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Rey Ty International Training Office, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, firstname.lastname@example.org Presented at the Third International Ramayana Conference 2010 at NIU Abstract In the predominantly Christian Philippines, Muslims in the southern islands have preserved the Hindu Ramayana. The Indian epic is deeply embedded in the Darangen epic, the Maha Radia Rawana story, and the Singkil dance. The preservation of Ramayana in the Philippines shows that Muslims, Christians, Hindus, people of no faith, and people of all other faiths can engage in intercultural dialogue that enhances goodwill and mutual understanding. Introduction Background When talking about Ramayana, the Philippines does not come into mind, and not without reason. The Philippines is a predominantly Christian society, where roughly eighty-five percent of Filipinos are Christian. Communities of Muslim Filipinos are concentrated in Mindanao, which is a group of islands in the southern Philippines. Historically, Hindu culture, traditions, and political institutions have heavily influenced most Southeast Asian societies, the Philippines included. Statement of the Problem However, because of Spanish and U.S. colonialism, the Philippine society today is one Southeast Asian country which seems not to have retained Hindu practices, if any at all at worse or the least at best. Muslim Filipinos, however, have preserved Hindu traditions, including the Ramayana. Research Questions This research answered the following questions: 1. In general, how is the Ramayana epic preserved in a predominantly Christian Philippine society? 2. In particular, how do the Darangen epic, the Maharaja Rawana story, and the Singkil dance reflect the Ramayana epic? Research Methods This paper provides an overview, reviews the existing knowledge base, and presents a critical synthesis of the key written and published work relevant to the ways by which the Ramayana is preserved in the Philippines. Materials cited include journal articles, academic books, websites of international organizations, such as the United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), websites of Philippine government agencies such as the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and popular culture documenting the relationship between Ramayana and Philippine culture as inscribed in online blogs. In addition, Muslim contacts who are in the southern Philippines who have answered queries raised through electronic mail have provided additional insights in the findings of this research.
Findings Ramayana in the Philippines In general, the Ramayana is preserved by Muslims in the southern Philippines. Specifically, Muslims in the predominantly Christian Philippines preserved the Ramayana in their epics, stories, and dances. To illustrate, the Maharadia Lawana, Darangen, and Singkil of the southern Philippines recount the stories in the Ramayana. Darangen Darangen comes from two root words, meaning “to narrate in song.” The Darangen was first told in the fourteenth century A.D. The “Darangen reflects Maranao culture prior to the coming of Islam and Western colonialism” (Milligan, 2005, p. 26). It “narrates the origins of the Maranao people among heroic characters of spiritual as wellas human descent. Its chapters relate events in the lives of the mythic progenitor of the Maranao, Diwata Ndaw Gibon, and his descendents, principally the heroic prince Bantogen. The general character of the Darangen and its importance in Maranao culture has been compared to the Iliad and Odyssey of Greece, the Ramayana and the Mahabarata of India, and the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf” (Milligan, 2005, p. 26). The “Darangen provides a unique window on the precolonial and pre-Islamic education values of the Maranao” (Milligan, 2005, p. 27). As it formed part of the oral tradition, there are many different versions of the Darangen. When committed to writing, the manuscripts “of the oral epic entitle Darangen were written in Arabic script” (Coronel, et al, 1986). According to the National Commission for Culture (2010) and the Arts of the Philippines: The available versions alone are contained in eight volumes which comprise 47 books or verses, in 25 chapters that can be chanted in as many days. Preliminary studies suggest that the epic has some 72,000 lines. An analysis of the role of the darangen in Maranao