BAGOBO CEREMONIAL, MAGIC AND MYTH
Laura Watson Benedict
The Bagobo form one of those Malay cultural groups in the mountainous country of southeastern Mindanao which have retained their pagan faith in its entirety and have never accepted the religious dictates of Islam. During the period when the Moro dominated
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the southern coast 'from Point Tagubnm to Zamboanga, the Bagobo, like the other wild tribes of the Gulf of Davao, doubtless paid tribute to the Mohammedan conquerors, but they retained their independence in customs and in worship. Unlike the lowland peoples of the west, they would not fuse by conversion and by intermarriage with the Moro, though they came into trading relations with Moro groups at the coast. In their remote homes on mountain peaks, which could be reached only by hard climbing through dense and thorny forest growth, the Bagobo remained safe from attack, except as, now and then, a few of their number were caught and pressed into slavery by the Moro.
"Within the last sixty years, — that is to say since the Spanish conquest of the gulf of Davao, — the Bagobo have begun to build little villages on the west side of the gulf, and there to establish their own cultural conditions. When Datu Ali, a chieftain of great distinction, died in 1906, he had lived for fifty years in Ltibu, the old Bagobo name for the present village of Santa Cruz.
While a coast culture developed that was modified somewhat by Visayan and Moro customs and by new elements from Spanish sources, yet, on the whole, the Bagobo at the coast appear to have been but superficially influenced by these various contacts. They have clung tenaciously to the old industrial processes and to the ancient forms of worship. There is not to be found that sharp dividing line which one would look for between mountain culture and coast culture; and particularly is this true on the religious side. While there is a considerable range of local variation, not only between coast and mountain but also between different mountain groups, yet, as a general characterization, it may be said that
*For a discussion of the Moro conquests in Mindanao, see N. M. Saleeby: ''Studies in Moro History, Law and Religion," pp. 50 — 61. 1905.
Datuk, a Malay word for grandfather, is now, as applied to the chiefs, restricted to the Moro and the wild tribes; but formerly it was in wide use among the Philipino as well. Blair and E-obektson (The Philippine Islands, vol. 16, p. 157. 1904) quote Pardo de Tavera as saying that the word daitu or datuls, though not in the present day vocabulary of the Tagal, primitively signified grandfather or head of the family, the term being equivalent to the head of the barangay. The reference is given to T. H. Paedo de Tavera: Costumbres de los Tagalos, p. 10, note 1. 1892. Cf. also, Blair and Robertson: cp. cit.y vol. 4, footnote, pp. 184 — 185, for a discussion of the barangay, as meaning:
(1) the slender craft, pointed at both ends and put together with wooden pegs, that formed the distinctive vessel of the Philippines; (2) the small social community of related individuals directed by the same cabeza, or datu, who had been captain of the same family group on the barangay in which they had crossed the water to the new home.
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the same rites are celebrated on mountain tops and beside the sea, the same tabus are respected, the same precautions taken against ghosts and demons. Although the new doctrines and the new rites suggested to the Bagobo fresh safeguards against evil spirits, — safeguards which might well be added to their already ample collection of magic spells and of charm objects, — although they eagerly accepted foreign amulets and untried formulae that might, perchance, subdue a fever or expel a cough, there are unmistakable signs that even those coast Bagobo who have felt most strongly the impelling force of the new forms of worship are at heart as sincere pagans as they ever were. In all essentials, they believe and think and behave like those remote mountain Bagobo who have been scarcely touched by foreign influences.
Recent history accounts easily for this situation. The Bagobo who have settled at the coast during the last half century have come with a religion well organized, and fixed by centuries of tradition. Furthermore, there has been continuous and unbroken intercourse between the mountain people and the coast people, particularly on occasions of ceremonial gatherings and for purposes of trade. Intermarriage between mountain Bagobo and coast Bagobo has not been lacking. More than this, there has occurred an intermittent flow of whole families from the hills and from the nearer mountains to the coast, and from the sea back to the upland villages, in regulated response to a varying pressure of conditions both ecclesiastical and economic. Particularly has this pressure been operative since the American occupation, on account of the demands of labor. Many houses at Santa Cruz, for example, which were built and occupied by the Bagobo early in the present century were deserted as soon as a return to their little hemp fields on the mountain slopes was made possible by a change in the local administration.
Throughout these fluctuations, the presence of the older chieftains, like Ali, Tongkaling, Imbal, Oleng, Yting, and others of no less dominating personality, as well as the existence of such permanent centers of influence as Talun, Sibulan and Tubison, has operated to preserve the old traditions and the integrity of the tribal religion, so that no group at the coast has been swamped by foreign influences. During the last few years, however, the death of several leading datu, and the transference of entire mountain groups to provide native labor for American plantations have been operative
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factors tending, unquestionably, to bring about marked modifications in Bagobo culture, such as to affect the mountain area almost equally with the coast. The disintegration of the whole body of Bagobo custom and Bagobo tradition cannot long be held off.
