Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Kalinga Woman Painting

Kalinga Woman (Bu'baqi) or Waiting for Banna (Man-uuway kun Banna) 2015
Acrylic on 10" x 30" canvas
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Picture taken at my studio
I have been continually inspired to paint by my Ifugao fabric collection.  I was even doubly motivated after I read the Kalinga folklore about Banna, his battles and pursuit of a wife. The story energized me to tackle another Kalinga-inspired painting. This time I painted on 40" x 30" canvas using acrylics, a medium I have not used in a while so it took a little bit of dabbling to refresh my brain cells on the technique which is quite different than painting with watercolors.  I also had to get adjusted to the large canvas after having worked on small format watercolors for years now. This is probably the largest painting I have done so far.
The subject is a girl named Edonsan (or Laggunawa), Banna's new wife who got separated from him while they were making their way back to Banna's village after their wedding.  Banna had to return to her village to help defend the villagers from a siege by an enemy tribe. He had instructed Edonsan to wait for him to come back. The painting depicts Edonsan waiting for Banna who would never return since he was killed during the encounter. Edonsan is wearing an alampay or tapis, a woven cloth worn as a garment typically tied around the waist often without any top covering. After I completed this painting, I realized I have now created four paintings featuring Ifugao weaving,  I  have what can be called a series collection but probably more appropriately an obsession with the Ifugao culture.  Original title of this  painting is 'Bu-baqi' which is Kalinga for Woman which is now changed to "Man-uuway kun Banna" (Waiting for Banna in Kalinga) to tie in to the ullalim story about Banna that inspired my artwork.

Kalinga Woman (Bu'baqi) or Waiting for Banna (Man-uuway kun Banna) 2015
Acrylic on 10" x 30" canvas
by jojo sabalvaro tan

An ullalim is an epic poem or song relating the story of heroic exploits passed down for hundred of years, a tradition, my guess is, was repeated everywhere on earth ever since men developed the human oral language or learned to communicate. This is in the exact same line as the Native American storyteller, the European bards or minstrels or the legendary Scheherazade of the One Thousand and One Nights. Storytellers would go from one gathering of people to another  telling epic stories to entertain or spread the news.  I imagined the ancient Kalingas sitting close to each other around the fire in rapt attention listening to the  performance of the ullalim declaimer or singer. The performance could go on for hours or days, interspersed with dancing or chants  and some communal enjoyment of the latest hunt victim or gathered food items such as fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves or tree bark. I also imagined someone drawing or carving  on stone or cave walls elements of the stories they were hearing about.  More often than not, the creative storyteller will add his own interpretations to a story including embellishments or eliminating elements from the story based on the audience or the environment. Just like performers today, where an intimate connection is developed between the audience and the storyteller, the ancient storytellers and their audience were able to establish  a personal bond with each other enabling the transfer of knowledge and culture throughout the generations. 


As in any ancient culture,  the indigenous people of the Philippines, such as the Kalingas, handed down folk stories and myths by their oral re-telling from one generation to the next. The legend of the love of Banna and Edosan (also referred to in some versions as Laggunawa) is one of the most lasting ullalims in the history of the Philippines  This story, which inspired me to create this painting,  came down through the ages with some parts of the story left out or embellished, typical of any folk lore. Here is one version of the story from http://aboutphilippines.ph/

The Legend of the Sleeping Beauty

By Virginia Gaces

In those days, tribes were not in good terms with each other. Tribal wars were common. There was a man in Tinglayan called Banna, who had extraordinary bravery and strength. He had an unusual charm so people look up to him for leadership. He was also a very good "ullalim" (epic song) singer.
One day Banna realized that he needed a life time partner, someone to share his life with, so he went in search for a wife. Since there were no eligible women in his barrio he decided to ascend Mount Patukan, a mountain east of Tinglayan and go to the sitio of Dacalan, Tanudan. While it was still daylight, he stopped and rested under a big tree at a distance away from the village so that no one could see him. This is because he might provoke trouble by his presence.
When night came, Banna slowly went down nearer to the village and searched for a place to observe. After some time, he heard a soft, melodious female voice singing the ullalim. He was drawn to the voice and moved closer to the hut. Peeping, he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on. Long, wavy hair, dark, fringed eyes, and a voice that grew sweeter and sweeter as he drew closer to the hut. Banna was mesmerized...captivated by the lyrical voice. The leaves of the trees around him seemed to be dancing in unison with the woman's ululations. He knew it was extremely dangerous for him to reveal himself inside the village territory, but his burning desire to meet the woman, was stronger than his sense of survival.

