Saturday, December 5, 2009

Western Visayan Pre-Colonial Literature: A Tapestry of Spoken Stories

The beginnings of Western Visayan literature took its roots from its epics and folklores. Along with that, Western Visayan literary tradition was already flourishing even before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines. According to Alex C. Delos Santos in his book The Rise of Kinaray-a History and Anthology of Contemporary Literature in Antique,

The siday, the banggianay (debate), the hurobaton (proverbs), paktakun (riddles),amba (songs) and the sugidanun (stories) are literary forms found in oral lore. The great asoy or epics shared by all of Panay are in archaic Kinaray-a (12).

In the aforementioned ancient literary types, recent scholarship and artistic endeavors began to take interest on the Panayanon epic, Hinilawod, which is being chanted in archaic Kinaray-a. F. Landa Jocano has documented this epic poetry and has been translated in English, especially “Labaw Donggon” which appeared in the Anthology of Asean Literatures: Epics of the Philippines (1984).

The Hinilawod as an epic is an essential culture-bearer chanted by the babaylan, a priestess from the Suludnon community. It also serves as a cultural artifact to the historical imagining of how the Sulod of old made sense of themselves and their relationship with one another and the world (Cruz, 63). Below is the narrative of Tarangban, one of the episodes from the epic Hinilawod.

Buyong Humadapnon embarks on a journey to search for the woman in her dreams, Nagmalitong Yawa. Disobeying his parents, Burulakaw and Ginbitinan, Humadapnon, together with his brother Dumalapdap, venture into the Tarangban, a cave inhabited by thousand binukot. Once in the cave, Humadapnon pleases himself with the binukot, who are actually diwata, including the prized Lubay Hanginon. Afterwards, Humadapnon tells her of his intention to continue his travel, to return only after finding Nagmalitong Yawa. When Humadapnon refuses to stay, Lubay Hanginon becomes furious. Humadapnon places a sleeping spell upon Lubay which makes her faint. However, when Humadapnon attempts to escape, Sinangkati Bulawan, Lubay’s sister, shuts the cave entrance and holds Humadapnon a prisoner.

Dumalapdap informs Father Burulakaw and Mother Ginbitinan of Humadapnon’s captivity in Tarangban. Their parents are carried by the whirlwind to the island, but their attempts to liberate the datu failed. On the other hand, Dumalapdap requests Hangin to send Nagmalitong Yawa to free Humadapnon. Disguised as a man Buyong Sunmasakay, Nagmalitong Yawa massacres the crowd of binukot, including Sinangkating Bulawan. As Humadapnon rushes to save Lubay Hanginon who unfortunately has been slain by Sunmasakay. Humadapnon, who has become diwatanhon, is shaken out of enchantment through Sunmasakay’s invocation to spirit friends. Sunmasakay brings the datu back to his normal self and reassumes the person of Nagmalitong Yawa.

Beyond its rich narrative and visual imageries, the epic, as well as the other forms of folk literature in Western Visayas, resonate the region’s culture and tradition. As Dr. Amorita C. Rabuco opines in her book Hiligaynon Mythological Stories and Folktales,

Narrative verbal tradition forms part of a people’s expression as they respond to the daily rigors of existence. As such, it is said to be one of the greatest genres of folklore. Like the verbal poetic genre, it, too, testifies to the vivid and fertile imagination of a people. It reveals, as well, the creative power of the folks or as what the historian labeled, of the primitive mind (11).

Indeed, the West Visayan pre-colonial literature weaves a tapestry of stories that unfolds throughout time, and “shapes the narrative material and carries the whole story to completion (Rabuco,11).”

Cruz, Isidoro M. Cultural Fictions: Narratives on Philippine Popular Culture, Politics, and Culture. University of San Agustin, Iloilo City: Libro Agustino, 2004.

Delos Santos, Alex C. The Rise of Kinaray-a: History and Anthology of Contemporary Literature. University of San Agustin, Iloilo City: Libro Agustino, 2003.

Lumbera, Bienvenido and Lumbera, Cynthia. Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2005.

Manuel, E. Arsenio. Filipino Myths and Folktales Treasury Stories. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2007.

Rabuco, Amorita C. Hiligaynon Mythological Stories and Folktales: Analysis and Translation. Iloilo City: Libro Agustino, University of San Agustin, 2006.

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