Martes, Hunyo 28, 2011

Bicol (pre colonial history)


         The Bicol region was known as Ibalon, variously interpreted to derive form ibalio, "to bring to the other side"; ibalon, "people from the other side" or "people who are hospitable and give visitors gifts to bring home"; or as a  corruption of Gibal-ong, a sitio of Magallanes, Sorsogon where the Spaniards first landed in 1567.  The Bico River was first mentioned in Spanish Documents in 1572.  The region was also called "Los Camarines" after the huts found by the Spaniards in Camalig,  Albay.  No prehistoric animal fossils have been discovered in Bicol and the peopling of the region remains obscure.  The Aeta from Camarines Sur to Sorsogon strongly suggest that aborigines lived there long ago, but earliest evidence is of middle to late Neolithic life.  

             A barangay (village) system was in existence by 1569.  Records show no sign of Islamic rule nor any authority surpassing the datu (chieftain).  Precolonial leadership was based on strength, courage, and intelligence.  The native seemed apolitical.  Thus the datu's influence mattered most during crises like wars.  Otherwise, early Bicol society remained family centered, and the leader was the head of the family.


          Bicol religiosity is deeply rooted.  Sometimes Christian faith is expressed through indigenous forms, and indigenous beliefs may assume a Christian face.  Some beliefs and customs related to farming the life cycle, talismans, and divination survive in the consciousness of the contemporary Bicol, even the educated.

                The prehispanic beliefs in the hierarchy of supernaturals ranging from bad to good s to a limited extend preserved.  The common expression "Tabi po, maki-agi po" (Excuse me please, I would like to pass by) acknowledges the invisible world.  The Christian God and heavenly host have replaced the supreme god Gugurang and the minor deities, each of whom had a special function.  But the darker side inhabited by witches and monsters seem to live on I the minds of some Bicol Christians.  So does ancestor worship in some areas; a postharvest thanksgiving ritual, sagurang, is retained by Bicol farmers by way of offering food to the spirits of their 

             The healers Cannell discusses in her book work to cure illnesses that are caused by invisible small spirit beings called tawo. The tawo may come into the room in its own invisible form or enter the body of the healer. The Filipinos have undoubtedly seen the world as being inhabited by these beings before Christianity came. So how did they deal with the idea of a world where there is both Jesus and tawo? The Filipinos Cannell studied suggested that these beings are aware of Jesus and do have a place in the Christian world (118). Some tawo, they argue, are in fact Christians. Yet ironically the spirits cannot enter into the church and be blessed while residing in a persons body lest the body forever be inhabited by the spirit. This , the Bicolanos say is because in the beginning of the world when god blessed all animals and humans the tawohid among the trees and were not blessed which is why they are invisible (118). So if a tawo is blessed it will enter into the human world. Philippine Catholicism thus includes a unique spiritual world that does not exist in other areas of the world that practice Catholicism. In combination with saint worship and going to church, there are other forms of ritual and religious practice that has survived the efforts of colonialism to trample these practices. 

             As icons of modernity became visibly alive, old customs and practices of previous centuries continued to define the character of the taga-Canaman. Folk medicine, traditional healing practices, such as baw√¨ or the santigwar, and the use of local herbs remained integral features of the native's psychological understanding of the nature of pathology and healing. This implies, therefore, the persistence of the belief in supernatural creatures such as aswang, tigbalang, kapre, taong lipod and similar spirits, who continually co-existed with them even right in their own urban milieu. But it was in the survival of many pious practices that the town takes pride as the showcase of Bicol culture.

(The beating of the patong or balalong, a hollowed wooden gong used as a communication tool during the pre-colonial days, today signals the start of the street parade of the Tinagba festival in Iriga. Image is from Feodor Jagor's Reisen en den Phiippinen.)

Wedding Ceremony
              Agta is the generic term used in Bikol to refer to its 40,000 natives with dark-colored skins, short stature and kinky hair. There are three other terms for them in Camarines Norte where they have managed to preserve their indigenous culture. "Kabihug" is what they call themselves; "Manide" is the term for their language; and Abian, meaning "friend" is how they are referred to by non- Agtas.

         The father and the elder sons usually hunt, while the mothers and daughters are left behind for the household chores. It is usually the mothers who take care of the babies. Infancy is termed as tayombon, weaning as pagbubutas, childhood as pagdako, adolescence as pagsisiel and pagbakis as marriage. In social gatherings called katapusan which is usually a day for rest, youngsters get the opportunity to mingle with other youngsters. When a boy happens to fall in love with a girl, he can declare his intentions by hiding and waiting for her to bathe in the river. There he should throw to the girl a fruit with a drawn design symbolizing his love for her. If the girl picks up the fruit, it means that she too has similar feelings for the boy. It is only then that the boy reveals himself and proposes to the girl. If their parents do not object of their love, the boy will do the manunungko and ask from the girl's parents her hand in marriage. The girl's father gives the boy a final task. If accomplished to his satisfaction, the wedding is then set. It is the tribe's oldest member who officiates at the ceremony, where tobacco, local wine and nganga figure prominently. After receiving the final blessings and instructions from their eldest relatives, the couple make off for the hills or forest for their honeymoon. The next day, they wear a red piece of cloth around their foreheads to proclaim their newlywed status.

Wedding Ceremony  Today

  In past decades the bride would wear her best dress. This wedding dress was usually festive in color. For the past hundred years or so, brides have chosen the more modern white Filipino embroidered wedding gown.   The bride will carry a bouquet made of orange blossoms, a Spanish wedding tradition.The sponsors are made up of two groups; the Principal Sponsors are grandparents, uncle, aunt or even parents. These sponsors are considered silent sponsors who are there for the couple in time of need but are silent during the wedding ceremony. The sponsors are called ninongs and ninangs (godparents). The Secondary Sponsors take part in the ceremony and handle the candle, veil and cord.When the bride and groom exit the church, they are greeted good wishes and applause by family and friends. There will be music and dancing for hours. Spanish music among others will be played the night through. The bride and groom will dance the “money dance” where guests pin pesos or dollars to the bride or groom in exchange for a dance with them. Depending on the wishes of the couple, Spanish traditional dances will be performed. During the reception couples practice the  wedding custom of releasing a pair of white doves to symbolize a loving and harmonious marriage.