Pagpangugnan: Tagakaulo Traditional Wedding

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For the Tagakolu youth, discovering and learning the process of their traditional way of getting married is beyond significant. Last February 26-28, 2016, the “Ubun na Kettal”, composed of Indigenous youth leaders from the villages of Kangku and Kalatagan in Malita, appreciated the conversation on their traditional wedding ceremony or “Pagpangugnan”, particularly how the Tagakolu traditionally chooses a significant other.

The process gave them the space to understand that “sablag” or bride wealth is an essential part of the Tagakolu marriage. It binds not only the two individuals involved but also, the families of these individuals. It symbolizes their commitment to each other. This is further manifested through the “pag-mesmes”, part of the ritual in the wedding ceremony where the parents of both parties will mold rice into a ball. The rice must stick together as one, as this foretells the kind of marriage the couple will have. The “mesmes” or the rice is eaten together with a dish that the bride and groom will serve each other. This entire ritual signifies their vow of love that would harmonize them as couple.

The youth leaders realized that they must have a deep understanding of their ancestors’ traditions as this will lead them into a deeper understanding of their current practices.
They felt that this conversation was the proper venue for them to express their thoughts and understanding as leaders of the present generation. One youth shared his thoughts on the practice of giving bride wealth, “Madyaw uman ya awun sablag kay katanem man yeiy na kamunan, manang madyaw galu uman aw dili to-o dakula kay pagkatigdaan ya apit I eseg. Kun mabatug galu ya sablag atag sa nyangugnan adon magpalekat silan sa kinabuhi a minyo na awun capital, pwede uman na tenga-en, ya katenga sablag atag sa matikadeng, ya katenga atag sa nyangugnan.” (It would be better if the bride wealth were not that expensive because it will be hard for the men. Maybe it’s possible that the wealth can be shared between the bride’s family and the newly wed in order to support them as they start their own family.) One elder shared that “it is possible as long as it is mutually agreed by both families”. The elder also appreciated the thoughts of the youth as it reflected how these tribal leaders are changing with the times.

The conversation became an avenue for the youth and elders to gather and engage in an intergenerational dialogue. Moreover, the elders expressed that the present youth of the tribe should not be in a hurry to wed but rather, they should focus on finishing school and earning a degree. They see education as an important factor for the youth to have more opportunities ahead of them. In addition, the elders caution the youth by reminding them of the importance of respecting their parents especially when asking permission for when they do decide to get married or have found someone significant to them. They should neither bring someone to sleep with at home nor a baby without their parents’ knowledge. These are concrete examples of ‘paglakadenen’ or the act of disrespecting their ancestors and parents. Likewise, the elders also shared that parents should respect their child’s choice of a lifetime partner. For mixed marriages of Tagakolu and non-Tagakolu, sablag is still observed because this is a way of honoring the tribe’s traditions. In the end, however, it is ultimately the decision of the marrying families whether to practice this or not.

Note: This story is written by the youth leaders of Ubun na Kettal together with our community partners and iEmergence.