by: Ayunan G. Gunting

The modest backyards in Tugaya, a lakeshore town in Bangsamoro, are noisy in the daytime as craftsmen hammer away to make musical instruments such as the brass gongs called the kulintang (a horizontally laid out gong chime) and the agong (a suspended gong chime). Sometimes they are sawing, carving and painting tall drums called the gadur.

Although Tugaya is a fifth class municipality in Lanao del Sur, it is ironically referred to as the Industrial Capital of Lanao del Sur. The town doesn’t even make machine parts. The UNESCO has cited Tagaya as a World Heritage Site for preserving not only the traditional woodcarving skills, brassware, embedding mother-of-pearl on chests, metal-smithing, but also the backstrap looming. For centuries, Maranaw craftsmen have produced decorative jars, musical instruments, inlaid chests, kampilan or a single-edged sword and the kris, a wavy-edged dagger. The 10 to 12 ft. wooden gadur, which in modern homes is often used as a design element, is prized for the intricate okir, sinuous patterns distinctive of Maranao art. The smaller drums, called the dubakan, provide the rhythm in the Maranaw musical ensemble which includes the gongs.

Maranao artisans will tell you that those crafts are the only things they know. They’ve seen their elders forge metals using ancient methods and the same traditional tools.

The plight of the craftsmen

Salic A. Pamlian, 42, says Tubakan has 10 metalsmiths who produce gongs. There are two to three craftsmen who work on gongs per household. He and his 75-year-old father-in-law, Tambas Pandita, would produce agong and dabur for traders.

Pamlian learned the craft at 18 years old when he was strong enough to lift heavy objects and forge metal.

In ancient times, woodcarvers and metalsmiths underwent a rite of passage– a chicken was sacrificed to the god of the arts, Tominanman sa Ragon. The animal’s blood was dredged on his hands and tools. This ritual gave him the license to become a craftsman. Pamlian says that practice is unknown to his generation.

Learning his craft from his ancestors, Salic Pamlian hammers away on the brass gong.

“We go straight to work,” he says in Tagalog.

Pamlian specializes in the agong, these are wide-brimmed, brass percussion instruments that provide the bass and rhythm in a Maranaw gong ensemble. Since brass is rare in Mindanao, entrepreneurs would buy sheets from Manila and provide these materials to the craftsmen. He still uses traditional metal forging and hand shaping to produce the instruments. A large agong weighing five kilos takes eight to 10 days to make on a 7 a.m. to 5 pm. schedule. The wholesale price fetches P15,000. He gets a cut of P4,500 on a lucky day. The smallest agong weighing two kilos takes two days to produce. For the price of P4,000, he and his father-in-law get a mere fraction of the amount.

These agong are sold around Mindanao souvenir shops and in antique shops in Manila at higher prices. Sometimes Westerners come over his place to buy the instruments for their collection.

“Your earning depends on your output,” Samlian said in Tagalog. Physical pain or problems with family and neighbors interrupt the work for three days. When his body hurts from the strain of lifting heavy objects, he takes muscle relaxants and pain relievers.

Meanwhile, Pandita can only produce small gongs.

A craftsman etches the okir designs on the gadur made of jackfruit wood

Pamlian also works on the dabur and its mallet which are made from mango and jackfruit wood. The drum head is covered with cow or goat’s skin.

The Maranao drums can take a year to finish because of the intricate carving and the painting of the okir patterns. Its wholesale price is P50,000. Pamlian’s carving tools are traditional—a curved knife, the chisel, the ax, and a charcoal pencil for lining. He also concocts the plant dyes to color the okir patterns.

Pamlian also makes kris and the kampilan, using steel.

His three children, whose ages range from 14 to 9, are still too young to learn these crafts.

“They’ve got to be older and build more muscle to do this heavy work. I will teach these crafts to my sons if they are not doing well in school. They will then have a livelihood to fall back on,” he says.

Asked if the job pays well, Samilan says he’s lucky to earn P17,000 a month. Nevertheless, these crafts have supported his family over the years.

The gadur can take a year to make because of the painstaking sourcing of wood, carving, creation of paint from plant dyes and painting.

“We need money to buy raw materials. We ask from the municipal office, but nothing comes out of our talks,” he laments. The officials just want to be photographed with the artisans for publicity.

“You can’t depend on the local government for help. Artisans fend for themselves. But despite all the odds, this work gives us joy.”

Salic Pamlian

I have mixed emotions after seeing their plight. I also thought they were being cared for by government agencies like the NCAA. The good news is that the road from Marawi to Wao, Lanao Del Sur has finished its construction. We may now drop by with just a 2 hour trip. Before it used to take 8 hours. This is a big deal for traders. They no longer need to go to Davao City or Bukidnon to trade. According to Lanao Del Sur Vice Governor Bombit Adiong, his priority is the infrastructure projects that would make the economy run better. If the economy is good, we can attain prosperity and peace.