society will offer valuable clues into how the Maranao people relied on oral traditions to provide societal norms and solutions to certain economic, cultural and historical issues in their society. The darangen remains an important source of information regarding the Maranao value system, social etiquette, mythology and marriage customs and traditions. Ancient Maranao society was highly structured, and prescribed a strict code of behavior. In addition, the darangen explores the relationship between the earth-bound society and the more mythical sky kingdoms. More importantly, the darangen contains the Maranao theories of governance and strategies for war and combat. The epic is a story of how communities struggled to maintain peace and defended their territories from invaders. It is inevitable that the epic would be filled with advice for the warrior, such as how to handle a sword, how to declare war, and enter into treaties. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the Darangen epic of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao in the southern Philippines as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. UNESCO (2010) described the Darangen in the following way:
Comprising 17 cycles and a total of 72,000 lines, the Darangen celebrates episodes from Maranao history and the tribulations of mythical heroes. In addition to having a compelling narrative content, the epic explores the underlying themes of life and death, courtship, love and politics through symbol, metaphor, irony and satire. The Darangen also encodes customary law, standards of social and ethical behaviour, notions of aesthetic beauty, and social values specific to the Maranao. To this day, elders refer to this time-honoured text in the administration of customary law. The Darangen Epic of the Maranaos, including the Maharadia Rawana, is an indigenized version of the Ramayana. Most people believe that the Singkil dance is indigenous to the Maguindanao ethnic group or to the Maranao ethnic group in Mindanao or both. But in fact, the Singkil is a Maguindanao and Maranao interpretation of the Ramayana epic, as retold in the Darangen Epic, where the original polytheistic accounts were restated and transformed to conform to monotheistic Islam to which the Maranaos and Maguindanaos adhere. Note, however, that the Singkil is not religious and it is not Muslim. It is a secular dance of the Maranaos and the Maguindanaos, the majority of whom are Muslims. Maharaja Rawana and Radia Mangandiri Filipino Indologist, Prof. Juan Francisco, (1993, pp. cix-cxx) reported the following: In 1968, I discovered a Maranao text titiled Maharadia Lawana, a condensed version of the Ramayana. The Maranao version tells of Maharadia Lawana, the [eight]-headed son of the Sultan and Sultaness of Pulu Bandiarmasir. He was so irascible that his father banished him to Pulu Nagara, [an] island. Later he returned to his father’s kingdom where he regained his father’s grace. In another kingdom, Radia Mangandiri and Radia Mangawa, sons of the Sultan and Sultaness of Agama Niog, set out on a 10 year sea journey to court Tuwan Potre Malaila Tihaia, daughter of the Sultan and Sultaness of Pulu Nabandai. On the way, they were shipwrecked and were, by coincidence, washed ashore to Pulu Nabandia. Soon Mangandiri won the hand of Tuwan Potre Malaia Canding (Tihaia). But after some time, he and Mangawarna became homesick and decided to return to their homeland. During the journey, Malaila Ganding saw a golden-horned deer grazing and wanted it caught. But the deer turned out to be a ruse so that Maharadia Lawana could abduct Malaila Ganding. Meanwhile, Mangandiri dreamt that he begot a monkey child-Laksamana. It turned out the dream was true. Later, Laksamana, by accident, met Mangandiri, and Mangawarna and helped them rescue Malaila Ganding. In the end, Lawana rules with justice, Laksamana metamorphosed into a handsome datu. Mangandiri and his wife and his brother returned to Agama Niog, where they lived happily ever after. Shweta Ganesh Kumar (2010 June 19) of the Non Resident Indian Online Magazine had this to say about Ramayana in the Philippines:
