In Today’s Blog, I met an interesting blogger named Walid Z. Pangcoga, Culture and Arts Affairs officer of Tugaya, who is proud of his roots and passionate about promoting, arts, culture, and pride of Tugaya, Lanao Del Sur, Philippines. I sat down with him and discovered an eye-opener beauty of enriching and cultivating his own origin. He is a Maranao blogger of Tugaya Artefacts, a true born and raised as a child in Tugaya with both parents originating from the same place. A supporter of Duterte administration. And, an advocate for the Bangsamoro people.
I began to interview and ask him what is Tugaya and where is it located? I asked curiously, is it interesting to visit Tugaya? Is it safe? I was delighted when he narrated like a chronicler of Tugaya Artefacts.
1. Where is Tugaya, and its origin?
Tugaya is a small municipality of Lanao del Sur in the Southern part of the Philippines and yet huge in cultivating craftsmanships and arts. He also explains on his blog that Tugaya is a tree. In other places, it is Aleurites moluccanus (or moluccana), called the Candlenut, a flowering tree in the spurge family, or Euphorbiaceae. It is also known as Lumbang, Candleberry, Indian walnut, Kemiri, Varnish tree, nuez de la India, Buah keras or Kukui nut tree as a state tree of Hawai’i (source: Wikipedia). In Mindanao, mainly in Lanao del sur, it is called as TUGAYA tree. By that then, Tugaya was named after it because it can only be found in that province of Mindanao area.
In Tugaya Lanao del Sur, it is a blessing in disguise where during the time there was no electricity. They found out that those nuts can provide fire so they used it as a candle because of burning it can provide light. The nut is round, the seed inside has a very hard seed coat and a high oil content, which allows its use as a candle. They used it also as an oil in cooking. Some of our ancestors used it as a traditional medicine for cholera, nausea, skin diseases and more. One of my grandmothers told me that it has a very sweet scent and really good for sweetening scents of some Maranao delicacies.
Several parts of the plant have been used in traditional medicine in most of the areas where it is native. Candlenut oil is sometimes used like castor oil. In Japan, its bark has been used on tumors. In Sumatra, pounded seeds, burned with charcoal, are applied around the navel for costiveness. In Malaya, the pulped kernels or boiled leaves are used in poultices for a headache, fevers, ulcers, swollen joints, and gonorrhea. In Java, the bark is used for bloody diarrhea or dysentery. In Hawaiʻi, the flowers and the sap at the top of the husk (when just removed from the branch) were used to treat eʻa (oral candidiasis) in children. These oils are used in many products: cooking oil, shortening, cosmetics, soaps, and candles.
Also, Jehad pridefully said that UNESCO recognized Tugaya as the Home for Culture and Heritage. He showed the map and pointed where Tugaya is located as part of the Lanao Lake.
2. What products are made in Tugaya?
He smiled and looked at me, well there are many to show you, he said. We are known for making gong, musical instruments, metalwares, drums, weaves, okir, landap and more.
His cousin, Najib B. Zacaria, made a video named Made in Tugaya, a short documentary on making and carving okir and gong.
3. What is an Agong?
Agong in Maranao means gong in English. It is a musical instrument commonly used by people in South East Asia including Muslims in the Philippines. The industry and the use of gong became common to the Malayan world because it is a symbol of royalty and nobility in the area. There are many kinds of gongs found in South East Asia like Malaysia and Indonesia. These two countries are manufactured through melting pot which produced low and without favorable sound effect.
On the contrary, the hand-made gong in Tugaya is producing a good sound effect that can be heard around 3-kilometer area (diameter far) with more refined tone. It is used with sets of ensemble Kulintang (or a drum) and mamander to produce a sound of festivity including enthronement of Datus, wedding, and other happy gatherings of indigenous peoples in the South area in the Philippines today.
There are gongs made from Tugaya that are exported to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunie starting from 1960’s to the present day. The reason is that the quality of product and the tone is made good. The skilled workers of the gongs in Tugaya are still producing quality agong on a made-to-order basis.
