The Controversy on Datu Siawan Ingkal

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In a refreshing turn of events, Kidapawan history is suddenly controversial as local attention is focused on the crucial but mysterious historical figure known in documents as Datu Siawan Ingkal.

I say ‘known in documents’ with necessity: the controversy began when the Deputy Mayor for Kidapawan’s Indigenous Peoples, Datu Camillo Icdang, went on the local radio station DXND last July 14 and said the man was named ‘Ingkal Siawan’ (first name Ingkal), and was a full blooded Obo Manobo.

Icdang was making the statement as a response to reports that the Datu was a Meranaw, flatly denying these reports. The local reporter, Malu Cadelina Manar, subsequently reported these pronouncements from Datu Icdang as fact.

This version of the Datu’s background is now being hotly disputed, and I have gathered at least four alternative explanations of the man’s name and heritage.

The only printed source so far that gives a detailed background on Siawan Ingkal is Ferdinand Bergonia’s 2004 history of Kidapawan (commissioned by the city tourism office of the Malaluan administration), which cites him as a Manobo and the first person to be Mayor of Kidapawan, albeit appointed during the Second World War. He is also cited as being instrumental in the founding of Baranggays Manongol (then called Tagbak, his father’s domain) and Lanao. Bergonia gives the name of the Datu’s father as the Manongol chieftain ‘Datu Ugos Ingkal,’ who had been appointed Cabeza de Baranggay of Kidapawan District by the American colonial government in 1901. Bergonia is inconsistent with the Datu’s name, as at some point he mentions ‘Datu Siawan Ingkal,’ but at others ‘Datu Ingkal Siawan,’ and he does not attribute his sources for the information on the Datu.

Another earlier printed source that mentions the Datu, former councilor Lino Madrid’s write up for the Cotabato province guidebook in 1952, only mentions ‘Datu Ingkal Siawan’ as the community leader of Old Kidapawan. Madrid was a contemporary of the Datu and his version of the name holds some weight. He nevertheless makes no mention of the man’s ethnicity.

A third alternative, espoused by Bai Nelly Kelly Austria  (widow of the late Vicente Austria, the Sultan Omar Kiram, whose family came to Kidapawan in the 1950s) has it that Siawan Ingkal (as was his name) was a Meranaw (not specifying if part or whole) who married a Manobo and who was appointed mayor of Kidapawan by the Muslim Udtog Matalam, then governor of the Cotabato province (the official FB page of Mayor Joseph Evangelista cites this version in a press release ten days before Icdang’s public statements).

In separate accounts from a related source adding to the above version, Siawan Ingkal named the Baranggay ‘Baranggay Lanao’ after his people’s home country of Lanao.

And yet a fourth version, cited by a Manobo family whose members recall the accounts of the Manobo historian Datu Pinantao, instead says that Siawan Ingkal was half Meranaw, whose father was Meranaw stock but had settled at the foot of Mt Apo and was not a Muslim (and Siawan too consequently did not practice Islam). According to this version, Siawan’s mother was a Manobo named ‘Ingko,’ from which ‘Ingkal’ was taken (making his given name ‘Siawan’), and Siawan chose to identify as Manobo but remained fluent in the Meranaw tongue.

As I do not have permission to cite them, I am not naming my sources here for now, and save for Bergonia’s and Madrid’s, these accounts are not the full and fixed accounts of each source (they may well add to it as they recall their family histories, or even change their minds and decide they were told wrong).

I’ve reached out to one descendant of the Datu, and he acknowledges that his grandfather was a Meranaw (although he did not specify if he had any Manobo blood), and many social media users claiming to be descendants  have agreed with this. And yet in an interview with DXND on July 17 Evelyn Ingkal, youngest daughter of the Datu, insists he was pureblooded Manobo, contradicting the statements of other descendants and Evangelista’s press release.

This is a post meant to be dated, and I fully intend to update it once I obtain more information.

What is certain about the man, however, is that he was appointed Mayor of Kidapawan’s Emergency Civil Administration in 1942 as the Second World War reached Cotabato, making him the first man to ever be Mayor of Kidapawan, and he was also the first ever Vice Mayor of Kidapawan when he was elected in 1948 after Kidapawan became an independent municipality, serving during the Mayoralty of Alfonso Angeles Sr. NCIP ethnographer Bai Era Espana confirms that he identified as Manobo, but does not categorically dismiss the possibility that he had Meranaw blood.  A street in Kidapawan (created presumably by Provincial Board Resolution) is named ‘Datu Ingkal Street,’ but it is not clear if this is Siawan Ingkal.

Whatever explanation the Kidapawanon chooses for this crucial figure’s heritage, I think this is a very good opportunity for the city’s residents to start going back to their roots and ask questions. For the first time locals are talking about their own local historical figures, and this should not be the last time they do, Kidapawan is full of interesting historical characters!

I am, however, not entirely happy with the definiteness with which the local media are dealing with the matter, the dispute is not being aired and it is being broadcast almost as if the matter is already concluded (This is not the first time DXND reported on local history inaccurately: in 2009 Manar reported that mayor Joseph Evangelista’s father had also served as Mayor, an error of fact as Dr Rustico Evangelista never held any city-wide public office). Worse, they’re making the question of Siawan Ingkal’s ethnicity as a question of the Obo Manobo’s primacy in Kidapawan history, and there is a hint of anti-Meranaw sentiment. Nobody has ever doubted that the Manobo are the original residents of Kidapawan, I do not understand why the issue is going towards that direction.

But it would also only be fair to say that the Municipio office behind the Press Release is equally guilty by stating Ingkal’s being a Meranaw in a way that sounded like it was a pronouncement of fact rather than relating Bai Nelly’s opinion.

I think it would be much healthier for Kidapawan’s people to reevaluate for themselves the things being presented to them as facts, and reaffirm, amend or contradict them after cross examination.

For in the end history will only belong to the people if they themselves take an active role in problematizing and confirming it, because history must not only be taught and curated, it must be discovered and lived.

 

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