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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pre-Spanish Alimodian

The history of Alimodian, if one were to write with all earnestness, should start from the time when the first human being sets foot on its virgin soil. And this probably took place thousands of years ago, as relics of primitive life and other legacies of ancient life were once in a while dug up and discovered in some parts of the town and the surrounding areas. There is a scarcity of verified information regarding the ways of life of the first settlers during those ancient times.

The Coming of the Bornean Datus and the Malayan settlers

The account of the Bornean leader’s sojourn in the island of Panay first saw print in Father Tomas Santaren’s book “Maragtas” published sometime during the latter half of the 19th century. Father Santaren, an Augustinian missionary assigned in Iloilo, heard these fragments of the town’s early history from the accounts of old folks, mostly of Janiuay, Iloilo. The original manuscript was in Spanish. Enriqueta Fox translated it into English under the title “Bisayan Accounts of Early Bornean Settlements in the Philippines” by Father Santaren.

According to the “Maragtas,” the Bornean datus, along with their wives, children, subjects and material possessions braved the tumultuous seas aboard the ship, Barangay, to escape the tyranny of their king, Sultan Makatunaw. They sailed northward and by some twist of fate, landed on the shores of Panay in what is presently the town of San Joaquin, Iloilo.

On the plains of Panay, they found a thriving civilization of Aetas (Panay aborigines) headed by Datu Marikudo and his wife, Maniwantiwan. They befriended the natives and ultimately bought the island with the price of golden salakot and a necklace that was so long, it touches the ground when worn by an average woman. Marikudo and his subjects were driven to the mountains and the Bornean datus became the new masters of Panay.

They divided the land into three dominions – Hamtik in the west, Aklan in the north and Irong-irong in the southwest. The administration of Irong-irong, the biggest parcel of the three, was entrusted to the ablest ruler of the ten, Datu Paiburong.

Paiburong’s men concentrated mostly in the shoreline of Ogtong (now part of the town of Oton) where the plain is fertile and where the sea was readily available for food and adventure.
But the datus left Borneo with the aim of founding wide and rich kingdoms. So true to their goals, the subjects of Paiburong infiltrated the regions of the island. From the shore towns of Arevalo, Oton, Tigbauan, Miagao, Guimbal and San Joaquin, they ventured through the hills and virgin forests until they reached fertile patches of land which today fall within the municipal boundaries of Tubungan, Leon, San Miguel and Alimodian.

Other expeditions followed suit and they travelled even farther, reaching the mountainous terrains of Maasin, Janiuay, Lambunao and Calinog.

This odyssey of Malay descendants of ten Bornean datus and their native companions took place sometime around 1684, 482 years after the historic landings of their datu patriarchs in the beaches of San Joaquin in 1202. Majority of these land and fortune-seekers who ended up building their homes in the northwest part of Alimodian, where the first communities mushroomed, came from Ogtong, especially those near the coastal areas.

The constituents of Paiburong’s tribe reached only hundreds. Another adventurer, Datu Paibare later joined them together with a handful of tribesmen. From this small number of Malay pioneers sprang the bulk of Alimodian inhabitants today that number 22,902 as of the 1980 census.

To avoid immediate depletion of resources in a certain area, the men of Paiburong bundled themselves in smaller groups and spread across the arable portions of Irong-irong. These groups which were called barangays, probably, gave rise to the present mode of geographical grouping into barrios and sitios.

Each barangay chose from among the older folks their leaders. These leaders, with the help of the Council of Elders, ran the business of government in its crudest form, the barangay. The barangay, then, is the most primitive of all the political systems the town has ever known.

Early Beliefs of the People

The early inhabitants of Alimodian, like other early Filipinos, were very superstitious. Beliefs in the supernatural dominated all their life and actuations. In every activity that they had, they first consulted the heavenly bodies or the babaylan(local priest or priestess) and offered gifts to the diwatas(supernatural goddess).

They believed in evil spirits like the aswang, kapri, mantiw, tamawo, bawa and the like. They also believed that there were places that were mari-it or inhabited by supernatural spirits and would cause a person’s illness once they were exploited and molested.

During that time there were no doctors and whenever someone got sick, they always attributed it to the punishment of some evil spirits. A quack doctor was called and he would sing incantations and chants to the spirits who were offered by the victim. In most cases offerings were given in the form of a pig, if the offenses were grave and chicken if the injury was not much.

