On tribal attire mockery, assertion

While many were glued to their television or online screens in anticipation of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first State of the Nation Address (SoNA) on 25 July, some had their day with bulging eyes waiting for just about anything their insensitivities can feast on.

It was a buffet of scrutinies — from attires, colors, hairstyles, who made what, how much, to who was/were with whom. Some opinions made sense, while others were despicably uncalled for, ignorant and insensible.

And even before the culmination of an unfolding historic day, present-day “gossipers,” referred to as “MARITESes,” took to social media their ridiculing comments on the tribal attire donned by Vice President Sara Z. Duterte. One Facebook account user named Al Leon said, “Ginawa nang entertainment ang public service (They have made an entertainment of public service).” Another named Viscount North added, “May cosplayer pala dito (There’s a cosplayer here).” Both accounts were later nowhere to be found on Facebook.

Consequently, it didn’t sit well with netizens, especially those from Mindanao, and swarmed Facebook’s space with statements of disgust how some mock the culture of fellow indigenous Filipinos.

The Vice President wore the traditional clothes of the Bagobo Tagabawa tribe lent to her by Bae Sheirelle Anino, deputy mayor of the said tribe in Davao City.

The authentic Bagobo Tagabawa traditional wear is neither for cosplay nor for entertainment. It is the Vice President’s gesture of bringing honor to her people by representing one of Davao City’s 11 biggest tribes. It was a sight to behold as it brought pride and respect to the different indigenous peoples from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Truly, VP Inday Sara carried with her Mindanao’s rich culture to the halls of Congress.

What is Bagobo tribe?

The Bagobos are considered the most colorful people of the Philippines, heavily embroidering their abaca clothing with beads and stitchwork. They also produce fine metalcraft, working in brass, bronze and iron, and are known for their betel boxes.

One of the largest groups of indigenous peoples (IPs) of Southern Mindanao or Region 11, the Bagobos are composed of three sub-groups — the Tagabawa, the Clata or Guiangan, and the Ubo. They differ, however, in some ways, such as in dialects, dance steps, costumes and their color preferences.

Bagobos’ habitat and origin

The upland Bagobos live in the very mountainous region between the upper Pulangi and Davao rivers in Mindanao, while coastal-dwelling Bagobos once lived in the hills south and east of Mt. Apo — the Philippines’ highest mountain — where their supreme god and common ancestor, Apo Sandawa, ruled as god, so a legend says.

The Bagobo’s weaves are known as Inabal, a traditional textile made from abaca using a special weave. These are made into either pattern of Kinatkat or Ine worn by women. Vegetable and natural dyes are used to color the Ikat-styled textiles that are customarily used as clothing by their royalty.

Gone are the days when our tribal communities are showcased like fruits, flowers and food during festivals. During PBBM’s first SoNA, we saw them in VP Sara as the distinct culture that they are.

Making fun of their traditional attire as “for entertainment and cosplay” is synonymous to betraying their rich and ancient cultures, and their valuable contribution to the country’s and world’s heritage.

As among the world’s most vulnerable, marginalized and disadvantaged groups, we ought to ensure that indigenous peoples’ little voices are heard, their culture preserved, their well-being improved, and their rights respected.

It is apparent that VP Sara’s wearing of the traditional Bagobo Tagabawa dress to last week’s SoNA was a strong assertion — to honor and raise awareness of the victimization of the IPs by communist groups.

Her 29 July statement was loud and clear: “And I will continue to borrow and wear traditional dresses from IPs and other groups I want to honor and stand in solidarity with against terrorist organizations like the NPA (New People’s Army).”


Gigie R. Arcilla returns to private mainstream media after almost six years in public service as director of the News and Information Bureau — Philippine News Agency, an attached agency of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, now Office of the Press Secretary.

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