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Love your own

How Filipino are you? Maya O. Calica suggests six enjoyable ways to get smitten with your heritage. Illustrations by Rommel Joson

Love your own

IN OLDEN TIMES, women would weave fabrics by hand, in a circle, while making conversation. This is how most traditions are made and passed on — by sharing stories. Times have changed and more effort has to be made to stay in touch with our own culture, but there’s no time like the present to learn something of the past — here’s what you might want to pick up, and where to do it.

1 Make music with ancient instruments

Filipinos may be familiar with the kundiman and the harana, love songs strummed on a guitar for a fair maiden. But what about the ancient katyapi (lute), dayuday (fiddle) and pulala (lip valley flute)? These are what musician Waway Linsahay Saway uses to create his music. “Playing these musical instruments is the key for us Filipinos to understand our heritage,” explains the artist based in Tulugan-Songco Lantapan, Bukidnon. Waway has recorded six albums to date, and has incorporated the use of the katyapi, dayuday and pulala, as well as the organic sounds of nature, in his work. His album, Kulahi hu Bugta (Musicry of the Land), also features the sounds of chickens and insects.

“Playing these early instruments mean heroism and nationalism, because it is the root of Philippine sound,” says Waway. Being true to his roots has made him stand out both locally and internationally: his songs have been used in several films, such as the Cinemalaya 2010 entry Limbunan by Moro filmmaker Teng Mangansakan. Next March, the musician will collaborate with fellow artists Grace Nono and Bob Aves at the Penang World Music Festival.

How to do it Waway doesn’t offer formal classes, but gives lessons on how to make and play these ancient instruments in his village in Bukidnon, an hour’s drive from Cagayan de Oro (CDO). You can also check out his instructional videos on how to play the katyapi on YouTube, or order his music videos. Tel: +63 (927) 440 6748, wawayska@yahoo.com

2 Fight, Pinoy-style

“Arnis is now our national sport and martial art as per Republic Act number 9850,” says Senior Master Samuel Bambit Dulay, Chief Instructor of the International Modern Arnis Federation Philippines (IMAFP). Also referred to as “kali” or “escrima,” the term “arnis” comes from the Tagalog corruption of the Spanish “arnes” or harness, which refers to decorations worn by Filipinos in early times. The sport involves the use of sticks, a dagger and even a bolo (long blade). There are also forms of arnis that don’t require weaponry, but involve lots of kicking, striking, throwing, locking and chocking techniques to subdue the opponent.

“The criss-cross movement or sinawali technique using double sticks isn’t found in any other form of martial art,” says Master Dulay, adding that the values behind the practice — “godliness, family bonding and respect for elders” — resonate with the Philippine spirit. The mental alertness from avoiding sticks coming at you and the super-fit body are just bonuses.

How to do it Learn the basics of arnis at Planet Infinity, where they offer courses in arnis. Tel: +63 (2) 376 6919, 4/F Crossroad 77, Mother Ignacia Ave cor Scout Reyes St, Quezon City

3 Create the perfect hot tsokolate

Thick and sweet hot tsokolate always tastes best after hearing simbang gabi (dawn mass) on a cool December morning. “My earliest memory of sipping native hot tsokolate was at my lola’s house in Pampanga, where our family is from,” says Mariel Chua, a New York-based Filipina copywriter/ proofreader who also blogs about her chocolate passion on Allmysugar.com.

“The recipe was unique because it had peanut butter, the local kind with oil on top. Imagine liquefied Choc-nut candy, but richer and creamier.”

The secret ingredient? The tablea or the native cacao tablets used to make it.

How to do it Try Mariel’s family recipe: in a saucepan, heat milk over a slow fire. For every piece of tablea tsokolate used, mix in an additional cup of milk. Next, add peanut butter by the teaspoonful. “For a truly authentic native tsokolate, swirl the simmering liquid using the batirol — a wooden stirrer that looks just like a honey dipper.” You can try other “versions” at Tita Lynn’s Flavored Suman (www.titalynnsflavoredsuman.com) in Tiendesitas, Pasig City, and Dulcinea in Power Plant Mall, Robinsons Galleria and SM Mall of Asia.

4 Heal like a babaylan

Before the Philippines was colonized, early Filipinos didn’t rely on doctors but on the babaylan — a religious leader who functioned as a shaman, healer and all-around miracle worker to the sick. A few years ago, healer/writer Pi Villaraza discovered Inner Dance, a movement rooted in the ancient wisdom of the babaylan, which helped clear his system of physical and emotional blockages.

“Inner Dance is an intuitive healing practice known to ancient cultures around the world, including that of the ancient shamans of the Philippines who could access expanded states of consciousness to heal, awaken and commune with nature,” says Pi. He has been sharing this powerful healing method since 2007. “There have been many healings around the world from physical disorders like tumors, back problems, digestive disorders, migraines and many other things.” Pi has since written about Inner Dance in his 2011 book, Conscious Trance: The Journey to the Dancer Within.

This gentle method is done in a group setting, with a facilitator (such as Pi) coaching the participants while soft music plays. The intention is to fix imbalances in the body and spirit for better health and state of mind.

How to do it Sign up for a five-day Inner Dance and Raw Food Detox Retreat at Bahay Kalipay in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan (www.bahaykalipay.com). There are also Inner Dance teaching practitioners in the US and some cities in Asia.

5 Learn about the Mangyan culture

Indigenous Filipino cultures, such as the Mangyan tribe in Mindoro, are in danger of vanishing. Thankfully, we have the Mangyan Heritage Center (MHC) — a library archive, research and education center in Calapan City, Mindoro that was made possible through the efforts of Antoon Postma, a missionary priest; Father Ewald Dinter, SVD, head of the Mangyan Mission; and Quint Fansler, a former Jesuit volunteer assigned to Oriental Mindoro.

Although visits to the Mangyan communities require their consent and walk-in visits are not encouraged, MHC still offers a wealth of information to satisfy your desire for knowledge.

How to do it You can learn the ambahan, or traditional poetry that is usually written on bamboo in ancient Surat Mangyan. They can teach you how to write your name in Mangyan as well.

MHC also has a photo and artifact exhibit, The Mangyans of Mindoro: Myth and Meaning, that travels around the country. It features traditional cotton spinning and weaving demos, as well as beaded bracelet-making workshops and writing exercises in the Hanunuo- Mangyan script. Bishop Finnemann Compound Calero, Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, www.mangyan.org

6 Relax your body with hilot

Hilot, an age-old healing tradition that involves deep-tissue massage and a heavy dose of intuition, is believed to be as old as the island’s earliest inhabitants. “It varies depending on the region and clan, but it is usually a part of traditional folk medicine practiced in rural areas where economic constraints are palpable,” says Richell Grace Sañez, lead trainer and spa operations manager of Mandala Spa and Villas in Boracay.

In hilot, the diagnosis of a disease and the healing process are highly spiritual. “Common to healers is the fervent religiosity that guides them in their practice, which is profusely infused with prayers that are whispered (bulong) or written (orasyon),” explains Richell. “In spas, hilot is commonly used to relax tired muscles and release blockages from the energy pathways.”

How to do it You may need to seek out a manghihilot in a rural town — or you can fly to Boracay for Mandala Spa’s award-winning Hilot Trilogy (www.mandalaspa.com).