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The Tiruray

The Tiruray

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Published by: Karissa Louise B. Razon on Sep 26, 2010
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Tiruray of Mindanao


Hill People of Southwestern Mindanao

A mini ethnobiography of the Tiruray ethnic group in Mindanao. Compiled by: Cielo Mae Marquez, Nicole Garcia and Karissa Razon


Marquez, Garcia, Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao

The Tiruray are hill people living in the southern part of the province of Maguindanao where a range of mountains known as Cotabato Cordillera curves along the south-western coast facing the Celebes Sea. They live in a relative but decreasing isolation from the more urban setting of present day Cotabato as their political center called Nuro is some 40km south of said city. or ‘Teduray’ in their own language. Natives’ locations of important mountains in their myths are not plotted in maps as even locals cannot pinpoint the exact location of these places.000 with most of them being acculturated with town life and living in sedentary farms in the lowlands. Garcia. They share common boundaries with the Maguindanaoans in the north and east while the territory of a group of Manobos locks them in with the Tran Grande River in the south. However. 2 Marquez. there are some groups of Tirurais who still live in the mountains with the old ways that we can call the ‘traditional Tiruray’ as opposed to the more modern groups referred to by anthropologists as ‘peasant Tiruray’. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . Their number is estimated to be about 25. is a cultural minority residing in the southern part of the Philippines on the large island of Mindanao. The mountains and valleys found among this part of Mindanao are neither especially rugged nor high and are covered in dense tropical evergreen forest.The Tiruray.

They apply white face powder and stain their lips red. For special occasions. Men wear a long-sleeved tunic and a fitted pair of pants while women wear a fitted blouse buttoned at the front paired with a sarong skirt. the Tiruray people adorn themselves with brass necklaces. Tirurai Kedataran (peopleof the plain) and Menilage/Dulangan (people of the slope/nomadic). This practice is also one of the only two body mutilation present in the Tiruray culture. The Tiruray’s traditional clothes were originally made from tree barks. surviving with hunting. Men are also seen carrying a wavy-bladed kris in formal occasions. they obtained cloth from Maguindanaon by trading some of their harvests. They also practice artificial tattooing by making many small blood-blisters in a pattern on the forehead. However. Garcia. The traditional clothing is very distinctive and colorful. we can say that the Tiruray are linguistically and racially related to other Indigenous People in the Philippines as well as to some in the general Southeast Asia. Since then. the Tiruray may have been nomadic. The other one is the filling and blackening of their teeth upon puberty. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . their clothes have been cut from cloths. They are Malay in appearance and speak a Malayo-Polyneasian derived language that until recently have not been put in writing. Women also wear a type of make-up for special occasions. fishing and gathering. From the start. For jewelries. Men and women alike wear their hair 3 Marquez. The Tiruray clothes are very conservative. It is very different from other hill people in other areas in the country were their natives wear little clothes to cover their private parts. It was believed that the Tiruray were first found in the coast but as time went on. Teduray. they add necklaces with beads of gold and glass. scattered farther into the mountain and became hill people.The Tiruray were believed to be a quiet homogenous tribe. This is proved by what they call themselves. From this. There have been some similarities found with their ethnic neighbors to the north and east and even further down south with the T’boli. there have been three distinct groups within the tribe called Etue Dogot (people of the coast). In the beginning. There is no known significance in this practice other than for aesthetic value. they needed more comfortable clothes but as the Tiruray do not weave. which is derived from the word ‘demurai’ meaning ‘fishing with hook and line’. They are viewed by many historians as surviving tribes representative of old Philippine culture before the arrival of the Spaniards and Islam. earrings and anklets.

