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Historian: 9 things to learn about Philippine culture from P-pop group Alamat
Pinoy pop group Alamat
Alamat via Instagram

Historian: 9 things to learn about Philippine culture from P-pop group Alamat

Kathleen A. Llemit (Philstar.com) - April 20, 2021 - 6:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino historian Xiao Chua commended the boy group Alamat for its "inclusivity" and "uniqueness."

In a YouTube vlog dated March 26, Chua took notice of each of the members' clothing as shown in a series of slides and imparted his knowledge of Philippine mythology, weaves, imagery and history.

"'Pag nakita natin ang costumes ng Alamat, nakakatuwa kasi, una, very inclusive. Kung gusto mong ipakita ang kulturang Filipino, nararapat lang. 'Yung siyam na miyembro ay nagmula sa iba't ibang bahagi ng bansa, Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao," commented the historian.

Alamat debuted with nine members in February, namely, Mo, Tomas, Jao, Taneo, Valfer, Gami, Kin, Alas and R-Ji.

Last March 30, Alamat posted on its official Twitter account that it will be "continuing as an eight-member boy group in succeeding activities." Kin is no longer seen in Alamat's social media feeds.  

Chua added, "So may nirerepresent sila na distinct, iba-ibang unique culture na nasa Pilipinas. Again, pinapakita dito na hindi homogenous ang Pilipinas, hindi pare-pareho ang mga Filipino. May uniqueness. Ano ba yung nagba-bind sa atin? So 'yun 'yung pinapakita sa atin. 'Yung inclusivity ng Alamat."

Chua then broke down the meanings behind symbolisms in the costumes worn by the members.

Snakes in Philippine mythology

Taneo

 

The professor noted how Taneo, who hails from Kalinga, wears the batek or batuk print on his top. He shared that the batek is a talisman or anting-anting tattooed on a warrior's body for protection. He also noted another group of warriors in the Visayas called Pintados whose bodies are also tattooed with similar patterns for protection.

"Makikita mo may mga reptilian 'yung kanilang mga design. Tandaan natin sa sinaunang panahon, 'yung ahas o naga nahiram natin yan mula sa Sanskrit, sa India, ay naging malaking bahagi ng mitolohiya sa malaking bahagi ng Pilipinas. Kaya 'yan din nakikita natin sa mga paghahabi ng ating mga ninuno, 'yung mga pattern na yun na parang mga ahas. Bahagi ng mayamang kultura ng Southeast Asia na naniniwala sa deity o tinatawag nating diwata na ahas, naga or bakunawa," he explained.

Taneo's outfit also incorporates Northern weaves, which Chua said are similar in other parts of the Philippines. The process of weaving often involves groups of women who weave the patterns they see in their dreams. Thus, they are called dreamweavers.

"Ang batayan ng kanilang weaving, ito'y sinasabi nilang napapanaginipan nila. Mula sa kanilang panaginip, doon nila kinukuha ang inspirasyon sa mga disenyo na nilalagay nila sa kanilang paghahabi. Hindi lang 'yan sa Kalinga, makikita sa T'boli (indigenous people of South Cotabato)," he shared.

Black American culture meets the Sambal

Mo

 

Chua noted how Mo, the lad from Zambales, wears the durag, a headcloth worth by Black Americans. Mo is half-Filipino and half-Black American.

He shared references found in the "Boxer Codex," a manuscript by Gomez Perez Dasmarinas in 1593. Throughout the video, Chua cited this manuscript as reference.

He noted how Mo's sweater had the figures of the taong Sambal, or the natives of Zambales and Pangasinan.

"Sabi nila, wala daw tayong kultura, wala daw tayong kabihasnan pero 'pag titingnan mo, nagsusuot sila ng mga ginto, seda, ng mga magagandang damit. Kung may mga nakabahag man sa kanila, okay lang kasi kultura nila 'yun. May mga mandirigma na nakabahag lang. Kung makikita natin, napakahalaga ng 'Boxer Codex' bilang isang dokumentong pangkasaysayan na nagpapakita na hindi totoo na wala tayong kultura at sibilisasyon. Meron tayo ng lahat ng 'yan."

Indigo

 

Jao's hair color is not coincidental and the Philippines has more than one writing system.

Prof. Chua noticed that Jao, a Kapampangan, has his hair color was dyed blue. He said that it is inspired by the color of the Kingfisher bird or known as Batala in Pampanga. He also shared that many mythologies or folklore in the Philuppines have sacred bird figures like the Sarimanok in Mindanao and the Tigmamanukan, which was the bird that opened the bamboo shoot that contained Malakas and Maganda, the first man and woman in the Filipino creation story.

Jao also wore indigo which he said might be inspired by the 1832 drawing of Filipino painter Damian Domingo where Kapampangans were seen wearing indigo or tayum in Kapampangan.

"This is interesting kasi 'yung indigo, laganap sa Pilipinas. 'Yung Tayum, may isang capital sa North sa Abra at 'yung Tagum sa Davao. 'Yung plant na 'yan, 'yung Nila, 'yan 'yung pinagmulan ng salitang 'Maynila.' Kaya prevalent 'yung indigo sa buong Pilipinas na nire-represent sa Pampanga ng kasuotan ni Jao," Chua explained.

Nila is a plant where the natural dye color of indigo can be extracted. It means dark blue or indigo in Sanskrit.

Salibatbat, Baybayin, Kulitan

The Penitensiya or Salibatbat is a Holy Week tradition in Pampanga where some devotees flagellate themselves. This is part of re-enactment of Jesus' Crucifixion. This is also incorporated in Jao's attire.

