Monday, May 24, 2010

When the Ifugao and Kalinga conquered CCP

A rare and moving thing happened at the CCP last weekend, when the ancient cultures of the Kalinga and Ifugao tribes of the Northern Luzon highlands descended on the country's premiere performing arts venue for a devised show called Chanted Journeys, conceptualized and staged by Floy Quintos (that's him in black at 5:55 in the video below, embracing collaborators Gener Caringal and Jesse Lucas, choreographer and composer, respectively).

I say descended because that was what the Ifugao and Kalinga tribespeople did. Representatives of these indigenous groups journeyed from their mountain homes to perform in the concert and share with an enthralled crowd their mist-shrouded chants and dances, play their musical instruments, re-enact their rituals, wear their native finery with earthy poise and dignity.

Specifically, the designated chanters of the Kalinga Ulalim and the Ifugao Hudhud--the oral tradition of the tribes, in which they pass down myths and stories from one generation to the next--were there, filling the CCP's main theater with the sound of their rhythmic, melodic, profoundly stirring native harmonizing. You could feel the weight of ancient evenings as the munhawe (the lead chanter) threw out a long undulating note, and his peers--their shoulders swaying, their eyes often closed in rapture--picked up the sound and filigreed it with their own voices.

No mimicry or simulation here--this was the real thing, the fast-vanishing heritage of the Cordillera peoples ringing forth in pride and defiance. There was a ray of hope, too, in the presence of a group of very young chanters who are being taught their forebears' intangible contribution to world heritage.

More from Rina Jimenez-David's Inquirer column last Sunday:

“Chanted Journeys” [was] “a blend of live traditional performances, modern reinterpretations as well as documentary that will introduce contemporary audiences to the glories of traditional Cordillera chantings.”

With silent videos of traditional Cordillera village life as backdrop, Brischelle and Schaller Balinte, young Kalinga men from the village of Iubo, invited the audience to enter the world of the Kalinga people through a performance of the “Ullalim si Biag ti Ikalinga” or “Ullalim of the Kalinga People.” The ullalim, from what I gather from the performance, is a chant performed during important events in Kalinga society, such as a wedding, a battle or a harvest. The performers were led by Alonzo Saclag, a Manlilikha ng Bayan (literally, Creator of the Nation, akin to a Living National Treasure) and a community of chanters that included many of his sons and relatives.

The traditional performance was followed by a modern interpretation, “A Kalinga Cycle” featuring music by Jesse Lucas (performed by the UST Philharmonic Orchestra ) and dancers from the UE Silanganan Dance Troupe.

Following this was a performance of an excerpt from the “Hudhud of Aliguyon” performed by the Community of Chanters of Tungngod, Lagawe, Ifugao, representing generations chanting the rituals of Ifugao life, including the slaughter of sacrificial livestock and rice planting.

Both the Ullalim and Hudhud portions also feature energetic dances by women in their colorful woven skirts and men in g-strings and banging out irresistible rhythms on brass gongs. There was not a note of artifice or pretense in these presentations, save perhaps for the “pigs” fashioned out of black plastic bags that the old men were hard put to pretend were the real thing.

Dancers from the Philippine Ballet Theater and mezzo-soprano Clarissa Ocampo interpreted the Hudhud in a new modern piece that showcased the youthful exuberance of the dancers and the catchy beats of Lucas’ composition.

The evening ended with “Chanted Journeys” featuring the entire ensemble, the indigenous performers mixing it up with the modern dancers and orchestra. But they weren’t finished yet, for as we exited the auditorium we found the performers in the lobby, filling it with the sound of gongs and the whirl of their woven wear. I felt so happy for them.

You would, too, after you've seen how proud these people were to bring their heritage and culture to Manila. After a two-hour show, they weren't about to let go yet--they converged at the lobby and exploded into more communal dancing and music-making. (Afterwards, they had their dinner at Jollibee--a concession to modernity, but for now, their heritage held pride of place). It was an eye-popping sight. I have it on video--watch:

1 comment:

FrRoy said...

Hey Gibbs, I am looking for indigenous 'tringkets' and possibly costumes from the mountain province as well as from our muslim brethren. Do you have access to them where my folks can purchase them? Anyway, I enjoyed the film clip. Hope everything's well with you.

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