The other wives are then secondary to the original wife and are at her service. Prostitution and adultery is not accepted and is gravely punished when practiced. The middle post holding the house up is decorated with various ornaments to ward of evil spirits. Garcia. as well as approve the succeeding wives. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . In the earlier period. Every extended family has his own family and is therefore expected to have their own house and keep their own unit secure separately from their kin. clearly intended for a single nuclear family. When one is in debt. The women tie it in a bun at the back while the men wind it around their heads and secure it under a bandana. Most Tiruray families choose to be monogamous. Also. only vine hangings of rattan. Their kinship system is bilateral. The most important thing in these arrangements are. The houses. Some also wear the safay. 4 Marquez. There is only a single latched door and no windows with vines or rattan used to hold the whole house together. it seems. dress in Western style clothing and wears their hair in Western hairstyles. the traditional Tiruray house is roughly only 3x5 meters. built up on posts that are about 2 meters off the ground. The household consists of a single nuclear family or “kureng”. The family is composed of the father and mother and their children. This includes the two pair of grandparents and the uncles and aunts as well as the cousins up until the second degree. the household. This is because one can only practice polygamy if the man is able to support the families he is intending to keep. Sharing of responsibility is expected in one’s kin. There are no walls. his whole kin basks in the same glory as him. These settlements are named after prominent geographical features of the place they are living in and areby no means permanent. The Tiruray society’s center is the nuclear family. thus recognizing both sides from the mother and father. This is used as a defense so people can attack from the inside the enemy when they raided using a bow and arrow. a conical had made of buri as a protection from the sun. As it is. his whole family is in debt together with him and if he is celebrated. Polygamy is accepted but is scarcely practiced. The acculturated Tiruray on the other hand. A single neighborhood can have up to 30 families in total and as little as 6 families depending on their needs of helping each other in their subsistence activities. the Tiruray seem to live in one big house or “setifon” which is a term that is presently used to describe those living in the same neighborhood.uncut. the first wife must approve of the marriage first. Marrying inside your own kin is considered incest or “sumbang” and is deeply frowned at in Tiruray society. are made of bamboo and wood with roofs of grass and a ladder that is pulled in from the inside for security during the night.

spears and the like are obtained through trade. As the Muslims have conquered the Maguindanaons and have had their chief converted to Islam. brass boxes for bêtel quid ingredients. yam and taro among others. Iron tools are one important part of their subsistence in swidden farming as the bolos and knives they use are all acquired through trade or purchase from the lowland market. gongs. fruits and rice cakes fall under. onion and garlic. corn. The second group is of their viands or side dishes which include meat. tobacco and beeswax which the Maguindanaoans in turn trade with the Chinese. Trade is not a simple matter for both parties. they also get cloth through trading. necklaces. The first group is the starch staples composed of rice. Items also used as brideprice and legal settlements such as krises. Important items of note are rattan. Rice is the most important part of the Tiruray diet and is considered a culturally valued part of every meal. As the Tiruray do not weave. The third group is of their spices such as salt. The fourth group is their snacks where coffee. goods from the mountains also flowed down to the Maguindanaoans. Garcia.Tiruray people have grouped their food into four categories. Salt. Traditional Tiruray rely heavily on trade to obtain essential materials for their daily life. most Tiruray make a habit of chewing betel quid. however. Many Tiruray also drink tuba and a small portion drinks hard liquor. Tiruray people enjoy drinking coffee and tea though the tea is obtained in the market through trade and presently. a mild stimulant. fish and a variety of vegetables. in the capitalist society of the lowlands. the rest of the lowland people 5 Marquez. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . in exchange of money. an important part of their diet. Likewise. is another material to which they do business with the Maguindanaoans. Past puberty. as their only form of intoxicating intake.

then to Sandakan or Lubuan. primarily the Maguindanaoans. However. each hold an end of a rattan. gutta percha and almaciga. the two contracting individuals as brothers. are wary and suspicious of people trying to convert them into anything and whose culture is different from them. There are. 6 Marquez. The last two are forest products from the Mindanao highlands. and cut it into two using a kris. temporarily abandoning their chronic hostility towards each other. Gutta percha was used as an insulation for the cable. set it upon a log. There was a high demand for gutta percha in 1860s and 1870s as that was when the transatlantic cable was being built. The other. exemptions to this rule and these are the traders and peddlers. From there the sap is traded in Sulu. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . However. the Tiruray. The Tiruray has then made the foot of mountains that are entry points to their communities gateways that others cannot pass through. Gutta percha is the sap of the tree which the Tiruray call “tefedus” (Palaquium ahernanum Merr). The two leaders of each community. ofcourse. Tiruray and other mountain tribes collected the sap and traded it with the Maguindanaoans for cloth. It is not an agreement of two ethnic tribes but rather are agreements between groups of differing culture.under him also converted themselves. They swear that they will act “as brothers of one father and one mother” and if one is to betray their special relationship. The three most sough after items in the 19th century are mother-of-pearl. like most isolated tribal groups. It is called the “seketas teel” or “cutting rattan together”. he is only limited to do trade to that one community as other Tiruray groups also have pacts of their own with other Maguindanaoan tribes. salt and iron tools. “may his life be cut off as this piece of rattan is being cut. The Maguindanaons also acted as middlemen for further trade of many items of Tiruray origin. then to Singapore where it is known as “North Borneo gutta percha”.” This then gives the Maguindanaoan trader access to the mountain of that particular Tiruray community. Garcia. for the purpose of trade. The trade pacts are done to symbolize. the Maguindanaoan datu and the Tiruray “kedafawan”. Ritualistic pacts are made between certain Tiruray neighborhoods and Maguindanaoan datus for trade to happen between the communities.

