Panay’s contribution to national history
MICHAEL “XIAO” CHUA
The Manila Times
IWAS invited by the Roxas City government and the Ang Panublion Museum to give a talk at their 2023 Regional Heritage Summit last April 29, 2023 at the Gerry Roxas Foundation Convention Center, Dayao, Roxas City. At first, I wanted to decline the invitation since I am not an expert in Panay history. But I realized, maybe I can give some framing to what they already know. As we believe in the Pantayong Pananaw school of thought, history is not just a mere collection of facts. These facts should be explained within concepts that come from the people. There are many Panay historians and cultural workers but none was more influential with me than Dr. Vicente Caluba Villan, who was my college teacher. He is like “kuya” to me, and we spent many hours talking to each other, especially when we did tours together. No other person, save Zeus Salazar and Bernadette Abrera, was more influential in the way I frame my writings than Villan. As my tribute to him, I shared with the Panayanhons what I learned from him in reflecting about their own history and how they contributed to the nation’s story in general. I can still clearly remember in 2002 when I was in second year college. We were in his faculty room consulting Villan for our project when he explained to us the warfare of our ancestors, “pangayaw” (headhunting), as exemplified by the hangaway or the bagani, which is what they called the warriors of Panay. He told us that their tattoos, or batek, commemorate a certain battle which they won (but is not necessarily the only reason why they had them) and that when they go to the other bayan to fight and win, they come home with goodies for their people taken from the vanquished, and offerings that would please the Bathala so he would bless their lives; they bring back buhay (life), ginhawa (well-being) and dangal (honor) to the bayan. The things he shared to us will be the topic of his 2009 PhD dissertation, “Pintados: Mga Hukbong Bisaya sa Aramadong Eskapedisyong Espanyol sa Kapuluang Pilipinas,” 1565-1898. But the next thing he said that day in 2002 would be mind-blowing. He told us that the spirit of pangayaw continues to this day through the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)! How? They also go to other bayan (nangingibang-bayan) to struggle, and they bring home buhay and ginhawa as well to their families. That means the OFWs are in a real sense mangangayaws or baganis! It dawned on me that real history is not just mere trivia, it should be relevant to today. This is also where I understood that history is not just a series of events but continuing mentalités preserved in our culture and are exemplified through time in many different ways. Eventually, he enlightened me about the Visayan concept of power, “gahum,” which is not only political and social power, but also spiritual power that comes from above. This is what the hangaway gets when he defeats the vanquished, the gahum of the beheaded warrior is transferred to him. The bagani goes home more powerful than ever with all the prestige items he brings back. There is also bad gahum based on the Panay epics chanted by the babaylans and the binukots when that power destroys order and relationships in the community. He also talked to me about the Ilonggo concept of “dungan” — the spirit or life force comparable to the Chinese “chi” inside of a person which animate charisma, convincing power, gift of gab and luck of certain leaders. They had become “dungganon nga tawo.” I used all of these frames in analyzing the governance of another Visayan, the Metro Manila governor and first lady, Imelda Marcos, in my MA thesis. With these frames and concepts, you can see that the revolts of babaylanes such as Tapar; the participation of Aklanons Candido Iban and Francisco del Castillo in Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan (they, too, were OFWs as pearl divers in Australia who donated the Katipunan’s printing press and who fought and died fighting in Panay); the launching of Martin Teofilo Delgado of the Iloilo Revolution; the emergence of the woman Teresa Magbanua of Iloilo as a leader of the revolt; and the fight of the Panay guerrillas against the Japanese (which Villan dubbed as “Hangaway Kontra Samurai”) were the continuation of the pangayaw consciousness to protect “buhay,” “ginhawa” and “dangal” of the “banua.” Also, the rise of dungganon Panayanhons like opera singer Jovita Fuentes, Jaime Cardinal Sin (Aklan), the Lopez family (yes, the ABS-CBN one), Roxas family (President Manuel Roxas, Senator Gerry, Congressman Dinggoy and Senator Mar) and Letizia Roxas Constantino, wife and collaborator to historian Renato Constantino, to prominence are all important Panay contributions to national history. Villan himself continues to write his already influential contributions to the writing of Philippine history.