The “Flying Arts” of the Bangsamoro and Other Things Awesome

I’m capping off this series on the Bangsamoro by presenting this side of their cultural/artistic heritage that’s not very well known, I should say. Except for the sarimanok (pictured above), which has become an icon, thanks to its constant appearance on TV during the 90’s (it being the inspiration for this major TV network’s logo, in fact), most of the photos you’d be seeing here are pretty rare. I myself was pleasantly surprised to have found out about these.

We live in a world full of stereotypes and this couldn’t be more true in the case of the Bangsamoro people. The situation was only further exacerbated by the events of 9/11. After almost two decades, we are still reeling from the fallout of that event. Look only at what Marawi has become just recently – total devastation.

This series hopes to shatter some of the misconceptions and help us get a better understanding of our brothers and sisters in the South.

You can check previous articles of this series below:

Bangsamoro Art – Faith, Tradition & Place

Bangsamoro – Keeping the Faith

I saved these photos for last because I think these are the, sort of, “crown jewel” to their cultural and artistic heritage. If there’s anything worthy of shattering stereotypes, these would be it. I mean, who would have thought, for example, that the Bangsamoro peoples had something similar to a Pegasus they call burraq or borak – a hybrid animal of Islamic mythology that has a winged human head on a horse’s body.

According to the museum’s informational guide, the burraq/borak is “one of the common artistic elements that conveys a sense of flight. It is considered sacred in the Islamic world, as it was through flying the burraq that Prophet Muhammad journeyed and ascended to heaven, as told in the Isra’wal Mi’raj“.

It is interesting to note however, that while the concept of rising is part of the Islamic faith, focusing on spiritual lightness and the upward orientation towards unity with the Divine heavenly being, it is also a notion corresponding to the pre-Islamic indigenous concept of floating and flying as a means of connecting humans to the spiritual realm. Based on a study conducted by Abraham Sakili, this concept is widely-known throughout the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

Islam in the Philippines has been described as remarkably syncretic – a fusion of different influences both foreign and local. As mentioned in the previous article, some indigenous practices persisted. You would see many elements of the same in the different parts of the region. You’d be surprised how the iconic sarimanok has counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries and how the concept of birds as spiritual messengers are a common belief in these places too – the iban of Borneo and the garuda of Indonesia, for example. Learning about this fact makes me realize how, despite the seeming “differences”, there are a lot we share in common. Also, it’s interesting how something we don’t usually put much focus on suddenly had this new meaning upon second look. I mean, I’ve heard about the garuda from Garuda Indonesia, which is the flag carrier of Indonesia, but I have never really given much thought as to its symbolism and its connection to everything else. It’s just amazing like that, isn’t it? 

The iconic sarimanok

This chicken-like figure with a fish on its beak, the sarimanok, is a significant artistic element that conveys flying. According to the museum’s informational guide: “The Maranao considers the sarimanok to have evolved from its totem bird called itotoro. It is invoked in many rituals and included in their myths and epics.They are depicted as messengers of legendary heroes and royalty in the Maranao epic Darangen. The sarimanok is also considered as a medium to the spirit realm through its unseen twin spirit bird called inikadowa. Like the naga, the sarimanok appears in highly stylized forms in artistic works to adhere to Islamic beliefs. Other stylized bird-like figures are also used as designs,such as the manukmanuk of Sulu“.

Another element of floating or flying is the naga. It is “a Sanskrit term referring to a mythical dragon or serpent noted for its wisdom, agility, power and bravery”. The informational guide adds: “While the representation of nature – plants and animals – in art is counter to Islamic beliefs, the naga persisted in highly stylized forms that include the S-shaped and rope-like designs”. This design could be found in the panolong.

Flags also convey the idea of flying. The Maranao display ceremonial flags during special events such as weddings, coronations, and fluvial parades, among others. The display of flags was traditionally associated only with the ruling class, now these are used during various communal celebrations and events”, per the museum’s informational guide. Below is an example of a flag called Panji or Pandi.

Panji or Pandi

Are you ready to get your mind blown?

Presenting, the kokora 🙂

At first glance, this would’ve looked like some gigantic bug or winged lizard from the Jurassic period. One would have thought ‘what could our forebears have use for this?’

Well, the answer is actually more mundane and utilitarian than one could have possibly thought.

So, here’s the kicker. Notice the elongated tongue that kind of looked like an antenna above his head? 

Yes. It’s used to grate coconut. It couldn’t be more tropical and Filipino than that! 😀

The Bangsamoro culture is also replete with legends, the most famous of which is the Maranao Legend of Indarapatra.

Spectacular performances, displays of resplendent art, and lavish feasts thrive as they give visual expressions to the Islamic notion of the sacred power of sultans.

Feasts are an integral part of the Bangsamoro culture. According to the museum’s informational guide: “Immersing in activities that sharpen senses and experiences, such as tasting special dishes and joining in performances with heightened theatrical and dramatic elements, lead to captivating the festival participants’ attention. It is through these that feasts provide spaces for encounters markedly distinct from their ordinary and daily lives. Singing, dancing, music and recitation of oral literature are among the most common types of performances, providing entertainment and infusing amplified auditory and visual engagements to participants”.

