October 15, 2014

The Legend of Cagayan

One of the performances I enjoyed the most during the Sayaw Mindanao 2014 finals was this one below, which felt to me as if it had jumped right out of the pages of an epic. Or perhaps an epic session of Hari Ragat, because this is exactly the feel I want. The story, told in dance, tells of a Lumad chieftain in the wars against the expanding Moro sultanates and a star-crossed romance, a tale which supposedly gave rise to the name of the province of Cagayan (de Oro) in northeastern Mindanao.

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Once upon a time, a brave Lumad chieftain led his people in war against the expanding Moros. Here the chieftain (center) offers to his ancestors before going to battle as the balian priestesses dance and chant prayers.

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Our hero leads his war party out …

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Their first raids are victorious, thanks to our hero’s valor …

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But then he comes upon the party of the sultan’s daughter. Thunderstruck by her beauty, he falls madly in love.

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His comrades try to restrain him, but he breaks free of them and professes his love to the princess. She returns his love, and entices him into deserting his tribe for her sake.

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“For shame, for shame,” the chieftain’s women cried. Without their champion, the Lumads are worsted in the next battle. It’s said the name Cagayan sounds like the word for ‘shame’ in this tribe’s tongue.

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There are two versions of how this story ends. In one, the chieftain is driven into exile with his princess, cast out from his tribe. In another, happier one, the couple becomes a bridge between the two peoples.

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The troupe performed the happier version for the finals. Here the Lumad chieftain marries the sultan’s daughter, while the prince, the sultan’s son, takes the new chieftain’s hand in peace. I found this story really powerfully told, so I’m hoping to have similar ones happen in my game.

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