Mindanao politicians urge citizens to vote no to BOL


The BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) plebiscite is fast-approaching. You’ve probably heard and was able to relate with the statements of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) proponents. I also took the statement of the Anti -BOL so we could hear why they are opposed to the BOL. 
Lanao Del Norte and Cotabato were able to develop because of the good governance of the Dimaporo and Guaini, independently. THEY rejected the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) in the past plebiscites, but look, they were able to survive, and in fact, they were able to be more prosperous compared to the other provinces and cities of ARMM. Now, it is left to the people. Let’s hope that the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) won’t just force and scare the people. They must be professional and just. They should even be the examples of peace, not to scare and have their way through rebellion.

Mindanao politicians urge citizens to vote no to BOL

By: Ayunan Grande Gunting ( 09159616192)

Vote No BOL
In photo: Cong. Khalid Dimaporo and the author

     Two political leaders are advocating the “no” vote to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in the forthcoming plebiscites.

   Rep. Khalid Dimaporo of the first district of Lanao del Norte said his province is not part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which he believed had failed to govern itself professionally and deliver its promises of improving the quality of life in the region. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) might just be a continuation of that system.

Vote No BOL
Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guani

     Likewise Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani said leaders from various sectors oppose the sanction of the new region as they want another system of government.

   The first voting day will occur on Jan. 19 in ARMM, Cotabato and Isabela cities. The second voting day will be held on Feb. 6 in Lanao del Norte (except for Iligan City) and North Cotabato.

   The BOL is expected to end the strife between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the military and police. It answers the region’s claim for independence and Moro identity.

    Dimaporo said the new administration has raised issues about the involvement of resources, the partaking of powers between the government and the future Bangsamoro, and the integration of Islamic traditional laws within the judicial system. If approved, Bangsamoro will have more authority over their resources and government than the ARMM. The leaders will have the power to mete out justice according to their culture and religion.

     Observing the ARMM, Dimaporo said he is not in favor of an independent government which lacks transparency and accountability; shows biases for ethnic groups; tolerates corruption; perpetuates bureaucracy and implements Islamic-based laws that are practiced in other Muslim countries and are too harsh for the local culture. 
      “We don’t want to take a chance,” he said. “Bangsamoro might be a repeat of ARMM.”

     Dimaporo quoted former President Benigno Aquino III as saying that ARMM was an experiment in self-government.  The solon opined that the ARMM was remiss in providing infrastructure, education, livelihood, and the peace and order that it had earlier promised.  Because it has no system of checks and balances and accountability, money was squandered on ghost projects while many parts of the region remained impoverished and underdeveloped.  Vote buying fetches P10,000 to P50,000. Mayors live in cities outside of their jurisdiction. Hence, they are not able to monitor the peace and order situation in their municipalities.

    The solon cited Marawi, Lanao del Sur as an example of long years of neglect that resulted in the penetration of the Maute and the ISIS.

   Despite ARRM’s self-rule, it still had to seek help from the national government.

   “The MILF wanted to create the Bangsamoro. They didn’t address the national power. Everything will be controlled by the local government units. It merely adds another layer of bureaucracy,” he said.

   Dimaporo cited that the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) doesn’t pass through the ARMM to evaluate the budgets. “The ARMM has no direct power over budgets such as development funds. Instead budgets are approved by the ARMM Bureau of Local Government Finance and not the Department of Interior Local Government. The IRA is invariably not used properly.”

     He warned, “Bangsamoro will be having a system of kanya-kanyang mundo (to each to his own). The LGU’s can have their IRA, the congressman can get funds from the Department of Public Works and Highways and the regional government will get the block grant. Money will be spent they way they please. Projects will overlap. How do you account for them? That was the problem with ARMM which ended up with ghost projects.”

     Dimaporo underscored, “We don’t want to be a part of that system. We’d rather deal with Malacañang than deal with another layer of bureaucracy.”

    He added that Congress follows national guidelines so that budgets can be scrutinized. LGUs outside of ARMM are under the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that evaluates and appropriates funds for the welfare of the province.

   Dimaporo quoted President Duterte as saying that ethnicity is a problem in Mindanao. The regional governor will favor the provinces of his ethnicity at the expense of the others. They will get more funding for projects.

     “The MILF will be a Maguindanao administration,” he said.

    He also pointed out that the inclusion of Sharia or religious laws under Islam will bring complications. He cited certain punishments for such was fining Muslim women for not wearing a hijab or head scarf and severing hands for stealing were abolished by Congress. 

      Dimaporo maintained that the country should follow one legal system.

    “Let them try it out first. We are trying to vote for non-inclusion. However, if Bangsamoro succeeds, we can join in the future,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Guiani said although she favors BOL, she does not want Cotabato City under its control. 
She urged her constituents to go out to vote and make their voices be counted during the referendum that would decide the fate of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to be held on January 21st.

      The Mayor made this appeal as she bewailed the threats of violence and the smear campaigns made by certain personalities of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose members are proponents of BARMM.

      BARMM was created as part of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro which was the preliminary peace agreement made between the Philippine government and MILF. It was designed to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

      In her address, Mayor Guiani noted that a  considerable number of  her constituents have expressed their desire to reject BARMM when they vote during the plebiscite.