all the men in the community help each family in their own land until all the lands are ready. acceptable to mark it as one’s own for that season. a long narrow one for making holes in the soil to plant (ohok) and a shorter one for digging (tudok. The men ritually mark their swidden sites for the coming year during December to January. The wooden handles are made by the locals themselves. dependent on the right of use. kedor). as needed. it is. The tools are fairly simple: a slashing bolo (fais). As with most horticultural societies. As we have discussed in the previous section. By May or June. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . the first crop of corn is harvested by the women of the community. an ax for cutting large trees (fatuk). This is also when they begin the taxing task of clearing the heavy and dense forest undergrowth and cutting the bigger trees. rather. fruit. that is the ycle of slash-and-burn. it is. The swidden activities. First. Some also use the traditional sharpened poles. spices and non-edibles such as cotton. is also a sap from another tree known to the Tiruray as the “lunay solo” (Agathis philippinensis Warb). is timed with reference to Tiruray constellations. then several varieties of rice and the extra plots in and out of the proper fields are planted with various other crops. It is used in making copal varnish. such as tubers. ownership of land is not a strict manner of value. a shorter all-purpose bolo (badung). Every men and women then help each household on their field in turn. at various times and are likewise harvested as they mature in their own times. vegetables. the swidden sites are ready to be burned. a weeding knife (susud). The land surrounding a particular community is considered a commodity. Tiruray do not do blacksmith work so the sharp part of the tools they use for farming are all acquired through trade. 7 Marquez. corn is planted. and a small harvesting blade (langgaman). It is up to a family to decide how big a plot of land he is planning to farm and boundaries are mutually decided. By March or April. The Spaniards highly values it for they use the sap for shipbuilding and thus travels through many market chanels to reach Spain.almaciga. by Tiruray law. As long as no other family is currently using a piece of land. Garcia. As this is a tedious job for each family to perform in their own land.

and blowgun (lefuk). fishing. The Tirurays have a number of traps that they use in hunting including spring snares (kotor. not to waste any valuable time for the fallowed land. log falls (diran) coupled with wild plants and animal foods to lure their preys. Garcia. the hunting spear (sebat). and gathering of wild foods from the forest. Homemade shotguns (faletik) have now become recently popular. in the past. ambirut). After the rice stalks are cleared away.The crops are stored in drying racks. they still result to the traditional hunting and gathering. Each household then chooses a different plot of land the next year. sufficient to fulfill a small band of kinsfolk. The particular plot of land will then be left for many years to come to allow its fallowing period so as to restore the balance in nature by naturally letting it grow back it’s vegetation and replenish its minerals. a second crop of rice is planted on the field. spiked pits (kanseb). The answer is because while hunting and gathering was. spears (feliyad). They are also expert with the use of the bow (bohor) and arrow (banting). Many people are curious as to why most horticultural societies such as the Tiruray advanced to swidden farming if at the time that they let their crops grow. it is not enough to feed a whole community as well as sustain the increasing need to market their products so as to obtain essential modernizing materials for their every day needs. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . Tiruray also trained dogs to help in cornering game during hunting. 8 Marquez. By August or September. it is the rice that are ready for harvest. the women are tasked with weeding their own household’s plots while the men are free to engage in other forms of subsistence such as hunting. While corn and rice are being grown.

