Thursday

The Tagbanua: End and Means





We live with certain aspirations in life. Whether it is self-preservation or altruism, we lay in bed at night ruminating on these things. The Tagbanua has a lifelong dream of a comfortable life for his children. He toils under the sun and endure the microaggressions because deep in his heart is the palpable hope that the future is brighter for the children. He tolerates the pain if that is what it takes to bridge the children for a better life.

I am a Tagbanua.  I hold fast to my beliefs.

 I will endure.

The Tagbanua: Future Untold

What does the future hold for the Tagbanua and the Indigenous people of Palawan? Multiple generations passed and here we stand with our children in a society that has changed by the turn of the century. Our forefathers who used to be gatherers, farmers and fisherfolk were brought up with poor to no formal education. Living up on the boondocks and far from state-sponsored schools, a good number of the population did not have the opportunity to get basic or higher education. The small number of those who were close to the main towns were either too poor to afford the cost of education or stigmatized based on stories of old. How will the story unfold with the new generation of tribal members? Will we take up to the challenge of bringing our families out of poverty by striving to be educated and working to better the tribe? We must.

Tagbanua: A Simple Life












The Tagbanua and most of the Indigenous People in the South of Palawan dream of a simple life. It is a life that revolves around family, the tribe and society, itself. Every member of the tribe endeavors to provide sustenance to their family and uplift themselves from the rigorous poverty that encumbers everyone. There is really no opportunity available or reachable for most of the Tagbanua. The cycle of helplessness is palpable, but we hope and fight for an equal opportunity to survive and realize these dreams in the near future.

Saturday

A Tagbanua Weekend






The Tagbanua and Pala'wan tribes are known to be farmers and fishermen. Men and women toil to support the family and the images here show some of the crops they usually sell. Gum resins and upland rice used to be common trades until sanctions were placed against the tribes. Banana, sweet potatoes, seashells, fishes and sting rays are usually sold or bartered for other products deemed indispensable for mountain living.

Thursday

A Tagbanua Tribute



   We would like to pay tribute to our parents. The Tagbanua and Pala'wan were raised well amidst of difficulties and poverty. The values we have been taught helped us in our endeavors in life. We will aspire to be beacons for the old and the young of the tribe. With the help of our Masicampo Ruben Joya, we will continue to be advocates for the Indigenous People in Palawan and the Philippine archipelago.

The Tagbanwa Musical Instruments









Daraet is one of the many festivities celebrated by the Tagbanua and Pala'wan tribes of Southern Palawan in the Philippines. Gongs, cymbals and drums are commonly seen and used. Bamboo flutes, local version of banjo and other percussion instruments are getting rare nowadays, but still around and kept by older members of the tribe. 
Decades ago, the drums and gongs used to be big and usually used to announce meetings or events which transpired in the community. Story has it that when the Tagbanua Inagawan Masicampo died, the drumbeats were heard for miles alerting the people of his demise. 

Please acknowledge this website and Masicampo Ruben C. Joya when you use the images here. 

Wednesday

The Tagbanua: Babaylan

Image copyright: Masikampo Ruben C. Joya


      We met this Babaylan (priestess) on a visit for the yearly Kabaraan festival in Aborlan. The trip by a motor bike was about 20-30 minutes from the main town after which we had to leave the vehicle close to a clearing. We hiked for about 20 minutes through a forested area then crossed a shallow river before reaching the venue.
     I remembered calling her "Apo", a vernacular the Tagbanua uses to refer to elderly people. She was petite, close to being emaciated with an opacity in her right eye which I presumed to be senile cataract. Her dress looked well worn, but not shabby or dirty. For how she was dressed up, I would say that she prepared for the occasion.
     The small nipa hut where she resided had the bare necessities for a solitary occupation. The wall paneling was made of stripped bamboo as well the floor slats. There was a rolled mat by the corner and a lamp tucked close to the window. It looked comfortable.
     She was 104 years old during the time we met and spoke with her. The encounter was brief and filled with awkward smiling since she was hard of hearing. We got the impression that the family was respectful and genuinely amicable towards her.
     A lot of rice wine drinking that day. Both men and women danced and sang the "uyman". We had this photo taken and left the place by sundown.

Monday

Tagbanwa Society



Tagbanuwa society is stratified, class positions being determined by bilateral filiation. There are only two social classes at present; the "high blood" called ginu?u in Baraki or bagarar in Apis, and the "low bloods," the dulu?an or timawa?. A third class of service-debtors or ?uripen was formerly recognized. The members of the "high bloods" are actually the bilateral descendants of ginu?u, that is, the hereditary leaders who act either as the judges during the councils or who defend the litigants. Any male descendant of a hereditary leader who would also be a "high blood" is eligible for succession to one of the many titles. As a succession does not  follow a preferential pattern the term "hereditary leader" would appear to be misleading. However, a man must be a "high blood," the descendant of a ginu?u, to be a potential leader, and there are a number of formal factors which enhance the eligibility of a man for succession.
                         - Religion and Society Among the Tagbanua of Palawan Island, Philippines. Dr. Robert B. Fox. 1982.

