Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Finding the "Aginid"

- Maria Eleanor E. Valeros -

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu Normal University Museum became the last stop of the featured museums during the recent staging of the “Gabii sa Kabilin” (Year 5).

A collection of the “ambihid” and “agusahis” which are two of our indigenous trees are found in bonsai form in the said museum. At the Natural History section, the rock and mineral collection has some unusual-looking specimens like the opaline silica, andesite, weathered volcanic rock and serpentinized peridotite. Cebu, being a coral-based island, is rich in fossils of various kinds. Many of these fossils are on display in this particular section.

Its Permanent Collections section features a painting on World War II by Cebuano artist Carmelo Tamayo, and the “sudlay” or harrow which is a native farm implement used for breaking up large chunks of soil after plowing.

Pupils’ projects dating from the late Spanish and early American eras show fine workmanship. These are found in the Education gallery. In the section on the Philippine Revolution is a portrait of the mysterious Solomon Manalili, reputed to be the arms supplier of the Cebuano Katipuneros, but was later executed by the Spaniards.

Other collections include religious articles, at the Spanish Era section, such as the 1830s print entitled “La Verdadera Viña Cristiana”; and various important paintings.

It was also learned that the “puso”, a handy Cebuano invention which makes picnics so enjoyable, actually originated as an offering in religious rituals performed by our forebears during the pre-Spanish era. The CNU Museum features six “puso” designs – one for every class of gods in the ancient Cebuano animist religion.

But above these interesting pieces (and those vintage items), it’s the Jovito Abellana book “Aginid Bayok sa Atong Tawarik” worth P125 a copy that’s a great find at the CNU.

According to author Dr. Romola Savellon, “sculptor, painter, poet, playwright, actor and singer – and a fearless guerilla leader, Abellana is the scion of a very old family of Sugbo which traces its roots to the ancient chiefs of Tiwi (the Cebu el Viejo of the Spanish conquistadores).”

“Long before Cebuanos became aware of the greatness of their past, Mr. Abellana has taken upon himself the heavy burden of chronicling the history and culture of his people, often working in quiet anonymity and devoid of recognition and praise,” Savellon wrote.

“In this task, he drew upon the oral tradition which he had inherited from his forebears, notably his maternal grandfather, who had painstakingly taught him the now-forgotten Cebuano script [kudlit kabadlit or baybayin/alibata], and his own father, a fiercely nationalistic figure who had fought in the revolutionary war and the Philippine-American conflict.”

Savellon pointed out that “Aginid Bayok sa Atong Tawarik [Glide on Ode to our History] came to the fore in the course of an interview we had with Mr. Abellana in 1977, prior to the celebration of the centenary of the revolution in Cebu.”

“While he admitted that his Aginid is not the complete version of the Cebuano epic,” Savellon added, “he was nevertheless acutely aware that it has the potential to challenge our textbook notions of our own history.”

It was in 1952 when Abellana wrote down whatever he remembered of this lengthy song which his grandfather had taught him as a boy. “[This comes] complete with explanatory notes and a written counterpart in the pre-Hispanic Cebuano script or “badlit.”

Savellon underlined that one important and unique characteristic of this Cebuano poem is the fact that “not only is it chanted, like most pre-Spanish native poetry – it is also danced to!”

“Thus, it can properly be termed a dance-epic,” the author added.

Further, she said that “noticeable in the arrangement of the lines is the absence of terminal rhyme, a poetic device which was introduced by the Spaniards. Hence, this feature might constitute a clear indication of authenticity.”

“Furthermore, the poem is replete with allusions to the ancient gods of the Cebuanos – gods whom we never knew existed – as well as unfamiliar names of items of indigenous culture such as musical instruments, since Cebu is now closely identified with the guitar, a Spanish import,” Savellon accentuated.

“Suffice it to say that this truncated poem is one of the richest sources of information about the history and culture of pre-Spanish Cebu, now a highly industrialized province struggling to recapture its past,” she added.

“The Cebu Normal University Museum has therefore deemed it necessary to have it reprinted, so that more and more Cebuanos will learn to appreciate that past.”

Museum Hours: 8 a.m. – noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; Saturday sked is by appointment only. Entrance fees: P5 for elementary and high school students; P10 for college students; P20 for adults/professionals; and it’s absolutely free for out-of-school youth and special children (in groups). (FREEMAN)

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