Monday

The Masikampo: Tagbanua Supreme Leader



THE INDEFEASIBLE POWER OF THE 18TH MASIKAMPU OF PALAWAN AS THE APPEALS JUDGE OF THE CULTURAL COMMUNITIES
A précis
The State recognizes the inherent right of the ICCs/IPs to self-governance and self-determination and respects the integrity of their values, practices and institutions. Consequently, the State shall guarantee the right of ICCs/IPs to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. The ICCs/IPs shall have the right to use their own commonly accepted justice systems, conflict resolution institutions, peace building mechanisms and other customary laws and practices within their respective communities and as may be compatible with the national legal system and with internationally recognized human right. Section 13 and 15 of RA No. 8371.
The term “cultural minorities” had been applied to the predominantly non-Christian groups of varying degrees of cultural development who form eight percent of the present population of the Philippines. There are only two original settlers in Palawan, those belonging to the groups of Batak and Tagbanua (Map of the Cultural Communities of the Philippines).This reveals that the earliest cultural community that pre- existed even the Spanish colonization is the Tagbanua.
Tagbanua society is characterized by tremendous elaboration of custom law which affects much necessary formalism and mechanisms of social control. 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. (Fox, Tagbanua Religion and Society/National Museum)

Masikampu Ignacio Joya (the 14th Masikampu) who was considered as the environmental protector of the ancient lands and sacred sites of Palawan, had the title MASIKAMPU or the Master of the Camp (Antropologist Harold Olofson); the Tagbanuas, however, quoted it for “Mas it Ampu” or higher than Lords (Ancient Syllabaries). This indicates why the Masikampu seats as the highest titular head of the earliest form of government known in the province. All affairs, even those of the past, present and future manifestations of the culture of Palawan must be with the consent and authority of the Masikampu.
 Somewhere in 1840’s a great battle was fought between Masikampu Bulunan and Datu Harun Narazzid (Robert Fox, based on the recollection of Masikampu Clemente Bulunan); Masikampu Bulunan was considered as the Masikampu who hates the idea of slavery; Tagbanuas are free people but the customary laws are extremely rigid. Tagbanuas are fierce warriors; the Masikampu even sent reinforcements to fight the battle of Taytay against the tyranny of the Spaniards (Tuturan).
The 18th Masikampu continuously acts as the protector of the adat (customary laws). He is the 18th reincarnation of the ancient spirit bound to protect the people of the land, thus, conceived the term “Tagbanua” or the “owners of the land”. The 14th Masikampu Ignacio Joya was a collaborator to the modern day environmental anthropology in cognizance with the ancient beliefs that people’s spirits are deeply interwoven with love of nature. The 3rd Masikampu Kinuyu was even dubbed as a demi-god (Folk History) while Masikampu Limas was told to be a son of a Surutan of Bur’nay (History of Inagawan) and Masikampu Patula was considered as the last monarch of Palawan when he was baptized as Don Manuel Patula by Ezekiel Moreno.
The ancient people also believe in the concept of an afterlife (the story behind the Manunggul Jar). The Masikampu never dies, the term “nanalikod” when a Masikampu passed connotes more of the term “physical retirement” because the ancient spirit never experiences “death”. Thus, it is a simple fact that every Masikampu is a vessel of ancient history of Palawan (Tuturan). Palawan has been the domain of the Masikampu since time immemorial. If culture is a soul to a nation then it can be said that the Masicampo is the ancient spirit of the province of Palawan.
Additionally, Indigenous leadership emerges from the dynamics of customary law and practices. Indigenous leaders evolve from a lifestyle of conscious assertion and practice of traditional values and beliefs as seen, among others, by the following attributes:
a)    Demonstrates sustained wisdom and integrity in the administration of justice and pronouncement of judgments and decisions based on truth and the maintenance of peace;
b)    Model head of the family, as a provider and protector of family and community values such as cooperation, sharing and caring;
c)     Contributes and makes decisions aimed at protecting the ancestral domain, community peace, truth, IKSPs and sustaining harmonious relationships with neighboring tribes;
d)    Recognized authority on customary laws and practices, conflict resolution mechanism, peace building processes, spiritual, rituals and ceremonials; and
e)    Personal Integrity and honesty. Section 3 Rule IV IRR RA No. 8371.

