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History of the Higaonon Tribe

The Higaonon 'Lumad' of Mindanao  |  Colonization of Mindanao  |  Tribal Oral History 
Types of Higaonon  | The Customary Laws

Mindanao is one of the three main island groups (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) and is situated in the southern part of the Philippines. With a size of 94,630 km², it is second in size to Luzon and takes up 20% of the total Philippine population.

Most of the mountainous islands used to be covered in tropical rainforests and are volcanic in origin. The country is also situated along the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific and is struck by about 19 typhoons per year.

The lowest point is the Valley of Mindanao, in south-western Mindanao, and the highest point in the whole of the Philippines is Mount Apo, in the southern Mindanao ranges, with a height of 2,954 metres.


In the middle of the 14th centuary, Islam spread from Malaya and Borneo to the Sulu Archipelago, and from there to Mindanao.

The arrival of the Spanish in the late 16th cent. united the various Muslim groups in a holy war against the conquerors that lasted some 300 years.

It was eventually sold for a relitively small sum by the Spanish to the U.S. in 1898, following the Spanish-American War.

The Moros likewise resisted American domination; fighting between U.S. garrisons and Muslim groups occurred early in the 20th century.

In 1946, at the end of World War II, it attained total independence.

THE HIGAONON 'LUMAD' OF MINDANAO

Lumad means 'grown to a place'. This term generally refers to the 18 Non-Moro Indigenous Communities in Mindanao which, by force of colonization , were driven to the deepest hinterlands.

The Higaonon Indigenous Nation is among these, with an estimated minimum population today of 200-300,000 and who now reside largely in Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte and Camiguin.

On the whole, the Lumad of Mindanao, before being conquered, preserved their own lives. They clung to their communal views of the land, to their co-operative work exchanges, communal ritual, dances, songs and folklores.

They revered their own God. Their animistic worship, however, could not have persisted had it not been for the peaceful and non-imposing stance of Islam. A classic manifestation of this is the Non Islamization of the Tiruray and the Manobo, who were part of the common borders and in constant trade with the more socially cohesive Muslim Maguindanao.

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COLONIZATION OF MINDANAO

Several hundred years ago, the Spaniards, preoccupied with their desperate, but unsuccessful attempt on subduing the fierce and resolute Moro resistance, did little alter the developing non-Moro communities. Except for the dislocation of the Lumads in the north and north-eastern seaboards (Agusan del Norte, Surigao, Misamis Oriental, and Davao Oriental of Mindanao), the majority of Lumads were unaffected by Spanish colonization. The Higaonan were one on these Indigenous Peoples.

The Higaonon Indigenous Nation, which is currently estimated to total about 350,000-500,000 people, includes the Bukidnon and the Banwaon (similarity of lineage and history is proven by the same oral literature called 'Dasang' which can be recited in 8 days and 8 nights by a 'Dumalongdong', meaning sacred assembly).

They are distributed in Las Nieves, Sinakungan, San Luis, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur, Buenavista, Carmen, Butuan City, in the Province of Agusan del Norte, Magsaysay, Gingoog City, Salay, Balingasag, Medina, Claveria, Cagayan de Oro, Opol, Manticao, Naawan, Initao, in Misamis Oriental, Manolo Fortich, Impasug-ong, Baungon, Talakag, Libona, Malitbog, Malaybalay, Cabanglasan, Lantapan, and Valencia in Bukidnon Province, Iligan in Lanao del Norte and Camiguin.

Written accounts suggest that the term HIGAONON is a combination of the root words:
'HIGA' which means 'to live ' or to reside' or 'to lay in bed';
'GAON' which means 'mountain'; and
ONON which means 'people'.
Thus people who live in the Mountains - our Higaonon spiritual leaders and scholars - defined as "People in the Living Mountains".

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TRIBAL ORAL HISTORY

The Higaonon oral tradition discloses the Indigenous Population that traces their common roots from the mother of the post-deluge generation, 'Apo Entampil', Apo of all Apo - also known as Gahumon or Pinaiyak.


Original Roots:


Apo Entampil survived the deluge that was caused by the Creater to cleanse the Earth. Her husband, Panugatan, was drowned in the deluge. Apo settled in Kapayagan (now Mt. Kimangkil), situated in the hinterlands of Claveria, Misamis Oriental, bordering Manolo Fortich , Bukidnon.

Then pregnant, she vowed to make a husband out of her child if it was going to be a male, as recited in Dasang ...

"Ngani Kang Ko Bahi Sa Lumbay Ko, Panglipaklipak, Ko, Pulo, Ko Kakayo-A ngani Kang Ko Maama Sa Lumbay Ko, Pandayaon, Ag-Asawahon Ko".

          which means:

"If it's going to be a female, I'll just throw it to the forest or top of the tree but if it is going to be a male, I will make him my husband".

