Cultural Mapping and education on community disasters

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By Maria Rosalie Zerrudo

Yagubyob sa Bulkan

Saturday, January 25, 2014


DISASTER preparedness is now a byword.

The visionaries have prepared us with their visions of catastrophic future which have different sides to it. Some say it’s for world transformation which translates to cleansing of sins for the fanatics. For the scientists it’s the climate change that cause the upheavals in massive destructive scale.

Is this really part of cosmic drama of world transformation or seriously a cause of human failure to live according to the rhythm of the universe? Life is hundred times more fragile with these extreme weather changes.

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The value of people’s stories of how they live before is a mind map of how people live in harmony with nature. The essence of these knowledge, skills and practices are the wisdom handed down by our indigenous people who once rule the land in a highly spiritual practice.

A cultural mapping exercise was an interesting exercise for the culture of remembrance. It was a live flashback on how community shapes their lives around bodies of water and coexists with it. In a short storytelling session with an elder from Balulang, a treasure chest of cultural assets were interpreted in a colorful collage and mix-media installation as visual narrative on canvass.

It was like a time machine and we were brought back to the old rustic village of Balulang where the river used to be the center of the life and community interaction. The students and teachers from Balulang were introduced to the indigenous names of the fishes such as magos, anga, awat, biat, batingolo, muli, dalapakan, bunak, pigok, tad-Lungan, kikilo, damagan, gisaw, and karpa. The local fresh water shrimps variety are locally known as inanalsal, ganggawan, kabayo-kabayo, magos, dawe and lang-guyod. While shells also thrive in this river such as bukway, bulibid, libod. Indigenous names for crabs such kanagaw and kamang kas are such fresh picture of abundance.

What binds great friendships that solidified the basic social interactions is a trio combo of tuba or fresh coconut wine, boiled plantain bananas, and kinilaw or sashimi style raw fish preparation.

As river people, the poetic beginnings of the ‘paanod’ which is still celebrated every third Sunday of the month shows reverence to the spirits for a bountiful harvest. Offerings are made with fruits, sticky rice and drinks placed on top of the banana tree trunk that is left afloat the river carried by the current.

A significant part of the map is the cornfield with the practice of “Lagti” where a special part of the farm is considered sacred and will only be used as the “first taste of harvest” area with a “Palihi” that signifies this area is not for eating but only reserved for this ritual. In a special way, the organic seeds are being preserved by the community that is handed down from generation to generation. This is the original cultural heritage of the land.

Capitol University’s Museum of Three Cultures opens its gates to the surrounding disaster prone community in Cagayan de Oro City. The proponent and lecturer, Lilian C. de la Peña, Museum in-charge and Dr. Cynthia N. Zayas, professor and director of the Center for International Studies, University of the Philippines, Diliman helped the people rediscover their sense of place as the native local. Dr Zayas emphasized on the word “dumdum” or remembrance. I am deeply touched by these processes where mere sharing of information from memory can be interpreted in a meaningful symbolic cultural mapping by communities.

The lectures from two Filipino anthropologists and the workshops that followed focused on a very specific goal: to identify the role of schools and students in community-based efforts to reduce the risk of disaster. The mere awareness of the landscape and topography of the place changes one’s perspective.

The Museum of Three Cultures, Inc. Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City marked an auspicious 7th day of January 2014 celebrating the stories of the community as part of the cultural mapping. The dynamic interaction with an elder from a community enriched the students and teachers of public and private elementary schools located in high-risk areas of Cagayan de Oro City, namely, Carmen, Macasandig, Consolacion, Puntod, Macabalan, Balulang, Camaman-an, Gusa, Lapasan, and Puerto.

According to de la Peña, “the folklore of place names is one repository of local knowledge which we can employ in knowing more about disaster. The history of places reveals olden natural and topographical features which are covered through time but could explain why disasters happen. These are revealed through oral accounts and transferred through time. There is a need to know more about the history of places for this reason and for another – to take care of our community as it is home.

Who can ever be prepared of a disaster? “Knowledge of the individual in protecting himself from calamities is much more important over technical solutions.

In the hope of producing a generation of disaster-prepared Filipinos, a community of disaster-knowledgeable residents is highly needed. This is much more practical measure for people to take good care of each other.

The cultural mapping workshop organized by Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts was facilitated by seasoned visual artists Alma Quinto and the Siete Pesos team from Cagayan de Oro City with Oscar Floirendo, Nick Aca, Michael Bacol, Errol Balcos and Rosalie Zerrudo.

A visiting origami artist Jen Hagiwara from Japan gave basic origami workshop sponsored by Japan Foundation. The children learned the art of paper folding. The output of the cultural mapping workshop and origami sculptures is an ongoing exhibition at the Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 26, 2014.

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