The Ethnology Center part of The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center is a haven for Philippine history buffs and trivia lovers. The Ethnology Center is composed of two buildings aptly named Northern Philippines and Southern Philippines. Owner Atty. Dominador Buhain has collected numerous artifacts so much so that they have to be divided into regions.
This entry is all about the Southern Philippines and the colorful and rich heritage by our Muslim brothers and sisters. It features the wealth of metals and gold in Mindanao as displayed in various kris swords, betel nut boxes and ornamental items for males and females. I have always loved how vibrant traditional southern Philippines costumes are, and the blouses included in the exhibit attest to that. I am pleasantly surprised at the variety and sizes of traditional musical instruments owned by Atty. Buhain. I have seen several kudyapi (a two-stringed lute) but not one that rivals an adult person in terms of length, well, not until I visited The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center.
B’laan – The B’laans are another pro-Malayan indigenous group found mostly in Davao del Sur and South Cotabato. The B’laan adhere to sedentary form of agriculture and engage in other economic endeavors for subsistence and development. Although many have adapted the ways of modern Filipino and have been integrated into the main body politic, they still believe and practice indigenous rituals and customs.
The B’laan observe certain rituals in planting cycle. In these rituals, they make offering to their deities requesting for signs to know where to best make a clearing for a particular planting season.
The B’laan practice swidden agriculture. The rice, corn, sugarcane, banana, papaya, and rootcrops they grow are used as barter commodities in acquiring tools and utensils they need.
The torogan is the ancestral house of the upper-class Maranao in the Lanao region of Mindanao. It is the dwelling place of the datu, along with his wives and children. There could not be any house larger than the torogan of the datu within the sultanate, for this signifies rank, prestige and wealth.
The Maranaos have three types of houses: lawig the small houses, mala-a-walai the large house, and the torogan. The existing torogan were built by the community and the slaves for the datu in the 1800s. The torogan had no partitions and it was a multi-family dwelling where all the wives and the children of the datu lived. The windows of the torogan were slits and richly-framed in wood panels with okir designs located in the front of the house. The communal kitchen was half a meter lower than the main house and was used for both cooking and eating. The distinct high gable roof of the torogan, thin at the apex and gradually flaring out to the eaves, sit on huge structures enclosed by slabs of timber and lifted more than two meters above the ground by huge trunks of trees that were set on a rock. The end floor beams lengthen as panolongs that seemed to lift the whole house. The torogan was suffused with decorations. There were diagonal at the apex of the roof, also an intricately carved tinai-a-walai, okir designs on the floor, windows and panolongs. There were also brightly colored weaves or malongs hanging from the rafters, which were hang using ropes around a particular territory for privacy. The house was built to sway during earthquakes. Twenty-five posts of large tree trunks were not buried but were freestanding. Sometimes, if needed, wooden pegs were used to secure the wood members. These were all used to prevent the house from collapsing.
Kris Sword – It is believed to have originated in the 13th century on the island of Java in the Indonesian archipelago, and migrated to Philippines, Malaysia and various Southeast Asian countries. The kris sword is very distinct in appearance with various shapes and sizes. The blade may either be straight or wavy or a combination of two. The kris blade widens near the handle with sharp pointed protrusions, which act as a guard against an opponent. Typically, Filipino kris swords are larger than their Indonesian counterpart. When used in combat the kris sword is primarily as slashing weapon but has dynamic thrusting power.
Moro Barong (Tawi-Tawi) – 19th century fighting Barong with large wood handle and heavy blade. The large style of this handle is almost jungayan type, but not quite that big or elongated. It has rattan hands, natural twine tying and a good dark patina from age and use. The blade is heavy and shows a slight pattern, not scabbard with this one. 24” overall with a 17” blade.
The Palawan war spears were bilaterally-barbed iron spearhead with socket hastate shape point.
This type of short arrows is usually used for cross bows. The shaft is usually made of matured stick and fastened chicken feathers as flights and metal tips, often with barbs and treated with dangerous poison obtained from plants and from venom of animals. The poison is intended to stun or instantly kill the prey or enemy.
Bow and arrows are some of the Mangyan’s tools for hunting and fighting. This bamboo tube with shoulder sling is used by the Mangyan as quiver.