reed lip flute (falendag). though of course. (5) bleeding piles. (3) excessive menstrual discharge. smaller ring flute (suling). Tilala (Cordyline fructicosa) as known to the Tiruray is used for (1) hemoptysis due to pulmonary tubercolosis. consists of instrumental. The weaving is done in numerous artistic pattern. Tiruray traditional art is composed of music and basket weaving. arthritis and traumatic experiences. fish traps and winnowing baskets that are essential to Tiruray every day life. (4) hematuria. vocal and dance forms. Basket weaving is done to produce various forms of containers. in recent years. Another. This form of art has been in decline over the years as more Tiruray are becoming acculturated and have started purchasing factory manufactured containers which are easier to obtain and are cheaper than spending hours and days weaving a full basket made out of rattan and other indigenous materials. (2) threatened abortion. eczema. barantiya (Jatropha curcas) is used as a cure to pruritus. rheumatism. This increase in demand and attention on their art form has inspired more Tiruray to again practice basket weaving. a drum (togo tefuken) and a set of five small tuned gongs with shallow boss (agung). especially the gong. Garcia. they are played frequently for the purpose of entertainment.The Tiruray also use their rich surroundings for medicinal purposes as with most ethnic tribes. These instruments are essential for rituals in the every day Tiruray life. several types of bamboo zithers (togo belotokan). However. Tiruray musical instruments are named as such: tuned percussion beams (kagul). (6) enteritis and bacillary dysentery. bamboo jaw harp (kubing). 9 Marquez. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . The second and more expressive form of the two Tiruray art – music. a demand for Tiruray baskets have been increasing from tourists visiting from Manila as well as for export to other countries.

If not. Tiruray people probably understand human nature more than most other ethnic groups in the Philippines. The epic chant requires 12 nights to be sung in full. and possibly the world. As the Tiruray are illiterate and have no written language. love songs and riddles. Like basket weaving. This is why it is a golden rule in their society to never anger or abuse a person as it is very likely that he will exact revenge and start a feud between kinsfolk. They have one long epic chant called the Berinarew describing the adventures of an ancient culture hero named Lagey Lingkuwos who is believed by the Tiruray to have been a powerful human being able to ascend to heaven because of mystic powers he has been given by their god. he is to plead his case to the legal authority or the kedafawan who will then try to make peace between both parties involved. the offending party will need to offer a gift of settlement. This is in part due to many acculturated Tiruray living in the lowlands not practicing their traditional music and dances thus missing the chance to teach it to their children. 10 Marquez. The one wronged then has a justifiable reason to retaliate (benal). Adat or their behavioral customs is simply put – to treat others with respect. Tiruray believes in the vulnerability of humans and their capacity to make mistakes.The Tiruray are also fond of vocal music like most other tribal groups. There are also other types of vocal music such as the impromptu singing discourse which are either in monologue or dialogue. the issue will most likely end in bono. The knowledge of this one part of their future will then be unknown to the next generation and probably to the coming generations as well. an organized killing party set to eliminate kindred of each side. he is burdened with the responsibility (sala) for the consequences. It is expected that everybody will always consider the feeling of others around him. If one fails to do so. Tiruray music might be rapidly disappearing. If it is successful. they pass these traditions orally through generations. It is not until recently that anthropologists have taken an effort to translating these epic and other songs and publishing them to preserve their legacy. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . If one has a benal on a fellow Tiruray. Garcia.

They are egalitarian and the kedafawan are neither political chiefs nor headman in anyway. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . Tiruray people believe that the universe is inhabited by a vast number and kinds of people (etew). the kedafawan is a normal member of the community who must also work his or her swidden. The role of the kedafawan is open to anyone who is learned and wise. and the spirits (meginalew). The second major leader of a Tiruray community is its beliyan or shaman. They have their own societies and tribes. The sole purpose of the discussion is to settle any issues and restore good feelings on both sides by equating the stacks on each court. Ultimate justice is sought in the tiyawan and the kedafawan cannot pick a side. There is no ‘winner’ in a tiyawan. Garcia. then there are those who 11 Marquez.There is no centralized form of government among the Tiruray. When not involved in a tiyawan. us. There are those who are naturally evil like the busaw. one who is able to speak in the metaphoric sentences required of the tiyawans and most of all. There are two types of tiyawan: hot tiyawan where a dispute is involved and a good tiyawan where the issue does not include hurt feelings. Each community has its own kedafawan who settles various cases in a formal discussion called the tiyawan. There are the humans. one who is accepted by his or her fellow Tiruray in the community as able and deserving of trust. a tribe of creatures living in caves. The spirits are said to be exactly like us humans. They are merely there as moderators and negotiators between parties with issues. It is achievable and is a nonprofessional specialization.