Nothing could be more striking in this musical ensemble than the kulintang “an ancient instrumental form of music composed on a row of small, horizontally laid gongs that function melodically, accompanied by larger, suspended gongs and drums” (wikipedia)

They even have a bad-a** kulintang on display at the museum. The design is so intricate and lavish it could pass for a throne fit for royalty.

I cannot stress enough how important a role museums play in educating people. Especially in this time and age where information can easily be accessed with the touch of a button (or a swipe of a finger), people easily get caught up with the use of technology. We use it for practically anything nowadays, even for social connections. However, despite technology’s myriads of practical uses, this should not take away the joy of learning things the traditional way.

It was a pleasant revelation to me, for example, to learn about the Bangsamoro culture and heritage – something I think I wouldn’t have realized or appreciated as much, had I not experienced from this perspective.

It’s funny because I’m sure this subject has been discussed in school in one form or another; in history books, wholly or partially – some maybe in passing, others probably having volumes dedicated to it. But having seen the actual pieces and the materials up close, and learning the story behind each and every piece, gave the learning experience a whole new dimension. I definitely walked away bringing with me a newfound appreciation for these things. And that’s something no amount of technology can ever really replace.

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A Night of “Hugot” and More

My friends from work invited me to join them in their food trip and to this music/art event they saw online. I thought I should join since I feel I have been working myself to death lately. A little time off wouldn’t hurt.

We decided to grab some bite to eat first before taking off to this open mic event they were so excited to go to. It’s called “Hugot Night 2”. We imagine something like a karaoke/videoke bar where people take turns singing their heart out and belting songs to express their angst or to make fun of their own misery over some heart break or something.

But more on that later.

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First we went to Sweet Ecstasy where we heard the burgers are really good. Based on some online sources that I checked,  they cook the beef fresh and not from the freezer.

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There is a marked difference in the meat’s texture and taste although there’s mixed opinion within our group as to whether they like it or not. Some do not find it juicy enough, which is their standard for a good burger. I personally liked the burger but I feel like I should have ordered more if not for the fear of being judged “matakaw” (glutton), haha! Some of the things I think could be improved are the lack of space and the customer service. The lady at the counter has been scrimping on the ketchup and gives me stoic looks everytime I ask for more. There’s seven of us who ordered burgers and she only gave us like four packets/sachets (do the math).

After having our tummies filled, we headed to Sev’s Cafe. Traffic was a bit heavy Saturday night. Good thing my friends are creative and talented enough to find ways of entertaining themselves while on the road. They would actually be thankful that they did, as you would find out later on. So, the entire time we were on the road, they were already starting with their version of the hugot concert – a never-ending playlist of songs hugot-themed (or not), loud and chaotic mostly, with matching medleys and sound effects to boot. It was pure… noise. Haha!

Like I said, it’s good they enjoyed themselves early because when we arrived at the location, we were (well, some of us), were kind of thrown for the loop as they never expected the event to be a little on the serious side (serious artistic side, that is). I’m not sure if it’s the nerves that got into them, like stage fright maybe, or is it the crowd, the artsy/artistic crowd, they’re not really comfortable with. To cut the story short, they left. Some of us though were quite curious as to what this whole thing is about, so we stayed. It’s a different perspective, a different kind of entertainment. To sum it up, it’s like watching an indie film or some indie art – raw and unapologetic. The place is a seedbed of creative minds similar to undergound art events I see in American films, like Begin Again,  only it’s not confined to just songs and music but also poetry, drawings, even dance, as what I’ve seen on YouTube in one of my searches. All art forms, basically. There was even a portion in the program where drawings were auctioned off. One of us even tried her hand in bidding. All of these is for a good cause by the way, proceeds of which go to the “Piso Para Kay Toto” fundraiser, which would help patients of the Philippine Children’s Medical Centre.

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Below are some of the pictures of the performances.

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There’s even a hip-hopper from New York who joined

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The auctioning of the drawings

The more intense and more profound however, I think, were the last 2 to 3 acts before we left. So profound in fact that I wasn’t able to take pictures because I was so absorbed with it and because I don’t want to create distraction. Everyone was so quiet listening. The poem “Pindrop Silence” by Words Anonymous, is probably our favorite. It’s the ultimate HUGOT! Search for it yourself online. Perhaps you would like it too 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, I felt a little underfed with the burger, so by this time I’m beginning to feel like eating something more filling and heavy, like rice, maybe. We decided to go to Solaire Resort and Casino since they have available food purveyors open 24/7 and it was a bit late already.

Solaire is awesome! Just look at their lobby. We will definitely go back. We will play hard and burn some cash (naks!). As if I have cash to burn, LOL! Paging Lady Luck. Now is the best time to have yourself felt.

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Anyways, our main purpose here is to be fed. And fed we did with our multicultural dishes. I ordered “dak galbi” (Korean spicy chicken) from Namsam and I would have to say it was really good. I was really satisfied.

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“dak galbi”

Two thumbs up to this amazing place. Really nice 🙂 I would have helped myself with the desserts if I wasn’t so full already, haha!

And here are the photos of the other dishes.

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beef rendang

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roasted chicken with mashed potatoes