Ma-aram: Pagtanghal sa Katutubong Kaalaman presents five short documentaries on traditions articulating the wealth of indigenous knowledge and creative practices. The impetus for the creation of these documentaries was to capture vanishing traditions before they become completely extinct and distant from memory.

Modernity has changed the milieu and the landscape from where these traditions spring and thrive. Inland and outland migration, loss of ancestral lands, changes in agricultural patterns, environmental maladies, even the passing away of old culture bearers—these are just some of the factors that threaten the continuity of these traditional cultural practices.

While shooting the documentaries and the photographs, we engaged with a spectrum of traditions emplaced in the category “vanishing.”  The category of vanishing itself became more nuanced than ever, presenting itself as gradations and permutations, while unravelling the factors that make a tradition vulnerable to the social, cultural, and geo-political contexts.




Episode 1: “Panata at Panalangin”
Tradition: Subli
Locality:  Sitio Sapangan, Barangay Talumpok, SIyudad ng Batangas

In Sitio Sapangan, Barangay Talumpok Silangan, city of Batangas, live a close-knit  community of peasants, all members of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, also known as the Aglipay Church.  Many seasons ago, the lush expanse of Mount Banoy, where their barangay stands, gave them their modest livelihood.

They tilled farms and planted rice, fruits, and vegetables.  The subli belonged to an ensemble of offerings so that rain will nourish the soil and make it yield bountiful harvests. It was staged after the “lovena”  to Santo Niño, as a procession of candles caps the gathering of the Aglipayan faithful.

There are no more lands to till as swidden farming has been prohibited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). They have turned to other forms of livelihood, such as raising animals and small-time buying and selling. Incomes are meager and intermittent. The subli has been stripped of it ritual context.

The manunubli are on to their eighth decade and losing the agility of their bodies. The subli survives only because of government support, through a yearly spectacle that showcases the old and the young performing what is both dance and devotion.




 Episode 2: “Huni at Himig”
Tradition: Sludoy (Bamboo zither)
Locality:  Lamlahak, Lake Sebu

The music of Bé Tunding evokes the sounds and silences of nature. Her instruments were crafted from what the forest gives to those who live in its bosom. As a child, she learned to tinker with a number of T’boli instruments by watching her elders play the hegelong (three stringed guitar), the duwagey (lute), the sloli (bamboo flute) and the sludoy (bamboo zither).

Her body harbors a repertoire of 40 musical pieces with her sludoy. Many seasons ago her music expressed the rhymes and rhythms of the T’boli culture, and her people took it as their own, a source of pride and a marker of identity. Bé Tunding was both master and mentor.

Times have changed: some of the younger generation have left Lamlahak, and those who stayed took in the rhythms of street dancing and videoke music.  Bê Tunding just turned 102. She is wan and weary, and she thinks her musical pieces, all 40, will die with her.



Episode 3: “Tres Maestras”
Tradition: Binacul weaving
Locality:  Barangay Mindoro, Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Nana Petra, Nana Ibing, and Nana Talin, all in their 80s, are the remaining binacul master weavers in the coastal barangay Mindoro, city of Vigan. Binacol weaving is both complex and arduous but its market price does not compensate for the labor and raw materials expended by the weavers. No one is expected to take it on as both craft and source of income. But through the years, these three master weavers have persisted.

A community-wide effort supported by a private foundation yields new looms for the three households, and three mentees for the three masters have emerged as the prospective weavers of the next generation. Will the younger  take on—and sustain— binacul weaving? Will the apprentice  be as dedicated to the craft as their masters?

Or will they choose other paths? And when the master weavers move on to the afterlife, will the tilar (loom) be consigned to time and memory?



Episode 4: “Kulay at Buhay”
Tradition: Tepo mat weaving
Locality:  Ungus matata, Tandubas Island, Tawi-tawi

Mariyam Mutalib, Jessa Abdulmunap, and Nurfaisa Dalimbang are some of the most active weavers in Ungus Matata, island of Tandubas in Tawi-Tawi.  Born generations apart, these three women are heads of households, nurturing the members of their kin with the incomes derived from tepo mat weaving.

However, the markets are small and the earnings meager, and the time to make one mat— from the harvesting of the pandan to weaving—is long and arduous. Will their devotion to mat-making be as deep and lasting as their faiths forged in the teachings of Islam?



Episode 5: “Payoh at Pamana”
Tradition: The ling-ling-o
Locality:  Banawe & Kiangan, Province of Ifugao

Tourist markets in Banawe have largely altered the use and cultural meaning of the ling-ling-o. In Kiangan, the ornament is venerated as the payoh (rice fields), and is passed on from one generation to another, along with other artefacts associated with the kadangyan, the landed class of the Ifugao.

Ifugao  (mumbaki) bemoan the transformation of the use and value of the ling-ling-o. Change is inevitable. How will the elders of the Ifugao community engage with the changing cultural meanings and shifting contexts of their material cultures?


Ma-aram: Pagtanghal sa Katutubong Kaalaman is a project of the Philippine Studies Association, Inc. and is made possible through the support  of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda.

For additional learning resources, you may download the Ma-aram Teachers’ Guide here.