He knocked boldly at the "sawali" (bamboo made) walls of the hut.
" Anna tago," (Someone's here.)
" Umma sanat?" (Who is it?), the singing stopped, but the spoken words were the most appealing sound Banna had ever heard.
" This is Banna" from Tinglayan.
He heard hurried movements from the house, then a male voice spoke harshly, "What do you need?"
The natives were very protective of their women and properties, and Banna knew that he could get killed by his boldness.
"I don't mean any harm, I come in peace. I would like to meet the woman who sings the ullalim with passion."
The family was so nervous of letting a stranger in the house and had urged him to go home instead. But Banna was persistent and had refused to go.
Dongdongan - the father of the woman - slowly opened the door and saw a young, handsome man standing like a sentinel at the door. He repeated his plea for Banna to leave but the stance of the Banna indicated, he would not be budged from where he stood. So, he reluctantly let him in.
"I am Banna from Tinglayan"

Once inside the house, as dictated by tradition, Dongdongan handed Banna a bowl of water. It was an old tradition that once a stranger is accepted into a house, it is also understood that he will be protected and kept safe by the host family. As a symbol of this unwritten agreement, the stranger would be given a drink of water. This is called "paniyao". If a stranger is not given one, then it denotes an existing hostility which may result to a deadly fight if the stranger does not leave immediately. The second phase of the ritual continued. Dongdongan offered Banna the "buyo" - a bland, powder which when chewed with certain leaves would produce red tinged saliva. This concoction is called "moma".
Ullalim was the official means of communication then so they sang as they talked. Banna too had a strong, masculine voice and it was apparent he could sing well. In his ullalim Banna revealed his search for a wife. Dongdongan introduced him to her daughter, Edonsan, who readily accepted Banna's handshake.

Banna, then and there proposed to Edonsan. Edonsan in turn, accepted the proposal and there was a flurry of activity, as all the village folk were invited to a meeting and then a "canao" (festivities with dancing and singing). Banna and Edonsan dance the "salidsid" (courtship dance) to the tempo of the gongs, while the community participated in the "tadok" (dance for all). The celebration lasted the whole day, with everyone in the village participating. No one had gone to the fields and to the kaingin as people usually did. The village people were the witnesses to the exchange of vows between the two. There were no officiating priests or Judges, no official documents to sign, but the vows were always kept and were considered sacred by everyone in the village.
Tradition also dictated that Banna had to stay with Edonsan's family for 7 days to prove his sincerity and purity of intention. Banna and Edonsan had their honeymoon along the slope of the Patokan Mountain picking guavas and wild strawberries, making love and dropping by the river to catch fish for supper.
In the evening of each day for the seven days that Banna was there, Edonsan took Banna to each of her relative's house. It is considered good luck to do so, as it is believed that the blessings and approval of relatives are vital to the happiness of the couple. At the end of the 7th day, the couple prepared to leave for Banna's village where they will establish residence. The parents of Edonsan and the village people prepared native cakes and tobacco as gifts for the departure of the newly married couple.

As dawn broke, the village people came together to see them off. The two left happily, with their hands entwined against each other. The trail was adorned with guavas and strawberries and they had a handful as they trek towards the summit of Patokan. It took them 8 arduous hours to get to the top. As soon as they reached the top, they heard unusual noises coming from Banna's village which was a few miles below them. Banna had a premonition that it was something dangerous so he instructed Edonsan to stay put and wait for him. He was going down to his village to investigate the cause of the ruckus.
Banna ran all the way down to the village. As soon as he was seen by the village people, a cheer reverberated in the air. He was informed hastily that their village was under siege and that his leadership was needed to drive the trespassers away. The bloody, face to face encounter of the two warring tribes went on for hours, spears and bolos clashed against each other as more bodies piled up in between the cluster of the nipa huts. The great number of the invading tribe slowly weakened Banna's men. One by one they fell, bloodied, to the ground. He could not possibly go back to Edonsan, Banna thought. He would fight up to his very last breath - but he had to make sure Edonsan does not come down to the village. Hastily, he instructed one of his men to warn Edonsan, but the man never made it far. He and Banna were simultaneously wounded and fell bleeding to the ground. Banna died with his spear in his hand and his last vision was the face of Edonsan .
Edonsan, on the other hand, waited and waited...and waited. But there was no Banna to take her home. She was weak from weariness and heartache. She had no desire to live without her Banna. When it was evident, Banna was not coming for her, she slowly crumpled to the grassy- matted forest and wept uncontrollably. Tears flowed down from her cheeks as she grew weaker and weaker and the tears flowed more and more copiously.
Night came and Banna had not returned yet...and Edonsan had grown weak with grief and fatigue, her breath slowly coming out in gasps... until she closed her eyes and breathed her last. On the spot where her body was laid to rest, sprang two waterfalls which are believed to be the tears of Edonsan.

In Tinglayan, one can clearly see from a distance, the beautifully, shaped body of a reclining woman.


My other paintings featuring the Ifugao woven cloth
Clockwise: Meme Na Anak, 2011, The Vanishing Breed, 2010 and Kalinga Madonna and Child, 2015

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