DATU Rodelio “Waway” Saway is not called “Tatay” for nothing.
A teacher at the Talaandig School of Living Traditions and a well-known performing artist, Saway has been keeping the Talaandig musical heritage intact by mentoring young members of their tribe. Community artists would always go to their Tatay Waway to learn how to play and craft their indigenous musical instruments.
“We use our traditional instruments to pray and connect with the Divine. Playing them is like opening a portal to the spiritual world,” Saway explains. He has traveled the world showcasing the Talaandig’s own brand of music.
“Despite the availability of tools that makes the production of bamboo musical instruments (BMI) easier, there are still issues affecting the durability of the instruments. There are times when our BMIs crack when brought to temperate countries. Some get infested by bukbok (powder-post beetle),” he notes.
The musical instruments of Talaandig
Under the leadership of the DOST-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI), a research program is now being conducted aimed at making better-quality BMIs. The initiative is in partnership with University of the Philippines Diliman’s (UPD) Center for Ethnomusicology and the Philippine Normal University (PNU), and targets to develop technologies that can help people like Saway and other local BMI makers and users.
“We have been going around various indigenous communities and BMI production sites in the country to talk to key people and understand how important BMIs are in their local culture. We want to know how we can work together with them to improve these instruments,” shares Program Leader Aralyn L. Quintos.
The R&D (research and development) program seeks to develop technologies that will prolong the life of bamboo without negatively affecting the musical instruments’ sound quality; standardize the production of selected BMIs; develop prototype design; analyze raw material sources and existing markets; and build a BMI processing facility.
According to Saway, long before their BMIs have been mass produced, they have been traded for other important things. He has crafted numerous BMIs, including the pulala (lip valley notch flute), tumpuy (chip-on-ledge flute), hulagteb (side-blown flute), takumbo (parallel-stringed zither) and bantula (slit drum).
“We have a lot of creative people here. The Talaandigs have been producing BMIs for a long time already, and I think we are ready for their mass production. What we lack, however, are technologies, particularly a treatment facility for bamboo,” Saway points out.
Talaandig holds strong on their cultural wealth
Living at the foothills of the Kitanglad Mountain Ranges in Bukidnon, in Mindanao (Southern Philippines), the Talaandigs create music reminiscent of the rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds. And the DOST-FPRDI, together with its partners, is dedicated to helping them preserve their rich musical tradition.
Here’s a portion what the local government of Bukidnon says about the Talaandig, from http://www.bukidnon.gov.ph:
The Talaandigs are one of the indigenous groups in the province of Bukidnon, who has continued to preserve and promote its indigenous customs, beliefs and practices despite the strong influx (of) modernization and change. This group is found in barangays and municipalities surrounding the mountain of Kitanglad, specifically in the towns of Lantapan and Talakag (Talamdan, 2001).
Their belief revolves around the existence of the highest God called Magbabaya and the spirits who guard and protect nature is manifested in the social, economic and political aspects of the life of the Talandig.
Thus, when the Talaandig establishes a farm, he performs the Talabugta and Ibabasuk rituals. After harvest, he performs the Pamamahandi for the thanksgiving; for the recognition of the superior leadership, he performs the Panagulambung; when he goes hunting, the Punaliket and palayag; and for a higher form of socio-economic and political activity, the Talaandig performs the Kaliga ceremony. (Apple Jean C. Martin-de Leon/FPRDI)