UP THE mountain roads where no other peak in the horizon is higher lies the quiet town of South Upi, a huge tract of land dominated by Tedurays, where local governments are now being ruled by Moro leaders.
For the Teduray, for as long as their tradition of weaving, the Monom lives on, so does their tribe.
Monom is the Teduray weaving tradition.
A Teduray household will easily be distinguished by the presence of traditional baskets, most common of which is the “biton”, a squarish round basket used to put harvested corn, rice, vegetables and other crops. Teduray farmers place the strap on their foreheads with the basket dangling at their backs so they still have full use of both their hands.
This same basket when covered is called a “senafeng” (the Teduray word for cover), which is used to store seeds and rice grains.
Bilao or winnow basket in the Teduray dialect is a tefaya.
On the day we arrived to witness the Teduray folk weave at the house of kagawad Lencio T. Arig, the women were weaving backpacks for some orders.
The main material they use is “pawa” a variety of bamboo, the thin light kind.
For basket rims, they use “teel”, which to us is “uway”, a variety of rattan.
To sew the rim, they use “nito”, a vine that many indigenous foils use for weaving.
“According to our forefathers, a nito vine is dark when it sprouts when there is no moon, and is light in color when it sprouts when there’s moon,” kagawad Arig said in the vernacular. The nito, a very thin but tough vine is split in four with the use of one’s thumbnail and “stripped” to equal diameter using the top of a sardine can where a hole is punched with the “kusu”, the sharp-tipped instrument they use to guid the nito or teel into holes. They call the process of stripping the nito into equal diameters using the hole in the tin sheet as “sangaten”.
Arig is barangay kagawad of Romonggaub. (Romonaggaub, he said, is the Teduray word to describe the sound of a falling tree; which gives us a peek into how their forests were denuded by logging concessions).
So that bamboo will not suffer from dry rot and cause it to have a short useful life, bamboos have to be harvested on moonless days, the short period of time between the first sliver of the new moon and the last sliver of the last moon.
Most fascinating was the “buring”, the dye they use to color bamboo strips.
This is simply made of soot, during our visit, they used burnt rubber, a small less than two-inch by two-inch block from an old tire that they burned in a half coconut shell.
The burnt residue that remains after burning is made into powder by simply pounding it, and then, a bunch of camote leaves tied to form a brush, and the top of the leaves cut so the top end is flat like a brush is used to brush the black residue on the bamboo node. The sap of the camote tops serves as fixative. I tried rubbing my thumb over the blackened bamboo and not a trace of the soot stained my thumb. They call the dye “buring”.
You know the Tedurays have been weaving since time immemorial because they have a word for each specific part of a basket or woven hat (the safyaf), the weaving process, and names for the different designs they make.
In the brochure “Monom: The Teduray weaving tradition” produced by the Lumad Development Center Inc. in 2009, it said the tribe even have two taboo designs, that of human forms. It is believed that weaving human forms will bring bad luck.
Two other designs or batek can only be done under specific circumstances. The moto teniboh can only be executed by a man or woman who has killed another. The taang-taangan can only be woven by someone who ran off with someone else’s spouse.
The rest are beautiful plays on the things around them like the doh tuwol or the macopa seed cut in half, the sebanga igor or biting the tail of another animal, and the belinsuwang or movement of a rocking chair.
Basket and hat weaving had always been part of a Teduray’s life, kagawad Arig said, but very few do this as a means of livelihood.
“We only make things for our home like the biton,” he said in the vernacular. That is because they do not have direct access to the market that will make their weaving worthy of an industry that will benefit them.
They’re getting some assistance now, among other IPDev, a European Union-funded project for empowerment and sustainable development of indigenous peoples is reaching out to them, especially now that the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro has been signed and talks for the final peace agreement will start.
The Tedurays trace their ancestry to Mamalu of the “Mamalu at Tabunaway” epic. (While it’s said that Mamalu and Tabunaway are brothers, there are claims that one of them is a female, and thus, let’s just stick with them being siblings). Tabunaway was said to have been Islamized in the 14th century. Mamalu, however, shunned Islamization and instead went up the mountains to nurture a people where collective leadership and harmony with nature ranks high among their values. These are the Tedurays.