       “Various groups composed of prominent businessmen and others belonging to other sectors in Cotabato City have met with me and said that they will be opposing the ratification of  the new region as they do want another system of government,” she said.

      “But because of the strong influence of social media, rampant disinformation or ‘fake information’ is being spread by proponents of BARMM to convince and coerce constituents to vote Yes at the referendum. These proponents have also created fake social media accounts to  threaten those who oppose BARMM.”

      The Mayor also noted that she herself has been the subject of this disinformation campaign as many of these fake accounts have been “spreading lies about her personal ad professional life.” She said as the Mayor and leader of Cotabato City, she will not tolerate any form of harassment or disrespect from those who hide under fake social media accounts.

      “I even made an attempt to find a peaceful resolution to this form and arranged a meeting with one of the MILF commanders, Wahig Tundok. We had an amicable meeting which was attended by the barangay captains of Cotabato City,” she said.

      “Yet to our utter dismay, we learned about the insincerity in their commitment to peace in Cotabato City when  Commander Tundok  appeared in a video interview. In that interview, he said that they will attain victory in Cotabato City even if it takes bloodshed to achieve it. He went on to add that they’ve long been accustomed to resorting to violence to achieve their objectives,” she said.
The Mayor assured,  however, that although the people of Cotabato City are peace loving, her government, along with the barangay captains and local enforcers, will use every resource available to prevent this sector of the MILF from carrying out their threats.

      “Thus I urge my constituents to go and vote during the referendum and show  that we have no intention putting ourselves under the hands of those who have no respect to the people of Cotabato City. Along with our barangay officials, police officers, and the military, I assure that the upcoming plebiscite will be safe for everyone and that justice will be served,” she said.


     Earlier, the city had received threats to security on social media. MILF Commander Wahid Tundok posted a video on Facebook declaring that those who will not vote “yes” in the plebiscite will face the consequences. The MILF will risk everything to usurp Cotabato.

     On New Year’s Eve, a bomb exploded at a mall leaving two dead and 35 wounded.

         MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim issued a statement denouncing the violence as “an act of cowardice, inhuman and atrocious.” He said, “We are saddened by the fact that this incident occurred at a time while we are in the thick of preparations for the plebiscite.”

      In an ANC interview, Guiani did not want to make a connection between the bombing and the MILF. Still, she said, “If you cannot even start  a good campaign by being kind to those who you want to vote for ‘yes,’ then how can you be nice to us when you’re already there?”

It’s Time to Visit Cotabato City

Visit Cotabato City

By: Ayunan G. Gunting 

Visit Cotabato CityTourists who want to see and experience something new and different would do well to visit Cotabato City in Mindanao. It’s the destination where a variety of cultures create a colorful and bustling metropolis.

It’s important to know, however, that Cotabato City is not a part of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.  The city is autonomous in the same way Washington D.C. is. (Or in the same way Quezon City isn’t in Quezon province.) While it is geographically located in the province of Maguindanao, the city doesn’t fall under its jurisdiction. It has served as the seat of the government of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) since 1990.

It’s never been a major tourist destination but it’s an ideal alternative for travellers who want to learn more about unique cultures, as well as good governance under the leadership of Mayor Frances Cynthia Guani.   A scenic natural landscape and venerable old traditions – both of the Muslim and Christian communities –  are just some of the highlights that one can experience in this city. 

Visit Cotabato City
The golden statue of Sultan Kudarat stands majestically at the Pedro Colina Hill

Its most prominent landmark says it all – the golden statue of Sultan Karadat, which stands majestically at the Pedro Colina Hill. The latter is a park adorned with Muslim boats called the ginaukit. The park is also decorated with sculptures of gongs and crabs. The park’s name itself  displays an obvious fusion of Muslim and Christian cultures. After all, Pedro is a Christian name while colina is the Spanish word for “rock hill.”

The city’s mixed population and ethnicity came about when Spanish priests arrived in this area in the 19th century and introduced Christianity to the locals. Islam, however, predates Christianity in Cotabato by almost 500 years.

On the outskirts of the city is its largest and most impressive landmark which stands out in the open fields by the shores of the Moro Gulf and near the Tamontaka River. It’s the Sultan Hassal Bolkiah Masjid, or the Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the country and perhaps our answer to the Taj Mahal in terms of grand traditional architecture. This mosque was built at cost of P300 million and funded by the Sultan of Brunei.

On the other hand, the most prominent place of worship for the city’s Christian residents is the Tamontaka Church, which was reportedly the center of Jesuit evangelization.  Built in the late 19th century, the Tamontaka Church was partly destroyed by an earthquake and fire. It has a passageway that connects to a catacomb and a tunnel that leads to Pedro Colina Hill.   