Friday

Cultural History of The Tagbanua



The Tagbanuas have distinct cultural customs and traditions acquired from the people of Sulu and Borneo.  Making their cultural heritage different from the other seven ethnic tribes in Palawan. Some of the reasons for the non- acculturation of the Tagbanuas are the following.

1.       Feeling of superiority
2.       Force of tradition or demonstrable proof that the old ways was the best.
3.       Low credibility of the introducer of the new way
4.       Isolation of the people and the environmental supernatural, thereby making these ceremonies, meaningful to them as an indigenous people and to the modern Filipino since they represent authentic cultural roots devoid of any artificiality and political coloring.

The festival and ritual practices of the Tagbanua of Aborlan, its implication to education By: Reynaldo M. Yap Jr., 1994

The Tribal Political Structure

Masicampo Ruben C. Joya with the Manlalambays. Also, Tagbanua  leaders from Brgy. Magbabadil.

Masicampo Ruben C. Joya with his aunt, Apo Penang, wife of a Palawano Panglima.

Masikampo Ruben C. Joya with Cursod clan from Brgy. Iraan.

Masikampo Ruben C. Joya with the Tagbanua delegation from Narra

Tagbanua leaders from Brgy. Tagpait.

Masikampo Ruben C. Joya with the Tagbanua leaders of Brgy. Gogonan.




Usba Et Masikampo.

Usba Et Masikampo

Sunday

Tagbanua Political Structure





Masicampo
-A Masicampo is the primary leader among all the traditional leaders and other non Christian cultural communities whose authority extends throughout the mainland Palawan.
-Considered as the patriarch of the IPs of Palawan, settling disputes, imposing tribal laws (adat), appointing traditional leaders (bageral), and solemnizing tribal marriages.
- It is common belief among the Tagbanuas and Pala’wan of mainland Palawan that there shall be only one legitimate Masicampo of Palawan. To avoid conflicting views to the customary laws.
- in case of death of a Masicampo or upon his incapacity, the elders among the clans of the Family with the Bloodline of Masicampo also called as the Usba e’t Masicampo will convene for the purpose of choosing among them who will be the next Masicampo. The Masicampo will be chosen by a consensus of the Usba e’t Masicampothe council of the elders of the clan. Women, youngsters and non members of the family are prohibited to participate in the deliberation.
Maradia
                                                         i.                    Maradia et Masicampo
-A position held by persons with the bloodline of a Masicampo. He also renders assistance with the Masicampo and performs other duties assigned to him by the latter.
- In case of death of the Masicampo he is tasked to gather all the council of elders (usba et’ Masicampo) to convene for the selection of the new Masicampo.
                                                       ii.                    Maradia et Manlalambay
-                 A position/ title acquired by a bageral through hierarchy and consanguinity. He must be comprehensively knowledgeable of the lambay ritual and other laws concerning thereto.
                                                      iii.                    Maradia
-                 Assists the local bagerals in settling disputes (surrugiden).
-                 This position has a broader aspect of responsibilities with respect to juridical duties to local leaders.
                                                     iv.                    Pangiran
-                 Acts as a consultant of local leaders and even among other functionaries. The position, like other noble titles he must have a consanguinity to the position itself.
                                                       v.                    Laksamana
-                 Considered as one of the high positions among the bagerals in the ancient period he is labeled as “commander of hundreds”.
-                 He is a well respected man, most especially during the conduct of surrugiden. The position is commonly inherited by hereditary succession.
                                                     vi.                    Pangandelan
-                 Appointee of a Masicampo which acts as a commissary to a certain task given or designated to him. Position acquired not by consanguinity but through the recognition of the Masicampo.
                                                    vii.                    Panglima
-                 A local leader acting as chairman among bagerals and ginuu.
-                 Decides on delicate issues in his area of responsibility
-                 Enforces the traditional laws among his constituents
-                 Acquire through hereditary succession
                                                  viii.                    Orangkaya
-                 During the jural proceedings he investigates both parties
-                 Giving analysis of the case
-                 Requires consanguinity to the family
                                                     ix.                    Satya (secretary)
-                 Keeping records of the minutes of the surrugiden/ betiara
-                 Position is acquired through designation or consanguinity
                                                       x.                    Pangarapan/ Pangara (clerk)
-                 His role is giving remarks before any meetings or council gatherings.
                                                     xi.                    Parakasa
-                 Reminding the congregation of the rules and regulations
-                 Amuses the audience if necessary
                                                    xii.                    Mudadi
-                 Acts as summon officer, brings tidings or any important news
                                                  xiii.                    Aguasil/ Agwasil
o   Like the Mudadi, he acts as summon officer and maintains peace and order especially during council meetings
                                                  xiv.                    Digadong
-                 He acts as bondsman during surrugiden/ betiara
                                                   xv.                    Saribangsawan
-                 Acts a lawyer and a law enforcer
                                                  xvi.                    Tumanggong
-                 In charge of pecuniary aspect in the political structure
                                                xvii.                    Nakib
-                 Expert in natural medicine and in charge of religious rites
                                               xviii.                    Sabandar
-                 In Charge of the labor force
                                                  xix.                    Manlalambay
-                 A designated individual deeply experienced in performing rituals i.e. Lambay et uran, lambay et init, sin atonement and lambay et ginuu.
                                                   xx.                    Babalyan/ Balyan
-                 A priest who acts as a medium to the diwata and tiladmanen
                                                  xxi.                    Taga – Iring
o    Assistant to Babalyan
                                                xxii.                    Other minor hereditary titles serves as an aide to major hereditary leaders.

