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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

The cradle of Maguindanao civilization (1)

/ 04:04 AM November 01, 2021

DATU PIANG, Maguindanao — I just got back from a brief visit to this landlocked municipality that is among 10 towns located in the peripheries of the country’s biggest wetland, the Ligawasan (Liguasan) Marsh (estimated total area: 220,000 to 280,000 hectares).

The other municipalities bordering the marsh include two others that are now part of Sultan Kudarat province (Tacurong and Quirino); and of (North) Cotabato (Kabacan, Pikit, Midsayap, and M’lang). The inner part of the marsh include the Maguindanao towns of Sultan sa Barongis, Rajah Buayan, Datu Salibo, Salipada K. Pendatun.

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As part of the wetland, a huge part of Datu Piang is surrounded by marshlands, swamps, small ponds, and part of the great Pulangi or Rio Grande. Oftentimes, this great river is redundantly referred to as the Pulangi River; Pulangi is the Magindanawn word for river. Spanish colonizers called it Rio Grande (big or great river) due to its length and breadth: it starts all the way from Bukidnon, to the basin-like localities in Maguindanao, and down to Cotabato City.

Together with my husband and a small group of community organizers and facilitators, I walked a distance of around one kilometer from the driest point in Sitio Tangguapo of Barangay Damabalas here. It was not a pleasant, leisurely walk for exercise or anything; we walked slowly and gingerly along narrow trails that were covered in thick, sticky mud under the scorching sun. We had to pay extra attention to where we were taking our slow steps, as one mistake could make us slide down the swamp or pond. Seeing that I was walking with a slight limp on my left foot, our community friends requested someone who owned a small commuter vehicle, locally referred to as “multicab,” to pick me up in the middle of the trail. But when the small vehicle hit the deepest part of one pool of mud, its front tires got stuck. Thanks to the help of a few bystanders, it was lifted back to the drier part of the trail.

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That short one-day visit brought back happy memories of more than four decades ago when I first did fieldwork in Damabalas and in the Datu Piang poblacion for my first graduate paper in anthropology. I chose Datu Piang because it is the oldest “regular” municipality in the province, having been created as the town of Dulawan in 1936, by virtue of Executive Order No. 66 signed by President Manuel L. Quezon.

Moreover, it was then famous as “the cradle of Maguindanao civilization.”

My fieldwork from 1978 to 1979 was basically doing a collection of riddles and pithy forms of Magindanawn folklore. I was then fascinated with the pedagogic value of this folklore genre, as there were no other “educational” social media or other media platforms aside from radio and black and white television sets.

In the late 1930s, Dulawan was considered one of the biggest municipalities in the entire region and in the Visayas. It had a total land area of 386,234 hectares, with 104 barrios, and a population of 42,858 in the 1948 census. Some of these barrios (today we use the term barangay) are now municipalities and/or localities included in three other provinces, namely Sultan Kudarat, and North and South Cotabato.

While doing fieldwork I asked my informants why the name “Dulawan.” Many of them tell stories about how progressive the old town was, that it was referred to as “da lawanin” (Magindanawn for “peerless” or incomparable to others, in a very positive way). With its vast territory of 104 barangays, indeed there was no match to this town.

The former leaders of this future town of Dulawan/Datu Piang received two cannons from the Spanish colonial government allegedly to convince the Maguindanao leaders then to help the Spaniards defeat the Dutch colonizers. The latter also wanted to conquer some parts of Mindanao for their own imperialistic ends. These two ancient cannons are now embedded in an enclosed concrete structure placed on the two sides of the gate that lead to the municipal hall.

(To be continued)

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TAGS: Datu Piang, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, Ligawasn Marsh, Maguindanao history, Rufa Cagoco-Guiam
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