Visit Cotabato City
The Old Cotabato City Hall

To learn more about the city’s history, you can visit the Old Cotabato City Hall Museum, which is housed in a 78 year-old building. A heritage building in its own right, it was designed by National Artist for Architecture Juan Arellano who seamlessly fused Maguindanao architecture with modern themes. On display are various artifacts that include Mindanao brassware, archaeological discoveries, pottery, musical instruments, and native utensils.

Other landmarks of note include The Office of the Regional Governor Complex, ARMM’s administrative compound. This sprawling complex also plays host to festivals such as the Pakaradjaan (merrymaking). 

Visit Cotabato CityWhile on the subject of festivals, every mid-December, the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival is held to celebrate the city’s cultural diversity through music, dance,  games, trade fairs,  and thanksgiving rites.

But for a more restful and leisurely time, one can stroll along the Baywalk, which offers a panoramic view of the bay and mangroves.

While traditional practices remain intact in the city, tourists won’t want for the modern conveniences they can’t do without. There are malls, coffee shops, supermarkets, as well as comfortable and reasonably priced hotels located at the center of the city. 

Its array of restaurants should intrigue and delight visiting foodies. Barbecue and grill joints line the Rizal Park along Sinsuat Avenue. Babo Katips in Tamontaka is popular for its fried catfish. Try out the Hala Bira Halal along Jose Lim Street and savor the papaitan and bulalo or bone marrow soup. For continental fare, try the Café Le Sorelle and Jamaica Le Café.

Local delicacies include the pastila staple that includes rice with chicken or beef adobo strips wrapped in banana leaves.  The kalintubo is a budget meal composed of rice with marinated chicken cutlets or chicken liver, and wrapped  in a cone-shaped banana leaf with the meat peeping out. Sinina is beef or goat meat stew, made with coconut milk and complemented with palapa, a condiment made of white scallions, chilli, and ginger.  The meal is capped with dodol, a sticky dessert of sugarcane crystals and rice flour cooked for nine hours in coconut milkTinagtag is a rice fritter, made up of finely ground rice, sugar, and water. 

Visit Cotabato City
The Sultan Hassal Bolkiah Masjid, or the Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the country stands out on the shores of the Moro Gulf near the Tamontaka River

Cotabato City has a thriving agricultural industry that produces an abundance of mud crabs, milkfish, and prawns. It’s also a major halal food producer and is the site of a P20 million halal processing center, the first in the Philippines. Halal is food prepared according to Islamic laws. 

Because of the major investments the city has been attracting (among them, a Robinsons Mall) these past few years, Cotabato was recently recognized as the most competitive city of Region 12 by a prominent business group. It’s also won another important distinction; the Philippine National Police reported that the city is among the safest in the country with one of the lowest crime rates during the first quarter of the year. Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani said she will always strive to maintain her city’s reputation as a safe place for its residents, as well as investors, and tourists.

With these accolades, Cotobato City should be well on its way to becoming a major city for tourists and investors.  Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines fly to Cotobato City daily. It’s best to book early.

Pakaradjaan Celebration Showcases ARMM Villages

Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages

Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages
Entrance to the Maguindanao Village at the ORG compound

Photo by: Estan Cabigas


The ARMM Pakaradjaan under the Hataman Administration will end this year with a big Heart. As the Lifestyle Publicist of the event for 8 years, I’m grateful and honored to work with Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman and his wife, Sitti. I will be forever grateful to them for giving me a chance to handle their PR. He is truly one of the best Muslim leaders I’ve ever worked with. When I say “best”, I mean it.


It was a sight to behold, a room richly furnished and draped with yellow cloth, the Maguindanao royal color; with splashes of red, green, and blue details covering the ceiling and the walls. Banigs, native mats with diamond designs, were spread on every inch of the flooring. Brass trays crowned with colorful woven dome covers with geometric designs were neatly arranged in rows, filling the central space of a Maguindanao Sultanate throne room. Except that this is inside the replica of a royal house and located at a strip of land at a government complex in Cotabato City.

Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages
The lavish interior of the Throne Room of the royal house replica at the Maguindanao Village. Brass trays with beautiful native and colorful covers fill the center.

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is celebrating the 2018 Pakaradjaan on its 29th year of existence at the Office of the Regional Governor ARMM complex in Cotabato City, a 32-hectare land that has been its seat since 1990. This perhaps may be its last, as President Rodrigo Duterte signed last July 26, 2018 the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will abolish the ARMM, and the mark the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in its place. The ARMM is comprised of the provinces of Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawitawi, Lanao del Sur, and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi. The word pakaradjaan is common among these provinces’ populace and means celebration.

ARMM Village

Initiated by the office of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, the festival is a showcase of the different ethnolinguistic groups. Central to the Pakaradjaan are mock villages with each province highlighting its own culture, architecture, history, and food. This is the fifth time that these mock villages were constructed. But compared to the previous festivals which were held between Sheik Karimul Makhdum Day (November 7) to the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival (December 19), this terminal festival started May of this year.

Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages
The La Kultura Performing Arts demonstrate the pansak si laley duk pansak si bangku (Dancing on the top of the plate and dancing on the top of the bench), a Yakan traditional dance that uses plates and a stool.

The Maguindanao Village greets visitors with festive yellow, red, and green banners, typical of the area whenever there are celebrations. There’s a replica of the Quirino Bridge which crosses Rio Grande de Mindanao and connects Cotabato City with Sultan Kudarat province. At one side are shops that sell Maguindanao delicacies and crafts. There’s also a replica of the Datu Untong Balabaran Mosque, which is considered as the oldest in Mindanao and still sports the traditional vernacular pagoda-style architecture. But perhaps the highlight of this village is the royal house replica with its rich interior described above. Musical instruments like the kulintang and gongs adjacent to the throne room display adds to the experience, while archival images of the important persons and events enrich historical knowledge. From time to time, there are tinagtag (similar to the Yakan ja, a crisp tubular delicacy made from rice flour batter and sugar) making demonstrations in the open ground while a small restaurant at the ground floor of the royal house replica serves traditional Maguindanao meals.

Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages
The lavish interior of the Throne Room of the royal house replica at the Maguindanao Village. Brass trays with beautiful native and colorful covers fill the center.

The Sulu Village is quite interesting with its abbreviated replica of the original Astana (royal palace) that used to stand in Maimbung, Sulu. It’s light and airy yet still sizable and regal in its form. The second floor has a small stage where performers do the Pangalay, a traditional dance in the region that focuses more on the movements specifically of the shoulders, arms and feet. The village also has several facsimiles of archival images and historical documents on the Sulu Sultanate, as well as the claims on Sabah, images of the Jolo and its burning in the 70s, and many others. At the back is a restaurant that sells traditional food and delicacies.

Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages
A kulintang ensemble at the Lanao del Sur Village during a dance performance.

A pair of sarimanok sculptures as well as a replica of the Kilometer 0 marker in Marawi greets visitors to the Lanao del Sur Village. Here, a torogan replica stands with its beautiful panolong (butterfly wing projections) carved in rich ukir designs. The torogan features a rich and detailed interior with wooden chests inlaid with mother of pearl, brass furnishings and a canopied bed, fit for the sultan. There are daily dance performances accompanied by a kulintang ensemble. To help the crafts-vendors who are now IDPs (internally displaced persons) due to the Marawi siege, ARMM Gov. Hataman provided them a place here to sell their beautiful wares, crafts and products which were made in Tugaya town, known for its brass and wooden chests.

The Basilan Village showcases several vernacular architecture that include replicas of the langgal (mosque), astanah (royal house), lumah (traditional house) and kadday (traditional restaurant). Known for its colorful cloths, there are weavers that demonstrate this rich tradition. Yakan delicacies like the ja (crispy and rolled dessert made from flour and sugar batter) and panyam (local pancake) are available. And of course, the beautifully designed and colorful woven products are there for sale too.

Compared with the other four mini villages, the Tawitawi Village is austere and simple. There’s a replica of the Sheik Makhdum Mosque in Simunul, a Sama royal house on stilts over water and a painting of Bongao Peak. Igal, as what the pangalay is called in Tawitawi, is also performed here with the female dancer wearing janggay, those pointed finger ornaments made of steel.

Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages
Dance troupe at the Lanao del Sur Village pose in front of a torogan replica.

The Pakaradjaan ARMM Villages is an interesting concept that showcases the rich cultures of these ARMM provinces and cities in one place. It enables visitors to experience and learn more about these often-misunderstood people and provides an avenue in promoting better understanding while endeavoring us to be proud and aware of our diverse heritage and identity as Filipinos.

A concert pianist is born

As we all know, most young girls who celebrate their 18th birthday with a lavish ball are called debutantes. Jenna Aziza Salliman, daughter of Basilan Governor Jim Hataman Salliman and his lovely wife Annie, made a different kind of debut. Having turned 18 already, Jenna didn’t need to make her formal entrance to society. What she did was make a stunning entrance into that rarified sphere of classical pianists. She recently took center stage in her premiere recital at the auditorium of the College of Statistics in UP Diliman.

By: Ayunan G. Gunting

Pretty in her long white dress, Jenna still managed to look every inch the debutante as she took the stage.  She made her entrance with a minimum of fuss or drama. She walked straight to the grand piano and went right into business with her first piece for the evening: Johann Sebastian Bach’s lilting Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp major BWV 848 and Prelude and Fugue in F major BWV 856.

Bach’s exuberant yet soothing melodies seemed so apt for the young lady performing it. There is a youthful and playful vigor in her performance.  She did seem to have a great love for this masterpiece. She played it effortlessly, it’s as if she was playing with a childhood friend.

Jenna was only 6 years old when she began taking piano lessons. Her mom Annie had acquired an upright piano and all her children took lessons from Mrs. Jennifer dela Cruz. During the reception following the recital, the mentor marveled over the talent of the Salliman children. “She also has an older brother who is very good and he’s attending law school now. But it was Jenna who really stood out. She showed real promise,” she said.

Jenna later took master classes with the esteemed piano pedagogues Ng Chong Lim, Fr. Manuel Maramba OSB, Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, Roberta Rust, and Adam Kent, among others. She is presently under the tutelage of Professor Anthony Yu Say of the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music. (He is currently the president of the Piano Teacher’s Guild of the Philippines Foundation.) For the past 10 years now, Jenna has been a participant of the annual public recitals of both the Piano Teachers Guild and the UST Conservatory of Music.

She also took part in the 2013 Opusfest held in Antipolo City, the 2018 International Taipei Maestro Festival, and the Manila International Master Class Festival. She won 1st Place in the 2017 Piano Teacher’s Guild Sonata and Sonatina Competition, and 3rd Place in the recent Bach and Baroque Competition, Category B2.

It could easily be surmised that after finishing high school, Jenna would enter the UST Conservatory of Music. As Prof. Say put it, her capability as a pianist is already at conservatory levels. But much to our surprise, Jenna is currently a freshman student at the UP College of Statistics! (Hence it was the venue of the recital.) Because she is a graduate of the Philippine Science High School, she is bound by law to major in pure or applied sciences, mathematics, or engineering.

According to Mrs. Jennifer dela Cruz, people who excel in mathematics tend to be just as talented in music. She cited the eminent concert pianist Raul Sunico who graduated from UP Diliman with degrees in Music and Mathematics, and Masters in Statistics.

in full force
In full force: Jenna’s dad, Basilan Governor Jim Hataman, cousin Amina Umara Turabin-Hataman, ARMM First Lady Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, and yours truly

Jenna’s proud daddy Governor Salliman said she at first wanted to take up medicine. “But piano became her passion and she hopes to eventually pursue a degree in Piano Performance,” he said.

When it became obvious that Jenna’s talent would extend from numbers to musical notes, her parents bought her a grand piano. During her recent recital, Jenna showed the audience that her parents did right by giving their complete support to their daughter’s passion for classical music. They beamed with pride as Jenna tackled the works of Ludwig van Beethoven (Piano Sonata No. 6), Claude-Achille Debussy (“L’Isle Joyeuse”), and Francisco Santiago (“Souvenir de Filipinas”).

Her final piece for the evening was Charles-Camille Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 Op.22 in G Minor. For this performance, she was joined by noted collaborating artist Mary Anne Espina. Composed of three movements, the piece usually requires an orchestra to accompany the pianist.   Espina served as the collaborating pianist instead. The three movements are characterized by a series of emotions, with the first movement being dominated by melancholy. The second movement is lighthearted and energetic while the final movement is fiery. The two pianists were up to the task as they responded to each other with much fervor.

The audience was mesmerized, especially since Jenna beautifully captured the spirit and emotion of the music. For one so young and yet to be so cognizant of the soul of the timeless works of the great composers is amazing. Jenna plays it with élan yet she makes it seem easy. And she wasn’t one to rely on emoting or theatrical antics to impress the audience.

In fact, this piano virtuoso is so unpretentious. She was also too modest to accept the bouquet of flowers offered to her after the performance. This down-to-earth attitude is a testament to the way she was raised by her parents. Her astounding talent, on the other hand, is a reflection of the genes she inherited from them.

Nevertheless, we were compelled to ask the Honorable Governor what he was feeding his overachieving children when they were growing up!

ARMM’s last Pakaradjaan was truly the best

ARMM Pakaradjaan

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), now on its final year (before it is replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region), is celebrating its last anniversary with a splash. As it has done in past anniversaries, the distinct and venerable cultures of Muslim Mindanao are being showcased in this year’s celebration called, “2018 Pakaradjaan sa ARMM”.

The festival is organized by the office of ARMM Governor Mujib Hataman, who said past anniversary celebrations of the ARMM have always focused on the colorful Bangsamoro heritage, history, culture, arts, and tradition. “This year won’t be different as we present the rich ethnicities of the various provinces and tribes that comprise Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

This one, however, is notably bigger and more lavish. The ARMM has converted its headquarters in Cotabato City into a Moro village where five life-size houses were built to capture the essence of the Moro lifestyles in five of the six member provinces of ARMM. The open grounds of ARMM’s Office of the Regional Center (ORC) have thus been transformed into a festive neighborhood.

ARMM is composed of the Mindanao provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, , Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

It’s not yet too late to visit the display in Cotabato City. “2018 Pakaradjaan sa ARMM” runs until December. Tourists who have visited the exhibit are marveling over the five houses, each of them built and designed to represent the distinct culture of the ARMM member provinces. The concepts for each house were the brainchild of the respective local government units (LGUs). The LGUs also shouldered the costs of building them, according to Governor Hataman.

In their own way, the houses serve as giant dioramas that present a sumptuous illustration of the traditions and lifestyles of the Bangsamoro . It’s also a competition since the best house will be chosen and given a prize at the end of the festival in December.

The province of Basilan is depicted in the Yakan house.

ARMM Pakaradjaan
A house of a Yakan owned by affluent natives who are usually w/ authorities like Maharadja, nakib, panglima ( judge ) or a yakan coming from a big clan that serves as village leaders.The structure is highly elevated from the ground and usually made of hardwood and utilize an ancient and authentic engineering methods were there are no nails used in joining parts . Instead every part of the joints are bolted w/ pieces of hard wood called lagsak ( wooden bolt ) and tied in an artistic but sturdy knots using lubid ( abaca ropes ) and Buwey ( rattan strings )
Lumah is a structure referring t rattan strings o a house that is usually made of light materials like bamboo wood coconut and palm tree.The Lumah of the Yakans is very modest for it only consist of patan or Pantalan ( porch ), Lawas lumah ( main house ) and Pagbellahan of kusina.
The Pantan is an area of resting and also for entertaining guests where the Yakans chew betel nuts or Upah as part of the practices during resting and conversation. Most often it is also an area for weaving the Yakan cloth where the handblooms are assembled.
The Lawas Lumah is the main house where the members of the family sleeps, eat and pray and do other occasional activities like wedding. It is one single room immediately after pantalan and no quarters are built.
The Pagbellahan or Kusina is adjoint to the Lawas lumah where cooking and other kitchen chores are done


It was designed to showcase the works of the Yakan weavers. On display are the banigs, table runners, baskets, blankets, and pillows of various colors. Tourists are encouraged to try on the traditional costumes of the Yakans and shoot a colorful selfie inside the house.

On the ground floor, actual weavers are present to show their skills to visitors while an adjacent makeshift restaurant serves dishes from Basilan. They’re cooked and prepared by two ladies who own a restaurant in their home province, Nursidra Idris and Misra Indasan. Their specialty is served boodle fight style and presented with a mound of malagkit na kanin surrounded by various delicacies.

ARMM Pakaradjaan
The food in Maguindanao is always served with eggs. BCH – ARMM Exec Director Marites K. Maguindra said that ” Eggs to the Moros are like noodles to the chinese. The eggs signify a long and healthy life , happiness, and good luck. The maguindanao house is luxurious , every inch of the room is covered with banig or glittery wall decor.

The Sulu province is represented by a house that recaptures the opulent living quarters of the Tausug sultan. It is adorned with mounds of carpets and colorful wall décor. The centerpiece is a large bed though it’s not exactly a private bedroom since the place is used to entertain the sultan’s visitors. The host sits on the majestic bed while visitors can sit on the banigs and have a feast. The food in the latal food containers at the foot of the sultan’s bed is always abundant.

ARMM Pakaradjaan
The awesome photo belongs to the Sulu province, which presents the living quarters of the Tausug sultan. Being the home of a sultan, the replica is large although the main focus here is the sultan’s living quarters which is bedecked with carpets and colorful wall décor, furnished with a large bed. It’s not exactly used as the sultan’s private bedroom since the sultan reportedly received visitors in this room. The beautiful Tausug host sits on the bed while visitors can sit on the banigs and partake on the food confined in the latal food containers ensconced at the foot of the sultan’s bed.
Unlike the Yakan house, which provides a serene atmosphere, the Tausug home is decorated with flashier colors which make the sultan’s place look lively and glittery-

This is a replica of “Astanah Darul Jambangan “ of the Sultanate of Sulu, the first centralized form of Government that reverberated to the High Royal Councils of Ternate, Makassar and Brunei w/ signed agreements and treaties w/ China, Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain, Germany and the United States of America. Unbroken geneology of Sultans Founded by the First Sulu Sultan Paduka Mahasari Maulana Shariful Hashim ( 1450 ), through a pioneered principality established by Rajah Baguinda ( 1390 ).

ARMM Pakaradjaan
The Meranaw torrogan from Lanao del Sur features the signature carved beams called panolong, with tendrils and dragon designs. The walls are built with wood panels with okir designs. Although the look is as rich as the Tausug house, it is more formal with the dominance of antique wooden furniture. The resident entertains the guests in the living room over a coffee table. Gold-leafed picture frames called dadakatan, contrast the deep rich woods.

ARMM PakaradjaanLike the Sulu residence, the house of the Maranaos of Lanao del Sur is glittered with gold and silver décor though it’s somewhat made more somber by the antique furniture made of hardwood. It’s more conventional in the sense that guests are entertained in a living room where coffee and local delicacies are also served in a latal and silverware.

If ever there was a traditional luxe house, it must have belonged to the sultans of Maguindanao. Not an inch of wood or wall is exposed. Everything is covered with colorful banig and wall décor. Like the Sulu house, this one has an elaborate bed for the Maguindanao sultan and layers of banig where his guests can relax. The room is large enough to welcome more hungry guests. There are more than a dozen latals containing local delicacies. It makes visitors presume that the buffet was invented in Maguindanao.

As with the other Moro tribes, the food in Maguindanao is served with eggs. Reportedly, eggs to the Moros are like noodles to the Chinese. The eggs signify a long and healthy life, happiness, and good luck. These good wishes are made to a person while he is still being carried in his mother’s womb.Hence the egg is present in every meal.

The house of Tawi-Tawi is more practical and less frivolous. The Badjaos live a life of simplicity and since fishing is theirlivelihood, the replica recreates a house in a fishing village. It sits over the sea on stilts and is surrounded by wooden planks and piers. Beyond the house is a model of the famous mountain of Tawi-Tawi, Bud Bongao.

ARMM PakaradjaanGovernor Hataman said the presentation of old Moro traditions during the ARMM anniversaries has become a tradition in itself. “They serve as a constant reminder of our unique customs and traditions, which must remain strong and alive for our future generations to appreciate and further cultivate. The old traditions of other provinces in the Philippines are already dying, because only a few members of the younger generations are willing to nurture them. The rest of them have chosen to migrate to the big cities,” he said.

Fortunately, much of the beloved customs of Muslim Mindanao continue to thrive since each generation has successfully passed them on to the next. Governor Hataman cited the legendary weavers of the Yakans, who hail from his own province, Basilan. Their products have been quickly gaining national recognition and prestige, he said.

Aside from visiting the houses, tourists can also witness and attend the other events being held at the festival:

July 23: Food Festival

August 24: Master Chef competition

September 21-23: ARMM Debate competition

October 17: Lanao del Sur Cultural Night

October 24: Tawi-Tawi Cultural Night

October 31: Sulu Cultural Night

November 7: Sheik Makhdum celebration

November 14: Basilan Cultural Night

November 19: ARMM Cultural Night, street dancing competition, peace concert

November 21: Maguindanao Cultural Night

November 26: Moro Walk

December 4-7: Moro Film Festival

December 7-9L: SportsPeace – Moro Sports Festival

December 19: Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, Closing Program and Awards Night, Fluvial Float competition

All events happen at the ARMM Compound in Cotobato City and are open to the public for free.

Cotabato City marks 59th year with sports and culture

Cotabato 59th founding anniversary

Fanfare and pageantry marks the 59th founding anniversary of Cotabato City, the center of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), up until the end of June.

Located in Maguindanao, Cotabato City came under more international influences compared to other parts of Mindanao. Hindu traders settled in Maguidanao and shared their practices with the various ethno-linguistic groups. In the 15th century, Arab missionary Shariff Kabunsuan landed in Mindanao and introduced Islam. Muslim missionaries meanwhile taught the arts and sciences; they then consequently established a community life that resulted in the Sultanate of Maguindanao. Under Sultan Daputian Qudarat in the 17th century, Cotabato City became the capital of Maguindanao and became an affluent society.

By the early 19th century, roads and ports laid the foundation for modern infrastructure. The Spaniards eventually established a Christian settlement and a military post. Cotabato City became Pueblo de Cotabato. The reign was short-lived when Datu Piang led the attack against the Spaniards and massacred Christians at the turn of the 20th century.

During the American Regime, Datu Piang became the first governor of the Empire Province of Cotabato or “Moroland.” Although Japanese forces invaded Mindanao during World War 2, the Muslim Maguindanaon troops and the Philippine Commonwealth soldiers were successful in repelling them.

After the war, Cotabato City became a first-class municipality and one of Mindanao’s most progressive communities. It was proclaimed a chartered city on June 20, 1959 under Republic Act No. 2364.

The 2018 celebration kicked off during the Philippine Independence Day with daily cultural presentations. Organized by the Department of Education, it will be held at the City Plaza and will run through June 19. The Cotabato Toy Fair at the City Mall will run from June 14-17.

Sports competitions taekwondo, table tennis, jiu jitsu, super fights, and lawn tennis will be held on June 15 in different venues. On June 16, Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi’s Culinary Competition will be held at the People’s Palace while the Sayaw, Cotabato dance workshop and dance competition will be staged at the CCSPC Gym.

More sports events will happen on June 17: Padyak Takbo Para sa Turismo at the People’s Palace and a boxing tournament at City Mall. Between sporting events on that day are entertainments such as the Cosplay Competition at City Mall and Pa-Bingo sa Plaza at the City Plaza. A city celebration is incomplete without a beauty and brains pageant such as the Mutya ng Cotabato Talent Competition at South Seas Mall. This is a preliminary event to the finals.

On June 18, there will be a whole-day boat race, Pagkuya ng Awang, at the Tamontaka River. Tinig Cotabato Choral Competition will be held at the City Mall.

Free legal services will be offered at the People’s Palace on June 19. Meanwhile the two-day competition of the best flower horn fish, titled Clash of the Kings, will be shown at the City Mall. The 2018 Mutya ng Cotabato Pageant will have its main event at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex

The founding day celebration on June 20 will begin with a military parade in the morning and the formal launch of Sayaw, Cotabato – the annual indigenous dance festival, showcasing the diversity of the city’s ethno-linguistic groups as well as modern influences. The Davao-based Day Break Band will perform at the City Plaza. There will be a Halal Industry Development Forum at the Alnor Convention Center.

Just recently, officials and residents here rejoiced as no less than the Philippine National Police declared Cotabato as the SECOND safest city in the whole Philippines.