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The Culture of a Philippine Ethnic Group: Tiruray


The Philippines is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia. It

consists of about 7,641 islands with 81 provinces categorized under three
main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Its islands inhabits
a large number of various ethnic groups, one of which is the Tiruray people.
Although these ethnic groups differ from each other, they have their
similarities. This case study focuses on the culture of Tiruray people: their
history, appearance, religious beliefs and practices, customs, politics, arts and
architecture. Its purpose is to manifest the ethnic group as both unique from
and like other ethnic groups in the country.


The Tiruray, or Teduray in their own language, is cultural minority

residing in the southern part of the Philippines. Living high in an area of the
4,000 foot plateau of southwestern Mindanao bounded by the Tamontaca and
Tran rivers and the Celebes Sea to the west, the Tiruray have retained much
of their indigenous culture despite their proximity to the dominant
Magindanao living in the Cotabato Valley to the east.


The word Tiruray come from tiru, signifying place of origin, birth,
or residence, and ray from daya, meaning upper part of a stream or
river. The Tiruray call themselves etew teduray or Tiduray people, but also
classify themselves according to their geographic location: etew rotor,
mountain people; etew dogot, coastal people; etew teran, Tran people; and
etew awang, Awang people; or etew uf, Upi people (Schlegel 1970:5)

Population and Habitat

The Tiruray number about 65,000, distributed in several areas: the
coastal region, the northern mountain region, the Upi Valley, the Tran Grande
River, and Maganoy River regions. This entire mountainous stretch, in the
seaward portion of northern Maguindanao, is also home to two other cultural
groups who are linguistically distinct from the Tiruray and from each other: the
nearby Cotabato Manobo, and the Tboli.

Location Population

Upi 13,535

South Upi 10, 240

Dinaig 3,255

Ampatuan 1,300

*Based on National Statistics Office 1994

The Tiruray people

live in the southern part
of the province of
Maguindanao where a
range of mountains
known as Cotabato
Cordillera curves along
the southwestern coast
facing the Celebes Sea.
They share common
boundaries with the Maguindanaos in the north and east while the territory of
a group of Manobos locks them in the Tran Grande River in the south. The
mountains and valleys found among this part of Mindanao are neither
especially rugged nor high and are covered in dense tropical evergreen forest.
Natives locations of important mountains in their myths are not plotted in
maps as even locals cannot pinpoint the exact location of these.

The Tiruray can be divided into three groups based on subsistence

orientation: riverine, coastal, and the numerous mountain; each has its own
dialect. They may be classified into the acculturated and the traditional. The
first refers to those who live in the northernmost areas of the mountains, and
who have had close contact with Christian and Muslim lowland peasants, as
well as with Americans since the beginning of the century. The second refers
to Tiruray who have survived deep in the tropical forest region of the Cotabato
Cordillera, and have retained a traditional mode of production and value

Origin and History

In the beginning, the Tiruray may have been nomadic, surviving with
hunting, fishing and gathering. This is proved by what they call themselves,
Teduray, which is derived from the word demurai meaning fishing with hook
and line. From the beginning, there have been three distinct groups within the
tribe called Etue Dogot (people of the coast), Tirurai Kedataran (people of the
plain) and Menilage/Dulangan (people of the slope/nomadic). It was believed
that the Tiruray were first found in the coast but as time went on, scattered
farther into the mountain and became hill people.

While the Tiruray have occupied the same area for several centuries,
they have undergone varying degrees of assimilation and acculturation. It is
reasonable to assume that before the Spanish appeared in Mindanao, there
were extensive contacts between the Tiruray and the Maguindanao Muslims,
particularly since the 15th century. During that time, the people of the
Cotabato River basin had been won over to Islam, which had established a
sultanate over all of Maguindanao. Attempts by the Maguindanao to subdue
the mountain tribes of Cotabato did not succeed, but trade relations
eventually flourished between the two groups. The Tiruray came down to the
coast bringing forest and agricultural products for trade.

Spanish influence in the area came rather late. It was only sometime in
the 19th century, towards the end of Spains colonial rule in the Philippines,
that the central government in Manila and the Roman Catholic Church were
able to establish a stronghold in Cotabato. A Spanish military garrison was put
up in Cotabato City, while a Jesuit school and mission were built near Awang,
close to the mountain region. The Spaniards were able to convert a number of
Tiruray to Catholicism. The outbreak of war between the American occupation
forces and the Muslim people of Mindanao in the early part of the 1900s
signaled the beginning of another phase of colonization.
The Americans, through the efforts of a Philippine Constabulary officer
named Irving Edwards who married a Tiruray, built a public school in Awang in
1916 and an agricultural school in Upi in 1919. The building of roads which ran
into Tiruray territory opened up the region to numerous lowland Christian
settlers, most of them Ilocano and Visayan, and Upi Valley became the site of
many homesteads. The Americans introduced the idea of titling lands as

A significant number of Tiruray were persuaded to give up their

traditional slash-and burn methods of cultivation, and they shifted to farming
with plow and carabao. This was the beginning of the dichotomy in Tiruray
culture: many Tiruray refused to be acculturated and retreated deeper into
their ancestral mountain habitat, while others resettled in the Upi Valley and
became peasants. Many of the resettled and modernized Tiruray have been
converted to Christianity, as a result of years of evangelization work by some
clergy who are either American missionaries, Filipinos from Luzon, or
profoundly westernized Tiruray (Schlegel 1970:9).

Their situation has remained basically unchanged since the American

period. Political power is mainly in the hands of the Maguindanao who make
up the majority population (more than half a million) in the rural and
urbanized parts of the province. Local and provincial leaders, under the local
government setup centralized in Manila, are mainly Maguindanao.

According to literature, the Tiruray share a common legendary

ancestry with the Maguindanao. They are said to be related to the Muslim
Maguindanao. The Tirurays live in the district of Dinaig, south of the Cotabato
River in southwestern Mindanao. Coastal or lowland Tirurays have close
contact with the Maguindanao Muslims and the "Christian" population. Many
of them are modernized and have adopted them neighbors' culture. However,
Tirurays who live in the mountains have remained to live in the traditional

The Tiruray were believed to be a quiet homogenous tribe. They are
Malay in appearance and speak Malayo-Polyneasion derived language that
until recently have not been put in writing. The Tiruray are linguistically and
racially related to other Indigenous people in the Philippines as well as to
some in the general Southeast Asia. There have been some similarities found
with their ethnic neighbors to the north and east and even further down south
with the Tboli. They are viewed by many historians as surviving tribes
representative of old Philippine culture before the arrival of the Spaniards and

The Tirurays traditional clothes were originally

made from tree barks. However, they needed more
comfortable clothes but as they do not weave, they
obtained cloth from Maguindanaoans by trading. The
traditional clothing is very distinctive and colorful. It is
very different from other ethnic groups in the country
where their natives wear little clothes to cover only their
private parts.

The Tiruray clothes are conservative. Mean 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. For jewelries, the Tiruray adorn themselves
with brass necklaces, earring and anklets. For special occasions, women add
necklaces with beads of gold and glass while men are also seen carrying a
wavy-bladed kris in formal occasions.

