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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Estremera: Who's in the shoes of E. Arsenio Manuel now?

FOR so many years now, maybe a decade, maybe more, but since I bought the book, "Manuvu Social Organization" I have been a fan of its author E. Arsenio Manuel.

But being out here in a southern city, tracking the man was impossible. Tracking his books is even difficult, much more the man. It was devastating to learn later on that the one author whose books I have been praying to collect has died in 2003.

From the few books that I have that were written by him, and several others where his works are included, I imagine how he went from village to village to explore the Manuvu communities in the 1960s when logging has not yet decimated the forests of Davao and Cotabato. I imagine meeting up with the datus he was able to meet and listening to their songs and epics.

Now, as I read through his books once more, I cannot help but wonder, who has taken up the tasks that he has left unfinished? He himself admitted that there were more stories and songs to record.

Along that line I can't help but rant at our basic education system and why the Department of Education cannot be pushed to make textbooks that carry the legends and epics and myths of Mindanao tribes. Why they insist on still feeding us the Legend of Lam-ang, when Lam-ang, the Ilocano strongman is but a puny epic hero when compared to the epic heroes of Mindanao.

Lam-ang, as our grade school textbooks say, only had brawn. Mindanao's super heroes had shields that fly and carry their masters to wherever they wanted to go, they had powers to make themselves as tiny insects that can enter their enemies' noses to kill from the inside or turn themselves into a pond a solid rock or an animal. They rode their spears and fly up the skies, they can bring back dead people to life.

But no, our students do not know about this. They know Superman and Ironman and Spiderman and just about every superhero in the Marvel comic books, but they do not have any idea who Tuwaang, Tulalang, Lumabet, Agyu, and Dumiwata are. Our children do not know about how the Sinalimba carries people to the heavens, and they are not even aware that in the Mindanaoan myths and epics and legends, whole villages rose up to heaven. We reserved that for our saints, and yes, Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. How much more colorful our schoolrooms would have been had our children been made to feast on the exploits of these epic heroes and met the Alingase (Aligase, depending on which tribe and village you are talking to), the one-eyed giant that seem to have a penchant for cutting down mountains.

Imagine, these are but a few of the tribal heroes and do not yet include the gods and demigods that took care of the land.

Reading through the relatively few books I have, I can lose myself in imagination as I see the epic heroes flying around while in battle, riding their shields and spears and hats, and dancing so hard, they could make the earth shake and crumble, while their women folks cast betel chews to bring warriors back to life, and all other stuff that only people living in the vast forests of Mindanao can ever imagine and weave into a tale.

How is it to live in the Skyworld inhabited by the supreme god and other major gods and goddesses, how is it to live in the underworld with Maivuyan (Mebuyan) and Tuhawa? How is it to live in the land of the swaying country? I can only wonder and wish that there will be an effort to put all these into storybooks that children can appreciate and make stories about, just as they do after watching yet another Marvel comic book story turned film.

I'm doing a bit of writing now, children's storybooks, but it's a mish-mash of originals and adaptations, and that's just me. Just one me. With the loads of myths and epics out there in Mindanao, we need a whole army to make a dent. Any takers?

*****

saestremera@yahoo.com
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