Dancing into the heart of the people

A dancer in T'boli attire and holding a 'patadyong', a smaller version of the 'malong', a versatile cloth that has many uses.

The Davao region is 85% Christian, 10% Muslim, and 5% lumad or the non-Muslim indigenous people, successfully living side by side and imbibing each other’s culture and way of living.  This proximity to one another has afforded us a glimpse of and a chance to experience and interact with the latter two.  Ever since our assignment last year to shoot the first cultural revival involving two Muslim tribes and three lumad tribes of the Davao region, we have been fascinated by the Muslim and Lumad cultures of Mindanao.  We have tried their little-known cuisine (incorporating some recipes into our own menu at home, thanks to Dariel; done with his signature twists, with the wifey’s approval), learned about some of their ways and rituals, been tickled by their kulintang music (one that I’d call their own ‘soul music’), been absorbed by their dances (you cannot appreciate how hard those simple hand gestures are till you’ve tried it), and been enriched by the whole experience.

A dancer in Tagabawa-Bagobo attire holding a faglong.

We have learned much from two people—the first is Sonja V. Garcia, who introduced us to the local culture when she got us for the assignment, and the second is Bryan B. Ellorimo, the founder of the Madayaw Cultural Ensemble.  These two are walking googles of information on Mindanao tribes and cultures: Sonja because of her long stint in government, and Bryan because of his own fascination and affinity with his Muslim neighbors from his boyhood.  Be prepared for a long and engaging evening when these two start talking about a subject that’s very obviously close to their hearts.

When Bryan offered to collaborate with us to shoot his dance troupe in our studio, no guessing what our answer was.  For us, it was another opportunity to document and preserve what really are in many ways disappearing cultures in our midst.  There are schools of living tradition that seek to do the same.  There is Jacob Maentz and his documentary work with our lumads.  We hope that our portraits can also somehow contribute, even in a little way, to the preservation of our indigenous cultures. (PhotoShelter gallery here)

The male dancer is attired as a Bagobo and holding a faglong, while the female dancer is attired as a T'boli maiden and wearing an 8-layered beaded necklace.

A female dancer in T'boli attire holding her patadyong and a male dancer in Bagobo attire wearing a datu's tabao or head scarf. The hair ornament on the woman also signifies her rank; a datu's wife's hair ornament has five rays.

A dancer in T'boli attire made from the T'nalak fabric and crafted by the famed Dream Weavers of Cotabato.

This dance troupe has been winning dance competitions in Mindanao for many years now, so much so that Ellorimo and his core members have become sought-after dance teachers and dance consultants in many schools.  We tip our lens to them.

Blog post by Cathy Quiogue.

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