They also practice artificial

tattooing on their forehead. There is no known
signifance in this practice other than for aesthetic
value. This practice is one of the only two body
mutilation present in the Tiruray culture, the
other one is the filling and blackening of their
teeth upon puberty.

Men and women alike wear their hair uncut. Women tie it in a bun at
the back while mean wind it around their heads and secure it under a
bandana. The acculturated Tiruray on the other hand, dress in Western-style
Religious beliefs and practices

The second major leader of a Tiruray community is its beliyan or


Tiruray people believe that the universe is inhabited by a vast number

and kinds of people (etew). There are the humansus, and the spirits
meginalew. The spirits are said to be exactly like humans. They have their own
societies and tribes. There are those who are naturally evilbusaw, a tribe of
creatures living in caves, and those who are kind to humansTulus, creator of
the universe and the greatest authority over all spirits.

The Tulus have messengers called telaki and are very much like angels
in the Christian faith who protect the humans from evil spirits. But most of the
spirits who are cohabiting with us are friendly and harmless. They go about
doing their own business, unless angered, which is when they inflict harm.

Like most ethnic groups, illnesses are believed to be caused by

angering a spirit. Thus, the shaman is called. The shaman can either be a man
or a woam. Tiyawan is performed as the shaman is regarded as a legal
authority as well, only between humans and spirits but not humans with fellow
humans. The shaman, with the ability and power to see spirits seek out to find
the offended spirit and discuss with it the proper way to settle the matter.
As Tiruray people believe that the spirit world also have different tribes
and governing laws, this is all handled by the shaman who is knowledgeable
and capable of negotiating with the supernatural. The shaman also plays an
important role in the Tiruray swidden rites. Four times a year, the shaman
marks off important points in the swidden cycle. The Tiruray performs a series
of communal sacred meals called the kanduli and is headed by the shaman.

The kanduli rituals are called, respectively, 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,
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
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 the settlements
have been collected. The shaman stores the ritual rice in a small
house called the teninees.

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 after the ritual, every family has eaten some rice from
everybody elses pot.

The spirits are also part of the ritual wherein they are offered part of
the communal rice as well. This act is very important as it shows and
strengthens the ties between the community as well as those between the
humans and the spirits. This greatly coincides with their golden rule of
respecting everybody and considering each others feelings in every

The Tiruray men also have talisman made from mystical powerful
leaves and grasses wrapped in cloth and bound with vine lashing. This
talisman is called ungit. It is handed down from father to son every
generation. The specific plants used to make the charms are strictly kept
secret as disclosing it to anybody will make the talisman lose its potency. The
hunter always carries it around his body and rubs it on his dog and horse for

According to other sources, Tiruray believe that the world was created
by the female deity Minaden, who had a brother name Tulus, also called
Meketefu and Sualla. Tulus is the chief of all good spirits who bestow gifts and
favors upon human beings. He goes around with a retinue of messengers
called telaki. Tulus is said to have rectified some errors in the first creation of
the world and of human beings.

In the complex cosmogony of the Tiruray, tiyawan can exist between

human beings and the spirits of the unseen world. The universe, according to
the Tiruray, is the abode of various types of etew or people. There are visible
ones, the keilawan (human beings), and invisible ones, the meginalew
(spirits). the latter may be seen, but only by those in this world processing
special powers or charisma. It is believed that the spirits live in tribes and
perform tasks in the other world, much as they did on earth.

While good spirits abound in the world, there are also bad spirits who
are called busaw. They live mostly in caves and feed on the remoger (soul) of
any hapless human being who falls into their trap. At all times, the young and
old are aware that the busaw must be avoided, and this can be successfully
done if one possesses charms and amulets.

With the good spirits, it is always necessary and beneficial to maintain

lines of communication. But the ordinary human being cannot do this, and so
the Tiruray must rely on the beliyan or religious leader. The beliyan has the
power to see and communicate with the spirits. If a person falls ill, and the
spirits need to be supplicated, the beliyan conducts a spiritual tiyawan with
them. Human illness, in so far as the Tiruray is concerned, is the consequence
of an altercation, a misunderstanding between people and the unseen
spirits and these formal negotiations are needed to restore the persons health
and harmonious relationship with the spirits. In effect, therefore, the beliyan
as a mediator between spirits and human beings is specially gifted and
powerful kefeduwan.

In an account written in the late 19 th century by Sigayan (the first

Christianized Tiruray, christened Jose Tenorio), the beliyan was described as a
person who could talk directily to Tulus and even share a meal with him. The
beliyan would gather people in a tenines, a small house where the shaman
stored the ritual rice, and tell them about his/her communications with Tulus.
The Beliyan would dance with a wooden kris in the right hand, small jingling
bells hangs from the wrists, and a decorated wooden shield held by the other

The shaman made the men and women dance, for that was the only
way the people could worship Tulus. The beliyan also prepares the ritual
offering to Tulus, and played the togo, a small drum, for the supreme being.

The same account avers that the Tiruray believed in heaven, a place
where they go after death. There was also a hell-like Tiruray place called
Naraka, but this was for the Maguindanao, because their god is a different
one (Tenorio 1970:372).

The ancient belief in Tulus and other cosmological beings has

remained. And so has the belief in the efficacy of charms and omens. These
are particularly relevant in the hunting activities of the Tiruray, whose basic
charm or talisman is the ungit. This is fashioned from several kinds of
mystically powerful leaves and grasses, wrapped in cloth and bound with
vine lashing (Schlegel 1979:235). This handed down from father to son and
down the line. The kinds of plants that make up the charm are strictly kept
between father and son, as revealing these to just anybody will cause the
charm to lose its potency.

The hunter carries the ungit on his body, and rubs it all over his dog
and horse. The ungit is believed efficacious not only in snaring or catching
game, but also in attracting women sexually. If so used, however, it loses its
power as a hunting charm. Omens rule the life of hunters, as they presage
misfortune. A hunter will not proceed on a hunt if any of these occurs: he
hears a person sneeze as he is about to set out; he hears the call of a small
house lizard; he has a bad dream in which he gets wounded, falls, or dies. He
will give up the hunt if the animal he intends to catch is seen while he is
setting up the trap.

Rituals to establish good relations with the spirits accompany each

significant stage of the Tiruray agricultural cycle. Four times within the year,
all the households belonging to the inged participate in a community ritual
feast known as kanduli. Feasting on food, particularly glutinous rice and
hardboiled eggs, and ritual offerings to the spirits are the two characteristics
of these annual celebrations. The preparations for the feast are generally
done in the major settlement within the inged, which is also the focal point of
all activities.

