BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi — Across the Philippines the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) has a pool of 4,250 member experts from which it draws a wealth of knowledge, learned opinion, and experience.

The figure which is as of September 2018 is expected to increase, particularly with the NRCP’s open invitation for new members.

On a sunny day on October 16, the Council, led by Dr. Ramon A. Razal, NRCP president, extended an invitation to and encouraged the Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography (MSU-TCTO) to let its faculty apply as NRCP members.

Razal is also the chairman of the Agriculture and Forestry Division of the NRCP, one of its 13 divisions.

The occasion for the visit to the MSU-TCTO was the “Fusion of Science and Arts V.2: Music at the Margins and Seven Dances of Life” presentation held at the university’s Marine Science Museum (MSM) in Sanga-Sanga, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.MSU TCTOImage: from MSU-TCTO Facebook (FB) page.

Razal cited the importance of having NRCP member experts in higher education and research institutions in the country’s far-flung areas such as Tawi-Tawi.

It is an arrangement that is mutually beneficial in many ways, the NRCP president pointed.

Benefits for academic institutions and NRCP

“Membership enables access to funding support to do basic research, provides opportunities to attend scientific meeting as well as to capacity-building and outreach activities designed to enhance skills for preparing proposals, implementing research, and publishing one’s outputs,” Razal told SDN — Scitech and Digital News.

He said that, on the other hand, “NRCP can have a pool of scientists who are more grounded in the remote areas, who will be more likely able to undertake fundamental studies dealing with the area’s resource assessment, understanding indigenous knowledge systems, and unveiling the local social fabric that are critical to the crafting of policies and advisories on defending the country’s boundaries and promoting resource conservation programs.”

Appropriately, the MSM building — connected inland through a bridge — sits among mangrove trees along the coast of Bongao, with the high tides seemingly reminding everyone of the importance of the partnership between the sea and the trees, .

The NRCP staged the event in cooperation with the Tawi-Tawi provincial government and the MSU-TCTO, one of the 12 campuses of the MSU System, with the Main Campus in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

Dr. Mary Joyce Z. Guinto-Sali is the incumbent and 5th chancellor of MSU-TCTO. She leads other she-leaders and officials of the MSU campus in the province, which is part of perhaps soon-to-be-abolished-and-replaced Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

That is if majority of the ARMM registered voters ratify — by voting “yes” for — Republic Act 11054, or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM) in the scheduled plebiscite on January 21, 2019.

Aside from Tawi-Tawi, the other ARMM component provinces are Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Sulu, and cities Lamitan and Marawi.

Empowered women leaders

MSU-TCTO has seven academic units, such as Graduate Studies (GS); College of Fisheries (COF), the flagship; College of Arts and Sciences (CAS); College of Education (CoEd); Institute of Oceanography and Environmental Sciences (IOES) ; Institute of Information and Communications Technology (IICT); and College of Islamic  and Arabic Studies (CIAS).

Perhaps not surprisingly, women empowerment is thriving at MSU-TCTO, with four deans representing the women sector led by Prof. Jurma A. Tikmasan of Sulu, COF;  Anabel A. Wellms, Ph.D., of Dumaguete City, CAS; Sheriffa T. Andas, Ph.D., of Tawi-Tawi, IOES; and Elvinia R. Alivio, Ph.D., of Basilan, GS.

They outnumber their male counterparts, Prof. Joseph V. Andas, Tawi-Tawi, IICT; Willham M. Hailaya, Ph.D., Tawi-Tawi, CoEd; and Muktar A. Mohammad Tahil, Tawi-Tawi, CIAS.MSU TCTO family photo bMSU-TCTO Chancellor Dr. Mary Joyce Guinto-Sali (seated, 3rd, right), NRCP President Dr. Ramon A. Razal (seated, 3rd, left) and university and NRCP officials. (Photo: MSU-TCTO FB)

A glance at the 2017 Annual Report of MSU-TCTO shows it has 8,688 students, 40 percent of them were scholars; overall graduates of 1,570; Muslim students, 85 percent; sent 185 faculty and staff to training seminars and national and international conferences; 371 college graduates; increase of 45 percent in masters graduates; 43 percent of faculty members equipped with Masters and Doctorate Degrees; tenured faculty at 70 percent; professors are 36 percent; acquired 8,787 volumes of books; home to 20 ethnic groups; with 32 academic faculty development beneficiaries; 13 faculty members sent to Graduate Studies; promoted 68 faculty and staff; 2,041 registered alumni; 86 Board passers; completed 12 research papers; with 16 religious groups; 60 percent female faculty and students; nine linkages; 18 community high schools; 75 research activities; and 46 percent Sama and 31 percent Tausug students.

Aside from Guinto-Sali, other officials as of 2017 are Prof. Benecito L. Maratas, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs; Sawadjaan U. Jaji, vice chancellor for Administration and Finance; Prof. Aida J. Hadji, vice chancellor for Research and Extension (currently now Kaberl O. Hajilan, Ph.D.); Prof. Abdurizal A. Eldani, vice chancellor for Planning and Development; and Ms. Warda H. Hadjirul, Campus secretary.msu-tcto-razal.jpgNRCP President Dr. Ramon A. Razal. (MSU-TCTO FB)

MSU-TCTO’s Vision: A research university specializing in interdisciplinary approaches to instruction, research and extension services in Fisheries.