Gong is not only intended for the musical purpose. It is a symbol of nobility and aristocracy in the community. The Sultans, everywhere in the Malayan world, keep their gongs for their festivities. They are beating gong to summon their people for a meeting or gatherings. It is used for a musical instrument in Muslim festivities, are paired with Kulintang (or Xylophone), Dubakan, Babander, and Gandingan to produce melancholy sounds with meanings and interpretations.
4. What is OKIR?
It is as an artistic design of the Maranao native inhabitants of southern Philippines beginning from the early 6th Century C.E. before the Islamization of the area. Okir is a design or pattern often rendered or carved in hardwood, brass, silver and wall painting in curvilinear lines and Arabic geometric figures.
The Okir Motif is an art depicting the indigenous originality and skill of the Maranaos. It is a fine art of figuring, painting, carving and sculpturing depicting the social and psychological identity of Maranao Society. It is being patronized long time ago, until today and possibly in the coming generations of Maranao people.
Every artifact of Maranao was made as an ornament, a device, or a decoration that is designed with authentic okir, revealing that the Maranaos have a distinct and original culture and civilization with no signs being imitated from other culture.
The Maranaos are proud to preserve their cultural heritage by the way of keeping their artifacts permanently located in their households, carved within their premises like these photos.
In the museum of the Mindanao State University, we find the display of different tools, devices and implements of the Maranaos that are being designed with okir with varied kinds and samples to showcase the Maranao culture and traditions.
5. Can you recommend a place to visit in Tugaya?
Yes, the tala-tala beach, the unwinding place while viewing the beautiful Lanao lake. He showed photos of tala-tala and the red sand beneath the shore. It’s very relaxing and a good feel for a swim.
6. What is Kapag-aror?
Kapag-aror is made of the woods floating in the lake. It refers to riding a boat in a lake. The aror they say is made of 50 or 100 pieces of long bamboos where people used to ride on in order to swim afar from the shore to catch some fishes by the fishermen.
kapag arorKapag-aror is recently invented by some locals in order to divert the Maranaos from going to Timoga, Iligan for family gatherings, unwinding, and meetings on the boat. You may pay for rent depending on the duration of stay.
7. Was there any difficulty that greatly changed Tugaya in their products today?
Most of their finished products were kept home and sold through trading and barter only in the past. Unfortunately, during the strong earthquake, it was learned that the most of their finished items mostly antiques that they had kept at home were lost and sank into the Lake, including the old first beautiful Mosque. It was 1955 when an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.00 near the center that struck Lanao Province.
However, the Tugayans people continue to promote their products and artifacts. Their homeland, Tugaya, Lanao del Sur, as of now, is the source of handicraft decorative and cultural products in that Muslim region in the Philippines.
These products include Agong, Kulintang, Landap, Tabo and several kinds of products exported to Europe and other countries worldwide. Some of these handicraft products are herein exhibited via pictures across online.
8. Who are the ancestors of Tugaya?
The native of Tugaya, who may either live in this Town, in some other Municipalities of Lanao del Sur, in other Provinces throughout the Philippines archipelago or in abroad, are descendants of a man Datu Amtak, a tribal leader who lived in Tugaya few hundred years ago.
According to Salsila, Datu Amtak married two wives: Princess Pandango of Sawir (Ba’e sa Sawir) and Princess Ayo of Link (Ba’e sa Link), may God grants them Paradise, and blessed with nine (9) sons who flourished, from generations to generations into thousands of people known today as Tugayans (i-Tugayaan).
Years after years, the descendant of this Nine (9) Clans or Maruhom formed a Royal House and arranged with them the sequence of the title of “Sultan of Tugaya” and then signed a covenant to fulfill this arrangement down to their descendant, or till today.
