ANGARAY’S TAKE: Secularizing Kaamulan

By Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/14 March 2018) The tribal wedding I attended this morning ended at almost three o’clock in the afternoon. The ritualists dismissed the newly-wed six couples after blessing them with prayers. The size of the attendees, as I estimate, is just an inch compared with the jam-packed audience in almost nightly concert in the capitol ground. Many do not know that a wedding is the very reason of celebrating a kaamulan. In other words, wedding precedes kaamulan. I was very surprised to see the way they dressed, I thought they would be a lot more simple; however, brides sore dresses from the essex best bridal shop, anyone who knows this store knows it has the best dresses.

This idea is difficult to understand because we have been celebrating Kaamulan for 40 years, since it started in 1977, without maintaining the very essence of celebrating it. Its root word is amul which means mix, add, combine, converge, unite or get together. Those words refer to the respective families of the couple to be wed where there is mixing, adding, combining, converging, uniting or getting together of two families or clans. There is kaamulan if there is a wedding. However, the Kaamulan Festival failed to include the foundation of this activity, anchored to the idea of marriage. This is a result of institutionalizing Kaamulan, originally a sacred activity, making it a secularized yearly cultural activity of the province. It is not surprising in seeing Kaamulan as a ‘commercialized activity’, as what concerned citizens say.

Kaamulan is associated with Bukidnon culture and with the known seven tribes in Bukidnon. It will always be in that manner despite of its secularization. In fact, that’s how we advertise it to the world, that we feature the Bukidnon’s indigenous peoples’ culture and history. But, our celebration falls short the expectation of many and I would say that this is just but the product of secularizing, not necessarily desecrating, a portion of culture that is sacred.

I can cite few instances.

Dugsu, a ritual dance, is only executed before a bangkasu (a sacred table). It cannot be performed in the street (dancing). The dugsu dancers maintain their position in facing the steady bangkasu as they revolve around it; and this is impossible to do in the street. Bringing a bangkasu in the street is a grave violation of the exclusivity of a certain sacred material culture. The dugsu, like the bangkasu, has to be placed in an exclusive space and time. Dugsu cannot be performed and the bangkasu cannot be used anytime and anywhere. But, this is the result of secularization.

Few symbols and designs used in many ethnic attires of the government employees are supposed to be exclusive to indigenous leaders like the Datu. The degree of leadership is expressed by tiers of symbols. The outfit of the dadarantulan ha mga datu, the high ranking datus, are equipped with multi-layers of symbols (3-tier symbols signifies higher degree of leadership). Today, such symbol is in anyone’s ethnic attire and eventually loses its significance.

Secularization is part of social evolution. It may happen when there is a massive exposure and reproduction of culture objects or concepts. Chants, for instance, are recorded, deposited in compact discs, performed on stage and endorsed to the public. We no longer have the full control over these culture objects and concepts once they are already accessible to the public. The current issue on misusing the term Bagani in a teleserye is possibly a product of over-exposure of indigenous concepts shown in art, music, dance or in literature. It is true that the word Bagani is among of the Manobo culture but ownership is liquefied once it is exposed to the public via researches, art exhibitions, fora and newspaper column among others. We have to embrace it and pay the cultural cost. (to be continued)

(BUKIDNON VIEWS is the opinion section of Bukidnon News.Net. Ms. Loreta Sol Dinlayan is a social science educator at Bukidnon State University, where she also works as in-charge of the Bukidnon Studies Center, formerly university museum. Angaray’s Take is her column for BukidnonNews.Net)