Two national living treasures take the spotlight in ARMM villages’ expo

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Cotabato City  –– Beyond the grand villages built here is the hope to educate other people outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on the rich culture and history of the Bangsamoro people.

With various ethnolinguistic groups found in many regions, the Philippine archipelago has been characterized by cultural diversity. Given this, the ARMM has its creative way to show its peoples’ heritage from the past, maintained and preserved for future generations.

The ARMM has mounted villages that represent the different ethnic groups in the region to let other people understand, learn and appreciate the Bangsamoro culture and traditions. From cultural performances, where participants wear colorful costumes, to architectural styles, images of scenic places, native delicacies, and exhibition of artifacts and livelihood, people in these villages demonstrate their authentic lifestyle.

“The other people might not know about the history of the Bangsamoro but by mingling with the activities in the villages, they are given the opportunity to possibly learn our culture,” ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said.

Amir Mawallil, ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information chief said: “In a time when our people are subject to unfair judgment and in a country where it is a challenge to assert our identity, the cultural villages offer a refuge. It is a reminder of who we are, how there is so much for us to be proud of, and what we need to continue fighting for.”

One of the five villages, specifically the Basilan village, or the ‘Weavers of Peace’, highlighted two of ARMM’s pride — Ambalang Ausalin and Uwang Ahadas who have been recognized as National Living Treasures, or ‘Manlilikha ng Bayan’ by the Philippine government.

The Basilan village showcased the artistry and unique cultural talents of its artists. Yakans are known as the finest weavers in southern Philippines even as they are recognized for their rich musical tradition.

Apuh Ambalang, as she is called by her community of weavers, is from Lamitan City. She was recognized for her commitment to safeguarding and promoting the Yakan ‘tennun’ or tapestry-weaving tradition. She is also known for her ‘suwah bekkat’ (cross-stitch-like embellishment) and ‘suwah pendan’ (embroidery-like embellishment).

In her younger days, she was mentored by her mother who was the province’s best weaver. She practiced with strips of coconut leaves and started to weave all the designs of the Yakan cloth, including the ‘sinalu’an’ and the ‘seputangan’, two of the most intricate categories in Yakan weaving.

Atty. Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary, also concurrent ARMM Social Welfare and Development secretary and the Basilan village chieftain, said: “The Tennun Yakan is an extraordinary important manifestation of Yakan culture.”

“Its categories, colors, designs, motifs, and significance will constantly remind Apuh Ambalang in her outstanding work, what it means to be Yakan – people of the earth,” she said noting that such craft affirms the Yakans’ identity as a people, weaving the threads of culture, interlacing past, and future.

The Basilan village is also proud of the unique talent of Ahadas, a 73-year-old musician who utilizes native instruments such as the gabbang, agung and kwintangan kayu. Until today, Ahadas still continues to educate the locals about the Yakan musical traditions despite being almost blind.

He was proclaimed as a National Living Treasure for his dexterity in playing Yakan musical instruments such as the kwintangan, gabbang, agung, and kwintangan kayu, among others, and for his deep knowledge of the aesthetic possibilities and social contexts of these instruments.

The tennun, musical traditions, and the way of living are important in Yakan’s history and identity representing the beautiful province of Basilan and its people.-ARMM/ Bureau of Public Information

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