According to Islamic tradition, Prophet Mohammed rode the Buraq through the heavens in a single night, a journey known as Mir’aj. The mythical beast Buraq is often described as “a white animal, half-mule, half-donkey, with wings”. Although depictions of the Buraq are not uncommon in the Islamic world, sculptures of the creature seem to be unique to the Philippines. It is possible that the flourishing carving industry of religious images for Catholic Filipinos may have encouraged the making of Buraq sculptures. Buraq first appears in Arabic literature, and in Persian and Indian manuscripts, too.
The Bagobo mythology describes Mebuyan as an ugly deity who decided to go down below the earth where she now rules a place called Banua Mebu’yan (Mebuyan’s town). There, she welcomes the spirits of the dead Bagobo before they go straight to Gimokudon, the Bagobo equivalent of the underworld. It is said that Mebuyan has many breasts because she nurses and takes care of baby spirits before they join their families in Gimokudon. As for the adult spirits, they also stop by at Mebuyan’s town, specifically in the black river where they wash their joints and heads.
The ritual bath, known as pamalugu, is done so that spirits will not return to their earthly bodies and disrupt their journey to the underworld. Note that the Manobo or Bagobo underworld, at least the one rules by Mebuyan, has a relatively positive connotation. It is not a place where one can find a lake of fire or where unbelievers are punished. In the book “Arakan, Where Rivers Speak of the Manobo’s Living Dreams” by Kaliwat Theater Collective, Datu Mangadta Sugkawan gives an interesting description of Mebuyan and her domain. “Maibuyan (Mebuyan)… the diwata (deity) of the afterlife who takes care of all the souls before they receive Manama’s (Supreme Being) judgment…Maibuyan’s entire domain is of pure gold on which the soul could clearly see its reflection. The souls there only talk about good and sensible things. If one starts to talk, everybody else listens. There is no need for food. Maibuyan’s domain in the underworld is where the soul lives a second life after its body – the physical twin – dies.”
This big basket shows typical Mangyan style of weaving, similar to the binali type of weaving in Sagada. The Mangyan predominantly used nito, an endemic fern plant in Mindoro that is as durable as rattan strips. The fern stem is carefully cleaned of its outer sharp and hard covering to expose the sturdy nito strip that is used for weaving. The different colors are natural colors of nito, selecting and combining the appropriate colors bring out the beautiful design.
Kudkod niyog were usually used during barangay fiestas. One of the highlights was the coconut grating competition where participants competed in climbing and harvesting coconuts, unhusking them and grating or scraping the flesh using the Kudkod Niyog. Whoever won got a reward of rice from the sultan.
The Maranao brass mortar and pestle were for crushing betel nut mixture for easier chewing.
Betel nut containers of the Maranao people come from the Mindanao region in the southern Philippines. Betel nut boxes can still be found in the Philippines, but early examples like the ones featured below have become increasingly scarce and hard to come by. These boxes are made of heavily cast bronze inlay in the traditional Muslim okir scroll pattern, a very distinct motif found on Maranao woodcarvings.
These food covers were used to protect from flies and airborne dirt that might have spoil the food.
The jar-like woven rattan could have been used as handy container for chewing paraphernalia that could be carried anywhere conveniently. The pouch bag is distinctly Mangyan but the designs vary as there are different Mangyan groups.
For more information, please read The Book Museum and The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center – Northern Philippines.
Thank you Che and Hope for sharing your photos with me and for bailing me out when my camera conked out. Thank you, Sherleen for that wonderful tour and for the information you wrote on the back part of my leaflet.
For reservation and inquiry, please call at (02) 570-4449 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where: The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center, 127 Dao St., Marikina Heights, Marikina City
When: The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9am to 12 noon and from 1pm to 6pm. They offer guided tours at 9am, 10am, 1pm, and 3pm.
How to get there: From Cubao MRT Station, walk to McDonald’s Gateway Mall. Outside there are FX bound to Marikina, choose the one whose route takes it to SSS Village. Alight in the corner of Meralco and take a tricycle to The Book Museum.
How much: The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center entrance fee: Individuals, P100 (US $ 2.20) and senior citizens, P80 (US $1.76). School and group bookings are subject to special discount.