Labaw Donggon: Propagating Sulod Society
By Mila D. Aguilar
March 24, 2001
Reading Labaw Donggon alone, one could not imagine the continuity of Sulod society with the coming of the ten Bornean datus, from which it would logically have sprung unless the story is patently false. But reading F. Landa Jocano’s Sulod Society, one could see the possibility of convergence. “The range of Sulod kinship structure,” Jocano writes, is six generations upward and another six generations downward. (Jocano 275) This is unusual for a primitive society, especially one that subsists on kaingin, hunting and food gathering alone. A primitive society without an apparent surplus would usually not remember its ancestors that far back, even if it could account for its great great great great grandchildren that far forward. This society, however, strives to, by chronicling its origins and legends assiduously through story after story. In the flatlands, the legend of the ten Borneo datus and the families they gave rise to upon the coming of the Spaniards is passed on from generation to generation. In the hinterlands, the epics of a people forced into the interior by the arrival of the conqueror are preserved from binukot to binukot. The concern with ancestors extends to the spirit world. Jocano details ceremonies that have to do with almost every aspect of Sulod life, concluding that “religion is so much a part of Sulod life that it is difficult to distinguish what is social and what is religious in their daily activities. Every activity of a Sulod whether in agriculture, fishing, hunting, and so on, is influenced by the environmental spirits and the deified ?umalagad (souls) of the departed ancestors.” (Jocano 241) He adds: “Another aspect of the ancestral spirit which needs to be considered is the frequent reference to the ancestral spirits during the performance of…rites.” (Jocano 270) This hankering after the spirit world can be related to the need of Labaw Donggon to be married...
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