noose is slipped around the effigy’s neck, a fuse sticking out of one shoe is lit, and firecrackers stuffed in the effigy explode. Besides firecrackers, the effigy has also been stuffed with rice staw and leftover pieces of abaca cloth and raffia to make it highly flammable. The explosions travel from the feet and upward to the head, which has been filled with the largest and most powerful firecrackers. The effigy goes up in flames, the wooden phallus falls to the ground, and the rite ends with a general scramble among the boys for the wooden phallus (Cruz-Lucero 2007, 39-56). The ritual was started by the members of the Philippine Independent Church shortly after their conversion by Aglipay in 1903. However, it is now claimed to be an ecumenical rite representing the seven religious sects into which the population of San Pedro is presently divided: Catholic, Philippine Independent (or Iglesia Independyente), Iglesia ni Cristo, Baptist, Evangelical, Jehovah’s Witness, and Seventh Day Adventist (39-56). In 2015, Roman Catholic intervention put a stop to the use of the wooden phallus as part of the effigy.

In 2003, the Teatro San Antonio produced Alex Delos Santos’s three-act play Tres Mujeres (Three Women), which presents three different facets of women through the protagonists Elena, Lorna, and Alayon/Kapinangan. Elena contends with the charge of estafa and a former boyfriend’s sexual advances; Lorna, with an excessively jealous, invalid husband, who is a former soldier; and Alayon/Kapinangan, with Datu Sumakwel’s love (Barrios 2007).

Karay-a People and Culture as Featured in Media 

The advent of electronics has opened up other venues for writers, enabling them to produce radio and film scripts in their own language. Fictionist Russel O. Tordesillas (born in 1918 - died in 1978) of Barrio Egaña, Sibalom, wrote the equivalent of serialized novels, which he read out in his storytelling radio program aired over DYKA (Radyo Kauswagan Antique). Olayra: Ang Prinsesa sang Dagat (Olayra, the Sea Princess) is about a female tamawo, also known as engkanta or deity, who resides in the bobog tree of Barrio Carit-an, Patnongon, travels everywhere on a golden ship, and falls in love with a mortal. The sequel, Bilbo, Ang Conul, features the adventures of a half-mortal, half-tamawo. Tordesillas’s other serialized novels for radio are Usul Batahur, Bangon Tatay Esco (Rise, Tatay Esco), Hustisia sa Espada (Justice by the Sword), Ang Dose Pares (The Twelve Pairs), and Ang Capid (The Twins). In 2005, Tordesillas posthumously received the Datu Lubay Lifetime Achievement Award of the Bugal Kang Antique Awards (Delos Santos 2003, 16-17; The News Today 2016).

On Sunday afternoons, people tuned in to Panganduhoy (Meditations), which had the program host reading out the listeners’ letters and occasionally reciting Kinaray-a verses. Labay-labay sa 801 (Small Talk at 801), hosted by Edman Sumaculub, was a daily afternoon program with a “magazine format” consisting of jokes, riddles, contests, verses, music, and counseling to letter writers. The program ended in 2002. Radio dramas in Kinaray-a were aired until the late 1970s, when they fell into decline as Tagalog television program rose in popularity (Delos Santos 2003, 17).

Sine Panayanon uploads 5-to-20-minute documentaries on its Facebook page and on Youtube. “Rodelyn Aguirre: A Komposo,” for example, honors the memory of a six-year-old tumanduk girl killed by a bomb on 11 March 2012 in the mountain barrio of Tacayan in Tapaz, Capiz. Severely injured was her younger sister, Roda, who survived. According to their grandfather, the 61st Infanty Battalion was conducting a military operation called Oplan Bayanihan in their area. The second half of the video shows a little boy singing a komposo about the circumstances of Rodelyn’s death.

Video: Antique Rice Terraces: Rediscovering Visayas's hidden gem

Indigenous Karay-a culture has penetrated national popular culture, for good or ill, through mass media. The 200-year-old Antique rice terraces, heretofore unknown, were discovered on Google Maps and subsequently became the subject of a report—“Antique Rice Terraces: Rediscovering Visayas’s Hidden Gem,” 2015, by television broadcaster Jessica Soho in her news-feature series, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho. “Tumandok Martyrs” focuses on the struggle of Panay’s indigenous peoples to reclaim their land and their right to self-determination. They are represented by three articulate binukot leaders: Elena Gardoce (Lola Elena), Evelita Giganto Gedoria (Ka Mera), and Elma Villaron (Dalama). The documentary film’s closing credits pay tribute to a hundred tumandok martyrs. Three binukot—Lola Insiang, Lola Elena, and Lola Susa—and anthropologist Alicia Magos were featured by Kara David in “Ang Huling Prinsesa,” 2004, an episode of the i-Witness documentary series. This documentary in turn inspired the TV fantasy series Amaya, 2011-2012. GAMABA awardee Federico Caballero, anthropologist Alice Magos, and the Karay-a community, though, have criticized the series as giving an “offensive” and “deceptive” picture of the Karay-a culture in general and the binukot in particular (Burgos 2011).

Scene from Roderick Cabrido’s Tuos starring, clockwise from left, Barbie Forteza, Elora Españo, Flor Salanga, and Nora Aunor
Scene from Roderick Cabrido’s Tuos starring, clockwise from left, Barbie Forteza, Elora Españo, Flor Salanga, and Nora Aunor, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Roderick Cabrido)

Tuos, 2016, directed by Roderick “Derick” Cabrido and written by Denise O’Hara, features a binukot named Pinailog, also known as Elena (Nora Aunor), who must prepare her granddaughter Dowokan, also known as Letty (Barbie Forteza), for the same position and function. The film was shot on location in Panay and the script was in Kinaray-a. The cast includes Flor Salanga as Mayhuran, Ron Martin as Dapuan, Elora Españo as Anggoran, Ronnie Martinez as Muwa, Al Bernard Garcia as Datu Paiburong, and Adrianne Vergara as Bulawanon (“First Look” 2015).


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

Title: Karay-a

Author/s: Rosario Cruz-Lucero, with E. Arsenio Manuel (1994) / Updated by Rosario Cruz-Lucero, Arbeen Acuña, and John E. Barrios (2018)


Publication Date: November 18, 2020

Access Date: September 08, 2022

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