The material culture of the Bagobo is of a primitive agricultural type. The food staples are rice, corn and sweet potatoes; fields are cultivated without the aid of animals or of hand plough, for the mere burning over of the land gives a soft soil in which holes may be made with a digging-stick. In addition to garden products, some wild food is secured by hunting and by gleaning.
The horse and the dog are their domestic animals, while the coast Bagobo make use of carabao, or water buffalo, for dragging loads and, to some extent, for riding bareback; they snare and tame jungle fowl. They make a rough pottery and fire it without
the use of an oven ; they weave baskets and traps and scabbards; they do highly specialized forms of overlacing and coloring of hemp, a plant that has been cultivated by the wild tribes since prehistoric times, and almost as far back as Bagobo tradition goes.
At the coast, the women have learned, in addition, to weave imported cotton in the Visayan manner.
One would say that the material culture, as a whole, suggested that of the pile-dwellings of the Neolithic age, were it not that the use of iron (of how recent introduction we do not know) has completely supplanted stone implements, and that the industry of casting various bronze and brass objects from a wax mould has reached a high degree of artistic skill.
With this brief introduction, we may pass on to our discussion of the Bagobo religion. The ceremonial is closely associated with the everyday interests of the people — interests which find expression in the ceremonial use of bamboo and of betel, of the fruits of the field, of products from loom and from forge.
The religious material here presented was gathered in 1906 — 7, during a personal expedition undertaken for the purpose of investigating the culture of this tribe. The bulk of the description of ceremonial, contained in Part II of this paper, was recorded in the native district of Talun, at the village of Mati,* which was situated on the summit of Mount Merar, and which could be reached by a steady ride of about fourteen hours from the coast, or on foot in
* Not to be confused with the town of Mati on the Pacific coast.
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the same time; since the steep grade, as well as the thick jungle, made progress by horse as slow as that of the pedestrian. At that time, a very primitive culture flourished in those isolated villages of Talun, a culture which, in large part, has now passed away.
It was but a few months after my visit there that the entire group composing the village of Mati moved down to the coast.
Much of the folklore and mythical material was recorded at Santa Cruz, a village to which the Bagobo resorted in great numbers, coming from long distances to exchange their hemp for dried fish and rice and salt, and to enter their cocks at the little pit.
There, in the small nipa hut that I occupied, were gathered, day by day, Bagobo men and women and young people in considerable numbers, representing a large part of the rancherias^ of mountain and coast where Bagobo settlements existed. Some came occasionally; others, every two or three days. The method of securing material which seemed to work most satisfactorily was to reduce questioning by a set schedule to a minimum, and, following out the most promising lead that presented itself at the moment, to let any Bagobo talk on whatever subject pleased him. As a result, my material is scanty in some directions; in others, very abundant, but there is a compensating advantage for such lack of balance in view of the spontaneity with which the information was given me, in the pleasant intimacy of frequent intercourse during my stay of fourteen months.
The collection of Bagobo stories recently published in the Journal of American Folk-lore, form properly a part of the plan of this discussion, if the mythology, the ceremonial behavior and the folk-tales are to be examined as a unit.
The ceremonial texts were repeated to me either by the same men who had sung or said them, or by other Bagobo who had heard them often; the recitations were recorded by me, in Bagobo, directly from their lips and have been translated as nearly as possible word for word. The prayers at the shrines and the interviews with the anito^ were given me at the conclusion of the respective devotions or the morning after a night seance, by Islao, grandson of Pandia, the mantaman of Bansalan in Talun, and the
* A name given by the Spaniards to the little hamlets of the pagan peoples.
Vol. 26, pp. 13—63. Jan.— Mar., 1913.
^ The assistant data to a head datu.
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son of a Tuban man. He was a boy well versed in tradition and in ceremonial material, a close observer, and possessed of a fair knowledge of English. He was present with me at the above-mentioned rites, and listened carefully to the formulae, already familiar to him from many previous hearings. For purposes of checking, I often took the same texts from him both in English and in Bagobo. Although the festival at Talun took place after I had been for several months with the Bagobo, and could make my way fairly in the language so far as everyday conversation was concerned, yet, when listening to devotional exercises, it was impossible for me to record more than small portions of the text.
This diffifulty was due, in part, to a difference in ceremonial vocabulary from that used in ordinary affairs; in part, to the necessity of giving attention to various ritual activities that were going on at the same time.
