Kidapawan Stories Worth Making Into Film

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I was invited to the first Mindanao History & Literatures to Film Summit at
Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City this May 9 and 10, but budgetary and time constraints prevent me from coming.

The two-day summit is hosted by the Mindanao Creative Writers Group, ably led by Dr Christine Godinez Ortega of Iligan, and Capitol University. The summit’s aim is to bridge the gap between local historians and writers and local filmmakers, allowing the latter to explore Mindanao’s rich but untapped reservoir of narratives in its history and traditional lore.

I was invited to share some great stories from the Greater Kidapawan Area for filmmakers to consider. I couldn’t come and share them personally, but I realized I could still do it by writing something.

Because my work as historian (and my recent hobby reading up on traditional culture on the side) has shown me that the Greater Kidapawan Area is full of stories you would want to see on the screen. From fascinating legends to dramatic historical incidents, the region between Mt Apo and the Pulangi has been the stage of sagas since time immemorial.

Here are just some of them.

  1. The Legend of Tambunawan and Mamalu: This legend is told in many versions by different tribes throughout the Cotabato Region. The versions in Kidapawan are unique.

    In Pre-Islamic times two brothers rule over a tribe. When Islam came from Malaysia, one had to leave with half their people, becoming the progenitors of the Lumad, while the other stayed to convert to Islam, becoming the ancestors of the Moros.

    In Kidapawan’s sole recorded version (that documented by Gabriela Eleosida from the Obo Monuvu in 1961), the brothers are Mamalu and Tambunawan, and they both moved from ‘Kabakan’ to  Kidapawan when muslim religious leaders called Panditas came and enforced Islamic laws. Tambunawan subsequently became ancestor to the datus of the plains of Kidapawan.

    Another version I heard from the elder Monuvu Abad Ladday in 2018 (and which I record here) has Tambunawan staying and converting to Islam while Mamalu leaves, becoming the ancestor of the Monuvu. Before they parted ways, Tambunawan gives Mamalu a piece of paper, a directive which tells Mamalu to stay away henceforth from the realms of the Moros. Mamalu takes it with him, but one day, he puts it down on a tree stump while he urinated. While Mamalu was preoccupied, a bird came down and  swallowed the piece of paper. That bird became the first Limokon, whose cry the Monuvu still consider an omen.

    One of the attending historians during the summit, Dr Rudy Rodil, wrote the most comprehensive compedium of versions of the legend. I am hoping these Kidapawan versions will be added.

    The legend is full of potential, specially because its many versions have historically been used to assert indigenous legitimacy and foster Lumad-Moro ties. Filmmakers would do well to explore the political power of this story/

  2. Molingling: The fascinating legend of incest, which is one of the most famous folk tales passed down among the Obo Monuvu,  has appeared on this blog before. I will only add that the legend is full of psychological complexities – from Molingling’s anti-hero mentality to Kobodboranon’s own sexual awakening.
  3. The Dog Unearthing Springs: I’ve also written here about the fascinating recurring motif of dogs saving a community by discovering sources of waters before. This would make a great short film, specially one geared at promoting more responsible and human treatment of dogs.
  4. The Loyal dog of M’lang: The M’lang local government records a legend concerning a dog owned by a datu. Despite being so small, the dog followed its master across a strong flowing river, and it was swept downstream. Thankfully, it was caught among bamboo stalks and managed to scamper its way to the banks. In gratitude for his dog’s survival, the datu named the river ‘Tamlang’ (Maguindanaon for ‘bamboo’),  which would later mutate to ‘M’lang’ and be the namesake of the town. The Greater Kidapawan Area clearly loves dogs (I love them too, I’ve written about this and the previous legend before)
  5. The Life of Datu Ogwon: One of the most colourful characters in Kidapawan history is Datu Ogwon, son of Apao and founder of the settlements of Sayaban and Sudsuhayan. Ogwon was an Onituwon, meaning he had the strange gift of being able to talk to spirits. But he was also a Tahavawi (a medicine man able to use wild plants to heal) and a blacksmith. One day he suddenly told the people over whom he was datu that the spirits told him to seclude himself, so he left his family and people behind and went deep into the forests to be one with the spirits. He reminds me of Brandon Stark from Game of Thrones after he became the Three Eyed Raven.
  6. Kod-Ahaw: Literally ‘to seize,’ this is usually used in Monuvu to refer to the kidnapping of wives, a common cause of tribal wars called ‘Pangayaw’ in precolonial Kidapawan. In many cases, the kidnapping is actually done with the blessing of tribal leaders, in order to save a wife from an unhealthy marriage. Bo’i Era Espana’s book Poovian woy Gontangan is full of records of individual cases (and also of dramatic cases of children being kidnapped as well).
  7. Kollut and The Resistance of the Monuvu Against the Japanese: The most clever act of resistance against the Japanese in the Greater Kidapawan Area perhaps came from the Monuvu. Datu Lamberto Delfin describes an incident in Maliri and Kamasi in what is today Antipas, in which the natives took advantage of Japanese barbarity. The Japanese soldiers – whom Datu Lamberto describes as being under the command of an Otaka Makuti – had the habit of stealing all the root crops that the Monuvu would carry as they travelled. Seeing this, the natives decided to one day bring Kollut instead of sweet potatoes. Kollut, or Dioscorea hispida, is a poisonous yam that can only be eaten after being subjected to several tedious processes, among which are soaking it for three days in running water or burying it in ash for an equally long duration. The proper preparation of Kollut was unknown to the Japanese soldiers, who as usual took the root crops from the passing Monuvu. As the soldiers collapsed and stopped moving, the natives took the opportunity to hack them to death. Native version of Inglorious Basterds?
  8. The Murder of Eliseo Dayao Sr: I’ve also written before about Judge Dayao’s murder here. His death reminds me of the death of such nationally prominent figures as Jose Abad Santos and General Paulino Santos.
  9. The Escape of Lorenzo Saniel: This incident I heard from the late Mayor of Kidapawan’s 90 plus year old daughter. Lorenzo, a sitting councilor of the Municipal District of Kidapawan, was summoned by the Japanese officer stationed in the town. He was asked to serve as a spy against the guerrillas in Sikitan. When Lorenzo delayed committing, the Japanese officer grew impatient. The officer  slapped Lorenzo across the face before ordering seven of his men to take Lorenzo to ‘go look for chickens’ (which seemed to have been  a subtle way of implying an execution). Saniel was taken to where the Gaisano Grand Mall is now, but he was able to persuade the Japanese soldiers to go to Paco, where the present location of the DPWH is.The group came across a stream, bridged only by several bamboo posts. Saniel was made to cross it first, then one by one the seven soldiers crossed after him. When the last soldier was crossing the makeshift bridge, Saniel saw that the attention of the other six was focused on the crossing soldier, and he instantly saw a chance to escape. Saniel ran for his life into the brambles, and after much walking, reached his family in Balindog. Hurriedly the family fled into the wilderness, wandering into many of the remote barrios but going into the general direction of Davao, where Saniel intended to hide his family. There are many such riveting tales of survival during the War still waiting to be told in Kidapawan
  10. The Torture of Patadon Tungao: Datu Patadon Tungao, a Maguindanaon of royal blood, was a 3rd Lieutenant under the Bolo Batallion during the Second World War, serving as an undercover agent for the Resistance. He was caught by the Japanese, and was incarcerated, first in Cotabato then in Manila.Under Japanese custody, Patadon was violently tortured – his beard was burned, dirty water was forced down his throat, and his private parts were painfully mutilated. The torture was to make him reveal Resistance plans and names, but he never gave in any information. He was waiting to be executed in Manila when the Americans liberated the capital on 5 February, 1945. By July of that year he was back in Cotabato. After the War Patadon would settle with his family in Kidapawan, where he would live the rest of his life contributing to the town’s growth. Patadon did not have much formal education outside of Arabic School, but he was fluent in English and was a well read man. He was known to have read Lord Byron. He is a hero waiting to be celebrated.
  11. The Love Story of Hayao Nakamura: The memory of Hayao Nakamura is now almost lost, but I was able to record it from the last known living person to have met him, Bonifacio Madrid. Nakamura was one of the Japanese officers given command of the Imperial Japanese army detachment in Kidapawan. His taking over saw more humane treatment of Filipinos in Kidapawan, and he even oversaw construction of bridges and roads that Kidapawan would use well after the War. He was in such a good relationship with the locals that he fell in love with one, Rosalina Madrid, and they married and had a daughter. But the war called him, and in spite of the Madrids’ plea for him to hide, he led his men to Davao, where he was never heard of again.
  12. Sultan Omar Kiram, the Lost Sultan: I have written before about Sultan Omar Kiram. His story is perhaps one of the most dramatic you will ever hear in Kidapawan.
  13. The Moro Massacres of Sitio Palera, Sitio Pagagao, and Manobuan: One of the films attending the summit, Teng Mangansakan, is renowned for documenting the Malisbong Massacre in Palimbang during the Marcos era. In Kidapawan, there are similar incidents – Moro civilians as young as twelve and as old as 80 murdered en masse simpy for being Muslim. But the incidents in Kidapawan remain largely unrecorded and are waiting for keen filmmakers to explore the intense human struggles that went behind them.
  14. The Katindu Saga: One of the early success stories of the Lumad struggle, the Katindu saga was the decades long struggle of the descendants of Datu Ansabu in Arakan against the landgrabbing of Kidapawan mayor Augusto Gana, a struggle that has seen both legal action and actual violence. Fr Romeo Villanueva documents the incident in vivid detail.
  15. The Murder of Tulio Favali: One of the most macabre episodes in North Cotabato history, the murder of Fr Tulio Favali by the Manero brothers caused international outrage and spawned legends of brain-eating (Read my article on Tingug to learn more) . Filmmakers would do well to explore these legends as well as the actual facts of the crime.
  16. The Life of Connie J. Brizuela: A character of more recent history, Connie J. Brizuela was a journalist and human rights lawyer who was among the those killed in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre. Her life – along with other great but untold lives of people in the Greater Kidapawan Area – deserve to be told in film.

I have said before that Kidapawan is a rich reservoir of human experience just waiting to be tapped and harnessed into stories. That is not an exaggeration, because as a fictionist I have been mining this reservoir and have barely even scratched its surface. I enjoin Mindanao’s filmmakers to do the same.

Give us films about Kidapawan!

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‘CHAOS DANCE AWE’ by Sass Sasot now available!

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CHAOS DANCE AWE, my friend Sass Rogando Sasot’s debut poetry collection, is now available for sale!

Sass, a prominent Filipina public intellectual currently working as  Docent in the University of Maastricht, has very strong creative impulses on top of her credentials in international relations and transgender discourse . Her debut poetry collection contains 47 poems in English, some dating back to 2008.

I helped her clean them up and assemble them for this collection as an editor of sorts, giving her feedback to improve each piece.

‘The collection,’ to quote Sass’s PR for it, ‘tells the internal voyage of a Filipina transsexual woman’s lifework of coming to terms with darkness, creating with chaos, and dancing with the awe it inspires. Some of the pieces from the collection are: HER is about a woman whose intensity is as engulfing as Nietzsche’s abyss; DYSPHORIA & EUPHORIA reflects the life of Sass’ late sister, who spent most of her life in and out of mental asylum; I BURIED THE SKY is a tale of forgiving one’s abuser; A PLACE NOT MADE OF NO inspires everyone to be a yes to their bliss; BLOW draws parallelism between writing a poem and giving a head; 10 HRS OF EXQUISITE is an ode to the gorgeousness of the erotic art of bondage and the ecstasy of submission; SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE pays homage to the myth of soulmates; ARTMAKING is about the joy and pain of creating something and letting go of it; and inspired by mystics’ writings on the relationship between the Lover and the Beloved, THE GRACE OF YOUR COMING explores the nexus of the twin catastrophes of our lives — spiritual awakening and sexual ripening.’

To buy the collection, visit Sass’s Etsy online shop. For those based in the Philippines, she will also be in Manila and Davao this August and will be bringing copies. CHAOS DANCE AWE sells at Php 280 per copy.