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       The Arumanen-Manuvu had its origin from a village settled in a place called Banubu near the mouth of Pulangi River (Rio Grande de Mindanao).

The village is ruled by a Patriarch, Apo Tabunawai, acclaimed as the Timuay (convenor of the village elders).

Timuay Apo Tabunawai was a skillful forest food gatherer such as wild ubi (derehiay) sago palm, various roots, nuts and fruits. By foot and with the use of basket types of traps, the hunters bring home large fowls, fish, lizards, pythons and lesser wild games. The most arduous chore, but not lacking of thrills and danger, is a catch of wild pig and deer by dog chase. Some boars are with razor sharp canines that attack dogs and men.

The villagers acknowledge that the abundance brought home from a hunt comes from the favor of Elemental Beings whose compassion is anchored upon Apo Tabunawai. In fact, he is the one who calls upon and receives the messengers from the Luminous Heights.

The younger brother, Mamalu, leads the fishing chores of the villagers. Favored too by nymphs and mermaids, he gained for a daughter a young lady that has emerged from the crack of a piece of bamboo that he was using in building a fishpen. She issued forth as a ball of light and reformed as a lady clothed in exotic garments and adorned with sparkling ornaments. He called her Putchi Tunina. She later was married to a Muslim seafarer.

The influx of Islam following the landing of Shariff Kabunsuan prompted the patriarch to leave Bonubu to the highlands of Pulangi River. Mamalu was charged with the duty to sustain the meaningful co-existence of his people with the Muslims. However, he could not accept Islam. He waited for other faiths (agama) that are more hospitable to his connectedness with other forms of belief.

Apo Tabunawai has made a pledge to visit his brother with love gifts from the forest so that he may also obtain things that are only available in the Banubu trade center.

At the departure hour, he and his younger brother feasted on a roasted boar’s head with 21 head warts. The skull and the plate in which they partook the communion is in the progression of the ruling Rajah Buwayan of Maguindanao. In his yard on way out, Apo Tabunawai performed the war-dance with seven turns with perfect form and agility.

In the span of long years with a  chain of settlement in the highlands of Pulangi, Apo Tabunawai settled in Aruman specifically at the spring of Sinimburan now a barangay of Carmen, Cotabato. The Matigsalung, Tala-andig and Bagabao ascribed the name ARUMANEN to his villagers.

Demographic Location of the Arumanen

Three sub-class emerged and spread far toward the head waters of Pulangi and Mahirhakau River.

The KIREN taken under Timuay Kampang settled around a riverbed known as Sariruan-te Kirentek where a lady faithful was transfigured and  became enchanted as an Elemental Being. This clan now-a-days are spread over Northern Cotabato and Western Bukidnon with their society center in Kimonait, Pangantucan, Bukidnon.

A group settled easterly of Aruman under the leadership of Timuay Montopid later to be referred to as ILIANEN because they have constructed an “Ilian” (fortress) to bar off Matigsalung and Bagobo marauders.

The group has spread to the municipalities of Carmen, Pres. Roxas, Arakon Valley, Antipas, Matalom and Kabacan all of Cotabato.

The third clan distinguished as PULANGIYON are those who have reached the headwaters of Pulangi River in Pantarun Range. The prominent elders are Lantung and Pula-os who has settled in Maranaag. This group is now spread in San Fernando, Valencia Kitao-Tao and Songcagon all of Central Bukidnon.

At old age, Apo Tabunawai called upon his subgroup leaders and stated his desire to stay close to his younger brothers in Banubu. And indeed after the season’s harvest, Apo took the westerly route traversing the Malitubog Range and settled in Pigkalumbayan (now Alamada, Cotabato). His people spread over the valley of Libungan River hence ascribed the group name LIRINGANEN. Some have settled at the mouth of the river at its junction with Pulangi.

The stock group is now spread in the municipalities of Libungan, Alamada, Pigcawayan, Midsayap, Aliosan, Pisit, Bonisilan and Carmen all of the North Western Cotabato.

Death has caught up with the Patriarch while at Metengen (Western barangay of Pigcawayan) some forty kilometers to Banubu. No one really knows where the Apo was buried. Some say in Bonubu others say he was taken and buried by birds.

Tribal surnames as Lantung, Montapid, Kampong and Saliling have, in long years, served their group as great leader.

The 1985 Census have figured the Arumanen-Manuvu to 44,000 population. It could be close to 100,000 these days.

Rituals and Festivals

From the life of Apo Tabunawai and in the long years of communing with the elemental beings, spirit of saintly ancestors, spirit helpers and divine host of Megbebaya, the earlier village developed a worship system to the Most High (also to whom the names Midlimbag (Creator) Maminteran (Divines) and Misuara (Voice) are attributed.

To accent the volition of the faithful, rituals and festivals are designed to appropriately express the Arumanen spirituality. The common denominator of spiritual expression is the “Pongapar,” the burning of dukat (incense) offering of betelnut and the prayer of the ritual expert. The following are the major rituals and festivals the Arumanen celebrate:

       a. Kanduli. Ritual to celebrate life (from fetus to adulthood) as well as to heal a sick person. Could be undertaken by a family or the whole group. The foundation of the act of worship is “Pongapar” followed by an offering of food

       b. Beliley. This is a collective effort of the faithful of a given sacred place which could be shrines or sites noted to be where the Megbebaya’s holy light is anchored or shines in a given time of the year. Still the “Pongapar” is undertaken and a feast of community-prepared food.

The noted Belilayas are: the whirlpool of Kiintekin Pangantucan, Pinamaloy (lake in San Carlos) and Pool of Apo Apiyao (Quezon) all in Bukidnon. In Cotabato, the noted pilgrimage sites are Tinuntunan (Midsayap) and Sinimburan Pool (Carmen).

       c.  Semeya-an/Bulongan. This is After-Harvest Festival with Pongapur featuring the ritual expert, procession of faithful with chants, white and red rooster and the parade of virgins celebrated with yells and fire crackers.

From the results of the cockfight, omens of peace and productivity are inferred from the fate of the white rooster and from the red, the opposite. The succeeding matches are merely for fun and celebration.

Food, songs, music, dances and epic chanting are heard and presented at the eve of and after the ritual. The more formal issues are tackled by the Council of Elders such as the review and reconstitution of community policies for the coming moons. To bring omens of good tidings, abundance and societal well-being, marriages of young people are arranged and undertaken on the post-festival evenings.

Marriage ceremony is one major ritual and festival for the Arumanen because it is a societal investment of life and goodwill.

Sometime in 1910, the worship system of the Arumanen was elevated to an institutional and networked worship of villages. This was instituted by Timuay Mampurok Palao and called the system “Langkat” with its worship house called “Bentona.” This is practiced in Mt. Akir-Akir (Pigcawayan) and extending to Mt. Karatungan among the Pulangiyon.

Among the 100,000 Arumanen-Manuvu is an upsurging volition to recapture the relatedness/correctness of Apo Tabunawai — the Arumanen people, through communication with the spiritual realm through rituals and festivals, being the reservoir of cultural revelations and societal inspiration for justice and peace.

About the Author:
Custodio A. Saliling belongs to the Magantas (chain breaker) community and holds the royal title Saliling-Ne-Magantas. He has labored greatly on the revitalization of Arumanen spirituality as he himself is a spiritualist and ritualist.