I WAS attending the 13th Eastern Mindanao Command Anniversary recently just as a companion to a special guest. I’m a “civilian” now, no longer an “official guest”, and the feeling is liberating.
Except for friends and acquaintances who cross your path, there is no obligation to go around and greet every one. No obligation too, to listen to everything said. All I needed to do was suffer the muggy heat all throughout, just like every person in attendance.
This provides me an opportunity to choose my subjects, like Datu Lakad-lakad. At least that’s how I heard his name. He’s from the Banwaon tribe of Maasam. It was a very quick hello since he was already being ushered out by Eastmincom non-uniform staff because the program already ended and an early buffet dinner was to be had on the other side of the covered court.
Googling Maasam and Banwaon, I learned that Maasam is a remote village in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, and that the Banwaons are the biggest but lesser known tribe in the Eastern corridor of Mindanao.
What prompted me to approach him? His headgear. He was wearing a red sequined and beaded headgear that had three prongs like a crown that I only saw in one other datu of the Talaandig tribe in Bukidnon. Datu Adolino L. Saway also known as Datu Makapukaw is a highly regarded Talaandig datu who is looked up to as the tribal leader who has the final say when it comes to conflict resolution.
It’s unfortunate that I didn’t have time to establish rapport with Datu Lakad-lakad, not even time to get his NSO name. There was just enough time for him to say that, yes, his head gear is not the usual that datus wear. The few datus who have the distinction of wearing this is the elder whom the tribesmen seek when resolving major issues like killings and tribal disputes.
A staff assigned to usher guests has to usher the guest, and so she did. I just wish that more people would be interested to pick up a conversation with tribal elders... that more ears would prick and want to listen, that more eyes would notice that one datu is wearing a different headgear and would stop to ask why.
I also wanted to strike up a conversation with Manobo Datu Guibang Apoga as I have written and read a lot about him in the 1990s as he led tribal datus in standing up against logging operations and becoming a fugitive because of that. But he was surrounded by people assisting him to walk. He is obviously very old now, and from what I could observe from afar, a bit hard of hearing. I’m not sure of that though. What I’m sure of was I didn’t stand a chance of talking to him.
We also had to leave by then. As a civilian companion to an invited guest, I don’t own my time. There are always pros and cons to where you are in life. This was a con, but that’s okay because the pro of observing from the background outweighs having to leave early. I also was drenched in sweat by then, the airconned car beckoned.