Higaonon writes Bukidnon's first epic novel

Scholars at the University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing in Diliman, Quezon City consider his work a “historical novel."

Written in Filipino, “Batbat Hi Udan,” was first launched on February 11 at the UP Los Baños Campus in Laguna where UPLB Chancellor Dr. Rey Velasco
described it, as quoted in the author’s blog, as the Philippine version of “The Lord of the Rings."

Blessed with the gift of the written word, Sungkit defied the hassles of the print industry by choosing to self-publish, keeping off  the whims of editors and publishers in releasing the book.  

Sungkit said the 215-page book, sold at P400 per copy, is Bukidnon’s own.  

The novel tells the story of Udan (Binukid for “rain”), a young man, his journey to a hidden world called Lidasan beneath the Mt. Kitanglad range, and his love for Ananaw (the beloved).

The setting of the character’s journey in “Batbat Hi Udan” covers four present-day towns of Lantapan, Sumilao and Impasug-ong, and the City of Malaybalay.

Sungkit said it is not just a love story because it interlinks with the epic scale narrative of rivalry among datus (tribal chieftains) who struggle for supreme leadership of the world.

He said the story involves not only people but also spirit creatures like Alagasis (Kapre), Abyans (spirit companions) and Tiums (spirit creatures that appear as children). 

He fused imagination and a reconstruction of his incomplete concepts about the tales he heard starting from childhood to finish his fiction, he said in an interview Wednsday with this reporter.

In “Batbat Hi Udan,” Sungkit said, he has fused his fiction with the stories of the nanangen, which he has heard as a child in a Higaonon community. 

Sungkit was transfixed by the stories of “Nanay Siling”, his grandmother’s sister when he was still a young boy, citing it as his initial inspiration to write the story.  

He said there must be a way to preserve what he described as the Lumad’s “dying tradition” of nanangen oral story telling. People should pursue telling the stories to others, he said.

“We must put it into print because the future generations may no longer know what we used to hear,” he added. 

Sungkit is a BS Agricultural Engineering graduate from UP Los Baños. He has put up a tutorial school in Laguna, but for six months in 2005 he wrote the first draft of the book.

He revised the copy for two years and finished editing it last year.   

Side by side with research work for his future novels, Sungkit wants to work as a farmer and stay for good in Bukidnon.  

In his next book project, which he plans to write in Cebuano, he said might be able to feature a story that covers the rest of Bukidnon and Mindanao. 

He said he wants to encourage other local writers to write about Bukidnon
and its people. 

But he said the timing for the launching date is only coincidental with the Kaamulan Festival. 

He said that since the Kaamulan has become commercialized, the book’s theme should give cultural context to the celebration.  

Sungkit said it is noteworthy that the essence of the Kaamulan is to show Bukidnon’s culture. “Here is one way to do it,” he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)