Note:
All titles mentioned have a juridical capability to conduct surrugiden/ betiara except the babalya’/ balya’ and its taga- iring which is commonly held by women.
Women are not allowed to conduct surrugiden / betiara nor can give a decision  or okoman unless they were given permission or invited to attend.
To be a ginuu, he must be well versed of the adat (customary laws) practiced by the elders. If he is a bageral or a traditional leader, he must know the osol or genealogy of his family/ clan. He must be able to give fair judgement and he must act accordingly in a manner of a gentleman- a leader deserving the respect of his position.
There are no caretakers to the position of a bagerals unless he is related by consanguinity to the title. Decision making is through a consensus among the council of elders.

The Tagbanua Political Structure: Key Positions

R-L: Descendants and usba et masikampo. Apo Iday, Apo Jim Kutat (d), Masikampo Ruben C. Joya, Maradia Teting Joya, another Usba from Cursod clan (unk), Apo Taham 

Masicampo
-A Masicampo is the primary leader among all the traditional leaders and other non Christian cultural communities whose authority extends throughout  mainland Palawan.
-Considered as the patriarch of the IPs of Palawan, settling disputes, imposing tribal laws (adat), appointing traditional leaders (bageral), and solemnizing tribal marriages.
- It is common belief among the Tagbanuas and Pala’wan of mainland Palawan that there shall be only one legitimate Masicampo of Palawan. To avoid conflicting views to the customary laws.
- in case of death of a Masicampo or upon his incapacity, the elders among the clans of the Family with the Bloodline of Masicampo also called as the Usba e’t Masicampo will convene for the purpose of choosing among them who will be the next Masicampo. The Masicampo will be chosen by a consensus of the Usba e’t Masicampothe council of the elders of the clan. Women, youngsters and non members of the family are prohibited to participate in the deliberation.


Maradia
                                                         i.                    Maradia et Masicampo
-A position held by persons with the bloodline of a Masicampo. He also renders assistance with the Masicampo and performs other duties assigned to him by the latter.
- In case of death of the Masicampo he is tasked to gather all the council of elders (usba et’ Masicampo) to convene for the selection of the new Masicampo.
                                                       ii.                    Maradia et Manlalambay
-                 A position/ title acquired by a bageral through hierarchy and consanguinity. He must be comprehensively knowledgeable of the lambay ritual and other laws concerning thereto.
                                                      iii.                    Maradia
-                 Assists the local bagerals in settling disputes (surrugiden).
-                 This position has a broader aspect of responsibilities with respect to juridical duties to local leaders.




Maradia et Manlalambay
Wearing red, Apo Lobo (left) and Apo Lulan Mande (Right flank of the Masikampo), Manlalambay, who performed the lambay. Apo Adol Cojamco, another Tagbanua noble, stands on the rightmost. The three of them are from Barangay Magbabadil, Aborlan.


The Tagbanua Political Structure




-A Masicampo is the primary leader among all the traditional leaders and other non Christian cultural communities whose authority extends throughout the mainland Palawan.
-Considered as the patriarch of the IPs of Palawan, settling disputes, imposing tribal laws (adat), appointing traditional leaders (bageral), and solemnizing tribal marriages.
- It is common belief among the Tagbanuas and Pala’wan of mainland Palawan that there shall be only one legitimate Masicampo of Palawan. To avoid conflicting views to the customary laws.
- in case of death of a Masicampo or upon his incapacity, the elders among the clans of the Family with the Bloodline of Masicampo also called as the Usba e’t Masicampo will convene for the purpose of choosing among them who will be the next Masicampo. The Masicampo will be chosen by a consensus of the Usba e’t Masicampothe council of the elders of the clan. Women, youngsters and non members of the family are prohibited to participate in the deliberation.