The 18th Masikampu can fluently speak Tagbanua, Pela’wan, Ke’ney and Cuyonon dialect as a duty. He was selected not only on the basis of his bloodline but because of his profound knowledge of the customary laws and the unwritten history of the ICCs/IPs of the province. The 14th Masikampu Ignacio Joya was described by Dr. Robert Fox as an intelligent and prominent Tagbanua. Most of the Masikampu were political leaders in Palawan. Wealth, intellect and breeding are traits being considered in the selection. The bloodline of the Masikampu is not the sole basis in the selection process. With the longest ever recorded history and ancestry, the authority of Masikampu Joya is highly incontestable (National Museum on Succession of Inagawan Masikampu).
The Masikampu has existed for over three hundred years already (National Museum). 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 contacts 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. (Dr. Robert B. Fox).
The title Masikampu is given to the appeals judge (Anthropologist Olofson) meaning that the highest tribunal is headed by the Masikampu himself who decides cases with finality by means of surugiden/betiara. The process of Surugiden (Tagbanua)/Betiara (Pela’wan) has been settled since time immemorial. It is a process for conflict resolution, marriage solemnization and for penalizing transgressors for the violation of customary laws (Fox). IP Marriages are strictly solemnized in accordance with customary laws thru the process of Surugiden/Betiara (Testimony of Pangiran Kaibiño Nangkud)
Marriages among muslims or members of the ethnic cultural communities may be performed validly without the necessity of marriage license, provided they are solemnized in accordance with their customs, rites or practices. (Article 33 of E.O. No. 209) Customs and Practices refer to norms of conduct and patterns of relationship or usages of a community over time accepted and recognized as binding on all members. Section 1 (i) IRR RA No. 8371
With the continuation for almost ten years of incumbency of Masikampu Ruben C. Joya Sr., more or less thousand marriages were solemnized, this means surugiden/betiara were held more or less a thousand times with each celebration having recognized by the government through the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Precisely, if IP Marriages were solemnized in accordance with the customary laws thru the process of surugiden and betiara, then this practice has already attained permanent recognition by the government. The function of the PSA is only ministerial with the matter of registration (PSA Letter). The integrity of the surugiden/betiara cannot be attacked except thru judicial process. The registration of every marriage is itself a confirmation that the customary process of surugiden/betiara is valid. Hence, the authority of the 18th Masikampu Ruben C. Joya Sr. to conduct any surugiden/betiara is already beyond contestation.
The State shall recognize and promote the rights of ICCs/IPs within the framework of national unity and development. Section 2 (a) RA No. 8371.Customary laws and practices shall prevail upon mainstream mechanisms in the manner of selecting the mandatory representatives to the local legislative councils of the ICCs/ IPs. Moreover, customary laws and practices shall be used primarily to resolve disputes in the selection process.Section 4(a) NCIP Memorandum Circular No. 001 Series of 2009.
It is a clear fact that the NCIP is devoid of any authority to pass upon the validity and regularity of the surugiden/betiara sans any specific provision granting the same or to enjoin or otherwise interfere with this proceeding. This ancient practice was not even proscribed by any law rather it was encouraged to be exercised as a substantial right under the right of self-governance and empowerment (Section 4 Rule IV IRR RA 8371). Neither was there any existing conflict since the 18th Masikampu was duly authorized to solemnize marriages in accordance with the customary laws (Authority to solemnize 2008-2019 upon endorsement of NCIP) and further, considering that marriage is an inviolable social institution, it would be absurd to deny recognition of a removal of an IPMR candidate when based to that same customary practice. In comparison, unlike marriages, public office is neither a property nor contract, but a mere privilege (Nachura Political Law). Any candidate for IPMR may be removed by reason of his membership in the tribe when done thru a surugiden/betiara.
The surugiden/ betiara is a probe designed to eliminate any illegal appointment to the position of IPMR and to ensure the primacy of customary laws under RA No. 8371. The decision of the Bagerar as headed by the Masikampu concerns personal membership to the tribe, which, as a token for such affiliation, that he should abide with their customary laws (NCIP Memorandum No. 414). The public character of an IPMR depends on the will of the traditional leaders who may, at any justifiable cause, deny him of such right. Hence, an official may be removed in his public capacity as IPMR or in his private status as an individual member of his tribe. It can surely be observed that customary laws are more rigid than national election laws.
The ICCs/IPs have the right to use their traditional justice systems, conflict resolution institutions or peace building processes which are oriented to settlements, reconciliation and healing, and as may be compatible with national laws and accepted human rights, in all conflict situations between and among IP individual s and between and among other ICCs/IP communities. (Section 4 Rule IV IRR RA No. 8371)
Finally, under the doctrine of independence, ICCs/IPs have the right to practice and revitalize their own cultural traditions and customs. (Section 32 of RA No. 8371). Hence, the removal of an IPMR candidate is merely ministerial upon issuance of a final judgment by the Masikampu. Our customary laws are surely not mere illusory legal ornamentations to be trifled with; RA No. 8371 has specifically adopted our justice system as a guarantee for the perpetuation of culture and preservation of our cultural heritage in our province (Primacy of customary laws). The burden of preserving the genuine culture of Palawan has not been the sole obligation of the Masikampu, the destiny of ICCs/IPs and their identity is always intertwined with inter-generational responsibility that each person should accord proper respect to our customary laws as our ancestor did during their time.


MASIKAMPU RUBEN C. JOYA SR.
18th Masicampo of Palawan

Thursday

The Tagbanua: Marriage Vows




Marriage among the Tagbanua and Pala'wan is a multi-step process that is intrinsically part of the tribal tradition. Before the actual exchange of vows, the families involved, the nobles (usba) and bagerals meet to discuss the terms of marriage. There is a form of inquiry about the civil status of both parties to make certain that there are no binding legal responsibilities. The family of the bride might ask for a dowry which can be monetary or livestock for farm use. The requests are not exorbitant or limiting. There usually is a compromise agreeable to the involved families. Once an agreement is made, the wedding ceremony commences with a "lambay", a ritual, offered to the gods to bless the union. The Masikampo, the supreme leader, solemnizes the wedding as is the custom. As part of the event, there is food, "tabad" (rice wine) and a lot of dancing and "uyman" (singing).
Above is a couple from Sagpangan in Aborlan whose wedding was officiated by Masikampo Ruben C. Joya. Marriage certificates were issued as part of the government's civil code.

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.