Introduction

In observance of National Indigenous Peoples Month, we are featuring in this issue of Cotabato Literary Journal contemporary creative works that are written by the lumad or about the lumad in the region. The works do not represent or reflect all the local indigenous literatures; our limited resources prevent us from undertaking such a project. The works deal only with a few tribes and a few themes. But each of them provides an insight into the shared aspects of the plights and cultures of indigenous peoples.

The original lyrics of the Blaan song “Kastifun” has appeared in the National Arts Month (February 2018) issue of this journal, and for the song to reach a wider audience, we are publishing its Filipino and English translations in the current issue. “Kastifun,” which literally means “gathering,” is the most popular song of Silek Musical Ensemble, the five members of which play both modern and indigenous musical instruments. At the core of the song is the persona’s deep concern with violence. Bakit tayo nag-aaway sa sariling bayan? is the most repeated line. As translated by Henry G. Dalon, the persona further states: Kailan matatapos ang pagdanak ng dugong Blaan sa bawat tinutunguhang bayan?/ Maraming matatapang,/ Maraming masasamang salita. The song seems to confirm the Blaan people’s reputation for being one of the fiercest tribes in the Philippines. But in the latter part, the persona expresses a longing and plea for peace, obviously the ultimate message of the composition: Magtulungan tayo sa ikauunlad ng bayan./ Itigil na natin ang pag-aaway.

“Si Sambiling owoy sa Senang,” written in the Dulangan Manobo language, is difficult for us to categorize. The story contains fantastical details that the writer, Mark Banday Lu, considers true. In modern literary practice, such details would not be included—or would be presented as mere beliefs and not actual occurrences—in nonfiction pieces, or the whole work would be classified as fiction. We decided not to evaluate the work using mainstream standards and regarded it the way the writer does—a real story of a member of his family. Sambiling Banday, who died in February this year, was a tribal healer and Lu’s grandfather. Through oral storytelling, his experiences were passed on to his children and grandchildren, and the account in this journal is the very first written version. (We would like to thank Monica Aquino Kamal for helping us with the orthography.) The story is rich and quite interesting. While living in the middle of the jungle and guided by a magical beam of light, Sambiling encounters humanlike pigs, one of which became his second wife, a family of talking monkeys, and irascible deities, among others.

“Bulawan,” a one-act play by Anna Liz V. Cabrido, is about a Blaan couple caught in a complicated conflict between a mining company and government forces on one side and communist rebels on the other side. Although melodramatic and clearly written from an outsider’s point of view, the play succeeds in showing the readers the difficult choices that many indigenous people have to make in the face of systemic oppression.

“Panibagong Digma,” a poem by John Carlo S. Gloria, deals with a similar subject matter. In December last year, two government soldiers and eight men belonging to the Tboli and Dulangan Manobo tribes were killed in the boundary of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. The military called the incident a legitimate operation against communist rebels. Progressive groups called it a massacre of civilians fighting for their ancestral domain against a private plantation. In harrowing images, Gloria echoes the latter: Hindi paggapas sa bukid ang aalingawngaw/ sa tamlay ng araw/ kundi mga kalabit sa gatilyo ng punglo/ na sasaluhin ng inyong katawan at bungo. However anyone sees what happened, everyone will agree that the poem is right about one thing—violence will beget violence: Kaya’t dito, sa inyong minsang pinagyaman at pinatabang lupa,/ tutubo’t yayabong ang isang panibagong digma.

In the spoken word poem “Tintang Dugo,” Kenneth Michael L. Dalimbang makes a confession: he has gotten a girl pregnant. Still in his teens, he is not ready yet for the responsibility that lies ahead and the commitment that he will have to make. The lines are heavy with regret: Dugo ang tinta, at walang hanggan ko nang isusulat/ Ang hinagpis na dulot ng pagkakamaling/ Sa iba’y hindi maisusumbat. Religion further complicates his predicament. He is a Christian, and the girl is a Muslim. That Dalimbang has been raised as a Christian and holds traditional Christian values might come as a surprise to many Christian settlers. Even to this day, many members of non-lumad tribes still stereotype the lumad as animists or polytheists, among other things. The poem does not only make us feel the poet’s personal agony; it also gives us a glimpse of his tribe’s changing—or changed—way of life.

“Barefoot Bulayan,” the text of a picture book by Mary Ann Ordinario, is based on a true story of a Bagobo boy. Bulayan does not like wearing shoes, which causes his classmates, who presumably belong to settler families, to taunt him. His teacher and some other concerned individuals give him shoes, but Bulayan remains indifferent to both the bullying and the generosity. Eventually, the teacher and the school principal learn why when they go to Bulayan’s community, and the story ends with understanding and acceptance. Without being didactic, Ordinario teaches readers, settlers especially, how we should deal with the lumad. We need not change them to accept them. We need to change ourselves instead.

Jude Ortega
Isulan, Sultan Kudarat

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