In the preparation of the food, a significant ritual act is already

performed: the exchange of portions of the glutinous rice among all the
families. When it is time to consume the ritual food, a family would then be
actually partaking some of the rice that has come from every other family in
the whole neighborhood. The bonding of the community and of all individual
members through the food exchange is implicit in the practice. The
significance is further underscored by the fact that in the course of the
cultivation cycle, every family of the neighborhood had contributed its labor to
each field on which the rice was grown, and it is the effect of these communal
meals to give ritual expression to this interdependence (Schlegel 1970:64-

As stated before, there are four kanduli rituals of the agricultural cycle:
maras, retus kamas, retus farey, and matun tuda. The inged families prepare
small bamboo tubes filled with glutinous rice, and this they will offer to the
spirits at the ritual marking of the first swidden site. Men and women of the
neighborhood congregate at a clearing, and they proceed in single file, as
gongs are being played, to where the first swidden for the year will be marked
for burning. Arriving at the site, they set up a small platform where they lay
down the tubes of glutinous rice. Everyone listens attentively to the omen-call
of the lemugen bird, which is believed to have the power to convey messages
between human beings and the spirits.

The first ritual marking is meant as a song of respect for the spirits of
the forest, seeking permission to begin cutting down the trees. The owner of
the field interprets the omen-call, and there are good signs and bad signs
depending on the direction of the call. There are four good directions: selat
(front), fereneken (45 degrees left), lekas takes (45 degrees right), and rotor
(directly overhead). Any other direction is considered bad. Theritual laying of
the food and the wait for the omen-call is repeated around the four corners of
the swidden until a good omen is heard.

The political organization of Tiruray society is not hierarchical. Each

inged (neighborhood) of subsistence groups may have a leader who sees to
the clearing of the swidden, the planting and harvesting of crops, and the
equal sharing of the rice or any other food produced from the land. The leader
or head also determines, in consultation with the beliyan or shaman, where to
move next and clear another swidden settlement.

Tiruray society is governed and kept together by their adat or custom

law, and by an indigenous legal and justice system designed to uphold the
adat. Legal and moral authority is exercised by an acknowledged expert in
custom law, called a kefeduwan. The expert presides over the tiyawan, the
formal adjudicatory discussion board before which are brought cases involving
members of the community, for deliberation and settlement.

The kefeduwans position is not based on wealth, as there is hardly any

economic stratification among traditional Tiruray. It is not a separate position
or profession, because he continues to carry on the usual economic activities
of other menfolk in the community. The most learned in Tiruray customs and
law, possessing a skill for reasoning, a remarkable memory and an aptitude
for calmness in debate, and who learns to speak in the highly metaphorical
rhetoric of a tiyawan, is apt to be acknowledged as a kefeduwan.

In one inged, there may be more than one kefeduwan, and several
more minor kefeduwan. The main responsibility of a kefeduwan in Tiruray
society is to see to it that the respective rights and the feelings of all the
people involved in a case up for settlement are respected and satisfied.

The legal and moral authority of the kefeduwan exists for this social
goal. Thus, the administration of justice is geared towards the satisfaction not
only of one party in a case submitted for adjudication before the kefeduwan in
the formal convocation of tiyawan, but of both sides.

In the past, retaliation was deemed the acceptable means of seeking

justice, but with the ascendancy of the tiyawan, retribution has been reduced
to the payment of fines or damages. Internally, this traditional system of
justice is still followed, especially in the interior settlements where the old
lifeways and practices are still followed. But like most other ethnolinguistic
groups in the country, the Tiruray are subject not only to the formal structures
of local government under national law, but also to the pressure of political

Political ascendancy, as noted earlier, resides with the predominantly

Muslim population in Maguindanao. In recent years, also, the Tiruray have
been caught in the crossfire between the government and insurgent forces
operating in Mindanao.

There is no centralized form of government among the Tiruray. Each

community has its own kedafawan who settles various cases in a formal
discussion called the tiyawan. They are merely there as moderators and
negotiators between parties with issues.

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.


For a long time, the Tiruray practiced a subsistence system mainly

based on traditional cultivation. Supplemental food supplies were procured
through hunting, fishing, and gathering. Other necessities of life, such as iron
tools for agriculture, household implements, and personal items, were
obtained through trade with the Maguindanao. Weaving, blacksmithing, and
pottery are industries unknown to the Tiruray. They used to wear hand-beaten
bark cloth. Cotton material, particularly the sarong dress, only came in
through trade activities. These were obtained by exchanging rattan, beeswax
and tobacco.

The primary source of income for coastal Tirurays are farming, hunting,
fishing and basket weaving; those living in the mountains engage in dry frield
agriculture, supplemented by hunting and gathering of forest products.
Tirurays are famous for their craftsmanship in weaving baskets with two-toned
geometric design and exquisite baskets covered with distinctive motifs. They
also make earring, pendants and necklaces out of horse hair.
From Mindanao, Rare Tiruray Basket.

The baskets is made from bamboo and smoked

before it is split. Blacken skin is combined with
nature interior to make different patters. The
basket shows minor stitch loss at the very edge
of the bottom. The total measurements are 14
inches in diameter and 12 inches high.

Internal trade among the more populous settlements of Tiruray goes

on during market days. The traders are mainly males because females are
extremely shy and not much given to business transactions. However, females
carry the barter products to the market for their husbands.

Tobacco is the main crop cultivated for the barter market, but some
rice and corn are also grown and sold to meet basic needs in the house, such
as knives, chicken and piglets.

The Tiruray who have turned to plow farming in the lowlands have
been integrated into the cash, credit and market economy, and follow
agricultural techniques and crop selection entailed by a peasant type of
economic reproduction.

Following an indigenous system of astronomy, the Tiruray reckon the

beginning of their swidden cycle by referring to the appearance of certain
constellations in the night sky. Agricultural matters are decided based on a
lunar calendar and another based on the stars. By December or early January,
swidden sites are ritually marked. This is followed by the laborious clearing of
the thick forest growth, and cutting down of big trees. All men of a settlement
work on each households swidden site until all the swiddens are cleared and
ready for burning by March or April.

Corn and several varieties of rice are planted in the clearing, with men
and women working together. The women are in charge of harvesting and
storing the first corn in May or June, and the first rice in August or September.
The next phase is the planting of tobacco or a second crop of corn, as well as
more tubers, fruits, vegetables, spices and cotton.

Tiruray upland farming is as

scientific and environmentally sound
as all other indigenous swidden
methods. After all the harvest has
been done, the field will not be
further prepared or planted until it has
lain fallow for many years, so that the
vital jungle vegetation may be
reestablish. (Schlegel 1970:14)4

Since ancient times, the Tiruray have been known as skillful hunters
and trappers. A total of 28 hunting methods, and the same number of fishing
methods, have been recorded by Schlegel. The Tiruray prepare their traps for
deer and pig when their swidden crops have started growing on the hillside
slopes, since the game are expected to come out of the forest to forage for
good. The fresh shoots creeping out from a burnt clearing usually attracts the
animals (Patanne 1977:511).

When the swidden fields have been planted with crops, there is not
much work left to be done for the menfolk, except hunting, fishing and
gathering foods in the jungle. Aside from their skill at setting traps and snares,
Tiruray hunters are experts in using the blowgun, bow and arrow, spear and
the homemade shotgun, acquired after the World War II.