Prof. Chua reiterated that Baybayin is not the only writing system in the Philippines. Pampanga also has one that is still practiced until today.

In Jao's button-down top are Kulitan characters. "Ang Kulitan ay isang sulat na nanatili sa atin dahil ito ay gamit ng mga shaman o ng mga relihiyosong tao sa sinaunang panahon hanggang ngayon," Chua shared.

Butanding, Oryol

 

 

As mentioned, reptiles particularly the snake, are considered sacred in many Filipino mythologies.

Oryol is a half-serpent Bicolano mythological goddess. She is painted on the left side of Tomas' hoodie sweats while on his right side is the Butanding or whale shark, an endangered species found in the waters of Sorsogon.

On the hoodie's forearm and on the hem of the red short is the pattern of the karagumoy, a mat made from screwpine that is endemic to the country. His short is red, inspired by Albay's Pulangui Festival.

Waray resiliency

R-ji

 

It is a known fact that most of the more or less 20 typhoons that visit the country pass through Leyte and Samar. These provinces have stood through many storms, including Yolanda in 2010.

"Sanay sila sa kahirapan. Pinahirapan talaga sila noon sa pamamagitan ng polos y servicios (forced labor imposed by Spanish colonizers). Mga bagyo na humahagupit unang bumabagsak sa Samar at Leyte kaya ang sinasabi nila pag Waray-waray, 'walang-wala' and it remains to be one of the poorest provinces in the country pero mayaman ang kanilang kultura," Chua said.

On R-ji's top are Waray-waray words and the banig pattern from Bassey, Samar.

Gold

Valfer

 

Gold is more than just prestige; it protects against bad spirits.

Valfer is Hiligaynon, which are people from the Panay and Negros Islands in the Visayas.

Prof. Chua said that the region is rich in culture, and he shared one fun fact that is often overlooked. Many modern Filipinos think wearing gold is a status symbol, but for ancient Filipinos, it is more than that.

"'Pag nakita mo 'yung 'Boxer Codex', mga Bisaya, sila'y nagsusuot ng ginto at bahagi ng kanilang paniniwala ay 'yung ginto ay pino-protektahan sila sa pagpasok ng mga masamang kaluluwa," Chua explained.

Valfer's top features images of gold death masks and Bacolod's MassKara. It also features the Ilonggo weave Hablon, which became popular as the alampay of graduates of the University of the Philippines.

Chua shared that there's even a gold death mask dating from 14th to 15th century found in Oton, Iloilo.

Chua said this is shared practice among those descended from the Austronesians, a group of prehistoric seaborne people from Taiwan, Maritime Southeast Asia, Oceania and Madagascar dating back around 3000 to 1500 BCE.

"Takot ang mga masasamang kaluluwa sa ginto at hindi niya papasukin ang katawan ng sinumang nagsusuot ng ginto. Kaya nagsusuot ang mga ninuno natin ng mga gintong abubot at alahas. Hindi lang 'yun dahil sa social status o gusto lang nilang magpasikat. May spiritual siyang kahulugan," he explained.

MassKara, Eskaya

Gami

 

The MassKara festival is an annual festival held by Bacolod, known as the "City of Smiles" since 1980.

It was born out of the resolve of the Negrenses to bounce back from the failing sugar industry and from the tragedy of the sinking of the vessel MV Don Juan, which led to 18 deaths, 115 missing, and 745 survivors.

Likewise, Eskaya is among the rich writing systems in the country.

Gami hails from Bohol, and his top and pants are printed with figures of the Bathala and letters from the Eskaya alphabet in the Visayas.

The sun patterns on his top represent Bathala while the wavy patterns and designs are inspired by the Naga or Bakunawa and serve as protection.

His top also has the images of the tarsier and Chocolate Hills found in his hometown, Bohol. Gami is also shown wearing the grass skirts of the Ati, an ethnic group found in the Visayas.

Lumad, pre-colonial maritime history

Alas

 

Born in Davao City in Mindanao, Alas' suit jacket and pants are made with Yakan weaves and the colors of vinta.

"Dala-dala niya ang simbolo ng Lumad. Sa ating kasaysayan, may tatlong pinakamalalaking grupo ng tao: Kristiyano, Muslim at Katutubo o Lumad. Sila'y tumungo sa kabundukan noong sinakop tayo ng mga kolonyalista at napanatili nila yung marami sa ating kultura. Isa na rito ay paghahabi. 'Yung mga dreamweavers, meron din yan sa Yakan. 'Yung pantalon ni Alas, inspired dito," Chua shared.

He also added that the sash or belt was inspired by the belts worn by the ancestors as seen in the "Boxer Codex."

The Ayala Museum even houses some of the golden sashes where weapons such as the Kris and Kampilan are tucked in.

The vinta, Chua said, represents the boats developed by the Filipinos' Austronesian ancestors.

"Celebrate our diversity as well as celebrate what binds us culturally. Ang ganda ng mensahe na yun ng mga kasuotan ng miyembro ng Alamat," remarked Chua.

He added that people should not judge those who patronize music like K-pop other than their own.

"Sa paglipas ng panahon, may mga nadadagdagan 'yan kasi dynamic ang kultura natin. Ganoon din ang musika. Hindi pwedeng 'yung Carinosa, Tinikling, Rondalla noong unang panahon ay manatiling ganoon. May pini-preserve tayo, meron din tayong dinadala sa makabagong panahon."

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