Angaray’s Take: Experiencing Pagtulang, a glimpse of Higaonon culture 

By Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan/BukidnonNews.Net

ANANASU, Impasugong, Bukidnon (BukidnonNews.Net/14 January) All was set for that night for the Pagtulang, a monthly activity of Ananasu, a Higaonon community of 27 households who are sharing a culture and a territory. That community is part of Barangay Dumalaguing in Impasugong, Bukidnon.

I saw women and children preparing the firewood to be used in that night’s story-telling (batbat), singing (limbay), dancing (sayaw), chanting (dasang) and learning (kinanau). It was my first time to experience a Pagtulang.

We went to Ananasu last August 29, 2015. I was handed a mamaen, a special treat for a significant visitor, as I chose a spot to have a full view on the activities that Saturday night.

A kitchen was set in the middle of that small all-purpose structure. Wood ashes were enclosed with banana logs to settle the blazing firewood over it. Parallel to that instant kitchen were beams to attach the hooks (made of tree branches) that held the kettles containing young corn, rice and boiling water. There was a call then for a ritual by an elderly. That marked the beginning of a Pagtulang. It lasted until dawn.

Ananasu is located on the mountains of Impasugong. A rough ride of more than two hours from Impasugong to Kalabugaw is just the midway of reaching the place. With a group of volunteers (teachers and students of Bukidnon State University), I had to cross rivers and streams for more than seven times.

Those were the same rivers hurdled by the Higaonon children of Ananasu who are enrolled in Kalabugaw Elementary School. Our two-and-a-half hour ascending trek rewarded us with a panoramic view of a Higaonon community. Humble houses were scattered; and almost each house has a garden in the yard.

A scene during the Pagtulang in Ananasu, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan

A scene during the Pagtulang in Ananasu, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan

Pagtulang is a distinct practice of this community. It is the time when the adults would tell a story or demonstrate a skill. With the Higaonon children that night, I learned the art of preparing a rat for a meal. I could locate where to strike the knife in the exact part of a rat’s body to release the intestines. Broiling the rat needs a thin bamboo stick to hold it over the fire. I followed through the proper way of scraping the rat’s fur. I could smell the scorched wild meat.

I almost forgot about it when the children presented a series of songs and dances. A 10-year old boy did a chanting. Another one narrated a story. Dugsu was done by the girls. The war dance performed by the boys took the larger area. It was a living culture unfolding before my camera lens.

Indeed, Pagtulang is a time for teaching and learning between the young and the old, a unique way of preserving a culture. That night was deepened by stories, music and dance. As expected, a special food was served to me that night. I had to release the mamaen from my mouth and take in the subject of the lesson that night, the wild meat freshly taken from the fire! My portion satisfied my soul. That was a beautiful night!

The concept of Pagtulang is founded in the importance of the abu (kitchen), where many teachings or stories are heard from the olds. As it was said, the old people loved to stay in the abu to warm themselves. The Higaonon term for that is tag-dadang. Anyone who stays with them in the abu would always hear stories that bear practical teachings about life and about culture.

I was loaded with insights that night. I joined the community in prayer, thanking the Magbabaya for a beautiful night. Right in front of the abu, I danced with the rhythm of the basal (drums), a humble expression of being grateful to that Higaonon community.

We were sent off by the community the following day. I noted the Balangbangan River because its name sounded like Bagangbangan (a strong current of waterfalls). Datu Bagangbangan had passionately crossed a lot of rivers and mountains to celebrate life in the IP communities; and that same passion keeps me going.

(Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan is also the in-charge of the Ethno-cultural Museum of Bukidnon State University, where she teaches social science and other subjects. She is the daughter of Datu Bagangbangan, more commonly known as “Aki” the late Vice Gov. Lorenzo Dinlayan Sr. Angaray’s Take is her column for BUKIDNON VIEWS, the opinion section of BukidnonNews.Net. She can be reached through angaray_bsc@yahoo.com.)