Incantations and Sorceries Against the Murderers — 01.07.2021
The text below was presented by Norberto Roldan during an artists’ talk with Reza Afisina, Mark Salvatus, Pangrok Sulap, and Takahashi Mizuki (moderator) as part of “Unfolding: Fabric of Our Life,” the inaugural exhibition of Center for Heritage, Art and Textile (CHAT) on March 17, 2019, in Hong Kong.
I have produced a series of textile works entitled “Incantations in the land of virgins, monsters, sorcerers and angry gods” featured in CHAT's inaugural exhibition to honor the Panay Suludnon, the indigenous people of my home province of Capiz in Panay Island in the Visayas. To continue to honor them, allow me to speak briefly about their history and present condition.
Our country consists of a large number of upland and lowland ethnolinguistic groups. Since these indigenous peoples were not assimilated with the rest of the population during the 300 years of Spanish rule, they have retained much of their customs and traditions up to today. The indigenous people of northern Philippines, in Luzon, are popularly called Igorots. The non-Muslim indigenous groups of Mindanao are collectively called Lumads. The indigenous people in the Visayas are generally called Tumandok or Atis and, in Central Panay Island, they are specifically called Panay Suludnon.
The Panay Suludnon have for centuries resisted various forms of foreign aggression by retreating to the interior and more remote areas of Panay. Due mainly to the rugged terrains and inaccessibility of the mountains, Spanish and American colonizers were discouraged from coming into contact with the highlanders.
Chanting their epic narratives is an important feature of the Panay Suludon’s social and cultural life. The adventures of mythical characters such as brothers Humadapnon, Labaw Donggon, and Dumalapdap and other warriors constitute ten major epics. One particular epic, the Hinilawod, tells the story of the adventures of the three brothers as they would cross plains, mountains, rivers, and valleys to seek the hands of virgins, fight monsters in duels, be enchanted by sorceresses, and test the anger of the gods before settling down in the heart of Panay. These fantastic stories remain a significant part of the history told and retold, from generation to generation, by the Panay Suludnon. Unfortunately, only one or two of these epic chants are known to and practiced by today’s chanters.
Excerpts from these chants are embroidered on my work on the patadyong textile as a reminder of the importance of these narratives. Texts that describe their rituals are also embroidered on the patadyong textile to describe the richness of their tradition.
Duta kag bukid (land and farm)
Dagat kag danyag (sea and horizon)
Sagiben sa palayan (ritual on the rice field)
Sagiben sa maraisan (ritual on the cornfield)
Dagyaw sa suba (ritual on the river)
Patubig sa hurumayan (irrigation for the rice fields)
Economic development in the form of big commercial mining, dam constructions, eco-tourism, and expansion of big plantation, continues to threaten the indigenous villages and communities in the Philippines. In Panay Island alone, large-scale mining by a private corporation endangers five municipalities in the province of Capiz. The government’s mega-dam project — when completed — will submerge four villages in the province of Iloilo and will dislocate an estimated 17,000 Panay Suludnon in the affected villages. Tourism — when misdirected and not culture-sensitive — ends up commercializing and, at worst, trivializing indigenous culture by converting them into plain commodities. Land grabbing of ancestral lands by big corporations and local political warlords which resulted in centuries of injustice, inequality, and poverty is one of the root causes of the socio-political crisis in the country.
In view of these realities, Roy Giganto,* a Panay Suludnon elder, has this to say:
“We are not against development. We are against the stealing of our land for projects that we cannot even benefit from. We fear losing our land, our livelihood, and our culture. Driven away by land grabbing, hunger, and poverty, we are forced to journey, like the great heroes of our epics, to the plains and cities to seek jobs as domestic helpers, pedicab drivers, or construction workers, but always with the memory of our land in our hearts.”
In closing, let me translate the long texts embroidered on two of my patadyong textile works in the exhibition. This particular statement is attributed to Evelita “Ka Mera” Giganto Gedoria, a Panay Bukidnon community leader. In Hiligaynon, which is the local language of the people in Panay, it says: “Kon Madura diya nga duta, kami nga mga Tumandok Madura man.” In English, it says: “If we lose our land, we, the indigenous people, will also vanish.”
On December 30, 2020, simultaneous police operations on Tumandok communities in Tapaz, Capiz, and Calinog, Iloilo, left nine dead who allegedly resisted arrest, while 17 others were arrested. In Barangay Lahug alone, 78 indigenous people left their homes and sought shelter in the town of Tapaz, Capiz, some eight kilometers away, for fear of more police operations by the state
The Tumandok leaders who were killed were said to have been actively resisting the construction of the mega-dam in their ancestral lands. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) accused them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines / New People’s Army.
*Roy Giganto (mentioned and quoted during the artist talk) was one of those killed.
The text above serves to mourn the deaths of the Tumandok leaders and to give respect to the indigenous people of the Visayas — the Panay Suludnon — who continue to protect their ancestral land against a fascist state.
January 7, 2021