Ten datus of Madiaas: mythology or history?

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I WAS confused by a piquant thought when Erlyn Alunan, the tourism officer of San Joaquin in Iloilo and my good friend, confirmed that she belongs to the royalty (princess) and she is a descendant of Datu Sumakuel. I did not have enough background on that. I thought that the story of the Ten Bornean Datus was just a legend or a myth similar to Homer’s “Odyssey.”

For me, it was eutaxy when Mayor Jose Montelibano told me to coordinate with the Departmen to Education-Silay City in the preparation of a research on the Bukidnon Tribe of Sitio Sibato in Barangay Guimbalaon. The tribe members there are not really from Negros. Their ancestors came from Panay. I took interest on the ancestors of their ancestors in Panay. I was at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (1990) when Lola Elena, a Binukot Princess of the Bukidnon tribe from the mountain of Panay, was invited by the organizers of the “Unang Tagpo” to chant the “Hinilawod,” the epic about the adventure of the ten Bornean datus.

My research is convoluted because I have to go back to the dawn of civilization in Panay. It is just like forcing me to do a “core experience” to understand death. I know that an out-of-body-experience is next to impossible because undergoing it is a grotesque grimace expressing sheer horror. I do not want to deal on the subject of hypnotic memories just to bring home a point. Someone is even suggesting that since my ancestors are from Antique, I could undergo a hypnotherapy session to go back to the provenance of my primogenitors.

Probably, the Divine Providence would really want me start something. I was able to get hold of the book (copyright 1963) written by Dr. Juan C. Orendain, former press secretary to Presidents Roxas and Quirino. He is both lawyer and journalist. His work on the Ten Datus is magnificent. He has painstakingly traced the footsteps of the Ten Datus in order to shed more light on authentic and inspiring facets of our history, tradition and custom. He got the foundation of the Code of Sumakuel, the first body of laws ever found in this country.

Dr. Orendain was born in Hamtik, the capital of the Confederation of Madiaas. In his early days, his playground was Malandog, the first settlement (Antique) organized by Datu Sumakuel. For this reason, I was compelled to go back to the province of my ancestors to countercheck the Orendain story and to somewhat retrace the footsteps of the Ten Bornean Datus. I reviewed my “kinaray-a” (the vernacular in Antique), the mother tongue of Lolo Pedro and Lola Agapita (Luces).

My “kinaray-a” vocabulary is still very strong but my accent is gauche. My pocket notebook is also loaded with notes about this and that from Princess Erlyn Alunan. There are some changes in the names of places. My feet brought me to “Embidayan,” a conference place where the Bornays (Borneans) exchanged the gold hat, gold basin and gold necklace for the entire island (Panay) which they could have easily taken away by force from the Negritos (Atis).

The work of Dr. Orendain mentioned the research of Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro who gathered the manuscripts and data from the old residents of Iloilo, Antique and Capiz. The compilation of Monteclaro on “Maragtas” is also based on the accounts written by Fr. Tomas Santaren, “Bisayan Accounts of Early Bornean Settlements in the Philippines”. Fr. Santaren was the Spanish priest of Janiuay, Iloilo.

I walked on a maze because the records of Santaren were in 1853, and the “Maragtas” was written on June 12, 1901. The Code of Sumakuel was known to exist in 1250. The Bisayan-Borneans must have arrived in the island of “Aninipay” (later called by the Borneans “Madiaas”, and the Spaniards “Panhay”) between 1240 and 1250 A.D. Things (for me) got harder and hotter. I amused myself with grilled “bantalaan” (tuna) and edible “tabios” (smallest fish), just like our “lobo-lobo, during lunch.

Antique is very scenic and Antiqueñas (the ladies), especially those from rural areas, are demure. They offered me bandi, kamonsil, lumboy, and my favorite pickled mango. The work is tough but my heart is blithe. (To be continued)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 04, 2014.

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