UCA News


Updated: September 15, 1991 05:00 PM GMT
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Indigenous tribes in northern Mindanao fear their customs and traditions are dying as tribesmen leave their homes in search of work.

Traditional marriage practices in Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, 750 kilometers southeast of Manila, are now rarely observed, tribal elders told UCA News, because the men have been recruited into private armed groups or to work in large timber or mining concessions in the region.

Aside from timber, the two northern Mindanao provinces are rich in fruit, rubber and minerals including gold, iron and nickel. Higaonon, Mamanwa and Monobo are the region´s three major tribes.

Traditionally, weddings are celebrated in the summer months of March to May.

Courtship begins when the boy is between seven and 10 years old. Parents visit the home of a prospective bride of the same age as their son and the head of the family informs the girl´s family that their son seeks marriage.

When the children turn 17, the boy moves in with the girl´s family to give years of service, including gathering firewood, fetching water and cleaning the house.

Tribal elders say the boy´s purpose is not to serve, but to win the heart of the future bride.

When the girl accepts him, the boy returns to his home and his parents appoint a "sakop" (follower) to negotiate the wedding date and dowry set by the girl´s family.

The wedding is performed by a "baylan" (priest) wearing a colorful gown. Standing in the center of the living room of the bride´s home, he chants the "pangapog" (prayer) while beating a gong.

During the prayers, the "diwata" (gods and goddesses) are called to drive away bad spirits.

The priest then escorts the groom to the waiting bride in her room with her immediate relatives who are all crying. Asking the couple to hold hands, he then gives them a plate with betel nuts and some food.

The pair take turn feeding each other while the baylan chants confirmation of their marriage.


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