In this ritual the babaylan perform a weird dance to the rhythm of the agong (an ancient percussion instrument) beaten by his assistant. A white cloth was tied around his head as he leapt over the live pig several times. When the dances were over, the babaylan slaughtered the pig and the blood was kept to be used in the next ritual.

In most cases the quack doctor’s fee was the whole of the pig’s head and one-half of the body.
In cases when the offense was slight the unong was offered by the babaylan. The unong consisted of one boiled egg, two green bananas, one alopi (a native delicacy), one rolled tobacco and one betel nut. This was usually offered to the tamawo who was offended.

The early Filipinos were also of the belief that in constructing a house they had to consult the heavens to find out the position of the bakunawa, a big dragon-like figure with a big mouth belonging forth fire. To them it was advisable to construct a house when the position of the earth was at the back of the bakunawa, but never when it was near its mouth to avoid the danger of being devoured. Once the house was finished the family had to move there when the moon was getting to the zenith of the sky or paudtuhon, and not on pahimatayon.

The early Filipinos also had the belief that the ladder should face the east to greet the rising sun and not the west which symbolized a bad omen.

It was also believed that before the family moved to the newly constructed house, the babaylan had to perform the ritual called, himalay in order to ward off the evil spirits. A pig was slaughtered if the house was big and concrete and chicken if the materials used were light.

The early Filipinos did not have the benefit of prenatal care and they relied on the advice of quack doctors or hilot, a local version of massage. Among their beliefs were: A pregnant woman must not wear necklace nor put a towel or scarf around her neck as the fetus in the womb would die of strangulation by the umbilical cord. She should not sit on the steps of the ladder if she wanted an easy delivery. She had to eat the food that she craved for during the conception or else she would have miscarriage. She would not look out of the window during an eclipse or the baby would have physical defect when born. She would not walk over the rope but step on it with both feet to insure ease in delivery.

Beliefs Relating To Childbirth

After childbirth the mother was forbidden to eat sour fruits for months. She should consume dishes rich in coconut milk so that she could have abundant milk for the baby. She could not take a bath until the ninth day or it was believed that she would have a headache or hemorrhage or bughat. The first bath after delivery should be warm water concocted with 18 kinds of medicinal herbs.
If the mother wanted to insure the health of the child she had to get the services of the babaylan to perform three rituals in their proper order: the batak-dungan, then the piso-pisoan and lastly the tagbong, which is the most expensive and laborious of all rites in the supernatural world. The old folks believed that once the child had these rites, she would be totally protected against the harm of all evil spirits.

Beliefs in Marriage

Courtship nowadays and during the ancient times is entirely different. Before, the young man did not court his lady love but parents of both parties made arrangements for their marriage with or without the consent of the young ones. The young man had to render varied services in the household of the lady such as plowing the land, chopping fuel, fetching water and doing all kinds of chores. This was called panghagad. After years of panghagad, the parents of the man went to the house of the lady to do the pamalaye. This was now the asking of the hand of the lady in marriage.
During the pre Spanish period marriage ceremony was officiated by the babaylan. After the wedding ceremony, there were merrymaking and dancing with the music furnished by the bamboo flute. The more affluent families, especially in the barrios, celebrated the marriage with the sinulog, a dance performed by two men all armed with ginunting, a long sharp-bladed bolo. To wish the newly wedded couple happiness and abundance, the babaylan threw handfuls of rice to the visitors.

Beliefs in Death and Burial

The early Filipinos had also beliefs in death and burial which are still practiced by people in this modern world. A woman in the family way had to leave the house when someone was dying or she would have a difficult labor. The family members would not dress chicken during the mourning period or the other members of the family would suffer the same fate. If someone sneezed, somebody had to pull his ears or he would be the next victim of tragedy. No one would sweep the floor with a broom. Instead the floor is wiped with a piece of cloth to remove the dust. Sweeping would cause the demise of other family members. All those who joined the funeral procession should drop by the house of the deceased person if they don’t want to get the fate of the dead man. After the dead man was lowered into his grave, those who were present should throw a piece of dry earth to the grave.
Some of these beliefs are still practiced by many people in the rural areas until today.

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