It would be ungracious to omit mention here of my great indebtedness to many Bagobo friends who gave me, freely, stories and magical devices, as well as explanation of the ceremonies; who entertained me at their homes; who excused my blunders, and who helped me in a hundred ways. Chief among these native friends are my hosts at Talun: Datu Oleng, Datu Ido, Miyanda and all of the members of their large families ; Sambil of Talun, her mother and her brother, and others of the village of Mati; my hosts at Tubison: Datu Imbal, his wife, their sons and their daughters;
Datu Yting of Santa Cruz, his wives Soleng and Hebe and his son Melanio ; Ayang, Liwawa, Simoona and many other old women; Egianon's family; Kaba and his wife Suge, and their five sons — Tungkaling, Gayo, Uan, Baya andBalusan; and also a great number of young people, both girls and boys, who brought me, with joyful alacrity, the songs and folklore and traditions that they had learned from the old people.
INTRODUCTION. General Characteristics of the Religious Attitude of the Bagobo
The religion of the Bagobo is characterized by the highly sacrificial nature of public and private ceremonial; by the composite make-up of the rites, in which are blended both offerings of the blood of slain victims and agricultural products; by the non-esoteric character of the religious life of the community, where the people
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— women, young men, children — are freely admitted as spectators of almost all ceremonies, and as valued participants in many of them.
Of prime importance are those irregularly periodical assemblages of neighboring groups of villages for the celebration of the festival known as Ginum at which event sacrifices of human victims or of fowls are presented to certain gods; sacred liquor is ceremonially drunk; formal lustrations in the river for the expulsion of disease take place; rites magically protective against ghosts and demons are manipulated; material wealth in garments, ornaments and weapons is ofFered up with the primary intention of obtaining an increase of riches; special types of chant and of percussion music are performed; festival dances are in order, and social feasting is shared in by all present.
Other ceremonial occasions are incident upon the annual rice sowing and the harvest; while still others are associated with individual events, such as marriage and burial. It is specially at the night gatherings called Manganito^ that the Bagobo may come into a more nearly direct and personal relation with the gods.
Here, various divinities collectively known as manganito speak to the people; ask and answer questions, and issue oracles through the mouth of some recognized individual — usually a woman — who^ in the capacity of medium, speaks or sings as she is prompted by the spirit for the moment possessing her.
While group assemblages are of fundamental value in obtaining benefits for the participants and in averting from them all disease, yet it is noteworthy that the parents of every family, at their own house-altar, are accustomed to perform devotions and to make offerings for the health and well-being of the members of the household.
The priesthood is not closely organized, but there are recognized several classes of official functionaries among whom ceremonial activities are distributed with a fair degree of distinctness, (a) The chieftain, called datu^ who is both civil and ecclesiastical head of his village or group of villages. It is he who repeats the central liturgies of the Ginum festival and offers the sacrifice, and who
^ The word inzem means *'to drink," or "a drinking;" ff- is a particle used before
initial vowels, and appears to have a purely formal or a phonetic value.
^ Manga-y a nominal element with a plural force ; aJiHo, a god who communicates with
the people through a medium.
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assisted by prominent old men and a few old women, '^ deliberates in informal council when any problem arises w^ith respect to religious behavior or to secular activities. The datu is thus preeminently the official functionary of the people, (b) The group of brave men called magani^ each of whom has killed one or more persons on such occasions and in such manner as is regarded by the community as orthodox and justifiable; ^^^ these men only may cut the ceremonial bamboos; they alone are permitted to lay hold of the bamboo poles while they recite their exploits, and it is their prerogative to wear the chocolate-colored kerchief as a mark of distinction, (c) Priest-doctors, who have some knowledge of the art of healing by the use of native vegetable products commingled with magic spells. Many of these persons are old women, who are summoned in cases of sickness, accident and childbirth; certain women of distinction officiate as chief priestesses at the harvest ceremonies; while others conduct the anito seances, at which times they both reply to the questions of the spirits and draw responses from the medium to the queries of the people, and afterwards prepare any medicine or offering that may be divinely ordered. A few men are priest-doctors, and either a man or a woman from this class may be called upon to perform the marriage rite. In recognition of such an office, a small gift is made to the priest, but the Bagobo are in no way burdened by the imposition of heavy ceremonial fees.
There is to be found in their communities no sign of an autocratic shamanistic control ^ ^ on the part of a functionary belonging to any
^** The Recollect fathers wrote of the natives of the Visayas: "The duties of priest were exercised indifferently by both men and women. Blaiu and Robertson: op. cii,, vol. 21, p. 203. 1905. The situation among the Bagobo is not quite parallel to this; for with them the men-priests have certain functions, the women-priests have certain other functions, while still other offices may be performed either by men or by women or by both sexes in cooperation.