In recent years, the classification of Tiruray society into the traditional

and acculturated has been most pronounced in the differentiation of their
subsistence system. Two Tiruray settlements were the basis for this
observation by Schlegel. The first system: traditional swidden agriculture,
characterizes the settlement of Figel; while the other, a peasant economy,
describes the settle of Kaba-Kaba.

Schlegel describes the first as a system adapted to the tropical

rainforest, consisting of slash and burn and shifting cultivation. It is
augmented by hunting, fishing and food gathering. He describes the second
as consisting of plow farming in areas which have virtually lost the forest
cover, with almost no exploitation of or dependence on forest resources and
having an extensive involvement with the market economy of a rural lowland
society (Schlegel 1979:164).


Traditional Tiruray rely heavily on trade to obtain essential materials for

their daily life. 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. As the Tiruray do not weave, they
also get cloth through trading. Salt, an important part of their diet, is another
material to which they do business with the Maguindanaoans. Items also used
as bride price and legal settlements such as krises, necklaces, brass boxes
for btel quid ingredients, gongs, spears and the like are obtained through
trade. Likewise, goods from the mountains also flowed down to the
Maguindanaoans. Important items of note are rattan, tobacco and beeswax
which the Maguindanaoans in turn trade with the Chinese.

Trade is not a simple matter for both parties, however. As the Muslims
have conquered the Maguindanaons and have had their chief converted
to Islam, the rest of the lowland people under him also converted themselves.
However, the Tiruray, like most isolated tribal groups, are wary and suspicious
of people trying to convert them into anything and whose culture is different
from them. The Tiruray has then made the foot of mountains that are entry
points to their communities gateways that others cannot pass through,
primarily the Maguindanaoans. There are, of course, exemptions to this rule
and these are the traders and peddlers.

Ritualistic pacts are made between certain Tiruray neighborhoods and

Maguindanaoan datus for trade to happen between the communities. It is not
an agreement of two ethnic tribes but rather are agreements between groups
of differing culture. The trade pacts are done to symbolize, for the purpose of
trade, the two contracting individuals as brothers, temporarily abandoning
their chronic hostility towards each other. It is called the seketasteel or
cutting rattan together.

The two leaders of each community, the Maguindanaoan datu and the
Tiruray kedafawan, each hold an end of a rattan, set it upon a log, and cut it
into two using a kris. They swear that they will act as brothers of one father
and one mother and if one is to betray their special relationship, may his life
be cut off as this piece of rattan is being cut. This then gives the
Maguindanaoan trader access to the mountain of that particular Tiruray
community. However, he is only limited to do trade to that one community as
other Tiruray groups also have pacts of
their own with other Maguindanaoan

The Maguindanaons also acted as

middlemen for further trade of many
items of Tirurayorigin. The three most
sought after items in the 19th century are
Almaciga and Guttapercha
mother-of-pearl, guttapercha and
almaciga. The last two are forest products from the Mindanao highlands.

Gutta percha is the sap of the tree which the Tiruray call tefedus
(Palaquium ahernanum Merr). There was a high demand for gutta percha in
1860s and 1870s as that was when the transatlantic cable was being built.
Gutta percha was used as an insulation for the cable.Tiruray and other
mountain tribes collected the sap and traded it with the Maguindanaoans for
cloth, salt and iron tools. From there the sap is traded in Sulu, then to
Sandakan or Lubuan, then to Singapore where it is known as North Borneo
gutta percha.

The other, almaciga, is also a sap from another tree known to the
Tiruray as the lunay solo ( Agathis philippinensis Warb). It is used in making
copal varnish. The Spaniards highly values it for they use the sap
for shipbuilding and thus travels through many market channels to reach

As with most horticultural societies, ownership of land is not a strict

manner of value, it is, rather, dependent on the right of use. The land
surrounding a particular community is considered a commodity. It is up to a
family to decide how big a plot of land he is planning to farm and boundaries
are mutually decided. As long as no other family is currently using piece of
land, it is, by Tiruray law, acceptable to mark it as ones own for that season.

As we have discussed in the previous section, Tiruray do not do

blacksmith work so the sharp part of the tools they use for farming are all
acquired through trade. The wooden handles are made by the
locals themselves, as needed. The tools are fairly simple: a slashing bolo
(fais), a shorter all-purpose bolo (badung), an ax for cutting large trees (fatuk),
aweeding knife (susud), and a small harvesting blade (langgaman). Some also
use the traditional sharpened poles; a long narrow one for making holes in the
soil to plant (ohok )and a shorter one for digging (tudok, kedor).

The swidden activities, that is the

cycle of slash-and-burn, is timed with
reference to Tiruray constellations. The
men ritually mark their swidden sites for
the coming year during December to
January. This is also when they begin the
taxing task of clearing the heavy and
dense forest undergrowth and cutting the bigger trees. As this is a tedious job
for each family to perform in their own land, all the men in the community
help each family in their own land until all the lands are ready.

By March or April, the swidden sites are ready to be burned. Every men
and women then help each household on their field in turn. First, corn is
planted, then several varieties of rice and the extra plots in and out of the
proper fields are planted with various other crops, such as tubers, vegetables,
fruit, spices and non-edibles such as cotton, at various times and are likewise
harvested as they mature in their own times.

By May or June, the first crop of corn is harvested by the women of the
community. The crops are stored in drying racks. By August or September, it is
the rice that are ready forharvest. After the rice stalks are cleared away, a
second crop of rice is planted on the field,not to waste any valuable time for
the fallowed land. The particular plot of land will then beleft for many years to
come to allow its fallowing period so as to restore the balance in nature by
naturally letting it grow back its vegetation and replenish its minerals.

Each household then chooses a different plot of land the next year.
While corn and rice are being grown, the women are tasked with weeding their
own households plots while the men are free to engage in other forms of
subsistence such as hunting, fishing, and gathering of wild foods from the

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, they still result to the traditional hunting and gathering. The
answer is because while hunting and gathering was, in the past, sufficient to
fulfill small band of kinsfolk, 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 everyday needs

The Tirurays have a number of traps that they use in hunting including
spring snares (kotor, ambirut), spears (feliyad), spiked pits (kanseb), log falls
(diran) coupled with wild plants and animal foods to lure their preys. They are
also expert with the use of the bow (bohor) and arrow (banting), the hunting
spear (sebat ), and blowgun (lefuk ). Homemade shotguns (faletik) have now
become recently popular. Tiruray also trained dogs to help in cornering game
during hunting.

Household and Societal Customs

Tiruray communities are organized in settlements of 5 to 20 families

called dengonon.

These are actually small dispersed hamlets, spread out over a large
area. The basic residential unit is a nuclear family, composed of the parents,
unmarried children, and married children who have not yet put up their own
dwellings. Sometimes unmarried and dependent elders
would form part of the household, which also include the
many wives of the household head. The Tiruray word for
family is kureng, which means pot; i.e., a family is
deemed as a group of persons living together and eating
from the same pot.

The largest social unit is the inged, which usually

comprises several settlements. The households belonging
to the inged render mutual assistance among themselves in all swidden-
related activities, as well as in all the community rituals. Ordinarily, almost all
members of the inged are linked to one another either by blood or through
marriage ties.

