It was June 2014, when the dances of Ayta Magbukon of Bangkal, Abucay, Bataan were chosen to be one of the studies that the researcher will conduct since the panel is asking for three (3) topics to be presented. Luckily the proposed title about the dance practices of the Ayta was chosen. The researcher began to collect related literature and other related studies. She also visited the Bataan Tourism Office (Provincial Chapter), they provided some information which included the names of those who have already conducted a similar study in the same locale. The researcher had the chance to meet a former instructor at the Bataan Peninsula State University who did a similar study and advised her to seek first permission from the right agencies about the present study. Luckily, a request for permission to conduct a study was granted.
The undertaking formally began upon the approval of my letter of request to the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Bataan Chapter to conduct this study as a partial requirement for the fulfillment of a Master’s Degree. However, the main objective of this study is to trace back the historical and cultural background of dance practices. This study was conducted from June 2014 up to February 2015.
As an initial move, the researcher visited different institutions, libraries, museums, and another government repository of culture and traditions of its people like the National Historical Institute, National Museum, National Library, National Commission on Culture and the Arts, University of the Philippines, Philippine Normal University, University of Santo Tomas to gather facts about the Ayta Magbukon in general and the Ayta Magbukon of Bangkal, Abucay in particular. The researcher also spent a lot of time surfing the internet to seek more information and data directly connected or similar to the study at hand. There were articles retrieved that tell about the Ayta Magbukon in Bataan; for instance, Magbukon Oral Literature: An Ethnographic Study written by Neil David. His study tells about the Ayta Magbukon oral literature as a means of preserving their language which is related to the researcher’s present study. This made the researcher guided and she used the study of David as a helpful reference. There are also some articles about the Ayta Magbukon found on the website of Dela Salle University, although it is just a mere mention of their location and what they do as part of their community extension services. Upon the arrival of the researcher to the Ayta Magbukon community at the start of her immersion, a courtesy call to Mrs. Rosita N. Sison, Ayta Magbukon Tribal Chieftain was made. Collecting of data has begun by taking photos of the buildings in Bangkal and mapping the physical surroundings.
These activities made her visible so that residents would become aware of the researcher’s presence. While taking pictures of the activities of what the Ayta made in the community, the researcher observed ongoing patterns of daily activities, and these were included on observations in field notes, along with descriptions of the researcher’s own photos taken on their activities.
Seeing a stranger in their midst, making photographs of their community attracted the curiosity of residents, many of them approached the researcher and asked questions about what the researcher was doing and understand the presence of the researcher by introducing herself to the elders and other members of the community and she also approached the Garcia Family which is well-known in their place. When they asked why the researcher was taking photos, the researcher told them that the Ayta Magbukon dance practices are the purpose and the subject being studied. Sometimes their responses took one of two forms: they expressed surprise that someone found Ayta Magbukon interesting or important enough to study; or they told me how worthwhile my effort seemed to be of what Angelito Aquile, Rebecca Reyes, Rogelio Malunic, Rosita Sison, Ruben Medina, Cornelio Tamundog, Juanito Nuguid, Remigio Tamundog and especially Ernesto Cayetano as one of the eldest in the community said during our first encounter. Considering the interesting story of the first appearance of the researcher during the time she has handled a Special Program in the Arts as a dance specialist in the year 2010. Picture-taking provided residents with an obvious reason to start up a conversation, and the longer the researcher made photographs, the more people the researcher met.
The researcher was able to move from taking pictures of the environment to public events such as Bataan Peninsula State University (BPSU) Abucay Campus Talents Night, Coronation Night of Mr. and Ms. Saint Thomas Aquinas, LGU Disco Night, Karakol (Streetdance), Street Theater, Holy Mass, and even during the Baptismal Ceremony because the researcher acted as one of the godparents of the granddaughter of Angelito Aquile the family where the researcher is living with. As the researcher’s contacts with community members multiplied, residents came to expect and appear with my camera at community events. Over time, the researcher was able to ask and receive permission to photograph family activities as well. The researcher became known even among families the researcher had not yet met, and with passing introductions, the researcher was invited sometimes to take pictures of them whenever they saw me walking in the street. Ayta Magbukon families welcomed the researcher among them and go on further with the researcher’s fieldwork.
