BONGAO, Tawi-tawi (MindaNews / 11 August) — The prodigious son of Agosainog, Pilandok, climbs the peak of Bud Bongao and combs the shores of Simunul island, and there he meets the progeny of ‘Mbo Tuan Anjawtal, the indic venerable ancestor, and ‘ Mbo Tuan Sheikh Karimul Makhdum, the mystic forefather.
Pilandok, the lovable half-human half-deer has been the central character of Sining Kambayoka Ensemble’s “Mga Kwentong Maranaw.” A trickster who outwits the kings and beats all his flamboyant courtiers, Pilandok’s hilarious antics bring to life and turn adventurous the otherwise mundane and laidback everyday existence of the poor and ordinary Mranaw peasantry.
Among the seafaring people of Sulu, Pilanduk, takes on a more solemn countenance. Pilanduk, while still maintaining the wit and candor of a humble and adventurous boy, for the Suluk — both Sama and Tausug — they personify in Pilanduk the pure and innocent ego battling and struggling with the kings and princes of egos who are attached to the false splendors and often excessive ostentations of this world. Pilanduk always uses his heart’ s eyes and comes out triumphant in the end. The unconquerable distant princess that always figures as Pilanduk’s and the king’s object of desire is paradise (jannah) and the eternal abode of peace (akhirat). Unlike Pilandok’s infinite opportunities and unforeseen adventures, Pilanduk’s destiny is certain (yaqin) and his end (qadar) is divinely planned.
The Mranaw Pilandok has been a transformative agent used to comment on social ills, with Pilandok often winning the crown for himself, as social activists project the aspiration of overhauling the social system and finally achieving progressive social change. The king is deposed by Pilandok, sometimes with the king’s willing surrender or with Pilandok actually disposing off with the king (e.g. Pilandok Sa Kaharian Sa Ilalim Ng Lawa). Hence, alluding to tradition sadly bowing out to ‘progressive’ modernity and the poor boy inheriting all the corruptions of the crown and society. But Pilandok once again makes the final escape, and disavows the kingly life. And the cycle repeats itself where society infinitely struggles in all its contradictions, and endlessly aspiring for utopian dream of a perfect development (i.e. socialism) and man’s ultimate conquest of the world and all that it contains (i.e. capitalist materialism).
To the Ahlus Suluk, Pilanduk and his oddyseys are a vehicle of Sufi mystic’ s purificatory process, charting the journeys of the self towards the higher ego and overcoming the lower nafs. Pilanduk’ s quests is the ordinary Sama, Tausug, JamaMapun, Kalibugan, and Yakan’ s search for himself (ka-awon) and finding God (Tuhan) in his knowledge of his ginhawa,badan,jasad, and the various other multiplicities of self. His quest ends with the knowledge that there is really nothing there but Tuhan! And the more that he thirsts to aspire for ultimate oneness with Tuhan in the path of Love, the way of tawhid ( unicity).
The stages towards achieving the spiritual union and the battles of annihilating duality and dividedness thence become the goals of life itself. The oneway single-tracked journey despite its many travails is all that matters, not the destinations or the end results of struggling that chance upon one’ s travel. Pilanduk’ s wordly adventures are the peeling off of the veils of illusions and pretentions of this temporal and transient life. And as our Mranaw Pilandok wants us to realize, “ito’ y kwento ko, at ito’ y kwento nyo!”, we must see our present realities mirrored in there, and know that these are all illusions, so laugh at it, shun it, if we can.
Pilanduk of Sulu does not usurp the kingly throne, knowing that it is him in another hat. At the story’s ending, he convinces the royal tyrant and his pompous court to convert and become devout believers, in as much as one does not consume in order to reproduce the dark nor disposes of it (for Allah alone creates and destroys), but through alchemical process of Love (i.e. marriage of Pilanduk to the royal daughter), the higher self tames and assimilates the lower self, and deploys its weaknesses into highlighting strength and rendering the essential Nur Muhammad brighter than any earthy light.
The multi-awarded SKE recently staged “Mga Kwentong Meranaw: Si Pilandok” at the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Mindanao State University- Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography (MSU-TCTO) in Tawi-Tawi. This article is excerpted from the opening message that the author read during the Cultural Presentation on August 5, 2019 at the Henry V Kong gymnasium.
[Mucha Shim Lahaman Quiling teaches subjects at the departments of Senior High School, Social Sciences and Language at MSU TawiTawi College of Arts and Sciences. She is senior researcher and writes for Sharif Ul Hashim Institute (SUH) for the Conservation of Sulu Archipelago Traditional Knowledge (SAK)]