Maranaos go traditional in celebrating Eid’l Adha

What apparently caught the public's attention was the sipa ("to kick") ball game that involved kicking a rattan ball like the takyan, but with so much force as the ball goes as high as 10 meters up in the air aimed at small colorful boxes three layers deep.

The  Islamic world celebrates Eid'l Adha to mark the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim's (Abraham among Christians) act of sacrificing his son, Ismail, for God.

Dr. Melchie Ambalong, who heads the city government's Office of Maranao, Higaunon and Other Cultural Communities (OMaHCC), said it was the first ever attempt in Iligan at holding an Eid'l Adha Festival, which began on New Year's Day.

Elsewhere in the Islamic world, the celebrations were held on Saturday, December 30.

Ambalong  said that since the celebration has been institutionalized by the city government, it will thus be held regularly henceforth, but the date will vary on the Gregorian calendar. Ambalong, who has Maranao relatives, said the celebration is aimed at keeping the Maranao traditional dances and games alive.

Teenagers performed the singkil and other Maranao dances with their handwoven  malongs while small boys played the sagayan, a war dance, with wooden swords. The older Maranaos, meanwhile, played the kulintang and the debakan (wooden drums).

But the sipa games gathered the most crowd at the Pryce Properties in Barangay Tubod.

The 18 men participating, mostly from the municipality of Butig in Lanao del Sur, wore silk long-sleeved shirts with intricate designs, malong tube skirts, and varied head gears. Strapped to the inner part of their right ankle is the dalapi used to hit the ball. The lower part is flat, the upper part shaped like a king's crown, sometimes adorned with okir carvings. They also carried a kandat, a whip-like device whose sole purpose is to make sound at the precise moment they hit the ball.

They played two versions — the "sipa sa lama" and "sipa a manguis."

In the first game, the men gather in an open field (lama means playground) in a circle formation and take turns hitting the ball and keeping it on air as long as possible, the one nearest the descending ball shouting that he will take it.

Macapantao Langko Diamaodin, chair of the Maranao Sipa Cultural Organization of the Philippines, said it is some sort of a warm up before the main game, the "sipa sa manguis."

The manguis (literally means "sweet victory”) referred to is like the pabitin, but a lot bigger, with a lot more boxes hanging three layers deep, and perched up much higher, up to about 10 meters high. The game's intention is to hit as many boxes, but what counts are only the boxes that fall.

Bocari Dadayan, one of the sipa players, said that in a real game, each box in the first layer represents P300, P500 for the second layer, and P1,000 in the third. But there are four big boxes in each of the four corners in the first layer that are equivalent to P5,000 each. And felling the big box in the middle entitles one to one carabao.

Ambalong said that in this Eid'l Adha game, there was no such prize.

Diamaodin said that in the olden days, it was important for a Maranao male to learn how to play sipa.

"When a sultan wants her daughter to marry, only those who can play sipa will have the chance at winning the princess," he said. "During a game, the princess stays in a room up high. Kicking the ball through her window wins her heart," Diamaodin said. (Bobby Timonera/MindaNews)