Culture bearers, CCAD highlight role of living traditions in biocultural preservation during Arts Month opening event

As dusk fell on the Sunset Garden in the University of the Phillippines Cebu, wisdom keepers from different indigenous tribes led a solemn ceremony with the College of Communication, Art, and Design (CCAD) community to deepen connections with ancestral and biocultural heritage.

Photo by College of Communication, Art, and Design student publication Lanog.

Culture bearers from the Talaandig Tribe of Bukidnon, Ifugao Mumbaki, and Palawan Babaylan performed ritual practices using dances and chants and shared insights into traditional knowledge that believes in the sacredness of all things and a person’s role as custodian rather than owner of the land.

The last bright glow of the setting sun served as the ideal backdrop for “Busilak sa Kilomkilom,” which was timed for the opening of Arts Month, held last February 3, 2024. 

Talaandig Tribe Chieftain Datu Vic Saway said the community must understand its role in helping safeguard ethnic identities and responsibility for preserving ecological heritage.

Academic communities like UP Cebu can help transmit cultural knowledge of environmental preservation that translates to mindful and sustainable living, added Ifugao Mumbaki Mamerto Tindongan. He demonstrated ritualistic practices that highlighted the interconnectedness of people and nature.

This collective wisdom forms the backbone of indigenous beliefs, said Bai Liza Saway, as she expounded on their pivotal role in passing them to the younger generation. Reflecting on the matriarchal influence within tribal communities, she underscored the maternal duty of nurturing children with the living traditions and rituals of their heritage.

The imperative to pass down cultural heritage, now affected by a disconnect between the old and young generations, was a recurrent theme among the cultural guardians.

Bai Liza Saway emphasized, “We are duty-bound to pass on our traditions and spirituality to the next generation.” She lamented the dire consequences of failing to impart these living traditions, equating it to a heinous offense that would deprive the youth of their cultural inheritance.

Jay Nathan Jore, Coordinator for the Office for Initiatives in Cultures and the Arts (OICA), opened the ceremony with his welcome remarks while Sarah Queblatin, Founder of Living Story Landscapes and Green Leaf, presented the rationale for the activity. 

Queblatin emphasized the imperative of preserving and revitalizing cultural heritage, highlighting its indispensable connection to the natural world. “It’s about fostering relationships, not asserting ownership. The land we steward demands our profound connection,” she pointed out.

The ceremony culminated in a captivating performance by members of the UP Students’ Theater Arts Guild for Education (UPSTAGE). Aside from UPSTAGE, students who joined the event included representatives from the University Student Council, Fine Arts Student Organization (FASO), and UP Lanog.

“Busilak sa Kilomkilom” was organized by Green Releaf Initiative and Living Story Landscapes in collaboration with the Philippine Commission on Culture and the Arts (PCCA), UP Cebu College of Communication, Art, and Design (CCAD), OICA, UP Cebu University Student Council, Fine Arts Students Organization, Communicators of UP, Lanog, UP Students’ Theater Arts Guild for Education. (Report by Communication Program student Elianah Ursal.)