^ "* The following are recognized as occasions when killing is justifiable:
a) Human sacrifice, ceremonially performed; c/, under this caption.
b) The blood-feud.
c) Slaying a man in a fair fight between two.
d) The killing of foes in war.
e) Slaughtering; the women of a village when the men have all fallen in battle.
f) A private assassination of an undesirable individual, at the hands of a reputed agent acting under commands of his datu.
^^ Skeat calls attention to the fact that the shaman among peninsular Malays enjoys an exalted rank and a political influence not accorded to him by the wild tribes of the islands. Cf. Malay magic, p. 59. 1900.
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one of these official religious classes, (d) Mediums, by whose instrumentality alone messages from the unseen beings can be regularly transmitted. A medium may also have ceremonial offices of a more formal character to perform, such as effusing candidates with water shaken from medicinal twigs in the rite of pamalugu.^-
If all the intermediaries with the spirits were old people, we might simply call them a specialized variety of priest doctors; but the fact is that some young men give oracles at the seances, and young men are not ordinarily called upon to perform priestly offices.
Formal worship of the gods is carried on at fixed altars or at temporary shrines of recognized types, where fruits of the field and manufactured products are placed, or the slain victim is ceremonially offered up. But acceptable devotions may be performed by the wayside or in the forest, merely by laying on the ground an areca nut ^^ and a betel-leaf, ^* with a word of prayer to some divinity.
The gods^^ of the Bagobo may be roughly grouped, in part, with reference to traditional concepts associated with them and, in part, as touching those human interests to which their characteristics make appeal, namely: (1) Gods of exalted rank who are felt to be remote from human affairs, from whom neither help nor harm is to be looked for, and to whom, therefore, no devotions are addressed; (2) Divine beings closely associated with man's interests and the objects of his worship, among whom are nature spirits and war-gods and protectors of home and field and industry. At this point, it will suffice to mention briefly the names of Pamulak Manobo, creator of the earth; Tigyama, guardian of the home; Tarabume, god of the crops; the Tolus, a class of omniscient beings who are in charge of special forms of worship and of particular industries; the Malaki t'Olu k'Waig,^^ a divine man whose home is at the mythical source of all the mountain streams, and to whom the Bagobo may freely turn in sickness and in perplexity; and the Mandarangan, who inspire men with fierce courage and who love to drink the blood of the slain.
Yet less concerned is the Bagobo with gods than with demons, so far as the routine of daily life is involved. Countless pains and
^* For an account of the ceremony of Pamalugu, see Part II, p. 117 — 123.
^* Jreca catechu. See footnote 165.
** Tiper betel. See footnote 166.
^* For a characterization of the various classes of divine beings, see pp. 15 — 29,
*" For the etymology of this name, see footnote 41.
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miseries come to him through the direct manipulation of those fiends called buso^^ who, in all events, must be propitiated by offerings, tricked by subterfuges, banished by magical rites. These evil beings, some anthropomorphic, some zoomorphic, dominate the Bagobo's attitude toward life and toward death, and keep him constantly on the watch lest he be out-manoeuvred, and thus become a prey to bodily suffering.
Of the two souls that are recognized as inhabiting every human body, the one on the left side, called gimokud febam/^ ^® becomes a buso at death; this is the bad soul. The right-hand or good soul, called gimokud ta-kawanan^ ^^ goes to the Great Country below the earth and there lives forever, engaged in the same activities as those of earth and, except for the shadowy nature of all phenomena, in a like environment to that of this world.
Disease is always referred to a supernatural agent who attacks the human body, either through direct possession or by means of a baneful influence which, though often working at a distance, is transmitted by some potent force. To forestall the chances of sickness, the behavior of a Bagobo is checked or re-directed by rigid prohibitions at many points, each of which prohibitions has come to be associated with a specific penalty attached to a hypothetical transgression. The central motive in a large number of the religious ceremonies performed by the Bagobo is the expulsion of disease and
the prevention of death, such matters being subject to control and to influence along definite lines.
The character of individual existence after death, on the other hand, cannot be determined or modified by ceremonial behavior, however scrupulous the exactness with which the rite is performed.
Traditional accounts of what goes on in the country of the dead form simply another chapter in the annals of mythical narrative, which is accepted without question as familiar truth.
^ ' For a discussion of the buso, see pp. 29 — 42.
^« Gimokud, "soul;" t^(to), "the;" ebang, "left, left-hand." See pp. 58 — 61.
^® Ta-(toJt "the;" kawanan, "right, right-hand." See pp. 50 — 58.