UST Salinggawi retells myth of Cotabato’s sea monster in annual dance concert

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Photo by M.T. Provido

THE UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe staged a retelling of the mythical sea serpent Bakunawa in its 49th dance concert at the UST Seminary Gym last May 4 to 5.

“We decided to use this event as a dark metaphor to [highlight] the pressing news about land grabbing that is happening to our indigenous people,” head choreographer Robert Biadoma told the Varsitarian. “After brainstorming about ancestral domains and eclipses, we put this version of Bakunawa.”

The Bakunawa is a Philippine mythical creature often depicted as a giant sea serpent living in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The Bakunawa, in folklore, is believed to cause eclipses by devouring the moon.

The concert opened with the “Mandaragat” dance, which treated the audience to a montage of folk dances by fishermen as they capture and sell their produce. This performance premiered in the “Indak National Folk Dance Festival” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last March.

The retelling of the mythology started when the Salinggawi dancers interpreted a T’boli dance to bestow a blessing to Adyaw, a newborn child of the T’boli community.

Following the dance blessing was the birth of El, later the leader of the T’boli tribe who goes into an arranged marriage with Adyaw.

Foreign tribes try to colonize the land of the T’boli but are defeated by the indigenous community.

A Bakunawa disguises as a woman in an attempt to lure El and eat him. But the Bakunawa’s plan fails when El proclaims his unwavering love for Adyaw. Filled with anger, the Bakunawa devises a plan to conquer the land of Sebu with the help of the foreigners.

As Adyaw performs a ritual dance to summon the dawn, the Bakunawa rises and eats the sun, signaling the start of battle between the foreigners and the T’boli tribe. Despite the absence of light, the T’boli tribe defeats the foreigners and Adyaw puts the sun back in the sky.

A ritual dance of marriage between El and Adyaw capped the concert.

Conservatory of Music alumna KL Dizon enchanted the crowd with three intermission performances.

The dance concert of the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe traces its beginnings to “Life and Legend,” a major production staged in 1983.

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