In January 2016, our founder was blessed to be able to travel throughout the Visayas, Philippines with Parangal Dance Company to stay with members of the Caballero family in Barangay Garangan, Calinog, Iloilo and learn about their culture and dance. They are the culture bearers of the Sugidanon epic, binanog dance, panubok embroidery, and the practice of binukot (kept maiden). The deep relationships made during our stay led to the collaboration showcased in our first collection, PANUBOK, incorporating and inspired by traditional Panay Bukidnon embroidery.
Created in collaboration with Regina "Ambing" Villanueva, a master Panay Bukidnon manugtubok (embroiderer), pieces were designed in New York and then embroidered in Barangay Garangan, giving her free reign to embroider traditional designs and placement. She is a master embroiderer, teacher, chanter, and mother of 5, daughter of Leopoldo "Paino" Caballero, master of chanting and tribal chieftain for Garangan, Masaroy, and Agcalaga + the late Rosita Caballero, one of the last binukot of the Panay Bukidnon. Her creativity and expertise are truly the heart of each piece.
The Panak Bukidnon are the tumandok, the native or Indigenous dwellers of the more interior portions of Panay Island. Generally, this area covers the interior barangays of the four provinces of Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, and Capiz. and cultural differences among them are hardly discernible as they speak the same Kinaray-a language with very few semantical differences, and are similar in their farming practices, in the use of fishing traps and other rituals, in their spirit beliefs and practices, in their binabaylan (shamanistic) practices, in their having a binukot (kept maiden) tradition, and in the practice of chanting songs in the epic tradition. Every activity, whether in agriculture, fishing, hunting, and so on, is influenced by the environmental spirits and deified umalagad (souls) of the departed ancestors.
We've been extremely lucky to work with Dr Alicia P. Magos, who facilitated our meeting with the Caballero family through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the agency of the national government of the Philippines that is responsible for protecting the rights of its Indigenous Peoples (IPs). Dr. Magos is a former UP Visayas professor who's spent over 25 years documenting, transcribing, and translating the Panay Bukidnon Sugidanon epic into 10 volumes. In 2001, she worked with the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA), the NCIP, the UP Center for West Visayan Studies and the Municipality of Calinog to found the first Balay Turun-an (School for Living Tradition) which teaches Panay Bukidnon students from three to 25 years old epic chanting, binanog, crafts like panubok and bamboo work, and other forms of oral literature like ambahan (welcome joust), dilot (love song), talda (repartee) and ulawhay (long chanted stories). They have now expanded to 10 far mountains SLTs that aim to improve the knowledge and skills of students and inspire both students and parents to continue the advocacy and learning of Indigenous Peoples. A portion of each purchase from our PANUBOK collection will be donated directly to the SLTs to help them continue passing on these traditions to the next generations.
Learn more about Panay Bukidnon culture in our Stories