In earlier times, members of a neighborhood shared a single large

house. This seems to have been the rule in a period of political instability, on
account of tribal wars. Starting from the American occupation, with the
territory more or less pacified through military control, Tiruray families started
living in individual houses. The term setifon, which means of one house, is
still used to refer to all members of one neighborhood.

The one large house in the inged is where the kefeduwan normally
stays. A strict code of responsibility for feeding and provisioning the
household is followed by the head of the kureng, whether he is monogamous
or polygamous. All property, money and crops are jointly owned by the
household, with the wife seeing to it that economic tasks, responsibilities, and
rights are properly adhered to within the kureng. A polygamous marriage can
be allowed only if the first wife gives her consent. Furthermore, the senior wife
becomes the first among equals, acting as chief spokesperson for all the
other wives with regard to their rights and duties within the household.

In Tiruray society, marriage takes place when the mans relatives have
succeeded in accumulating the bride-price. Consisting of animals, valuables,
and other articles, the bride-price, called tamuk, is delivered to the parents of
the bride. During marriage, relatives of the groom are called upon to
contribute their share of items making up the bride-price. The kefeduwan and
their family are enjoined to assist in performing the marriage rites. The role of
the brides relatives is to help in the determination and distribution of the
bride-price. When a person dies, relatives are summoned to share among
themselves the costs of the funeral rites.

The kinship terminology follows the

generational structure and is reckoned
bilaterally from the fathers and mothers
lineage. The kinship terms used are eboh,
father; ideng, mother; ofo, older sibling;
tuwarey, younger sibling; and eya, child. After
marriage, brothers are likely to combine or join
their families together into one household. The
same practice holds true for sisters who get
married. In the old days, child marriages were A Tiruray family

Inside the kureng, the closest relationship possible is that between

husband and wife. Their children will eventually grow up, have their own
spouses, and set up their own kureng. So long as their marriage lasts, they will
live permanently together in the same pot. The closeness of man and
woman in marriage is partly explained by the division of labor between mens
work and womens work in the Tiruray swidden.

It becomes very necessary that every farmer has an active wife and
that each adult and active woman be wedded to a working husband
(Schlegel 1970:19). This is whyselamfa, elopement with a married person, is
considered a grave transgression against Tiruray society: the very fabric
holding it together is threatened.

It is acceptable to have a duwoy, a co-wife, which could be more

than one. There are several reasons for a polygynous relationship. The most
common is the death of a relative who leaves behind a widow. The man is
allowed to accept the widow into his kureng. Or, a man may desire to add on
to his social prestige, and increase his sexual satisfaction, by taking in an
additional wife, particularly a young woman.

Another acceptable reason is the need to sire children, if his first wife
cannot bear him any. The one condition is that the tafay bawag, the senior or
first wife, must give her consent. While she can always prevent her bawag
(husband) from marrying another wife or any number of wives, in practice it is
the woman who often suggests that her man take in a duwoy, because of the
perceived advantage in the arrangement: she will have another person to
share the burden of so much work in the house and in the swidden.

The tafay bawag exercises clear authority over the other wives. She
assigns to them a share of the work in her husbands fields. Everything that
they produce is owned communally. The first wife sees to it that all of the
duwoys pots receive an equitable share of the food. The sleeping
arrangement is discussed and well-planned, the husband going from wife to
wife in rotation, as arranged by the tafay bawag. So long as the more senior
wives do not object, the husband may sleep most of the time with a young,
vigorous wife.

Socialization for the children starts at an early age. They are suckled
by their mother up to the age of two or three, or for as long as no new baby
has arrived. But once they are able to walk, they are allowed to play around
the village, without any supervision from the elders. When they reach the age
of six, they become little helpers in the swidden fields. Boys are assigned the
tasks of gathering firewood, tending the farm animals, hunting wild birds with
their little blowguns, guarding the fields from marauding monkeys, and the
like. The girls, on the other hand, help in pounding the rice, weaving rattan
baskets, fetching water, and washing clothes.

In working, the Tiruray children learn all there is to know about

surviving in their society, so that by the time they are adolescents, they do
the same work as their parents, and have absorbed the skills they need to
function as Tiruray adults (Schlegel 1970:21)

Other references describes that a Tiruray household consists of a single

nuclear family or kureng.The family is composed of the father and mother
and their children. Every extended family has his own family and is therefore
expected to have their own house and keep their ownunit secure separately
from their kin.

Polygamy is accepted but is scarcely practiced. Most Tiruray families

choose to be monogamous. This is because one can only practice polygamy if
the man is able to support the families he is intending to keep. Also, the first
wife must approve of the marriage first, as well as approve the succeeding
wives. The other wives are then secondary to the original wife and are at her

Prostitution and adultery is not accepted and is gravely punished when

practiced. Their kinship system is bilateral, thus recognizing both sides from
the mother and father. This includes the two pair of grandparents and the
uncles and aunts as well as the cousins up until the second degree.
Marrying inside your own kin is considered incest or sumbang and is deeply
frowned at in Tiruray society. Sharing of responsibility is expected in ones kin.
When one is in debt, his whole family is in debt together with him and if he is
celebrated, hiswhole kin basks in the same glory as him.


Tiruray people probably understand human nature more than

most other ethnic groups in the Philippines, and possibly the world. Tiruray
believes in the vulnerability of humans and their capacity to make mistakes.
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.

Adept or their behavioral customs is simply putto treat others with

respect. It is expected that everybody will always consider the feeling
of others around him. If one fails todo so, he is burdened with the
responsibility (sala) for the consequences. The one wronged then has a
justifiable reason to retaliate (benal). If one has a benal on a fellow Tiruray, he
is to plead his case to the legal authority or the kedafawan who will then try to
make peace between both parties involved. If it is successful, the offending
party will need to offer a giftof settlement. If not, the issue will most likely end
in bono, an organized killing party set to eliminate kindred of each side.


The inged is the largest Tiruray social unit, consisting of several

families living in several dengonon or settlements, which are small dispersed
hamlets with up to 20 houses each. In turn, several inged are widely scattered
throughout the mountains and along the coast, about 20 kilometers from one
another. Within a settlement, several Tiruray houses are usually clustered
together within the clearing. In general, Tiruray settlements are located near
water sources, and are given names derived from the prominent features of
the physical surroundings, such as rivers, creeks, or springs.

The Tiruray house in the 19th century, as described by Sigayan

(Tenorio 1970:366-368), seems to have been of flimsier construction than
those built at present. It was no more than a field hut, with thin posts stuck
a few inches into the ground, and easily brought down by the winds. The
flooring of the house was made of tree bark, and only a few used bamboo.
There was no wall, only hangings of bark or fronds of rattan. Schlegel notes
that such design was necessary for defense: the occupants could see the
enemy clearly when they raided, enabling the Tiruray to shoot their arrows.

