BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TALAANDIG PEOPLE
By Datu Migketay Victorino L. Saway
The Talaandig is one of the seven ethnic groups in the province of Bukidnon namely: the Manobo, Higaonon, Umayamnon, Matigsalug, Bukidnon and Tigwahanon, and specifically located around Mt. Kitanglad in the northern and eastern side of Mt. Kalatungan.
The population of the Talaandig people is roughly estimated to 100,000 individuals. The Talaandig population, however, is probably more than the estimated number because several of its members opted to be called Bukidnon, a name designated by lowland dwellers to its members at the time of Spanish colonization. According to two elders namely Apu Luciano Sihagan and Apu Angel Colero (all deceased), the term Bukidnon was designated to the members of the Talaandig who were“civilized” accordingly by the Spaniards. Some members of the Talaandig people also called themselves Higaonon, a term derived from the term “gaun” meaning offshore. The province of Bukidnon which was formerly part of the province of Misamis Oriental was earlier referred to as “Aragi ha Gaun”, meaning, “wide area off the shore”. In the past, the term “talaandig” was critically referred to as “wild people”, “ignorant”,“savage” and “uncivilized” because it resisted colonization by running away to the mountain.
The term “Higaonon”, dwellers off the shore and “Bukidnon”, dwellers of the mountain which is derived from the Bisayan term “bukid”, meaning mountain were not resisted by the Talaandig people the fact that being dwellers off the shore and dwellers of the mountain are existing realities of the life of the community.
The origin of the early inhabitants in the island of Mindanao is spelled out in the story of the great flood which is the focus of this presentation.
THE FLOOD STORY
According to the Talaandig oral history known as “Gugud”, the early people on earth were Kumuluy, the wanderer, and Lumibulibu, one who keeps moving around. The two were probably couples and they live according to the will of Magbabaya, the Ultimate Decision Maker. When their generations multiplied, they isolated themselves from the guidance of Magbabaya, so they were eradicated on earth by means of a long drought.
During the drought, four people were saved namely Balauy and Tibulun and Hinanglayan and Binanglayan. The former were males and the latter were females. The four people found each other while searching for water and became couples. According to the story, they were able to find water below the falls of Lusukan, a waterfall located at Pulangi River, the Rio Grande of Mindanao, found in the Municipality of Maramag Bukidnon. The couples were known to be the chosen people of Magbabaya to become the seed of the next generations.
When the generations of Balauy, Tibulun, Hinanglayan and Binanglayan multiplied, however, they also transgressed the laws of their Creator. This time, Magbabaya decided to clean the earth by means of a flood. Before the flood occured, Nabis ha Panggulu and his three children namely Nabis ha Andadaman, Nabis Lumbu Bulawan and Nabis ha Upak were instructed by Magbabaya to go up to heaven. His youngest son, Nabis ha Agbibilin, who was chosen to become the seed of the next generation, was instructed to climb to the top of Lumuluyaw mountain, also known as Dulangdulang, the highest peak of Kitanglad mountain ranges, in order to be saved from the calamity. Nabis ha Agbibilin followed the instruction and went up to Lumuluyaw while his father and his brothers went up to heaven.
The flood finally came and submerged the lowlands around Dulangdulang mountain. While the great flood was taking place, Nabis Lumbu Bulawan looked down through Kulaguwan, the door of the sky, and described to Nabis ha Agbibilin the merciful situation of the people on earth who were washed away by the strong waves. Thus, Nabis ha Agbibilin knew everything that happened during the great flood. The description given by Nabis Lumbu Bulawan to Nabis ha Agbibilin was delivered through a chant known as “sala”, a poetic construction of phrases to describe the event. Talaandig song or chant known as “sala” originated from Nabis Lumbu Bulawan being the first person to deliver it.
After days or month, when the flood finally subsided, Apu Agbibilin, as we address Nabis ha Agbibilin today being our great ancestor, went down from Mt. Dulangdulang and found a woman name Ginamayung who was saved on a “kalatung”, a wooden Talaandig drum, at the opposite mountain which was later known as the mountain of Kalatungan. Through the instruction of Magbabaya, the two got married and were blessed with eight children: four males and four females.