Saturday

The Masikampo

       Palawan is the home of eight cultural minorities Tao’t Bato (ke’ney), Batac, Pala’wan, Molbog, Mapun, Tausug and Panimusan with diversified customs, traditions, idiosyncrasies and lifestyles. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, Palawan was under the dominion of the Sultan of Sulu and Borneo who continued to hold sovereignty over the southern part of Palawan until the 19th century making Aborlan a sultanate of Sulu. A political structure formed the government of the early Tagbanuas. The Sultan was represented by a “Masicampo”, the highest ranking tribal leader or the chieftain. He was chosen from a lineage of “Masicampo”, from a particular bloodline. The whole native populace was under his rule. Everybody ran to him for problem-solving, decision making and many other cases. He also appoint the “saribangsawan” and his panglima, maradja and their assistants. The Tagbanuas have distinct cultural customs and traditions acquired from the people of Sulu and Borneo. (The festival and ritual practices of the Tagbanua of Aborlan, its implication to education. Reynaldo M. Yap Jr., 1994 )


       The Sultanate of Brunei ruled during the fourteenth to the sixteenth century CE. Its territory covered the northern part of Borneo and the southern Philippines (wikipedia.com/history of Brunei).


       Fragmentary pre- Spanish records denote an early relationship between the west central Philippines, including Palawan, Brunei, and North Borneo. Brunei was an important colony of the Buddhist Kingdom of the Shri- Vishaya in the 12th Century and of the Brahman Empire of Madjapahit in the 14th Century. Although it is not known how extensive were the efforts of the pre- Muslim Bornean Chiefs from Brunei to colonize the southern Philippines, ancient, apparently pre- Spanish manuscripts have been found in the Philippines which refer to Bornean chiefs in Panay, Mindoro, Southern Luzon, and Palawan. The folk history of the Tagbanuwa also denotes an early relationship with Brunei. According to Clemente Bulunan of Baraki, the first Masicampo of Tagbanuwa was appointed by a surutan (Sultan) of Brunyu, from a land called Burnay (Brunei), eleven generations ago. 
      The political and juridical powers of the hereditary leaders, which form a hierarchy headed by the Masikampu, extend through the Tagbanua world. Tagbanua society is stratified on the basis of “high bloods” that are the hereditary leaders, the ginuu and their relatives, as well as most of the babalyans or "mediums" and their kin. The remaining persons form a class of “low blood”. In the past there was also a small class of servile debtors, the uripun, who had a slave-like status. 
      The hereditary leaders often assume responsibilities normally associated elsewhere in the Philippines, such as “marriage counseling”. In legal conflict, the “high bloods” enjoy a marked advantage over the “low bloods” for the latter do not have any kinsmen, as hereditary leaders, to whom they can turn for legal aid. The highest jural and political office among the Tagbanua is the Masikampu. Regardless of the Spanish origin of this term and the fact that the Spaniards had no intense contact with the Tagbanuas until about 1872, the folk history of the Tagbanua indicates that the function of this office are at least one hundred and fifty years old and probably older. 
      The Tagbanua society is still stratified but the present “high bloods” have few privileges. There is no class distinction in wealth. Some of the political functions of the hereditary leaders have been assumed by Christian Filipino Officials; moreover “low bloods” have sometimes been appointed to responsible positions by Filipino Officials. (Religion and Society among the Tagbanua of Palawan Island, Philippines. Dr. Robert B. Fox, 1982).


Ruben C. Joya is the 18th anointed Masikampo in the succession line of the Inagawan Masikampu. After being chosen by the council of elders, also known as the Usba e't Masikampo, he assumed his duties and responsibilities following a ritual called the "Lambay". Shown is the ceremony and the paraphernalia used.

On the table are some of the ceremonial objects during the lambay. Milled rice with the Babaylan (priest/priestess) beads, Natural beeswax (yellow), ceramic bowls, tobacco/cigarette, a cloth we call "patadyong".

Tobacco leaves/cigarette, ceremonial knife, wood and a Babaylan's stone/"mutya".
Shown above is the stoneware jar with ceremonial rice wine called "Tabad" fermented for weeks, bamboo sticks to drink from the jar.
Wild herbs and coconut husks to use as local incense.


Chicken or an animal to sacrifice.


Babaylan performing ritual prayers
The Babaylans in red and Masikampo Ruben C. Joya with the sword called "Badung".

The 18th Masikampo of the tribe, Masikampo Ruben C. Joya.