Traditional Menuvu-Meranaw peace pact performance shines in Kaamulan 2023

One of the float parade entries during the 2023 Kaamulan Festival. MindaNews photo courtesy of Alphaeus B. Tulang

MALAYBALAY CITY  (MindaNews / 24 April) – A presentation featuring the story of a traditional peace agreement between Lumads and Moros, performed by a contingent from Kalilangan, Bukidnon, shone during the Kaamulan Festival 2023 ground competition.

The story featured the traditional peace pact between the Menuvu and the Meranaw ethnic groups after deadly battles set in pre-colonial Mindanao following a mediation and preceding an inter-cultural wedding.

The ground presentation was part of the crowd-drawing street dancing (ikat-ikat ta dadalanen) competition on April 22, which culminated the month-long first ever staging of Kaamulan in the post COVID-19 pandemic time.

The winning presentation, entitled Kukuman ta Rezo or judgement of conflict, told the story of Matigsalog-Menuvu leader Apo Gapaw, who led his tribe fight a group of wayward Meranaws along the Maradugao River, which is the natural boundary between the provinces of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur.

The conflict was resolved when the parties of the conflict sought the mediation of Datu Romapa, another Menuvu tribal leader in Barandias, a community located in the present day town of Pangantucan, Bukidnon.

To help stop the conflict between the two warring groups, Datu Romapa became the balaghusay (judge) and officiated the Tampuda Hu Balagon (cutting of vines) ritual, the indigenous custom to settle a conflict. One of the commitments for the settlement of conflict was the marriage of Apo Gapaw to a Meranaw woman as one of the proofs that both tribes fully consented and commit to the settlement of the conflict.   

MindaNews has reached the choreographer-author of the story, but is unavailable for interview as of 9:50 a.m. April 24.  

The IP and Moro traditional peace agreements do not only come out in folklore. It figures in an annual celebration, especially in the Talaandig community in Songco, Lantapan town.

The kinship between the IP and Moro peoples has been recorded. Mindanao was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples until the arrival of Arab traders in 1380 who became instrumental in the conversion of the IPs, mostly in southern and western Mindanao to Islam. Magellan landed in Cebu in 1521.

Starting in 2011, representatives of eight Moro tribes and most of the Lumad or non-Islamized tribes in Mindanao reaffirmed their kinship. In 2012, they signed a five-point kinship covenant in a gathering filled with festive remembrance of historical relationships and aspirations for peace and unity on the island.

Aside from signing the covenant, the participants also unveiled a monument depicting a jar of oil marking the reaffirmation of their kinship, an event witnessed among others by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel and the International Monitoring Team in October 2012

The covenant, printed on white paper and etched in a plaque installed on the monument, cited mutual recognition and respect (kilalaha), mutual sharing of information (sayuda), cooperation (buliga), mutual protection and preservation of life (uyaga), and mutual obligation to help the needy (pagbatunbatuna).

“The indigenous peoples and the Moro of Mindanao hereby acknowledge the following principles and doctrines of kinship as basis of their cooperation, understanding and unity as descendants of the early inhabitants in the island of Mindanao,” the declaration stated.

Before signing the covenant, Lumad and Moro leaders exchanged accounts of shared history passed on for generations, mostly recalling a past that belonged to “one blood.” Their accounts differed in some respects but all of them cited peace pacts.

Among the stories the Lumad speakers shared was that of the brothers Mamalu and Tabunaway. The latter converted to Islam upon the arrival of Shariff Kabungsuan.

Moro representatives recalled stories of their ancestors’ interaction with the Lumads, including datus who shared portions of their ancestral domain to Moro people in their areas.

Other winners

The contingent from Kalilangan also won 2nd runner up both in the float and street dancing competitions.

Malaybalay City’s contingent was the champion in the street dancing competition and the 1st runner up in the float and ground competitions.

Valencia City’s contingent was the champion in the float competition, 1st runner up in the street dancing competition and 2nd runner up in the ground presentation.

The ground presentation from Malaybalay City featured a healing ritual dubbed panggimukuran, which showed the performances of various rituals to make amends with a disgruntled engkanto to repent against a curse, enter into a treaty, and cause the healing of a child. In the story, the people committed to protect and honor the sanctuary of the engkanto and their apology was accepted.  The presentation featured the inagong, “where people danced with pride and victory” in celebration.   

The presentation from Valencia City featured the story of the people of communities around Mounts Kalatungan and Kitanglad after the “great flood.” It showcased the love story of the two survivors of the flood, Apo Ginamayon, the matriarch from Kalatungan, and Apo Agbibilin, the patriarch from Kitanglad. Music connected the two flood survivors – Apo Ginamayon playing the tambol and Apo Agbibilin hearing and searching for the source. This story touched on environmental protection and care for the earth.

The theme of this year’s staging of Kaamulan is “One Bukidnon: A celebration of unity in cultural diversity.”

There were only three competing contingents in this year’s street dancing competition as other local government units were unable to prepare financially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The six towns of Quezon, Libona, Kitaotao, Cabanglasan, Lantapan and San Fernando sent non-competing performers from indigenous communities. (MindaNews)