In recent years, the Tiruray traditional house has been more steadily
built, though still small, measuring some 3 x 5 meters. Wood and bamboo are
the main construction materials for the body, and grass is used for the roof.
Five or six main posts or liley, made of round hardwood old up the structure.
Round wood pole studs or feher, about a dozen or more, surround the house.
To these are attached the four round wood pole beams called serinan, which,
with the main posts, define the rectangular shape of the Tiruray house. The
studs are fixed on four large bamboo lengths serving as base or sara feher. A
short distance above the ground, two roundwood girders called fadal, one on
each length of the house, serve to connect the posts as well as support the
series of roundwood floor joists called bekenal.

An interesting feature is a door or tenuwe made of bamboo frame,

which is hinged at the bottom and thus folds out to the ground when opened.
On another side of the house is another opening to which a notched log ladder
or gadan leads up. The walling or diding goes around the house, and is made
of cracked bamboo, which is also the material for the flooring or saag. Round
wood pole trusses or salagunting start from the beams and end just below the
ridge roll or luntud. Round wood rafters called kesew and purlins called
berewar atef make up the framework of the roof. To these are attached the
grass roofing or atef.

Finally, along the center purlin known as titay berungan on the roof
ridge, there are usually roof ornaments of a religious nature. These are called
fakang, salag buwen, and kula-kula.In certain settlements, especially the
acculturated ones, the traditional ramp window-doors, which are hinged, are
giving way to western-style swing type doors, while the notched log ladders
have been replaced by the lowland-type pole step ladder. Also, the religious
ornamentation has been completely eliminated from the roofs.

Another structure put up by the Tiruray is the kayab (small guard hut),
built above the swidden field once the swidden is fully planted to the first
crops. From the kayab one may have a complete commanding view of the
plants. The kayab is used as sleeping quarters, and also as a shelter from the
hot sun. The swidden hut is about 2 x 2 meters, supported by at least four low
stilts or posts, and has walls and a roof made of rattan. The wood used for the
kayab is gathered from the forest, or set aside when the clearing was made.
The bark of the menurer tree serves as flooring. Rattan vines are used to lash
together the entire structure.


The Tiruray societys center is the nuclear family. As it is, the

traditional Tiruray house isroughly only 3x5 meters, clearly intended for a
single nuclear family. The houses, built up onposts that are about 2 meters off
the ground, 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. There is onlya
single latched door and no windows with vines or rattan used to hold the
whole housetogether. The middle post holding the house up is decorated with
various ornaments toward of evil spirits. There are no walls, only vine
hangings of rattan. This is used as a defenseso people can attack from the
inside the enemy when they raided using a bow and arrow.

In the earlier period, the Tiruray seem to live in one big house or
setifon which is a termthat is presently used to describe those living in the
same neighborhood. A singleneighborhood can have up to 30 families in total
and as little as 6 families depending ontheir needs of helping each other in
their subsistence activities. These settlements arenamed after prominent
geographical features of the place they are living in and areby nomeans
permanent. The most important thing in these arrangements are, it seems,
the household. The household consists of a single nuclear family or kureng

Visual Arts and Crafts

Early Tiruray costumes, including the weaponry which formed part of
their accoutrements, differed according to the place of habitation. Thus, men
of the downstream people who lived near the towns and the Maguindanao
population wore long trousers and waist-
length shirts. Their weapons consisted
of a kris carried at the side, a spear
held like a walking stick, a fegoto (wide-bladed kris) slung over the shoulder, a
dagger tucked at the waist, and either a round shield called taming or an
elongated one called kelung. Those who lived along the coast wore G-strings
and shirts. Their weaponry consisted of benongen, a blade similar to the kris
but smaller than the fegoto; a spear, a bow and a quiver of arrows (which
even children carried around). These arrows were tipped with kemendag, the
poisonous sap of a certain tree. The men from the mountains wore short
trousers and the same cut of shirt as the other groups, although they tended
to have less body covering despite their mountain residence. Their weapons
consisted of the kris, spear, bows, and arrows.

Tiruray women, in general, wore a sarong called emut, made from

abaca fiber. They wore shirts like the men, which was nearly of the same
general cut, except that the womens blouse was form fitting, while the mens
shirt hung more loosely. Since Tiruray women never developed the art of
weaving cloth, their dress material came from outside sources. The women
also wore rinti, a series of brass bracelets of different sizes, extending from
the wrist and up the forearm; a brass cord and belt decorated with small
jingling bells which they wore around the wrists; brass anklet rings, necklaces
of glass beads and colored crystals; and the kemagi, a necklace made of gold.
They also sported wire earrings from which hung small shell ornaments. The
Tiruray women were never without a knife and a small basket which they
carried wherever they went. Both men and women wore the sayaf, a shallow
conical hat made from buri, wornas a protection against the heat of the sun
(Schlegel 1970).

These costumes and weaponry of the late 19th century were worn by
non-acculturated Tiruray. However, the downstream people of the same period
were already dressed in the manner of the Maguindanao, who were the
nearest source of acculturating influences. In recent times these acculturated
Tiruray have adopted modern ways of dress, while the Tiruray of the interior
may still wear the kind of dress their forebears did, but without the panoply of
weapons which used to be a normal part of their habiliments.

The Tiruray have not developed the arts of traditional cloth weaving,
metalcraft, and pottery, but have excelled in basketry. They are, in fact, one of
the most accomplished basket weaving groups among the countrys cultural
communities. In recent times, many traditional patterns and designs in Tiruray
basketry have incorporated contemporary adaptations, and even borrowings
from other ethnic styles, because of the market. Nevertheless, even in
modern designs, the Tirurays skill in traditional basketry shows, as
evidenced by the evenness of execution and the symmetry of shapes. Before
being split for weaving, the bamboo material is first smoked black. These
blackened strips of bamboo are then combined with unsmoked, uncolored
strips of natural bamboo in a weave pattern that can have multiple variations.

In the 1960s, traditional carrying baskets with or without covers were

developed for sale to a tourist market, and some Bontoc baskets were even
brought to the Tiruray basket makers by the Episcopalians. As a result, some
features of Bontoc basketry were adopted by the Tiruray, such as a bamboo
foot in the carrying basket, and fitting covers on small boxes with split nito
braids, which served as both stopper and finishing edge (Lane 1986:187).
Other types of baskets developed by the Tiruray through this process of
adoption were nested boxes, open baskets with square rigid foot rims, nested
sets of open basket planters, and trays. A nested set of open basket planters
may have 12 pieces in all, ranging from the largest with a height of 40
centimeters to the smallest with a height of 22 centimeters. No mold is used,
and yet the proportions are remarkably exact, each basket snugly fitting into
the next larger one.

Another complicated piece of basketry is the coined storage jar, which

uses various shades of nito. The variation in shades results in a subtle pattern,
even without a consistent design. The handle is made from a length of split
rattan bound with nito strips in alternating shades of natural brown and dark
brown. As Lane observed, developments in Tiruray basketry have been a
function of the economic situation. More and more Tiruray turned to making
baskets, not for any domestic use, but for the tourist and export market.
Basketry, formerly a household art, has become a source of cash income.
Demand was high for the Tiruray baskets in the late 1960s and 1970s.
All iron tools used by the Tiruray have been procured through trade
with the Maguindanao. In recent years, however, a few Tiruray have been
learning the art of blacksmithing from their Maguindanao neighbors, and one
of them, according to Schlegel, even fashioned the Tirurays first bellows forge
needed to turn out rudimentary iron blades.

