A Journey of a Dance Researcher

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