Indigenous Peoples of Northern Mindanao are invoking the protection of their spirit guardians through traditional rituals against the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
On Sunday, March 22nd, the Higa-onon Catanico-Tablon-Cugman-Ancestral Domain (CATATCU AD) organization conducted their traditional rituals on the tribe’s sacred grounds seeking protection from all tribal folk and other citizens against the COVID-19 coronavirus within their tribal domain.
Datu Masikal Jude C. Jabiniar, who sits as Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in the Cugman Barangay Council and Buntola Sayuda (liaison officer) to their tribe, said their baylans (high spiritual leaders) conducted the Panagpeng at their sacred grounds on the hills of Pegtawagan, Sitio Malasag, Barangay Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City from 3:00am to 12 noon with the blessings of Barangay Chair Wendolyn L. Escobia.
“This ritual invokes protection against deadly diseases which can cause calamities in our communities,” Jabiniar explained in Bisaya. “Through this ritual our baylans and elders ask Magbabaya (The Creator) through the guardians of the four corners of the world, to stop the spread of this deadly disease COVID-19.”
The ritual was headed by Datu Sumisilang/Roger A. Painato and Bae Florita Sayongan, baylans of the 2nd District of Cagayan de Oro. They were assisted by Datu Lumad/Ireneo L. Jabiniar, Higaonon Chieftain of Barangay Cugman, and other members of the Higaonon Tribal Council.
Interestingly, when the blood of one of the chickens offered as sacrifice during the ritual was shed on a white cloth, it showed what appeared to be a woman sitting with her back to the viewer.
“Our baylan believes it could be the picture of the woman who could have been the first victim of this virus,” Janiniar shared.
Earlier, tribal elders of the Taalandig, Bukidnon and Higaonon tribes conducted their own rituals a tent shelter beside the Kalawaig River at the Kaamulan Capitol Grounds in Malaybalay City last Wednesday, March 18 from 8:30am till noon.
Led by Datu Makapukaw/Adolino Saway and Bae Inatlawan/AdelinaTarino, and several other leaders performed two ritual prayers seeking protection for the people from the threat caused by the COVID19 virus pandemic sweeping the globe.
“According to our tribal elders, the rituals sought mercy from the water spirit and protection against the threat of COVID-19,” said Ma. Easterluna S. Canoy, Executive Director of Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, Inc. (KIN) which promotes and advocates the rights of indigenous peoples, especially their welfare and cultural survival through sustainable development, ecological integrity and cultural democracy.
The Panalawahig Ritual is directed to the Bulalakaw—the guardian water spirit to seek mercy for human transgressions that has made our waters unclean, and for the waters to help humans wash away impurities like the virus that afflict them.
The Pamugsa Ritual is conducted to block catastrophes that would affect mountains, forests and all life forms, especially the communities, or humanity in general.
Aside from the two rites that were performed in public owing to the support of the Provincial Government of Bukidnon, tribal elders and ritual experts are also duty bound to perform important rituals held in their respective communities, or in the sacred grounds of their forest domains or beside river systems.
“These emergency rites are invoked to summon nature spirit guides in the event of foreseen and on-going disasters that affect the tribe and its neighboring areas—even those far away, foreign places,” Canoy noted.
“Spiritual leaders of the tribe have performed rites directed to everyone all over the world, as they believe that despite one’s ethnic differences, we are all bound by one humanity, one Mother Earth,” she added.