When the children of Apu Agbibilin and Apu Ginamayung were old enough to get married, Magbabaya instructed them to let their children marry each other in order to multiply on earth. The marriage that was arranged by Apu Agbibilin and Apu Ginamayung became the origin of the incest law that is necessarily settled when a marriage is negotiated in the Talaandig community. During the marriage arrangement, Magbabaya specifically instructed Apu Agbibibilin to arrange the marriage alternately among his children and not to allow a brother and a sister who were born one after another to become partner in marriage.
Before Apu Agbibilin departed on earth, he gathered all his children and taught them all the knowledge and wisdom they need to survive on earth. His final instruction was delivered through the small jar of oil called “puti” which he gave to his eldest son and he said: “Someday when all your generations will multiply, like the hairs you will get entangled. You must put oil on your hairs and comb them.” The name of his eldest son, Saulana, was derived from the term “lana” (oil) to whom he left the responsibility to uphold the laws of kinship as foundation of the Talaandig peace keeping traditions.
After his instructions, Apu Agbibilin departed on earth and his children together with their families, except for the family of Apu Saulana who settled in the areas between Mt. Kitanglad and Kalatungan, went in different direction to find a place to stay. His children who went towards Lake Lanao in the west became the ancestors of the Malanaw tribe while his children who went towards the provinces of Cotabato in the south became the ancestors of the Magindanaw tribe. The youngest son and his wife together with their children went to the southeastern side and became the ancestors of the Manobo tribe.
True indeed, when the generations of the children of Apu Agbibilin multiplied, war broke among them. It was the time of Apu Malengmeng when the war took place. Because he was the one keeping the jar of oil, he remembered the instruction so he called on Apu Nanguletay, the “pigtailan” or the most trusted servant and instructed him to visit the leaders of the warring troops and invite them to a peace talk. The invitation was done through a knot called “kedaw” made out of a rattan that was taken from Kiabansag Mountain at the foot of Kitanglad mountain ranges.
The leaders of the warring troops who received the “kedaw” understood the message so they gathered at Bulanbulan, the “center” of the land and the sacred place of the jar of oil, to settle the conflict. During the peace conference, the blood relationships of the warring troops were affirmed and all of them agreed to settle their conflict by determining the cause of the war. Finally, they discovered that the war resulted from disputes over the use of resources inside a common territory. Thus, they agreed among themselves to settle the conflict by defining the territory which each tribe will occupy. The traditional agreement that settled the traditional territories of the Talaandig, Malanaw, Magindanaw and the Manobo tribes was done over a peace pact ceremony known as “Tampuda hu Balagen” where a piece of a rattan held at both ends by the parties involved is cut as a symbol to end the conflict. Along with the cutting of the rattan, a torch is blown off, an egg is crashed to pieces and a porcelain plate is broken to strengthen the impact and message of the ritual. These enactments symbolically terminate the conflict forever. It is also believed that any of the party involved who shall violate the agreement will end up with curse and misfortunes like a crushed egg, a blown off torch, a cut rattan and a broken plate that will hardly be able to come into shape again.
During the tribal wars, the warriors who enter Bulanbulan ta Bugta (“center of the earth”), the sacred home place of the jar of oil, stop the fight otherwise they will be dishonored and be taken as slaves by the custodians of the indigenous customs and traditions for desecrating a holy place.
According to the Talaandig oral history, the entry point to the sacred land in the east is Sitio Babahagen of Poblacion Lantapan, Bukidnon. Babahagen derived from the term “bahag”, meaning a trouser. During the war, the warriors who reach the area will put on their trouser suits and enter the place peacefully without fear against the enemy whom they will meet inside the area.
In the western side, the entry point to Bulanbulan is Sitio Kimanga of Barangay Kibangay in the Municipality of Lantapan, Bukidnon. The term derived from the word “pinanga”, meaning, a hair fastened like a branch of a tree. The warriors who reach the area are expected to dress up and comb their hair and enter peacefully into the sacred land.
In the south western side, the Bulanbulan is bounded by Manupali River towards Kalatungan mountain ranges. Towards the north, the sacred land ends at the top of Dulangdulang Mountain, the landmark of the Talaandig history and ancestral territory.