A steady erosion of cultural norms

IN THE advent of social media, modern gadgets, and a completely different and Westernized way of living adapted by Filipinos, some of our culture and traditions are admittedly forgotten by the younger generations.

The case may be similar for the 11 tribes of Davao City, whose traditional tribal leaders work hard to preserve the culture and tradition of their tribe as their identity, without compromising the potential development and modernization they need.

In a talk with Obu Manuvu Lipatuan Joel Andres Unad, he said much as they can, they try to retain the sacredness of their traditions, while keeping in mind the current and modern lifestyle especially of the members of the tribe in the lowlands.

Unad said as a basic tool of preserving their culture, they make sure their terminologies specific to the Obu Manuvu is still retained and of use even now.

He said they still use the words “uwon” to mean tribal leaders or tribal chieftains and “tanong buwis” to mean their ancestral domains.

The word “lipatuan” is being used before the name of the leader of all the tribal leaders, thus he is called Lipatuan Joel Andres Unad instead of the Moro-influenced Datu, which for a time, they admittedly used.

Their tribe has been known to give much importance to the way they resolve their conflicts. As some of the other indigenous people (IP), the Obu Manuvu tribe still practices arranged marriages before but with the modern way of living now, specific points had been changed for the good of the members.

In resolving the conflicts of the community

The Obu Manuvu tribe takes much responsibility in resolving the conflicts arising within their community using their own justice system called Povyan Gontangan.

Unad said this system is commonly used for conflicts involving deaths, killing or murder, theft, and illegal selling of their ancestral land when the tribe had agreed upon not selling it.

Now, Unad said they are acknowledging two justice systems in resolving their own conflict: (1) thru Povyan Gontangan, which is mainly of negotiations made between the two parties and the tribal leaders, and (2) the nationwide justice system of the Philippines taking into consideration the penalties may be imposed to the one who committed the crime.

“This is the same justice system that we are using especially because the Indigenous Political Structure was established. This still exists now but you cannot use this system if the conflict is between an Obu Manuvu and a Christian or from another tribe,” Unad said.

He also added that even though they are gradually adapting to the ways of the lowlanders, they still consider confession to the tribal leaders as a sacred and important act.

This is a confession particularly done before a crime can be committed, specifically when a tribal leader feels a certain anger or rage toward a fellow tribe member. Usually, he is advised to seek the wisdom of the tribal leaders, confessing to them the possible atrocious crime he may commit if he won’t be able to control it.

Unad said this is very important for them and up until now they make sure this is retained in their tradition.

“It is really prohibited to our culture to let blood flow especially through death or killing in the community that you live in because it becomes a curse to us,” he said.

Arranged marriages

Arranged marriages for Obu Manuvu tribe, said Unad, is primarily done to support the maiden with her economic and financial needs in providing for a family she will have.

Unad said in their culture prioritizes economic stability and aid when it comes to fixed marriages more than the sexual desires. During the old times, they would allow marriage of teenagers with older men given that he can provide for the bride.

Although arranged marriages are still practiced with financial stability in mind, marriages usually happen between brides and grooms of almost the same age. Also, Unad said, they now allow the tribe members to choose who they want to marry.

While they think that girls aged 17 to 18 are already or marrying age, the girls are now freer to decide when they really want to marry.

The greatest threat to their culture and heritage remain to be mainstream education.

"In our study we see that as a threat. That's why we conduct interventions, such as here in the city, to educate the younger generation of our culture and the tribe they are from. Even in schools, thru DepEd, we try to influence so the students can understand our culture," he said.
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