Revive, Reclaim, Re-establish : Remembering Our Roots

Written by Patricia Celiz, Edited by Dani Magsumbol

Pantayo Kulintang. Photo taken by Lexy Baluyot

One of the greatest challenges that immigrants face in the New Land is how to preserve the old traditions, culture and beliefs of their motherland. Questions arise such as, “how can we adapt to this new environment without being entirely stripped of our authenticity?” or, “how can our children be informed of their origins and how can knowing this benefit them?” With each new generation unfolding, the disconnection from the ancestral roots become greater. Now the big question is: do we let it diminish? Thanks to the help and advocacy of Kapisanan, the Philippine roots are constantly being re-established among the CLUTCH Vol. 6 womyn.

For its seventh workshop, the CLUTCH womyn were graced with the presence of Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble and guests from the T’boli School of Living Traditions.  Both great advocates for keeping the Philippine heritage alive, they seek to bridge the gap between the indigenous and diasporic by informing the community through traditional music, dance, storytelling and crafts.

On a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, the womyn and Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble began their journey at Bellevue Square Park in Toronto’s Kensington Market. The ensemble consisted of an all-woman collective and was inspired by the traditional music of the Maguindanaon and T’boli peoples of the Philippines. The brass gongs, called ‘kulintang’ were laid horizontally on a wooden frame and were accompanied with chimes and larger gongs as well as drums. As Pantayo began to play a few of their pieces, heartstrings were pulled within the womyn and they soon felt closer to their culture. The music produced by the kulintang instruments sounded ancient, meditative and felt drawing; taking you back to the origins of the indigenous world. The CLUTCH womyn were then challenged to take on a section of each of the ensemble and play a piece instructed by the facilitators. Within just a few moments, Vol. 6 gave life to Bellevue Square Park, sounding the kulintang echoes which sprawled all throughout Kensington Market. The Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble truly helped reveal — within the CLUTCH womyn — the power these instruments hold, which had never truly died through the course of time.

After a fulfilling first half of the day, the womyn continued their journey to the next venue where they met special guests from the indigenous T’boli tribe of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato (southern Philippines) who were sponsored to visit Toronto just a couple days earlier. Maria “Oyog” Todi is a cultural leader and global activist with a mission to protect and preserve the T’boli arts and culture from exploitation and western permeation. Her daughter, Ma. Andrea “Andi” Todi Wanan is a young artist, especially skilled in drumming, who aspires to walk in her mother’s shoes. Barbara “Buwat” Fanuy Kibed is a highly skilled designer and weaver of the ‘T’nalak’—a traditional tapestry and textile with patterns woven from the artist’s dreams, especially exclusive to the T’boli peoples of the Philippines.

Arriving from a world where the entire community is so tightly intertwined and life is sustained through the participation and assistance of all of its people, a world where every person is spiritually aware and connected to nature, the CLUTCH womyn felt the enlightenment of their ties to a culture that had been buried by the course of immigration and influences of the western world. As the womyn were informed further about Buwat’s process of dreamweaving along with Oyog and Andi demonstrating music from the T’boli heritage, they felt a deep longing for the revival of these arts and traditions whilst wanting to help spread the awareness of this sense of community. Great appreciation overcame the CLUTCH womyn as they were reminded of their incredible ancestral roots, evoking in them a rebirth within their own art.

Through the highly cultural day the CLUTCH womyn experienced, they felt empowered understanding the origins which ran through the course of their veins. The womyn felt a natural connection to the indigenous world where their ancestors came from, even if it were concealed for a brief moment. As for the artist within, it is highly important to excavate and revive the history of your fore‘mothers’ as it can not only enrich your work but most importantly, the soul within.