From December 15 to 19, 2016, Cotabato City in the province of Maguindanao celebrated the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, which the city in southwestern Mindanao has held for over a decade now. Although less grand than several festivals in the Philippines, the celebration had all the components considered de-rigueur in Philippine festivals, such as a fair, a street-dancing parade and shows, even fashion events.
Despite its name, the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival is, in most parts, a secular event. It also has been consciously imbued with Mindanaoan cultures with nods to Muslim culture, being in a region of the Philippines where Muslims a have higher concentration than the rest of the country.
The festival is named for Shariff Kabunsuan, or Shariff Muhammed Kabungsuwan or Muhammad Kebungsuwan, widely considered as the one who introduced Islam to mainland Mindanao, which is now the faith of about eleven percent of Filipinos, mostly in the Mindanao area. He is said to arrive in late sixteenth century, an Arab-Malay missionary from Johore, and land on the banks of the Masla Pulangi, now known as Rio Grande de Mindanao. According to local accounts, Shariff Kabunsuan established himself as a sultan in Malabang in what is now Lanao del Sur and married Maguindanao princess Paramisuli of Dulawan.
One of the highlights of the festival is the regular re-enactment of his landing on the banks of Rio Grande de Mindanao, which snakes across the city. This year, a grand parade on December 19 ushered in the re-enactment, which saw gaily decorated boats traversing the river in a fluvial parade. It culminated in a grand pagana or communal feasting.
The city also held a contest on the making of small guinakits, the local term for “boat,” and the entries, eye-catching and with flags like bright colorful spews fluttering in the wind, adorned the city hall grounds in the duration of the festival.
A bazaar was put up as well as a cooking competition and a sports event but the night shows at the city plaza were more interesting. Traditional musics and dances were performed by several ethnic groups of Mindanao such as the Teduray, Meranaw, Maguindanao, Tausug and Yakan.
The Kuyog Street Dancing Competition was held on December 18 where two groups competed, showing the cultures of the peoples of Maguindanao. The group of students from North Upi in Maguindanao was declared champion.
What made the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival more interesting that year was the Bangala Fashion Fair, an international fashion and textile event organized by the Department of Tourism Region 12 and the local government unit of Cotabato City, in collaboration with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, Mindanao Development Authority and the Bureau of Cultural Heritage of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It showcased a culture that is more ancient than the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan.
The Bangala, which is a Maguindanao term for “attire” or “dress,” had several events a fashion show, an exhibit, a photo competition, and a heritage forum. It is part of the promotion of the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East Asean Growth Areas), and thus saw some participation from the involved countries.
In the past, the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival had a fashion and textile event such as the Inaul Fashion Showcase, which was mounted for several years. It featured the hand-woven textile of the Maguindanao. The fashion and textile event last year was wider in scope.
The Bangala Fashion Show on December 15 was held at the newly-opened City Mall Cotabato City and featured Muslim fashion, particularly the hijab. They invited hijab-wearing women who have become on social networking site Instagram. The hijabis were Dian Pelangi and Indah Nadah Puspita from Indonesia, Shea Rasol and Dayah Bakar from Malaysia and Ammarah Dumama from Cotabato City, and they were dubbed as the hijab ambassadress. The hijabis brought their collections to be showcased in the fashion show.
Less showy but more intriguing was Bangala Fashion Fair exhibit at Al-Nor Activity Center.
Curated by Leonard Rey Carino, the exhibit featured the traditional hand-woven textiles of several Mindanao ethnic groups. This was complemented by a forum discussing Mindanao textile-making traditions.
The exhibit was beautifully crafted with sections made to look like portions of bamboo-made traditional houses on stilts. Lovely hand-woven textiles were draped all-over the place. Hand-woven fabrics of the Mandaya, Bagobo Manobo and Subanen were on display. At the each section, there were actual weavers going through the weaving process in their traditional attires, some of them respected masters.
The Yakan weavers from Lamitan, Basilan, were Nur-aiza Atalan, Kijong Atalan, Vilma Ausalin and Ambalang Ausalin, who is known as the best weaver of Yakan cloth. They brought with them the intricate and colorful seputangan, a head covering for women, and the pis, head covering for men.
Lamina D. Gulili and Myrna M. Sarino from Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato, demonstrated the making of the mabal tabih of the Blaan, a textile of abaca fibers dyed in the ikat technique. Tboli weavers Sima Mensun Bantal and Barbara Mensun Ofong from Lamdalag, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, showcased their t’nalak, also of abaca fibers and using the ikat technique.
Saida Abdurrahman Taher, Sambai Macaraya and Noraya Usman from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, represented the Meranaw weavers, known for the brightly-colored tubular skirt landap. Sittie Dumacil of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, showed how to weave the Maguindanao inaul.
For a few days, at a quiet part of a mall, these weavers kept alive dying crafts, fashioning age-old patterns of colors and designs of their peoples with their patient hands.
|"Colors of Cotabato" show at the city plaza|
|The Kuyog Street Dancing Competition|
|The "Bangala" exhibit at the Al-Nor Acitivity Center|
|Different Mindanao textiles -- Maguindanao and Meranaw|
|Blaan, Bagobo Manobo, Suban-on, Tboli and Mandaya textiles|
|Yakan weaver Ambalang Ausalin from Lamitan, Basilan|
|Inabal of the Bagobo Manobo|
|Mabal tabih of the Blaan of South Cotabato and Sarangani|
|Blaan weavers Lamina D. Gulili and Myrna M. Sarino from Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato|
|A Mandaya dagmay|
|A Meranaw weaver from Marawi City|
|A Suban-on textile|
|A Tboli weaver from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato|