The Controversy on Datu Siawan Ingkal


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.


Kidapawan begins caring about its heritage!


My hometown of Kidapawan’s Local government is finally paying attention to the town’s history and heritage! Mayor Joseph Evangelista recently set up a Culture and Arts Council, and  while still nebulous, one of their first projects is to revisit the historiography of the city.


Bergonia’s 2004 book, the only existing history of Kidapawan

I had been working on my own for the past two years on rewriting Kidapawan history, slowly building up information to make five books. Kidapawan’s only history book, the 2004 book by Ferdinand Bergonia, is very informative but has severe deficiencies, both in actual information and in source citation (see my review of it in Ateneo de Davao’s Tambara). There was a serious need to build up on what Bergonia had started.

All the while I shared some of the information on the Kidapawan of the Past Facebook Page, hoping to slowly build up interest in the city’s history.

I and Vince Cuzon managed the FB page, and the both of us really started stimulating local interest in Kidapawan heritage with my 2010 write-up in the Davao Writers Guild’s Dagmay (coauthored with  Christian Cabagnot) about the Kiram Mansion, which had been demolished that year. Vince, who has a far wider local readership than I do, helped spread word about the building.


What remains of the mansion is now getting more attention than it ever did since. It even looks like it’s being restored.

By accident I found out about the Culture and Arts Council and the efforts being done by the City Tourism Office (whose head, Mr Joey Recimilla, is a member of the Council). If I am to work with them my progress will be fast-tracked, perhaps by decades, with the help of the city government’s machinery!


The city tourism office has been so serious about getting things started that they actually went on exploratory visits to see where the Council can begin its work.


In one exploratory visit to the National Library, Ms Gillan Lonzaga of the Tourism Office found a 1952 book about Cotabato Province, which contained a write-up about Kidapawan (then only four years old) by the then-municipal councilor Lino Madrid.

Bergonia cited this document, but did not do justice to the information in it. The piece provided fascinating insight into Kidapawan at its early days of independence, and it answered a lot of crucial questions left unanswered by Bergonia. Most crucially it complicates the ‘highland spring’ etymology of the city’s name, as it makes no mention of the ‘tida’ from whence ‘kida’ is supposed to have come from. Madrid also resolved the name of the third Mayor of Kidapawan, Filomeno Blanco, whom Bergonia named ‘Filemon’ and ‘Filomeno’ at various points in his book. It also provides my only clue so far about his identity, as he is cited as owning a rice and corn mill in Baranggay Saguing, now Makilala.


Among the possible directions the City Tourism Office found for the Culture and Arts Council – and one which thrilled me when I learned of it – is to come up with an inventory of cultural properties. One of the five books I was planning to write has actually been a coffee table book of Kidapawan’s heritage structures, including old houses and culturally significant structures and natural landmarks. Although far from complete, this inventory saves me so much time.


The old shophouses that line the highway in downtown Kidapawan have also yet to be recognized.

On a worrying note, there are rumours that the old house beside the Saint Mary’s Academy – my mother says it belonged to the Rellen family – will be demolished now that the owner of Gaisano Kidapawan has purchased the property. The house is listed in the inventory as belonging to the Mojana family, and at over 50 years old actually qualifies as an Important Cultural Property under R.A. 1066. I’ll be looking into the matter more and will be doing all I can to make sure this does not become another Kiram Mansion tragedy.


But perhaps the biggest plan their eyeing is to set up a museum! Commissioning anthropologists from the University of Southeastern Mindanao in Kabacan, they intended to begin this by initiating a study on the city’s culture and history. It’s a huge undertaking, and if I’ll be working with the ongoing efforts I will probably help here. I will definitely be doing all I can to help make sure this is a success!


Along the way I also finally got a list of the awardees of the Kidapawan Heroes, which the city grants annually during the Cityhood anniversary. I’ll be writing a separate post about it here at a later date!

All these efforts to finally pay attention to Kidapawan’s heritage means the LGU will be dealing with existing National laws. These laws nevertheless have shortcomings, and I strongly think the city needs to make local legislation to complement them.

And if Kidapawan manages to craft local law for its history and heritage, it will be exemplary among the country’s local governments, even bettering nearby Davao (which continues to have poor maintenance of its heritage properties and promotion of local historical appreciation).

I have to say, the present LGU is objectively impressive.


They’re even restoring the iconic pine trees in the highway island with saplings of the original pine tree, removing the Monkey Puzzle trees planted earlier to replace the trees that died. Alfonso Angeles Sr. would be pleased.

Old Galay Family Pictures

My cousin Jeff scanned some old family pictures for me for the Kidapawan of the Past Facebook Page.Most of them are of my grandfather’s house in Lanao, about which I once made a blogpost here already.

They’re quite intriguing, giving a glimpse into the past of my family, one of the oldest in Kidapawan.


The house as viewed from my great grandfather’s house, taken sometime in the 1970s. This picture is intriguing because it shows that the terrace wasn’t always there.


Two pictures of my mother’s family in the house. On the top picture from the left is my grandfather, my mother, my titas Ate Christie and Ate Yayan, my uncle kuya Eric, and my grandmother. On the bottom picture the family is on the dining table. The space where the dining table is here is now the house’s living room.


A view of the lawn. I did not know there was a small hut in the middle of the grass before.


My mother says my grandfather often lounged in the hut, which he surrounded with his flowers


A picture of the lawn, a bit later (probably in the late 80s or early 90s). My grandfather collecting orchids later on


The house’s grotto, now expanded by my uncle. I did not know a Yucca tree grew there once


A much later view of the grotto


Pictures of my mother’s early family with my great grandparents. On the above picture, my mother and uncle (my two titas had not been born yet) pose with my great grandparents and my great uncle Eugenio J,r or kuya Chito (standing, Left back). On the lower picture my mother, uncle, and ate Christie pose with my great grandparents, my great grandmother Brigida, and my great Grandfather Eugenio Sr (the first Galay in Kidapawan)


The extended Galay family. I didn’t know my great aunt ninang Ludy, seated beside my great grandfather, was so pretty. My mother is to the far left standing


My grandparents used to run a small store. Now the store is the location of Galor Pasalubong Center, owned by my great-uncle


The store stands just in front of my great grandfather’s old house


My grandmother was from Manila and ran away from home to marry her UST school mate in faraway Kidapawan. This photo, taken during the wedding, did not have any of her relatives.


My grandparents served as godparents to the wedding of one of my favourite teachers in highschool, professor Damian Albete, and his wife the NDKC registrar ma’am Cora.


My grandfather, with the then Mayor of Kidapawan, Augosto Gana, as he was sworn in as Baranggay Chairman of Lanao. The Galays are notoriously apolitical, and this is the only time someone in the family entered politics. He didn’t like his time as chairman, and he ended up resigning before his term ended.

Himno Kidapawan Lyrics: Translation to English

(Since I cannot find this online I decided to make it available here. I cannot ascertain yet if the Kidapawan hymn –  this song I’ve known since I was in elementary – predated Kidapawan’s cityhood, or like the seal it was commissioned in 1998. The song was composed, and its lyrics written, by Mary Jane Dizon, with Wilson Dizon providing the arrangement.)

Himno Kidapawan

Ating Lungsod na pinagpala,
Kidapawan naming mutya,
Sa bawat hagupit ng pagsubok
Ikaw at di nalulugmok

Natatangi ang iyong kasaysayan,
Pati ang iyong mamamayan,
Taglay mo ang yaman ng kalikasan,
mahal naming Kidapawan.

Sama-sama kaming nagpupugay.
Maging buhay man ay iaalay,
Sa ‘yo lungsod naming minamahal,
Kidapawan, o! Kidapawan!

Ika’y sagisag ng pag-asa
Kristyano’t muslim sama-sama,
Mga katutubo ay nakikiisa
sa layuning ika’y mapaganda.

Simbahan, gobyerno, kasama
Mga tao’y nagkakaisa
Kidapawan, tunay kang pinagpala


Kidapawan Hymn
translated by Karlo Antonio Galay David

Our blessed city,
Kidapawan our treasure,
As each challenge hits you
You do not crumble

How unique is your history
and your people,
You possess the abundance of nature
our beloved Kidapawan

Together we celebrate you.
Even offering our lives for you,
For you, our beloved city
Kidapawan, oh Kidapawan!

You are a sign of hope
of Christians and Muslims together,
The tribes are one with us
in the desire to make you glorious.

The church, the government together
The people are all united
Kidapawan, how blessed you are.

Kidapawan’s Real Foundation Day

This 12 February, my hometown of Kidapawan will celebrate its 19th anniversary as a city. Festivities begin on the eighth, and many events are being organized to celebrate the occasion.

The city government has been calling this day ‘Foundation Anniversary,’ with posters and tarpaulins labeling it so.

Make no mistake, the process of cityhood that built up to the 12 February 1998 Executive Order was a very colourful one, several decades in the making.

But to call this day the Foundation Day of Kidapawan would be being grossly inaccurate. Kidapawanons must not make the mistake of thinking their hometown has only existed for 19 years.

Because Kidapawan’s real Foundation Day was on 18 August 1947.

On this date the district of Kidapawan, then part of Pikit, was declared a separate municipality by President Manuel Roxas. It is this date when Kidapawan as a separate entity starting existing – before this date there was no Kidapawan as we know it.

And that would make the city 70 years old this year!

What I think this misuse of term reveals is Kidapawan’s tendency to neglect its past – there is an underlying tension in my hometown between the desire to be a modern, progressive city, and staying true to its roots as a small old town. As early as the moment Kidapawan was declared a city in 1998, there was local opposition. Not everybody wanted Kidapawan to be a city.

Unbridled progress, however, is winning and at the expense of Kidapawan’s soul. This could not be demonstrated better than with the Municipio.

A building dating back to the days of Alfonso Angeles Sr., the Municipal Hall was as old as Kidapawan. In the mid-2000s, it was short of demolished, to be replaced by a pastel yellow faux-Neoclassical dome.

They destroyed that island in front of the Hall too

The old Municipio had been the hall not only of local governance but of Kidapawan’s collective memory as well. It was not a pretty building, but it was our building.

The subsequent local governments’ decision to tear it down and replace it with something completely meaningless to the Kidapawanon was a callous thing to do. What we now have is an empty and fake facade – literally, the dome isn’t even a complete dome, if one looked at the city hall from the Pilot Elementary School, the dome is only half a dome, a facade that almost seems to be made of cardboard.

There are many other instances that show how little Kidapawan and its authorities care for its history. My own family has seen this – my great grandfather Eugenio Galay Sr. planted a Mango tree in Crossing Lanao, a tree which has stood there for much of Kidapawan’s existence. But because the city is becoming more urbanized – and as a consequence the national highway needed to be further widened – the DPWH had the tree cut.

It would not have been the only tree felled if Alfonso Angeles Jr allowed Malaluan to cut down the Pine Trees

If Kidapawan is to progress it cannot do so with a fake and shallow identity installed after felling its more established and more authentic roots. Progress need not be at the expense of heritage and historical identity. As a matter of fact progress without heritage is shallow, ultimately you will be building a generic modern city, with nothing more than artefacts of kitschy cultural imitation to showcase as your identity.

Kidapawan is older than 19 years. And if we can forget entire decades of our town’s history, how can we expect future generations to remember the history we are now making?





The Yawnghwe Haw


I finally got to go to the Yawnghwe Haw. I’ve always wanted to visit it.

in the city of Nyaungshwe in Myanmar’s Shan State, near the famous Inle lake, stands the Haw (Palace) that had once belonged to the Sawbwa – ‘sky lord,’ the Shan princely ruler of the area.


Nyaungshwe was the core of what was once Yawnghwe, one of the most powerful of the many Shan States that proliferated in Northern Burma from medieval times up to the early days of Independence from the British in the late 1940s.

The military regimes of post-independence Myanmar were suspicious of the former royal families,  and many Sawbwa Haws were demolished – one of the little known cultural atrocities committed during the decades of military rule.

The Yawnghwe Haw is one few which remain standing.


Probably part of the reason why it survived is the fact that Nyaungshwe was always a vibrant cosmopolitan city because of its proximity to Inle Lake – it continues to be so today because of the lake’s tourist market. It was too prominent to destroy, so the authorities might as well capitalize on it by keeping it as a tourist attraction: for much of its history after it was abandoned by the last Sawbwa, it was a Museum for Buddhist statues.

Another factor that led to its prominence was that last Sawbwa. Sao Shwe Thaik was Myanmar’s first president after the country gained independence. In the aftermath of Bogyoke Aung San’s assassination, the power vacuum had been filled by  U Nu, who would serve as prime minister, but the symbolic role of Aung San as face of the Union could not be filled. Why exactly Sao Shwe Thaik was chosen to take the  largely ceremonial but prestigious presidency is unclear , though I suspect that, as an influential figure in the Shan leadership around the time the Panglong agreement was being brokered, he was given the post to cement the union.

This of course is a tenuous reason – the former royal family of Yawnghwe was not spared from the military regimes’ brutality. When Ne Win staged a coup in 1962, his eldest son Hso Hom Fa, who was 15 years old, was shot dead. He himself was arrested and died in prison (yes, Myanmar killed its first President). His family is still in exile in Canada today, with a few relatives left in Nyaungshwe.

Some source say though, that the main reason why the military regime never razed the Haw down was because there was a curse placed on whoever destroyed it.




The Throne of the Sawbwa of Kyaintaung, an even more powerful Shan State. As one of two museums ran by Shan State (the other being the State Museum in Taunggyi), The Yawnghwe Haw also contains artifacts from other Shan Sawbwa.


The Haw is old and musty, but behind its stuffy abandoned feel you can still get a sense of the grandeur it once had. The basement, where many offices used to be, is dingy and empty. It is much less a museum and more an archeological site, and will not be fun to those who don’t like history. Pictures are not allowed inside, so many of these photos were taken by accident.


The eye-catching seven tiered Pyathat of the Haw

It is the only Haw among the Shan states to have been allowed by the Burmese king to have a pyathat, the distinct Burmese tiered roof, with seven-tiers.


Portrait of Sir Sao Shwe Maung, courtesy of Philip Klier

The privilege stems from the fact that Sao Shwe Thaik’s uncle, Sao Shwe Maung, was very close to King Mindon, the penultimate king of Burma. Sao Maung’s father, Sao Suu Deva, was the crown prince of Yawnghwe but was assassinated by a cousin, who subsequently usurped the throne. The young Sao Maung asked the powerful king Mindon, most famous for establishing Mandalay, to help him gain back the throne.

On his successful conquest of Yawnghwe Mindon granted Sao Maung the privilege of seven tiers. Sao Maung subsequently had the Haw built with the pyathat.


The Throne of the Sawbwa of Yawnghwe, now topped with replicas of the five Hpaung Daw Oo buddha statues

The Haw once played a prominent role in the famous Hpaung Daw Oo festival. Every year, four of the five legendary Buddha statues from Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda would be taken to different towns around Inle lake, ending with Nyaungshwe. Historically the statues would first be displayed in the Haw before being led to the town’s pagoda, but today this part is skipped.


The Karawaik, which is used to transport the five Buddha statues across Inle from Hpaung Daw Oo pagoda. I was in Nyaungshwe during the festival last year. The President of Myanmar, U Htin Kyaw, is somewhere in that picture.

It would be nice if they revived that portion of the tradition.

But I doubt they will: with Myanmar’s new democracy still at its infancy the Haw has more pressing issues. The former Royal family is still alienated with its management, and there are plans to build the palace’s vast courtyard into a marketplace, presumably to cater to tourists.


Though they’re alienated, the royal family still bothers to donate these water dispensers.

I like the idea of a tourist-oriented marketplace, but I am worried it might damage the building’s immeasurable historical value. And the royal family has to be consulted on this. they are after all part of the heritage.

Like the rest of newly open Myanmar, Shan State is facing the dilemma between culture and modernity. I just hope that, in its pursuit of global participation, it does not lose sight of what makes it a beautiful country.


Kengtung Monastery

(Since there is very little information online about things here in Myanmar, I’ll be trying to make posts about the different places at least here in Taunggyi. For the first post is the Buddhist monastery nearest to where I live, the Kengtung Kyaung. This short history is partly written by one of my students, Nan Do Dhar Sa (Noom), who is a young monk in the monastery)20160704_064125

Kengtung Monastery (Wat Kengtung or Kengtung Kyaung) is named after a city in eastern Shan state, whose people donated funds to build this monastery in Taunggyi.


A coloured bas relief depiction of the Buddha preaching under the Bodhi Tree at the back of the wihara, facing Kambawza street

Most of the people from Kengtung, who largely belong to the Tai ethnic group, are very charitable. It is Tai tradition (specially from those in Kengtung) to seek to build temples wherever their people visit. This monastery is thus a branch from Buddhist institutions in Kengtung, and this is why it is named after the city even if it is in Taunggyi. There is a similar monastery in Yangon.


The wihara, with a pair of impressive naga adorning the stairs


The Thein at the center, with the Ar Saung (monks’ living quarters) to the right

The Kengtung Monastery at the capital of Shan state was founded on June 23, 1980. The villagers from Kengtung spent 300,000kyat just to buy the land. At the time it was very difficult to get money, and this was a large amount. The large Wihara (the prayer hall) was built a year after in 1981, then the Thein (or the Ubosot, the Ordination hall) was built in 1994.


Kengtung Monastery’s wihara as seen from SAG

The Founder of Kengtung Monastery is the Venerable Dr Jao Khru War Seng Lar, who was born in Sipsongpannar (Xishuangbanna), on the Burmese border with China.

Kengtung Monastery is located on one corner of Kambawza and Ye Htwet Oo streets in Taunggyi’s Forest Quarter. Just across Ye Htwet Oo is Ko Myo Shin Nat temple.