Sleepless in ‘tulugan’: ‘Kaliga’ ritual of Bukidnon tribe

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 26 April) — It started with incantations by Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, chieftain of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe, and other elders in Sitio Olanguhon, Barangay Dalwangan here. They then slaughtered the sacrificial hog and around 30 chickens, to appease the spirits that were invited to this ritual called kaliga.

Datu Lagidliran Federico Docenos butchers a sacrifical chicken during the kaliga ritual of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe on April 24-25, 2021 in Olanguhon, Dalwangan, Malaybalay City. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

“Spirits of the elements of Nature like earth and water are invited to the kaliga. But there are spirits who are not allowed to enter the venue, they have to remain outside,” Datu Aligpulos Dominador Decano explained.

As the animal offerings were being prepared for the panampulot, where mortals and spirits would partake of the meat cooked without salt and spices, Datu Lagidliran Federico Docenos, Bae Inatlawan’s brother, danced around the bangkasu (altar) at the center of the tulugan or tribal heritage center, a brass gong in hand.

Members of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe dance around the bangkasu (altar) from evening to sunrise during the kaliga on April 24-25, 2021 in Olanguhon, Dalwangan, Malaybalay City. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

The other elders and some youngsters then joined Datu Lagidliran. Bae Inatlawan volunteered to beat the gong but surrendered the instrument to younger hands after her arms grew weary. The dancing and reveling, as tradition dictates, would continue well until sunrise, the dancers alternating on the floor to allow the tired or sleepy ones to rest.


Guests may dance, too. But being hopeless as a dancer, I opted to just enjoy the merry mood inside the tulugan until my eyelids dropped. Alexandria, my daughter who went with me, woke me up around midnight for the panampulot, the Lumad equivalent of Christian communion. I went back to sleep afterward, lulled once again into dreamland by the rhythm of the gong and tempo of bare soles thumping the floor.

Maybe it was the stillness of the world outside, but the echo of the gong that filled the hall sounded magical, piercing the senses like a cryptic message that only shamans like Bae Inatlawan could divine. It’s as if the spirits themselves were the ones beating that metal that it sounded monotonous yet entrancing. Perhaps, unknown to us, they had joined in the revelry to animate those who wanted to keep dancing and soothe those who wished to rest.

Before breakfast, it’s time for another panampulot where Datu Lagidliran placed a slice of the cooked meat on the tip of his knife and the participants received it with their mouths not their hands.

“It’s meant to ease one’s burdens in life,” Datu Aligpulos explained the unusual manner of the second panampulot.

Datu Lagidliran ended the ritual with a baptism, a symbolic act of cleansing. All those present, including the guests, squatted facing the east while he circled the bangkasu, chanted, and sprinkled red wine with a chicken feather on the congregation.

Datu Lagidliran Federico Docenos leads the baptism during the closing of the kaliga ritual of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe on April 25, 2021 in Olanguhon, Dalwangan, Malaybalay City. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

So this is why he told the men in half-jest during the panampulot to go slow on the Tanduay (a rhum) lest nothing would be left for the baptism, I mused.


I told Datu Aligpulos I wished I could understand what Datu Lagidliran was chanting during the baptism. “Even I could hardly comprehend his words,” he said with a suppressed chuckle, indicating the special, if not privileged, status of shamans in the community.

The Bukidnon-Daraghuyan Lumads have been holding the kaliga every April 24 to mark the day they inaugurated their tulugan 14 years ago. The ritual may be held for thanksgiving or to ask certain favors from the spirits and Magbabaya (Supreme Being), Datu Aligpulos said.

For this year, the tribe held the kaliga to ask for blessings for their livelihood activities. “Place below the bangkasu your handicrafts so that they can be blessed during the ritual,” Bae Inatlawan told her members as they entered the venue minutes before sundown. Thus, aside from the coins, wine and liquor, pieces of red and white cloth, and other offerings on the upper portions of the bangkasu, its lowest part was filled with machetes, knives, and mats and bags made of indigenous materials.

At least until colonial times, indigenous tribes in Northern Mindanao celebrated the kaliga as one of their most significant rituals. It could last seven to nine days and so required much food and other preparations. But as life grew harder for the Lumads and with the inroads of acculturation, the holding of the event became less frequent until it was almost forgotten.

A Lumad girl makes use of new technology to capture an image of a centuries-old ritual. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

What the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe has been doing all these years may therefore be considered a source of both envy and admiration for other Lumad groups.