Here is the sequence of the 9 Maruhoms (MARHOOM in Arabic which means blessed soul) who may hold the title for “Sultan of Tugaya” (Life term), much more like how today’s Malaysian Sultans take turns at being King of that country namely:
1. Maruhom Jaman; 2. Maruhom Sharief; 3. Maruhom Shabir; 4. Maruhom Siddeek; 5. Maruhom Malimala; 6. Maruhom Naba’; 7. Maruhom Rajah-moda 8. Maruhom Tauf 9. Maruhom Ama’i Banto
However, from among the above descendants, they added the following to hold the positions corresponding to their clan (Also life term):
1. Apo-a-Babay – Datu-Imam (First Imam)
Including the First Bilal (Prayer caller)
2. Gurain – Imam-a-Samporna (Second Imam)
including the Second Bilal (Prayer caller)
3. Na’o – Jamla sa Tugaya & Cabugatan sa Tugaya.
The above designations are all existed until today and held by their nearest offspring. This is said to be one of the last bastions of Islamic civilization in Lanao del Sur, which Tugaya also has a special place in Philippine history. After all, it was there that the flag of resistance, the Pandi-a-Ranao, was planted by local hero Sheikh Saruang (Martyred), who fought against the Spanish invaders.
9. What are the names of barangays where Woodcarving, Weaving (balud and landap), Brass Casting are made in Tugaya?
1. Baranggay Campong Talao – The Blacksmiths where it produces farm for types of equipment and household equipment.
2. Baranggay Dilimbayan – Wood Products: Apag, Dadabuan, Wooden Trunk with Okir; Agong and Musical instrument like kulintang; Lalansay, Pandi (Flag), Malong/Landap, and other inside house decorations.
3. Baranggay Tangcal – Wooden Trunk with okir, Sala Set, Bed and other Furniture.
4. Baranggay Raya – Dagger, Kris/sword, battle nut box, and thin Brass decoration.
5. Baranggay Tiga- Putad – Repair of all kinds of Guns and money coin makers.
6. Baranggay Poon A Tugaya – Blacksmith’s Products.
7. Baranggay Sugod – Thin Brass decoration, wooden Trunk.
8. Baranggay Lumbac and Bubong – Brass Making, melting brass as Gador, Kulintang and Brass Casting.
9. Has there been a cultural mapping through the LGU?
No Cultural Mapping by LGU
10. Is there an existing organization or coop for the carvers, Brass casters or weavers?
No organization or cooperative.
11. Who are the master artisans?
There are young people who desire to undergo trade and learning to make crafts on the products of Tugaya trained by their parents or neighborhoods.
12. Are there young people wanting to do the trade?
Every Artisan is selling his products to the middlemen at low price causing artisan to be discouraged to work full time because the income is meager. On the other hand, the middlemen are earning much more because they sell the products at their commanding prices at the low rate from the artisans.
13. Are Tugaya products handmade available for exporting?
Yes, for the local areas are in Luzon, Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Marawi. For International, there are shopping centers in Japan, Singapore, USA that displaying Philippine native products including Tugaya made products.
14. Where do they source raw materials such as woods etc.?
They source raw materials in Lanao, Cotabato and Iligan areas for raw wood materials. For brass, it emanates from junk shops in Manila, Cebu, Davao and Iligan.
15. What should be the general pricing of basic things such as baul etc.?
They need support from the government to standardize the price of the products by a process approved the government. The shall buy the products with standard price and the DTI or the cooperatives shall sell the same at the standard price to avoid manipulation of prices by the middlemen.
16. How Do I Go To Tugaya?
Tugaya is a 4-hour drive from Cagayan de Oro City to Marawi City and 1-hour travel from Marawi to Tugaya. There are vehicles at the airport that can take you for around 500 pesos to MSU-Main campus. There is an Ayala Resort in MSU to stay for a night and travel with only 250 pesos to Tugaya.
And he ended our conversation saying “Oh, by the way, it is safe to visit Tugaya to appreciate the culture and traditions of the good people of Maranaos.”