ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: The National Cultural Minorities of Mindanao and Sulu. A preliminary study (4)

4th of seven parts


Population and Location

The Teduray population is 29,401 based on the 1970 census. (See Appendix B for distribution by municipality). Traditionally, their territory has been the vast land bounded by the Tamontaka river to the north, the Dalican river to the east and the Tran river to the south. The seacoast bounded the western side. Ethnically, they are presently bounded by the Magindanawon and majority settlers in the north, east and west. In the south and southeast they overlap with that of the Manobo. Over the past few decades of the 20th century, majority settlers and a sizeable number of Magindanawon have penetrated deep into Teduray land; these now rule business and politics in the Upi municipality.

Among themselves, the Teduray people distinguish between western coast people, northern river people and southern mountain people. Except for this geographical classification and some slight linguistic differences between the western coast-northern river group and the southern mountain group, they otherwise possess a common history and language.

Level of Adjustment to the Majority Culture

A Teduray’s belonging to the western coast group or the northern river group of the southern mountain group is significant in determining the general nature and level of his adjustment to the majority culture. Those of the mountain group are generally more traditional than the rest. A further distinction must be made depending on their present distances and accessibility to the town of Upi. It must be pointed out, moreover, that the road built to connect Upi and Lebak, in addition to the logging operations that began in the early 1960s have both hastened the erosion of traditional culture.

Current Socio-Economic Situation

The traditional Teduray subsist on produce from kaingin farming, hunting, fishing and forest products. They practice cooperative work in farming, hunting and similar activities. Their crops are rice, corn and the standard rootcrops. New clearings are made every year. Previous clearings life fallow from two to three years before they are replanted. To help them in their hunting activities, they domesticate and train hunting dogs. Chicken and pigs are grown both for good and for ritual. Commodities unobtainable in the area like salt, iron tools, cloth, gongs, etc. are usually secured from lowland or coastal markets. They have become familiar with money.

The less traditional Teduray range from small scale landowners to laborers or tenants. Those engage in farming, have learned the value of coconut and have long started to plant them. The tenants or laborers usually work for majority settlers.

“Ownership” and Use of Land

In the Teduray property system, a man’s possessions are his in the sense that he has exclusive rights for their present use. Among the peasantized Teduray, the actual owner of the land is considered the landowner. If he has a tenant, however, the tenant is the owner of the plowed field which he is working as well as the plants therein. The traditional Teduray have no concept of permanent land ownership, but the man who clears a particular area is considered the owner of that particular area as well as all that is grown therein. When the land returns to fallow, he continues to be the owner (even when secondary forest has grown) and no one may clear that portion without first asking him to release his rights. A man is the owner of his house, wife, work animals, clothing, family, rituals and fields for as long as his rights over them continue. In the case of land, his use of that land gives him the exclusive right over it.

Exclusiveness of right here, incidentally, does not usually refer to individuals. Rather it refers to households which may consist of more than one family. The household is defined as the people who share a “common pot.”

Threats to Survival

The penetration and peopling of Teduray land with majority and Magindanawon settlers taking place over a long period of time will give us a better appreciation of the external threats to Teduray survival.

No word needs to be said about the Spanish missionary base at Tamontaka whose influence reached as far as Awang. In the overall picture, its impact on Teduray life has been negligible.

Around 1913, the American colonial government began sending Christian settlers to Cotabato, as to other parts of Mindanao-Sulu. In 1916, a school was built in Awang, the first in Teduray territory. In 1919, a 37-kilometer road linked the present Cotabato City to Nuro (now  North Upi). After the road came the Ilocano and Bisayan (largely Ilonggo) settlers. In 1923, an Episcopal mission was established at Awang and was later extended to Nuro whence mission work fanned out into the more remote areas. The mission was so effective that it can now boast of a bishop and at least six priests – all Teduray. In 1936, regular transportation to Nuro became available. This made Nuro accessible to majority influence and transformed it into a more solid majority community. Government schools were put up as far as the barrios. More settlers came, including a sizeable number of Magindanawon.

While all these things were happening, the Teduray population gave way and was pushed back into the mountain areas. No one bothered to keep records of how many Teduray households were displaced. Perhaps, no one considered it important. But it was certainly considered important to give land to the landless majority, those who already had land elsewhere included. There was no provision to protect those who had lived there all their lives.

How all these developments affected the Teduray is concretely summarized by Grace L. Wood who was in the area in the early 1950s (her spelling was still Tiruray). Here is her account:

 “These government and mission activities, however, affect the Tiruray but little as compared to the impact of settlers and the Tiruray’s subsequent retreat to the forest. Because of their traditional dislike of the Magindanawon, the Tiruray were somewhat more receptive to Christian settlers, however, like the Mohamedans, had guns which are possessed by few Tiruray. Political authority is in the hands of the Magindanawon and the policemen continue the tradition of exploitation. The law courts are judged by Christians who have little sympathy for the rights of pagans. All of these factors have resulted in the displacement of the Tiruray who are either becoming laborers on plantations or are being driven to the south into the territory of the Manobo where they persist in trying to maintain Tiruray customs. There has been a feeble attempt on the part of the educated Tiruray to form a Tiruray Association to promote the welfare of the people was a whole by providing scholarships, aiding those in need, and speaking for those in trouble… In the meantime, the government passes laws forbidding the making of clearings in the forest but granting ever more land to settlers from the outside.“

This was back in the early 1950s. Later, the construction of the Nuro-Lebak road was started. This was followed by logging concessions and more majority settlers. These combined forces penetrated really deep into Teduray land.

Seen from the point of view of social organization, the Teduray never really had a chance to get off the ground. What little traditional organization they achieved was so loose they could not as a group protect themselves and their land from the more aggressive majority.

Selected Aspect of Culture

Settlement of conflicts among the traditional Teduray is done according to their adat, which means, essentially, their customs, the things they customarily do, the activities that mark them as distinct culturally entity. It also carries the element of respect and that of a norm of conduct.

Causes of conflicts are normally traceable to offenses related any one or any two or all three of the following:  one’s property, his self-esteem and his social position. These three are extremely important to any self-respecting Teduray. All offenses involving people outside of one’s household require immediate retaliation or reparation; or at least the preliminary steps to the latter.

Settlements are usually made in a tiyawan, a formal gathering (for marriage negotiations or resolution of conflicts) by one or several kefeduan, the Teduray’s legal and moral authorities. They are also experts in Tiyawan procedures. Reparation items (or brideprice) are called tamuk. This usually consists in gongs, kris, gold or glass beads, necklaces, working boloes, brass betel boxes, brasswares, animals, money and other valuable items.

Relatives are by custom obliged to assist in the actual verbal settlement of conflicts, if they can, and to contribute tamuk items.  If they cannot contribute, they are at least expected to help in securing these items.

As among the Manobo, the Teduray judicial system tends to be reconciliatory rather than punitive.

Stimuli to Change in Natives Ways

Their gradual loss of initiative in the areas of culture, economic life, government, administration of justice as a consequence of their encounter with the majority and some Magindanawon within a period of about fifty years has made them realize the need to adjust or to abandon their traditional ways.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate)