16 August 2015
It was in high school when folklores and folktales piqued my interest. I was young and had no knowledge whatsoever about how important they were in the everyday lives of my people. There in the jungle of Sulu, the cradle of the Sulu Sultanate which reigned in our majestic past, I had the chance of listening to the chants of the manglulugu’ or chanter. I was not interested with the somewhat indistinguishable words but the melancholic melody.
I’d feel at peace listening to the melodious voices of traditional singers as every beat would hit my heart. Later I learned that the singing is called lugu’. I became interested to know more about it so I talked to my grandfather, then to the elders I came across with. I continued bugging my uncles, aunts and even the friendly neighbourhood chap.
I knew about folklore or folk tale in my English literature class, but I never knew what they were called in Bahasa Sug or Tausug language. Since then I have wanted to look for more. Lugu’ enthralled me to a point that I began looking for other classical forms of art, something similar to Lugu but easier to understand and much more lively. I spent my vacation in the jungle of Pasil one summer. There an old man told me about Kissa, a traditional narrative. Much to my surprise, Kissa is an equivalent of folkloric narrative.
While I was not an inheritor of the skills of chanting nor did one single member of my family engage in this art, my mom is good in singing lullabies or langan and my dad is good in reciting poems or tarasul.
Well, perhaps I had inherited a bit of both and I realized that I could learn to write. I wanted to write, and the least I could do was to record those chants. It never materialized. I lacked resources. I didn’t even own a tape recorder then.
Today young Sulus lack the interest in continuing these oral traditions and a way to preserve some of these performances is to document them. Folklore or Kissa is the Sulus’ eternal culture thriving in their consciousness as well as sub consciousness, either directly or not. They are expressions of ideas and values. The stories may be constantly changing because of the way they are retold or passed from ear to ear.
Although the stories keep past events alive as they describe the lives of the people then, keeping the old names of certain places and events that happen in the mundane or historical ones are a step towards preserving them. But most importantly, we need to write.
Honestly, I am not an expert. I am also still learning and still learning until today. But since I have finished a novel of one of the folklores of Sulus in Sabah, I accepted the challenge. I hope that I have shared my thoughts on how significant folklore is as the compass of our history, culture and our lives as people belonging to one group and identity, which also serves as a window of our past values and civilizations.
The ingredients of culture as the most crucial to the existence of people are possibly lineage, history, geography, beliefs, language, sense of belongingness, customs, and folklore. To me, folklore is one of the most neglected forms of art in these modern times. This is certainly true of the Sulus. Folklore involves those things we love to hear, sing, say, and do with our God-given senses and talents when we are at home with our family. With this, we find commonality, which truly gives us the joy of being at home.
I am inviting young people to weave stories and be active in preserving our folklore and our heritage, as well as those unique traditions, which we have established in our native lands. We truly have a rich heritage, and it is our responsibility as the young generation to keep our folklore alive for future generations. May we gladly take on this responsibility. A tall order indeed, but it is reachable. Let us bring glory to God by embracing this rich heritage with which He has graciously endued us.
Published at PUSAKA, the official publication of the Bureau on Cultural Heritage-ARMM, Mindanao-Sulu archipelago.
Paintings/Artworks: The Tausug female nurturing the arts of the Tausug by Rudung Rameeta/Rameer Tawasil.