As she wished, Tagubon (also called Tahubon) grew to be man, becoming his mother's husband.


Direct Descendants:

They bore six children - making another three couples that later settled in different places in Northern Mindanao.

The couple, 'Liyangon-Lungyabon', settled in Agusan Provinces;
The couple, 'Lugong-Tubag Lugong,' settled in Bukidnon Province;
The couple, 'Kalitkit-Kabudakan', settled in Misamis Oriental Province.


The Lineage:
Below is an example of the Giling Lineage Records, as can be recited in Dasang:

Apo Entampil
Apo Kalitkit-Kabudakan
Apo Balayn
Apo Mulos Kilat
Apo Dumpilakan
Apo Dumadasal
Apo Magdantal
Apo Ayawon
**Apo Paboloson
Apo Mansalouyan Saldab
Apo Tuluyan
Apo Libokasan Agaolao
Apo Palaganding Tagkalbog
Apo Endulum
Apo Bangkawalan
Apo Kalingga
Apo Aliga
Apo Manampalo (Mandipensa of the 18th Century)
Apo Mendosa Mandahila (Mandipensa of the 19th Century)
Datu Efren Hospital Mandipensa (Mandipensa on the 20th Century)


Establishment of Customary Laws


Several generations later, the renowned **Apo Paboloson (Datu Paboloson) of Apo Kalitkit-Kabudakan's descent, gathered his people in a sacred assembly called 'Dumalongdong', to unite them in the noble virtues taught by Apo Entampil and her ancestors.

The Customary Laws, "Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Daw Nang Ka Tasa Ha Lana", which simply means "Love & Peace Law", was manifested and instituted in the first Dumalongdong. The social structure was likewise made clear to their understanding, and The Datu System was established with job description.

Datu means Chief or Caretaker of the teachings handed down from generation to generation. The tradition bearer and keeper of the Royal Lineage manifested according to River Clans.

Datu System
Datu for Agriculture

Imbabasok

Datu for Hunting
Panumanod
Datu for Defence
Alimaong
Datu for Water Respect
Bulalakaw
Datu for Finance
Pamahandi
Datu for Health
Mananambal
Datu for Livestock
Pamumuhi
Datu for Ritual
Salikot
Datu for Prayer
Palayag
Datu for Dumalongdong
Baylan
Datu for Records
Giling
River Clans
The 8 rivers which symbolize the Home of the Higaonon - the House of the Higaonon Tribal Nation:
  1. Tagoloan River
  2. Pulangi River
  3. Agusan River
  4. Gingoog River
  5. Linugos River
  6. Balatukan River
  7. Odiongan River
  8. Cagayan de Oro River

From the Tagoloan River area, two of Apo Paboloson's sons left for a journey (nangalasan ku bugta). Seeking the heart of the heartland (taliwada ku bugta) it took a few generations more before they reached Sinakungan, the land of their quest, now a barangay in the Municipality of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

It was here where the second biggest Dumalongdong was held in history. The other children stayed behind (nababalay ku bugta).

Inter-marriages through generations nevertheless made this tribe reach the Provinces of Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.

Datu Paboloson's daughter, Apo Agunya, was married to a Spanish Merchant, Apo Lorenzo, in Cagayan de Oro. This was the first marriage between the Higaonon tribal people and Spain. This indicates the early assimilation pattern of the ethnic Higaonon to the lowlanders.

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TYPES OF HIGAONON

At present the Higaonon can be classified into three categories:

  1. Those on the semi-primitive communal stage - still residing in the forest;

  2. Those who have been assimilated into the ranks of the Non-Higaonon majority-residing in the edge of the forest; and

  3. Those in between Categories 1 & 2 and who are undergoing the choice of being assimilated to either Category 1 and/or 2.

The Higaonon who belong to the Category 1 are those who strictly adhere to the Customary Laws - Bungkatol Ha Bulawan daw Nang Ka Tasa Ha Lana's teachings and discipline (Code of Conduct). They live in the thick forests in the semi-settled communities, subsisting on wild game, fishing, root crops, rice and trading (barter trade), of forest products and handicrafts. The social organization is still that social system instituted during the earliest Dumalongdong, with modification made to suit contemporary times. In spite of the fact of the semi-feudal system prevailing in the bigger Philippine Society, its influence cannot affect the distinct lifestyle which these Indigenous People are striving hard to develop and preserve.

Those Higaonon who fall into the Category 2 are slowly moving toward assimilation. Although-they still live by Bungkatol ha Bulawan teachings, the laws, tradition, culture and social system of the Majority Filipinos have exerted strong influence on their lives.

