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Who are we? (2)

A. Paulita Roa .

Last of two parts

LAURA Lee Junker, ethnohistorian and archaeologist who wrote extensively about the prehispanic chiefdoms as far back as 1000 BC, said that “… the Bukidnons  of north central Mindanao were primarily small-scale interior chiefdoms only indirectly involved in a maritime trade economy; they never underwent the religious conversion to Islam; and they were remote from the later colonial centers of power.” (p.39)

It was on the coast of northern Mindanao that the Spanish colonial government was fully entrenched. The capital town of Misamis Province which was Cagayan de Misamis (Cagayan de Oro) was considered a colonial center of power. The Spaniards stopped making attempts to establish themselves in the interior areas, specifically in Bukidnon and Lanao. However, it was in the later part of the 19th century that the Spanish Jesuits opened a mission outpost in Sumilao, a place that is several miles from the coast of Cagayan.

There is a highly interesting report written by an American soldier, First Lt. R.O. Horn entitled “Exploring Expedition, Cotabato to Cagayan, Mindanao” (1902). Horn reported that he hired Bukidnon guides and porters as he and his men explored the wilds of Cotabato and traversed through the uncharted territory of Bukidnon in 1902. He wrote that the Bukidnons numbered  no more that “20,000 pagans” and lived in three nuclear areas — in the middle of Pulangi and Mulita Rivers south to Cotabato and northeast along the Tagoloan and Pulangi Rivers and to a lesser extent the upper Cagayan river bordering Lanao.

When they arrived in the plateau with rolling grasslands that had a trail leading to Cagayan, they discovered  half caste Bukidnons who were converted by Jesuit missionaries and were known as the Tlandigs (Talaandig). At this point, Horn’s guides and porters left him for they did not want to go any further to the coast. Here, we see the reclusive nature of the Bukidnons, who, for centuries, strongly resisted anyone that tried to subjugate them.They distanced themselves from the Maguindanaos who lived to the south and from the Hispanic influence to their north by moving deeper to the interior forest and mountains. They wanted to live and practice their customs, beliefs and traditions peacefully sans outside intervention.

Their contacts with the dumagats or the people of the coast in Cagayan de Misamis and the Maguindanaos were usually done after the harvest season when their produce like abaca gutta percha, coffee, cacao and rice were traded in exchange for sugar, salt, cloth and liquor. Aside from their trade contacts from the lowlands, they came to know the Spanish Jesuit missionaries who opened mission houses in the late 19th century in Sumilao, Malaybalay (once called Oroquieta by the Spaniards), Bugcaon and Linabo.

From the 333-year Spanish colonial rule to the early years of the American colonial period, the Bukidnons kept to their own milieu and virtually had no cultural influence and affinity with the dumagats of Cagayan de Misamis. But what about the fact that the hinterland barangays of Cagayan de Oro from Lumbia to Besigan have several Higa-unon families living there? Research shows that these barangays were once part of the province of Bukidnon and were annexed to the city only in the 1950s.

It is lamentable that Kagay-anons are today made to assume a cultural identity of the HIga-unon, one of the seven tribes of Bukidnon. This is way far from the truth. It is clear that those cultural stakeholders who imposed this on us did not bother to to a research that is based on solid historical and anthropological evidence. We need to examine our Kagay-anon culture and try to see if there are several significant Bukidnon cultural traits there. I see quite a few but it is not enough to declare that our roots came from them. It is not as vast and as profound as the Visayan culture that dominates a greater part of Mindanao even to this day.

Lastly, it is a moral crime when many ill-informed individuals continue to impose on us, Kagay-anons, their mistaken belief that we are descended from the Bukidnons. Still and all, there is nothing like doing an extensive research on the subject of who we are and our real cultural identity. This is very important because it will have a profound effect on us,as a people for many generations to come.


Here’s a list of references:

  • Blair, Emma H. and James A. Robertson.eds. and trans. 1903-1909. The Philippine Islands 1493 – 1898.55 volumes. Cleveland. Arthur H. Clark Co.
  • Combes, Francisco. 1663. Historia de las islas de Mindanao, Jolo y sus adyacentes. W.E.Retana (ed.) Madrid.1897
  • Cole, Fay Cooper. 1956. The Bukidnon of Mindanao. Chicago Natural Museum Press
  • R.O. Van Horn, “Exploring Expedition, Cotabato to Cagayan, Mindanao.” March 18, 1902, in US War Department Annual Reports of the War Department for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1902 (Washington. GPO, 1902), 9:586-88.
  • Junker, Laura Lee.1999.Raiding, Trading and Feasting: The Political Economy of the Philippine Chiefdoms.University of Hawai’i Press
  • Scott, William Henry. 1997. Barangay: 17th Century Philippine Culture and Society. Ateneo de Manila University Press.
  • Warren, James Francis.1998. The Sulu Zone, the World Capitalist economy and the Historical Imagination. Amsterdam: Free University Press

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