The researcher already memorized their seasonal activities from the start of January to May until December. The Aytas have a different itinerary routine to earn a living such as pamumuay or harvesting of honey bees, planting crops, and hunting. One of the sacred policies that the Ayta are still following is that they were not allowed to capture wild animals like wild boar at the time of their breeding period.
Also, they have found out that making charcoal is a good source of income. They also make a survey of different areas or tahwon where they can plant and produce raw materials. It only shows that the Aytas are resourceful enough on how they can make a living, and their product is bountiful and successful by striving hard for it.
The researcher found out their belief system is deeply connected to traditional animism. They called their supreme being “Apo Ha Libabo” which dwells in heaven. They also believed in nature spirits (anitos). They can be the guardians of a particular element of nature like “Ha Jikot” the spirit-guardian of the forest or just spirits dwelling with the people. The anitos are categorized into two; malaut na anito (bad spirit) and mabuting anito (good spirit). The bad anitos caused illnesses and misfortune to the people and can only be opposed by the good anitos. Kagon is the traditional way of healing of the Ayta Magbukon and is officiated by the Kagunan (local healer/shaman). The Kagunan is the human vessel of the good spirit in order for the good spirit may heal a person. In turn, the Kagunan and the good spirit developed a close relationship with each other. Through the establishment of different churches in the community, they have developed a syncretism attributed to being predominantly Christians, particularly Catholic, and having a remarkable relationship with the anitos (nature spirits).
The researcher also found out from her interaction that many visitors have already visited their place and some even have conducted a study about them. The interview guide done by the researcher was approved by Mr. Angelito Aquile, one of the dance cultural masters of the group, and Ms. Rebecca Reyes, the cultural coordinator of the SLT and both employees of the NCIP. Through this two, who also belong to the Ayta Magbukon of Bangkal, lots of information was gathered.
A focus group discussion with the elders and Ms. Rebecca Reyes acted as moderator was made in her house in order to have preliminary information about their culture, especially on their dances. Also through the help of Mr. Rogelio Malunic, president of Senior Citizen in Bangkal, an FGD was made possible after their general assembly. Using the interview guide, informants shared their life experiences and performed some dances they still know. The researcher learned some of the Aytas character and way of living. Here, the researcher has elicited clarification and deeper responses regarding the data and information that she had collected before the FGD. This process was intended to reveal common cultural understandings related to the phenomena under study.
The researcher conducted an in-depth interview every day with the elders of the community where they are the most important and great source of information for the study. Interviews were conducted through personal and verbal questions directed to the elders and some informal interviews with other members of the community. Informal interviews that are simply probing conversations with other members of the community are one approach to determine if the community practicing the same culture. The interview conducted by the researcher depends upon the demands of the day’s task, as well as the limitations of the time she spent.
In order to have an exact idea of their dances, the researcher requested Mr. Angelito Aquile with the help of his wife Lota Aquile to demonstrate and present the following dances the researcher has collected. This was done by close supervision of the elders who stood as critics and they were the ones who validated the movements and meaning of each dance.
The said presentation was successfully done through the help of sixteen young Ayta Magbukon and some of them were under the Schools of Living Traditions (SLT) Program and the immense contribution of the community dance master and instrumentalist Cornelio Tamundog to accompany each dance using a guitar as the musical instrument. This activity gave Mr. Tamundog aching fingers because of the whole-day strumming of the guitar. The Ayta Magbukon in Bangkal values their dances and their relation to the nature and lives of Ayta, and the Ayta cannot live without nature and vice-versa.
Dance encompasses the indigenous rituals, animals, and occupations; in the following dances demonstrated by Lito and Lota Aquile, both former dancers showed the Ayta Magbukon’s way of life in the village, in the river, in the mountains, and even their relations with the environment.
Reyes, Maria Cristina Z. (2015). Dance Practices of Ayta Magbukon in Bangkal, Abucay, Bataan: Its Effects to Cultural Preservation. Bataan Peninsula State University [Thesishttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1t37Sdz9XScQRDDHYEk-bs6OLCzBQDss4/view?usp=sharing">https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t37Sdz9XScQRDDHYEk-bs6OLCzBQDss4/view?usp=sharing