Category 3 are those who have assimilated into the Filipino majority. Some have become-professionals and hold positions in the government. But these people still identify themselves as Higaonon and in solidarity with their people in their struggle for self -determination.

Like all other Indigenous Peoples considered an ethnic minority, the Higaonon are victims of land-grabbing of their ancestral lands, Christian chauvinism, Government neglect, militarization, and other forms of exploitation and oppression.

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THE CUSTOMARY LAWS

Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Daw Nang Ka Tasa Ha Lana literally means 'Treasured Unity'and 'Code of Conduct'. This is the sacred bond that unites the entire Higaonon People who share the common root, language, history and culture and a code to guide the conduct of man for a good and just society. Sacred Teachings were taught in the form of 'Sacred Order', enumerated as follows:

Bungkatol Ha Bulawan
( Sacred Order)
  1. Pigtugonan Na Hadi Ag Lidason Kay Pamalihe - 'Makagaba'...
    Don't go against the law - It was a handed down law - - very sacred - you can be cursed to misfortune or death.

  2. Di Yo Ag Lidason Ang Pigtugonan...
    Don't disobey the sacred orders - Don't interpret it in your own mind but just go straight to the handed law. Don't shift the sacred teachings to the other road. It is very straight and not crooked one.

  3. Di Kaw Ag Labawa...
    Don't be an egotistic or self-centered person - or be on top of your pride. Your pride will kill you.

  4. Di Kaw Ag Indiga...
    Don't compare yourself to others, for there is always better than you and lesser than you. But everyone is a creation loved by the Supreme Creator. Have dignity and honor of its own spirit. Comparing yourself to others, you will become bitter in the end.

  5. Di Kaw Ag Sinaha...
    Don't be envious of others - if someone has good fortune, it is because he or she is blessed. Jealousy breaks the orders of goodwill. It is destruction to the destiny of humanity, to the Great Creation of the world.

  6. Magnayo-Nayo Kaw...
    Asking and Giving is the greatest gift of Creation - Someone needs food, give him or her food - if you don't have food, if you ask, someone will give you.

  7. Magpahidang-Gaay Kaw...
    Love one another - for this is the right way to live. No man is an island. Everyone needs everyone, everyone needs everybody, everybody needs everyone, and everybody needs everybody.

  8. Maglandang Kaw...
    Live in Peace, Walk in Peace. For in Peace there is Love. When there is Love there is Peace in your heart.

  9. Magtutopong Kaw...
    Equality among Men. Remember children are little men as the elders are older men - both deserve respect and honor of their Creation. Women are Men too. The Respect of the Elders and or children can be double to women for they are the makers of those Men.

  10. Mag-Uyon-Uyon Kaw...
    Listen to everyone. Don't be loud or aggressive in your opinions and views for 'wisdom' is a gift. Blessed are the elders, for the Counsel of Years of their lives makes the edifice of teachings. We will listen to them as we listen to prophets of time. They might be a child who had wisdom of the old, or the old whose playing spirits is a child that cools the heart of a warrior, and most often are women, for women are the gift of Creation. Listen to them in their counsel of time.

Under the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan teachings, land is a loving gift of Magbabaya (Supreme Creator) for all Men. Because land produces life's nourishments, land is life in itself. It cannot be sold and or taken away by anyone. It has been kept under the stewardship of the great, great-great Ancestors whose spirits continue to keep watch so the land could be used for generation to generation. The Bungkatol Ha Bulawan also teaches brotherhood, equality and respect to the Higaonon Social System.

Since these are Customary Laws in a society where there is absence of contradicting interests of social classes, economic, political, cultural and military spheres of life are taken separately but rather come integrated in a traditional framework. So, Higaonon society is run not as a social organization per se but rather as a 'Big Family'.

The Datu leads not as ruler but as an administrator, with community as children assuming individual tasks based on one's capacity, experience and also maternal and paternal sanguinary lineage approved by the community. It is traditionally plain division of labor in a village. And for the entire Higaonon population, they do the allocation of tasks and responsibilities in a Dumalongdong - every task is defined and everyone is installed into a task in front of the assembly if she or he would be willing to accept and continue with the obligations and responsibilities inherent. It is also in Dumalongdong where garbs, tubao, (headdress), bronze bracelets and china pieces are given out as symbols of responsibility and capacity to serve the people.

Every common undertaking comes through ethnic ritual - dispensing of justice, launching military actions, hunting, building a hut, and cleaning a field. All gets done after a prayer ritual offered to deities over a sacrifice of blood - usually pig or chicken. It is always a man physically doing the work with the help of the blessings of the Ancestor's spirits.

Men committing misdeeds transgress the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan and the Community are always helped to rectify themselves by making an offering sacrifice to the deities in the presence of the community, sharing his sincerity to correct his mistakes for the entire community to witness.




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