Literary Arts

Tiruray literature includes myths, legends, and animal stories.

The creation myth centers around a female deity called Minaden, who
shaped the world and the first creatures living on it. She fashioned human
beings from mud. Having done this, she placed the sun between the earth and
the sky, and brought forth daylight. The sky world is believed to be divided
into eight layers, the topmost layer occupied by Tulus, who was Minadens
brother. Tulus was also known by other names, such as Meketefu (the
unapproachable) and Sualla.

The first two human beings created by Minaden began to grow, but
after some time, they had not yet begotten any offspring. Meketefu came
down from the sky world, and saw that the male reproductive organ was as
small as a tiny red pepper, and that of the female was as big as a snail shell.
Furthermore, their noses were upside down, and whenever it rained, they
caught water, making the two human beings sick.

Meketefu decided to create his own clay figures of a man and a

woman. Using an old bolo, he struck the female figure, wounding her where
the legs joined together. As he did so, the handle of his bolo flew off and stuck
to the middle part of the male clay figure. He also turned their noses right side
up, so they would not take in rainwater.

Soon after, the two creatures were able to bring forth a child into the
world. But no food was available to nourish themselves and the child, who
eventually died. But the world had no soil, and the child could not be buried.
And so the father begged the god Meketefu to give them soil. Much later,
various types of vegetation sprouted from the plot of earth where the child
was buried.
One part of the plot gave forth plants and lime for chewing. The childs
umbilical came out as a rice stalk. Its intestines were transformed into sweet
potatoes. The head became the taro tuber. The hands turned into bananas,
the nails into areca nuts, the teeth into corn, the brains into lime, the bones
into cassava, and the ears into betel leaf (Patanne 1977:256 and Wood

The Tiruray have culture heroes in their mythology, such as Lagey

Lengkuwos, the mightiest of them all. It is said that he could talk while still in
the womb of his mother. It was he who recreated the earth, because the one
originally made by Minaden was all forests and rocks, a barren world.

In Sigayans account, women epic chanters told stories about Lagey

Lengkuwos, Metiyatil Kenogon, Bidek, and Bonggo, who were described as
among the first people on earth, who were not gods but were followed and
trusted by the earliest Tiruray in the same way that they trusted Tulus himself.
These epic heroes now inhabit the realm of the spirits.

Another myth of the second creation is attached to the life of Lagey

Lengkuwos. According to this myth, people during the days of Lagey
Lengkuwos were undergoing hardships with their farming. They did not yet
have the right knowledge of farming, which meant knowing when the winds
would be right for burning; when the rains would come and signal the start of
planting; how to tell good and bad omens that could spell the difference
between success and failure in swidden agriculture.

It is said that Lagey Lengkuwos who was the leader of all human
beings in the world, was only too aware of the peoples predicament. Near his
place, there was a settlement where six farmers lived. They had a pet bird, a
forest dove known as the lemugen. The time came for Lagey Lengkuwos to
lead his people to the celestial abode of Tulus, since their stay in the world
was finished. But Lagey Lengkuwos, who indeed wanted a second creation of
human beings in the world to clear the forests did not want the next people to
have such a difficult time farming. He asked two things of the six farmers: that
they leave their pet bird lemugen behind, so that it could give the necessary
bird omen-calls for the next humanity of swidden farmers; and that they live
in the sky as constellations forever or for as long as there is a world peopled
by swidden farmers.
Since then, the lemugen bird has been giving omens to the farmers to
let them know what to do and what not to do, while the six constellations have
appeared regularly to signify seasonal changes, and to familiarize the people
with the agricultural cycle of burning, planting, harvesting, and letting the
land lie fallow.

The legend of How Rice and Corn Came To Us explains that in older
times the Tiruray, represented by Kenogolagey and his wife Kenogen, ate only
camote and cassava. One day, an old man visits them and tells them of a
better food, the rice and corn, that can only be gotten from the castle of a
fierce giant in the middle of the sea. Upon the advise of the old man,
Kenogolagey sends his two friends, the cat and his dog, to get the food. The
two agree, swim for two days in the sea, and finally discover the rice and the
corn lying in two heaps beside the giants legs. As the giant sleeps, the cat
takes rice grains into its mouth and the dog a pair of corn ears. Swimming
back to shore, the dog drops his corn ears into the bottom of the sea, and the
cat, unable to help him because it had rice grains in its mouth, delivers the
grains on the shore, and dives back for the ears of corn. The dog takes the
rice grains and heads for home, claiming glory for itself. The cat survives,
finds its way home with the ears of corn. The cat reveals the truth about the
dog, the dog jumps at the cat to tear it apart, but the cat nimbly runs away.
Although the adventure brought rice and corn to the Tiruray, it also caused
the permanent enmity between dogs and cats.

Like the pilandok or mouse deer, the turtle in Tiruray tales is a wily and
naughty character.

In The Turtle and the Monkeys, the turtle meets up with the cock who
is proud that he no longer has to hunt because he has found a pile of grains
somewhere. The turtle, envious at this, tells the cock that he has red eyes, a
sickness which could lead to death. Frightened, the cock follows the turtles
prescription. He goes to fetch the sap of the tegef and puts this on his eyes.
The sap hardens and the cock, in panic runs and falls, and ends up with his
head in the hole on the ground. The crab which lives in the hole eats the
fragrant sap on the cocks eyes, allowing it to go free to exact vengeance on
the turtle. Meanwhile, the turtle playfully swings at the tip of a rattan leaf. He
persuades the monkey to do the same, but the latter, who is heavier, falls
over the cliff and dies. The turtle promptly collects the brains, ears, and heart
of the monkey. Later, another monkey, Dakel-ubal, who is busy planting palay
in his kaingin, asks the Turtle for some betel chew. The monkey obliges,
passing off the remains of the dead monkey as the betel chew ingredient.
Dakel-Ubal recognizes the monkey remains, calls on all the monkeys and
sentences the Turtle to drowning. In the water, the Turtle laughs at the
monkeys ignorance. Angry, the monkeys ask the creature Ino-Trigo to sip all
the water of the river into his belly. The creature does so, and the turtle is
revealed hiding beneath some dead branches. Seeing his enemy, the cock
swoops down on the turtle to peck out his eyes. The cock misses and slashes
instead the stomach of Ino-Trigo. The stomach bursts, and all the water rushes
back into the river, drowning the cock and all the monkeys.

Performing Arts

Among the many Mindanao Lumad

groups, the agung a suspended bossed gong
with a wide rimis the most widely distributed
brass instrument, and the most developed
agung ensembles are those of the Tiruray and
the Bagobo (Maceda 1980: 643).

