MALITA, Davao Occidental (MindaNews / 15 October) — Seventy-nine year old Buyag Bandayan Danwata, a Tagakolu weaver and teacher from Kalatagan, Datu Dawata, Malita town in Davao Occidental, is one of ten winners of the Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda (SUN) Awards.
Buyag Bandayan is the lone Mindanawon and lone Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) among the 10 awardees honored by the Coalition of Services of the Elderly, Inc. The Sun Awards was launched in 1991 and awarding is held every first week of October, to recognize and honor the “important, selfless contributions and services of older persons in the society,” and as part of the organization’s observance of International Day of Older Persons and Elderly Filipino Week.
From 2013 to 2015, she mentored public school teachers of Datu Danwata Elementary School, Julian Turado Elementary School, Kilalag Elementary School and Juanito Doromal, Sr. Elementary School — all in her hometown in Malita — on the importance of upholding Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) education through the School of Living Tradition.
The fifth among six wives of the late Datu Macatunao Danwata, Buyag Bandayan, mother of two and grandmother of three boys, has been sharing her knowledge on traditional design of embroidery, weaving the Inabel and beads making, and continues to do so at the Datu Danwata Elementary School with its teachers and learners as students.
Since 2014, she has also been imparting her knowledge on weaving to IP women from the three ethno-linguistic groups — Tagakolu, B’laan and Manobo — in 10 areas holding a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in Malita town. The local government, through its Municipal Tribal Office, initiated the trainings of IP women to uphold the Lumad culture embedded in indigenous fabrics. This training gives an avenue for the Lumad women to go back to indigenous knowledge, beliefs, systems and practices especially in material culture.
In the family/clan, Buyag Bandaya imparted her skills to her daughter and her relatives.
She has not stopped weaving so that the younger women and the children could see and learn from her.
Most of the time, she earns money from her masterpieces by selling it to members of the community like teachers, barangay leaders, etc. There are times when she earns nothing but she finds contentment and joy in seeing and holding her woven fabric.
She receives a modest honorarium, ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 pesos for three to five days of training-workshops initiated by the local government and DepEd-IPed. She does not get paid for her other services to the community like mentoring the Tagakolu youth, women and teachers of Datu Danwata Elementary School.
By inviting and letting the young ones see and learn from her as she weaves, embroiders and makes beads, she opens their hearts and minds to be appreciative and to know more about the Tagakolu culture.
Lita Labis, Tagakolu IP Women Coordinator of Malita, one of Buyag Bandayan’s students, said “asuntu sa pagtulada nan sa inabel, pagté sa dagum aw paglog sa blayeg, nyakasiling aku sa pagpadeleg sa katadeng aw tradisyun na kanaten tribu. Ini uman ya paagi sa pag-atag sa ginawa sa kanaten katanem na malapit da galu kalingawan” (Because she taught us weaving, embroidery and beads making, I realized the need to continue learning and living our indigenous knowledge and tradition. This endeavor is life-giving and regenerating our culture which has been almost forgotten).
Amalyn Cagata, one of the teachers in Datu Danwata said she went to Buyag Bandayan every Saturday for three months in 2015, to learn from her. She said learning the skills also helped her understand and appreciate more their culture.
Buyag Bandayan’s indigenous knowledge is exemplary. It opened my heart and mind, realizing how beautiful and bountiful our Tagakolu culture is. Her colorful weaving, embroidery and beadwork form the intricate and elaborate tapestry that is the Tagakolu identity.
Buyag Bandayan’s award is doubly significant as it came during the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Month.
(Marites “Matet” Gonzalo, a Tagakolu, finished her MA in Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University earlier this year, She is now the IP School Coordinator of the Malita Tagakolu Mission in the Diocese of Digos in Matamis, Dmoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental).