Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

On 18 March 2001, UNESCO for the first time awarded the title of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” to 19 outstanding cultural spaces or forms of expression from the different regions of the world. In Asia, UNESCO honored six masterpieces, among them, the Hudhud chants of the Ifugao of northern Luzon.

On November 25, 2005, the Maranao epic chant, the Darangen, was also proclaimed as another Philippine masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

UNESCO defines oral and intangible heritage as: “The totality of tradition-based creations of a cultural community, expressed by a group of individuals and recognized as reflecting the expectations of a community in so far as they reflect its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means.

The NCCA Intangible Heritage Committee (NCCA/ICH) undertakes the inventory of Philippine forms of intangible heritage; and the safeguarding of these. There are five categories: 1) oral traditions and expressions, 2) performing arts, 3) social practices and festive events, 4) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and 5) traditional craftsmanship.

Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao   

The hudhud is recited and chanted among the Ifugao only during four occasions: the harvesting and weeding of rice, funeral wakes, and bone-washing (bogwa) rituals. Estimated to have originated before the 7th century, the hudud – comprised of over 200 stories with about  40 episodes each  The language of the chants, almost impossible to transcribe, is full of repetitions, synonyms, figurative terms and metaphors. Performed in a leader/chorus style, the lead chanter, munhaw-e – often an elderly woman – recites an introductory line to set the tone, and then this is taken up by a chorus of women – the mun’abbuy, to the end of the phrase. This cycle is repeated until the end of the episode. It may take days to complete a story, depending on the situation. The hudhud is a celebration of Ifugao heroes, heroines, wealth and culture.

The conversion of the Ifugao to Christianity weakened their traditional culture. The hudhud is linked to the manual harvesting only of tinawon or indigenous rice. The few people who know all the epics are now old, and young people are not inclined toward the practice of this tradition. The NCCA/ICH is completing next month the UNESCO/Japan supported the 3-year project of safeguarding and the transmission of the epic, to rekindle life in the dying chant. (jtperalta)

Safeguarding and Transmission of the Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao

Detailed Accomplishment Report  Terminal Report

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The Maranao epic, the Darangen

The darangen is an epic chant associated with the Maranao people, with the core area of habitation being the province of Lanao del Sur in the island of Mindanao.  Although other variations exist among the Maranao ethnic communities living in other areas, among the Maguindanao ethnic group, and Manobo groups to the Pacific Coast. The one in Lanao del Sur is considered the most definitive.

It is a pre-Islamic form of primarily oral literature, presently existing in an Islamic context. Implications contained in the epic point to influences reaching as far west as India.  The epic is the culmination of all these influences and the core culture of the Maranao

The traditional Maranao belief and value systems are founded on the truisms of the darangen.  The mythologies contained therein constitute the foundation of indigenous beliefs and value system. It is a body of traditions and functions as a societal lynchpin since it is a record of the way of the ancestors. The word “darangen” comes from the Maranao word “darang,” which means “to narrate, in the form of a song or chant.”

The already recorded darangen is composed of about 17 cycles composed in iambic tetrameter or catalectic trochaic tetrameter. Each cycle is independent of the others, if taken individually, but a study of the adventures and lives of the characters in the songs show that the cycles are connected to one another in a logical progression.

The darangen epic is one of the lengthiest of the Philippine epics.  The available versions alone are contained in eight volumes which comprise 47 books or verses, in 25 chapters that can be chanted in as many days.  Preliminary studies suggest that the epic has some 72,000 lines.

An analysis of the role of the darangen in Maranao society will offer valuable clues into how the Maranao people relied on oral traditions to provide societal norms and solutions to certain economic, cultural and historical issues in their society.  The darangen remains an important source of information regarding the Maranao value system, social etiquette, mythology and marriage customs and traditions. Ancient Maranao society was highly structured and prescribed a strict code of behavior.  In addition, the darangen explores the relationship between the earth-bound society and the more mythical sky kingdoms.  More importantly, the darangen contains the Maranao theories of governance and strategies for war and combat. The epic is a story of how communities struggled to maintain peace and defended their territories from invaders.  It is inevitable that the epic would be filled with advice for the warrior, such as how to handle a sword, how to declare war, and enter into treaties. (jtperalta)

Related: Pinagmulan: Enumerations from the Philippine Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Visit the UNESCO website for the complete list of the 19 entries for the 2001 UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  

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