Embracing roots, reliving the games

SOUTH COTABATO. The second Indigenous Peoples Games (IPG) held June 14 to 16, 2018 in the Municipality of Lake Sebu in the Province of South Cotabato. (Marianne L. Saberon-Abalayan)
SOUTH COTABATO. The second Indigenous Peoples Games (IPG) held June 14 to 16, 2018 in the Municipality of Lake Sebu in the Province of South Cotabato. (Marianne L. Saberon-Abalayan)

THE second Indigenous Peoples Games (IPG) held June 14 to 16, 2018, in the Municipality of Lake Sebu in the Province of South Cotabato, although devoid of the usual ritual of offering animals and opened without much fanfare, left guests and spectators a deep appreciation of the province's rich cultural heritage.

A special prayer sang by international performer singer and composer Rosie Sula ushered the program after the parade of delegations from the municipalities of Tampakan, Tantangan, Tupi, Polomolok, Lake Sebu, Norala and Surallah.

“It's a praise song. Sarili ko lang yung gawa for this event only, giving thanks for the activity,” the 50-year-old Sula, a native of Lake Sebu, said during an interview with SunStar Davao.

A showcase of different ritual dances and music of the T'boli tribe, performed by world class artists, spiced up the opening rites.

Sula also joined the other performances using different musical instruments of the T'boli tribe - kumbing (harp), kulintang and sloli (flute), among others. She performed the Madal Tahaw - a dance imitating how a bird tahaw flies during planting season.

Other dances featured during the program were Madal Tahu - dance wherein the T'boli women imitate how the princess “boi henwu” perform the identity of a woman; Madal Soyow -warrior dance; Madal Siwol - courship dance; and Madal be Hegelung - dance a guitar. Different participating LGUs also showed their traditional dances.


South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes took pride in the province's originality and uniqueness. She said that the province has different tribes but its arts, culture and traditions are being preserved from generation to generation.

“We are the only province in the country that insisted in strictly showcasing authentic musical instruments, songs, dances and colors. That is our uniqueness,” Funtes said.

She added that the IP Games was an eye-opener, realizing that the tribes, too, have their own games that need to be passed on to the next generation.

Fuentes revealed, “Archery lang ang alam ko, the rest I do not know. May iba-ibang klaseng pa palang mga larong tribo including women, games that our forefathers used to play.”

She then urged the provincial board members to craft an ordinance to make the annual provincial celebration of tribes, arts and culture to also include the IP games.

“Ang pagkatao natin is defined by our roots. Pinagmamalaki dapat natin ang ating roots, hindi natin nakakalimutan anuman ang mga tribo natin,” the governor said.

South Cotabato, she said, is composed of 30 percent tribes. She underscored that while massive development and modernization are taking place in the province, they would continue to promote and preserve their culture. She continued, “Hindi tayo tagakopya ng kultura ng iba, arts ng iba, crafts ng iba. One legacy of this province is we value what we have.”

She then lauded the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for mandating the national sports agency to come up with a unique program for the tribes.

“Hindi kayo (PSC) nagkamali for choosing us, our province for this program. I thank the President for encouraging you to get out and bring this program to us. I assure you that this government, in all its endeavors, will consider the tribes,” Fuentes said.

The Games

The games IPs of South Cotabato play are mostly different from those played in Davao del Norte, which hosted the first IP Games last April.

But hemanak in South Cotabato, also known as archery or pana in Davao del Norte, remains significant to this day as natives residing in far-flung municipalities still use this for hunting animals although in the earlier times, it's also use for weapon. The bow is usually made of rattan as its string with a single loop while the arrow is made of bamboo materials.

The hanaw or kadang, usually played using two bamboo poles, is a traditional game often used to cross the river or to save someone from drowning.

Defut or sfut, like blow target, is played using bamboo specie (seben) and a grass seed (sulong bo). In the IP Games, empty water bottles served as the target of the players. Meyon kuda law is a game likened to horse racing but instead of a horse, the player sits on the law (wild grass).

Meanwhile, Setanggung or lechon race is a game that portrays how IP males bring home wild pigs and other animals from the forest for their food. The game is often played with two males carrying another teammate who clings on to a bamboo pole.

Sudul (Stulud lu) is similar to tug of war but instead of pulling the opponent to one's side, this game pushes the rival to fall. Sedeyol be klifak bliboy is another interesting game using beetle nut branch where one player serves as the rider while the other will pull the rider sitting on the beetle nut branch.

Datu Ruben Cafon of Municipality of Lake Sebu, in an interview, said: “Masayang-masaya kami merong nagsponsor ng program na ito, makita at malaro ng mga kabataan ang mga ginagawa ng mga ninuno namin dati.”

He said that instead of playing games on mobile phones, it would still be better for their IP children to play the traditional games.

Jona Daway, 22, from the Municipality of Tampakan, said she appreciated the efforts of the organizers since it was her first time to play games of the tribes. She played the hanaw with other male participants. “Lingaw kaayo (It was fun),” she said.

Listening to them and to other participants who played the different IP games for the first time was indeed a breath of fresh air. At last, their eyes like Governor Fuentes were opened to the beauty of the games that IPs play and therefore must be embraced and nurtured just like the province's colorful arts and culture.


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