THE recent Kadayawan sa Dabaw festival created much stir especially with its Cultural Village at the Magsaysay Park, which gave visitors and residents alike a glimpse of the 11tribes that live in harmony in Davao City. While Kadayawan has been focusing on the indigenous peoples for some time now, the construction of a Cultural Village somehow underscored the various ways of living and culture of these tribes, who are both indigenous and settlers. For the next issues, Sun.Star Davao will be featuring the different tribes for a deeper look into these people that make the city distinct.
The most recent tribe to be included in the list of groups celebrated during Kadayawan is the Iranun tribe. It was included just two Kadayawan festivals ago, which earlier celebrated just ten tribes.
From the proud lineage of sultans of pre-colonial Philippines, the Iranuns have a long way to go to regain as one of the oldest existing nations in the ancient times. “It is very hard for me to speak in behalf of the entire Iranun. I can only speak for my family and relatives, but the way I see it, the Iranun has a long way to go. Iranuns are still struggling, especially those who are living in conflict-affected areas. It will be unfair to say that Iranuns have been doing well,” said Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, executive director of the Al Qalam Institute of Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia at Ateneo de Davao University (Addu). Although Iranuns of today have home-based madrasa (a college for Islamic instruction) and pandita (for the ritual specialists), this is not enough, he said. For one, the indigenous group does not have a school of living traditions.
“Yes, it is quite difficult to pass on the cultural practices and identity of the Iranun, but we are doing our best to practice the culture and keep our identity up to our next generation. Good thing with Iranun youth now is they’re very active. We hope the government and different sector can do something,” he said. In Davao City, a sizable population of the Iranun can be found in Maa and Sirawan, Toril. The others could be found in Metro Manila and even in other countries around the world. As to how the Iranun keep their identity, Lidasan said, it is through speaking their language, maintaining their rituals and arts/decorations—Iranun textiles and swords with respective symbols—at home.
And despite all pressure and influences, he said, the Iranuns ensure that certain life cycle is still being practiced. “Iranuns are also attached to nature and river. In fact, our rituals have the biggest role in keeping our identity. Our identity is fluid. It is not carve into stones. It is not forever as there are assimilations going on nowadays, but we do our best that our children still follows the life cycle sa kabila ng lahat,” he added.
According to the website of the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA), Iranun is among the 11 ethnic Muslim groups. They inhabited the area bordering between Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao province. They claimed to be the origin of these two ethnic groups. The language of the Maranao and Maguindanao is strongly rooted in the Iranun tongue. Iranun may perhaps be the mother language and the rest are dialects.
For several centuries, the Iranun formed part of the Maguindanao sultanate. Its culture received much influence from the Maguindanao rather than the Maranao. There was a case in the past the seat of the Maguindanao sultanate was situated at Lamitan and Malabang that were the strongholds of the Iranun society. The Iranuns fought the western invader under the flag of the Maguindanao sultanate. Iranun were excellent in maritime activity. They used to ply the route connecting the Sulu Sea, Moro gulf to Celebes sea, and raided the Spanish held territories along the way. Iranuns have also attained a degree of social organization comparable to the Maguindanao or Tausug. This is evidenced by the datu system of leadership where a single leadership is recognized. An Iranun datu, like a sultan, wielded central power over his people. On account of their small population, the Iranuns have been overpowered by their neighbor and prevented them from having their own sultanate.
Yet ethnic consciousness has been strong as the Iranun continued to preserve their own ways of life and even to chart their own political destiny. Like other Muslim groups, the Iranuns are also advanced in the field of education. They actively participate in local development; their professionals have managed to occupy key positions in the government, run their own business entities and Islamic institutions like masjid and madrasa.