Here was the tale of the eight-headed Maharadia Lawana, a prince who was banished to another island to rule because of his unworthy ways. Later on in the story come Radia Mangandiri and Radia Mangawa, two sons of a Sultan who are on a ten-year journey to ultimately court Malaila Ganding, a princess in a distant land. Radia Mangandiri wins her hand and they journey back home. But on the way Malaila sees a golden-horned deer, and sends her husband and brother-in law to capture it. At this point, Maharadia Lawana abducts her. A heart-broken Mangandiri tries to find her and dreams of being blessed with a monkey-child by the name of Laksmana. Laksmana duly appears and helps Mangandiri get his wife back. In the end Lawana becomes a just king, Laksmana grows into a man and Mangandiri returns to Agama Niog, his kingdom with his wife and brother. Singkil Original Singkil. While originally a Maranao dance, the Maguindanaons, the Tausugs and other Islamized Filipino groups also perform the Singkil dance. The original version of Singkil does not have male dancers. Originally, only women of royal blood perform the lead role. The Singkil dance is based on a story in the Darangen, which is a retelling of the Ramayana epic. The Singkil dance narrates the story of Putri Gandingan who escapes from her abductor and is lost in the forests but later found by Rajah Bantugan. Philip Dominguez Mercurio (2010) explained that the name of the Singkil dance comes from the word that means either the leg bracelets with chimes of the same name or the act of entangling one’s feet in vines or grass. Hanuman was the original character in the polytheistic Hindu epic, which does not conform to the monotheist Muslims in the southern Philippines who preserved the epic. Hence, Hanuman was replaced by Laksamana in order to conform to Islamic monotheism. Diwatas, or fairies, caused the shaking of the earth which made the trees fall down. The princess avoids the falling trees and rolling stones, as represented by her not being hit by the clicking and crisscrossing bamboo poles as she moves around. Her loyal slaves follow her around the forest where she gets lost. Bayanihan Dance Company and Other Versions. The original Singkil dance that Maranaos perform only has female dancers. The Darangen ni Bantugen, which is the Maranao adaptation of the Ramayana epic, inspired the introduction of the male lead in the Singkil dance. The Bayanihan Dance Company of the Philippines popularized the Singkil dance, which is in fact ifferent from the original Maranao version. The not-original Singkil dance, as constantly being revised and performed by the Bayanihan Dance Company, contains a combination of different dances, among which are the Asik (a slave dance), the fan dance, and the addition of male dancers, as warranted by the story of the Ramayana as retold in the Darangen. Today, most Philippine student associations and Philippine associations outside the Philippines perform different versions of the pompous Singkil dance, among other cultural numbers, during special occasions in order to represent the various Philippine cultures. Current Developments There is a never-ending interest in Ramayana in the Philippines. Ramayana is presented in many artistic productions in current Philippine history. When I was growing up, I remember watching a Filipino version of the Ramayana in cartoon format on television. I was able to find copies of the cartoon but unfortunately they are now taken off the Internet. In 1981, for instance, Bienvenido Lumbera wrote the book and lyrics of Rama Hari (King Rama), with music by Ryan
Cayabyab, which had become a pop musical ballet. Fernandez (2004) documented that Rody Vera in 1993 wrote Ang Paglalakbay ni Radya Mangandiri: Isang Pilipinong Ramayana (The Travels of Rajah Mangandiri: A Filipino Ramayana). In 2009, the play titled Ang Pakikipagsapalaran ni Radia Mama-Apan (Adventures of Rajah Mama-Apan) “was presented at the Cultural Center of the Philippines” (Tan, 2009). Also in 2009, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (2010) presented a puppet show, titled “Sita at Rama: Papet Ramayana.” Table 1: Representations of Ramayana in the Philippines (Adapted from Francisco, 1994, p. czx; Kumar, 2010 ) Versions Original Ramayana Philippine Variants of Ramayana Hinduism Polytheism Ravana Hanuman Ram Sita Laksman Islam Monotheism Maharadia Lawana Laksamana (son of Radia Magnadir by Potre Langawi) Radia Mangandiri or Mandangiri; Rajah Bantugan Tuwan Potre Malano (Malaila) Tihaia (Ganding) or Putri Gandingan Mangawa or Radia Mangawarna Conclusion Summary Through the Darangen epic, the Maharaja Lawana story and the Singkil dance, the Maranaos in the southern Philippines have not only preserved but also syncretized