Garcia. only. with the ability and power of seeing spirits seek out to find the offended spirit and discuss with it the proper way to settle the matter. For this. The first Kanduli ritual is called the (1) Maras or the “marking festival” which is held on the night of the last full moon before the marking of the swidden sites. The shaman also plays an important role in the Tiruray swidden rites. The shaman. the Tiruray community performs a series of communal sacred meals called the kanduli and is headed by the shaman. the shaman is called. every family has eaten some rice from every body else’s plot. As Tiruray people believe that the spirit world also have different tribes and governing laws. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . marking off important points in the swidden cycle. this is all handled by the shaman who is knowledgeable and capable of negotiating with the supernatural. Here. But mostly. tiyawan is again performed as the shaman is regarded as a legal authority as well. the spirits who are cohabiting with us are friendly and harmless. who are here to protect the humans from evil spirits. Four times a year. The shaman may be either a man or a woman. This act is very important as it shows and strengthens the ties between the community as well as those between the humans and the 12 Marquez. The Tulus messengers called telaki are very much like angels in the Christian faith. (2) Retus Kama or the “festival of the first fruits of the corn” which is held on the following night of the first harvest of the neighborhood corn. after the ritual. between humans and spirits and not humans with fellow humans. The spirits are also part of this ritual wherein they are offered part of the communal rice as well. The shaman stores the ritual rice in a small house called the Tenines. (3) Retus farey or the “festival of the first fruits of the rice” which is held on the night following the day of the harvest of rice and the (4) Matun tunda or the “harvest festival” which is held on the night of the first full moon when the rice harvest from all of the settlement’s swiddens have been collected.are kind to humans like the Tulus. The ritual involves the passing back and forth between families in the community of rice grown from a special ritualistic inside each families own swidden such that. creator of the universe and the greatest authority over all spirits. Like most other ethnic groups. illnesses are believed to be caused by angering a spirit. They go about doing their own business unless angered which is when they inflict harm.

Like many. They are fast losing their culture and identities as Tiruray as more and more of them are living in cities and become the new generation of professionals. They are still proud to have come from such a unique ethnic group even if the new blood of Tiruray are not at all that familiar with their legacy as what their grandparents are. The hunter always carries it around his body and rubs it on his dog and horse for safety. they still are at the mercy of the larger capitalist market that they acquire their goods from. The Tiruray is no exception to this. the Tiruray individual is left with little choice but to embrace the changes happening outside of their mountains. it is still. This talisman is called the ungit. Development and progress are driving them from their lands even with IPRA and various attempts of trying to appease the Indigenous People. Garcia. This is why anthropologists are trying their hardest to write written accounts of the traditional Tiruray life in an attempt to preserve its cultural heritage. The Tiruray men also have talisman made from mystical powerful leaves and grasses wrapped in cloth and bound with vine lashing. little and little of what is previously known is being lost. As many Tirurays are fast coming to the folds of becoming a Filipino and less a Tiruray. 13 Marquez. It is not a hidden knowledge that every ethnic tribe in the Philippines is fast becoming immersed and acculturated with the modern way of life. It is handed down from father to son every generation. This greatly coincides with their golden rule of respecting everybody and considering each other’s feelings in every endeavor. no doubt an essential part of them. Even though they are not a capitalist society. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao .spirits. The specific plants used to make the charms are strictly kept secret as disclosing it to anybody will make the talisman lose its potency. As generations come.

Johnson.) California: Stanford University Press. Stuart. 1994. “Children of Tulus : essays on the Tiruray people”. Schlegel. Clement. Razon – Natsci 8 – Ethnobotany – Tiruray of Mindanao . 1989.Schlegel. c1999. “Horticulturalists: Economic behavior in tribes”. Garcia. “Berinareu : the religious epic of the Tirurais”. Manila : Divine Word. Ateneo de Manila . c1970. Berkeley : Institute of Philippine Culture. Stuart. Stuart. Allen. Quezon City : Ateneo de Manila University Press. Stuart Plattner (ed. Schlegel. Wein. “Tiruray justice : traditional Tiruray law and morality”. “Wisdom from a rainforest : the spiritual journey of an anthropologist”. 14 Marquez. In Economic Anthropology. 1989. Quezon City : Giraffe Books.

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