The Tiruray kelo-agung or kalatong ensemble is composed of five

shallow-bossed gongs in graduated sizes. These gongs, which have very
delicate sounds, are played by five men or women. The smallest of the gongs,
called a segarun, leads off with a steady beat, and the four others join in with
their own rhythms. The kelo-agung is used in various occasions, such as
agricultural rituals, weddings, community gatherings, victory celebrations,
curing rites, rituals for the dead, and the entertainment of visitors. The
musical pieces played on the kelo-agung include antibay, fot moto,
liwan/kanrewan, turambes, and tunggol bandera.
There are several
other musical
instruments used by the
Tiruray in everyday and
ritualistic occasions. The
kubing is a jews harp made from a special variety of bamboo. The idiophone
is known by this name in several Muslim and Lumad groups in the south.
Among the Tiruray, the kubing is used for courting as well as for

The togo is a five-stringed bamboo tube zither, which may play the
same pieces heard on the gong ensemble. It is a solo instrument, but several
zithers are often played all at once. This chordophone is played by two
women. One of them holds one end of the bamboo tube as she plays a melody
on three strings. The other woman holds the other end, and plays a drone on
the two other strings. This instrument is important because it can substitute
for the kelo-agung. It shares a similar function and may be heard during the
same occasions when the kelo-agung is played. In addition, the logo
accompanies songs and dances.

The fegerong is a two-stringed lute with 5 to 11 frets. This instrument

is used for courtship and entertainment. Part of the repertoire of the fegerong
are the musical pieces laminggang and makigidawgidaw.

The two bamboo flutes of the Tiruray are the

falendag and suling. Both have three fingerholes and a
thumbhole. The falendag is the lip-valley or deep notched
bamboo flute. Its construction makes possible lip control of
the air flowing into the tube, allowing for a degree of tonal
control and sensitivity not possible with flutes of similar
dimension but differently-shaped blowing holes, such as the
suling or short ring flute.

The suling is also called by this name among the Maguindanao,

Manobo, Bukidnon, Tausug, and the Palawan. It is a duct flute, the sound of
which is produced by adjusting the ring on the mouthpiece in relation to the
blowing hole. The pitch of the suling has a higher range than the falendags
and can similarly express specific emotions, such as the sobbing of a girl who
has just been told by her parents that she is
about to be married.

The Tiruray have a wide range of songs

for various occasions.

The balikata is a song with improvised text, sung to traditional

melodies; it could be a melodic pattern used for debates, pleading
of cases, plain conversation, or it could be a very specific song
about the singers experience with the field researchers tape
The balikata bae is a common lullaby, in which the mother tells the
child to sleep soundly, and grow up as strong as the rattan vine.
The lendugan is a love song, a poetic description about the beauty
of courtship, comparing it to flowers; it also refers to a type of
melody or a certain mode, such as a lullaby or cradle song. Some
lendugan also describe the lifeways of the Tiruray.
The binuaya is a narrative song that tell stories of great events in
the distant past.
The siasid is a prayer-song invoking the blessings of the god Lagey
Lengkuwos, and the nature spirits Serong and Remoger.
The foto moto is a teasing song performed during weddings.
The meka meka is a song of loyalty sung by a wife to her husband.
The melodies of songs like foto moto and meka meka are often
rendered on the kelo-agung and other instruments.

One of the more notable Tiruray

dances is the mag-asik, literally, to sow
seeds, performed by girls in Nuro,
Cotabato. The dance begins with a large
piece of bright-colored cloth or material
placed on the ground or on the middle of
the floor. The women go around this
cloth with small, heavy steps, their arms
and hands moving about in graceful
fashion. The dancers wear tight long-sleeved blouses of shiny material, in
various colors, and a peplum along the waist.
Tiruray women favor bright red, yellow, blue, orange, purple, and
black. They wear a patadyong as a skirt which goes all the way down to their
anklets. They may also wear a necklace made of gold, beads, or old silver
coins, which goes all the way around the neck and reaches down to the waist.
The rich wear metal belts about 15 centimeters wide. The sarong hangs on
the left shoulders of the dancers, and only their lower lips are painted.

Two other types of Tiruray dance are: the kefesayaw teilawan, in which
the dancers imitate bird movements; and the tingle, a war dance, in which
two rival suitors fight for the affections of a maiden. Both dances are
performed during wedding celebrations and other festivities.

Food and diet

Tiruray people have grouped their food into four categories. The first
group is the starch staples composed of rice, corn, yam and taro among
others. The second group is of their viands or side dishes which include meat,
fish and a variety of vegetables. The third group is of their spices such as salt,
onion and garlic. The fourth group is their snacks where coffee, fruits and rice
cakes fall under. Rice is the most important part of the Tiruray diet and is
considered a culturally valued part of every meal. Tiruray people enjoy
drinking coffee and tea though the tea is obtained in the market through trade
and presently, in the capitalist society of the lowlands, in exchange of money.
Many Tiruray also drink tuba and a small portion drinks hard liquor. Past
puberty, most Tiruray make a habit of chewing betel quid, amild stimulant, as
their only form of intoxicating intake.


The Tiruray also use their rich surroundings for medicinal purposes as
with most ethnic tribes. Tilala (Cordyline fructicosa) as known to the Tiruray is
used for (1) hemoptysis due to pulmonary tubercolosis, (2) threatened
abortion, (3) excessive menstrual discharge, (4)hematuria, (5) bleeding piles,
(6) enteritis and bacillary dysentery. Another, barantiya (Jatropha curcas) is
used as a cure to pruritus, eczema, rheumatism, arthritis and traumatic

Status Report
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. The
Tiruray is no exception to this.

Like many, the Tiruray individual is left with little choice but to
embrace the changes happening outside of their mountains. Even though they
are not a capitalist society, they still are at the mercy of the larger capitalist
market that they acquire their goods from. Development and progress are
driving them from their lands even with IPRA and various attempts of trying to
appease the Indigenous People. 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.

As generations come, little and little of what is previously known is

being lost. 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. As many Tirurays are fast coming to the folds of becoming a Filipino
and less a Tiruray, it is still, no doubt an essential part of them. They are still
proud to have come from such unique ethnic group even if the new blood of
Tiruray are not at all that familiar with their legacy as what their grandparents


Each ethnic group present in the Philippines have their similarities and
differences, but they are deeply connected to each other through countless
roots of their history. The Tiruray for example has a deep connection with
other ethnic groups surrounding their community; most specially the
Maguindanao group. They have shared goods and blood together throughout
the history and helped each other grow.

But one of the problems the modern age has brought upon is the
conservation of the groups custom, traditions, beliefs and artefacts. Some
traditions and beliefs were long since forgotten, customs change as people do,
and artefacts destroyed because of lack of giving importance to these
artefacts. Although some tribes with ethnic groups still strive up to this day to
show off their long-live traditions to proudly present to everyone how
preserved their lifestyle has become.
We are encouraging all Filipinos to actively participate in any kind of
conservation activitieslet us all protect our origin so that the next
generations to come can also enjoy learning about them.

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City : GiraffeBooks, 1994.

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Schlegel, Stuart. Tiruray justice : traditional Tiruray law and morality.

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