Mission: To extend to the Muslims and other cultural minority groups the opportunity of college education and development programs for effective exploitation and conservation of the fisheries resources in the Sulu Seas and nearby waters, promote Muslim welfare, and hasten the economic development of the southernmost region of the Philippines.

The academic institution hopes to achieve them with its Core Values embedded, such as Academic Excellence; Student-Centered Focus; Inclusion and Diversity; Integrity and Collegiality; Environmental Protection; and Public Service.

MSU TCTO HajanMSU-TCTO Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Prof. Kaberl O. Hajilan, Ph.D. (middle), with his certificate from NRCP President Dr. Ramon A. Razal and Ms. Maria Elena ‘Lynn’ A. Talingdan, chief of Senior Research Specialists (SRS) of NRCP Research Information and Dissemination Division. (MSU-TCTO FB)   

Omarjan Ibrahim Jahuran, librarian at the Office of the Governor here, presented the some of the Sama people’s cultural heritage, focusing those “endemic” with the Sama Tabawan, describing how they are intertwined and embedded in their every day lives. MSU TCTO OmarjanOmarjan Ibrahim Jahuran, librarian at Office of the Governor, Tawi-Tawi, presents the Sama people’s ‘Seven Dances of Life’ at MSU-TCTO. (MSU-TCTO FB)

He said Tabawan is one of the islands in the South Ubian municipality located in Tawi-Tawi’s northeastern part. The province is the country’s most southernmost part.MSU TCTO ARMM DOSTDOST-ARMM Regional Secretary Myrna M. Alih of Basilan. (MSU-TCTO FB)

From Jahuran’s presentation, here is how he described some of the cultural treasures particular to the Sama Tabawans:

Mag mbo

It also known as “magpangkat” and is often times mistakenly judged as ancestral worship by religious fundamentalists and cultural outsiders, but if one investigates closely the dynamics of “Pag-mbo, it is more similar to the idea of Christianity’s saints’ veneration wherein they are treated as mediator between the Creator and the world of creation, except that there are no created image representation of the ancestors.

Pagduwata or Magduwatal

A traditional healing ritual celebration of music playing and dancing to honor and appease the “Duwata” (spirits) and the “Mbo” (ancestral spirits/souls).

Pagjamu

They are ritualistic celebrations or thanksgiving and remembrance endemic to Tabawan. The “Pagjamu” are a combination of Pagduwata, pagkambo’an and pagdulang ritual as offering of food to honor the collective memory of their ancestors (Kambo’an) and appease their spirits.

Pagtuwa’ Kubul & Pagtiti’ Sunduk

The former is visiting the grave and the latter a ceremonial bathing of grave markers.

In the early morning of Kambo’an tradition, the inhabitants of Tabawan sail of towards a graveyard island called Bumbun using their paper of “jungkung” (motor engine-powered pump boats) to clean and replenish the grave sands of their ancestors and departed loved ones.

Angalapal ma Sunduk

This is an intercession prayer and supplication in the grave.

During the visitation to the grave and just before the entire community leaves the graveyard island, the family members and the descendants say their prayers of supplication and intervention in the local language (Sinama) as if they are talking to an imaginary being represented by the grave markers.

Pagdulang

In the afternoon of Kambo’an day, every household prepares the food and brings in food trays (dulang) to the designated ancestral house (luma’ pagkambo’an then prayed upon (duwa’a salamat) by the “imam” (Islamic religious leader) and the rest of the religious leaders (kawakilan, hatib, bilal, etc.) While special traditional foods are prepared and some particular rice cakes should always be present in the food tray, such as the “panyam” and “ja”, otherwise the food offering is incomplete and unacceptable to the spirit of Kambo’an celebration.

Dr. Jose S. Buenconsejo, NRCP regular member, Division of Humanities, presented his research study titled Resilient Music at the Margins, referring to the music of the Sama people.

In an interview, he explained the importance of getting to the  core, of the local context.

“For me, it is very important to disseminate the true social meaning, because that meaning flows from the  local context. So, you have to study the local context, how they the local expression,” said Buenconsejo, former dean, College of Music, University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), Quezon City.

In the music, he said, are the local people’s values, giving goodness as example. “That goodness sometimes cannot be separated from beauty and harmony. There is aesthetics of their notion of what is good.”

Buenconsejo pointed out that values are very local…the arts is express in very fundamental level and comes up as very human.

Connection between science and arts

“Arts is the soul of science. If there is no arts, it seems that what we are producing as knowledge and technology from the work of the scientists it is like detached from the communities where science and technology should be there to serve the people, the communities,” the NRCP president said.

He said putting soul or emotion in the work of scientists is important to become more responsive to the needs of the people.

The work of scientists should not be just science for the sake of science, but putting more heart into what they are working on; it should have connection with the needs and culture of the people, he added.

Razal set as example the research work of Buenconsejo on the music of the Sama and other ethnic communities.

He said Buenconsejo used technology in documenting their culture related to music and dance. “So, the information we got about culture is more reliable because science was used, so the information can revealed and document what people have been (doing and) can be reported in a scientific way and reach more people through information.” (EKU)