Ramayana to suit the local contexts and religion to make the Hindu story acceptable to Muslims. Dorren Fernandez (1995, pp. 115-116) wrote: “Yes, there is a Philippine Ramayana, but it is not an epic as it is in India, Indonesia, and Thailand… Instead there are popular stories kept alive in Lanao province through the oral tradition—a cluster ‘revolving around the exploits of Raja Mangandiri (Rama), his brother Raja Mangawarna (Lashamana) and their multi-headed enemy, Raja Lawana (Ravana).” The content of the Maranao stories are similar to but not the same as the Ramayana. Fernandez (1995, p. 116) summarizes the Maranao story this way: “Mangandiri of Agamaniyog is young, princely, and adventurous. Voices in the wind call him to venture forth and seek a wife, whom he finds—Potri Tuwan Malano Tihaia, daughter of the rule of Nabandai. He encounters Maharadia Lawana, a monster with seven heads, who causes him to undergo trials, including the temptation to ruthless power. He triumphs; but he also errs grievously. He is aided and saved by those who love him: his brother Radia Mangawarna, a son, friends, the woman who understands his erring. It is a tale of love and adventure, of growing up and growing old, of journeying
Elements Religion Gods
through life and through understanding—by a Filipino hero with human failings, but a genuine urge to do good.” Implications There are different versions of the Ramayana as retold in the varied versions of the Darangen, Maharaja Lawana, and the Singkil. Aside from the Muslim Maranaos and Maguindanaos performing the Singkil, the non-sectarian Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company made their version of the Singkil popular nationally and globally. Members of Philippine student associations and Filipino heritage associations around the world perform this dance on special occasions, many of whom are Christians who do not know the origin of this dance. Doing research, studying about, and learning the history and development of Singkil from its Ramayana roots promote educational and cultural enhancement. Nothing beats watching an actual Singkil performance, though. For Further Reading Coronel, M. D., et. al. (1986). Darangen in original Maranao verse, with English translation. Vol. 1. Marawi: Mindanao State University, University Research Center, The Folklore Division. FML SEA PL5957 .D364 1986 Cultural Center of the Philippines. (2010). Teatro mulat: Paet Ramayana. Retrieved July 30, 2010 from www.culturalcenter.gov.ph. Fernandez, D. G. (2004). Palabas: Essays on Philippine theater history. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. FML SEA PL5541 .F4761996 Fernandez, D. G. (1995 Srping). The playbill after 1983: Philippine theatre alter martial law. Asian Theatre Journal. 12(1), 104-118. Francisco, J. R. (1993). A critical inventory of Ramayana studies in the world. Vol. II. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. Francisco, J. R. (1994). From Ayodhya to Pulu Agama Niog: Rama’s journey to the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Asian Center. FML SEA GR325 .F731994 Francisco, J. R. & Madale, N. T. (1969). Maharadia Lawana. Quezon City: Philippine Folklore Society. FML SEA PL5957.Z73 F7 Kumar, S. G. (2010 June 19). On the Ramayana trail IV: A Filipino Twist. Retrieved from http://www.the-nri.com/index.php/2010/06/on-the-ramayana-trail-iv-a-filipino-twist/. Madale, N. T. (2001). Tales from Lake Lanao and other essays. Manila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Mercurio, P. D. Traditional music of the southern Philippines: ETHS 545. Retrieved August 1, 2010 from http://www.pnoyandthecity.blogspot.com/. Milligan, J. A. (2006). Islamic identity, postcoloniality, and educational policy: Schooling, and ethno-religious conflict in the southern Philippines. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. National Commission for Culture and the Arts. (2010). Intangible heritage: Masterpices of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.ncca.gov.ph/about-culture-and-arts/culture-profile/culture-profile-intangibleheritage.php. Tan, M. (2009 May 13). Pinoy kasi: A Maranao epic. Philippine Daily Inquirer, Retrieved from http://services.inquirer.net/print/print.php?article_id=20090513-204651. UNESCO. (2010). The Darangen epic of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao. Retrieved August 20, 2010 from http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?pg=00011&RL=00159.