New book on ‘secret’ of Panay Bukidnon dance out

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A mysterious element animating a traditional dance of the indigenous Panay Bukidnon is the subject of a new book from a leading music ethnomusicologist and Panay Bukidnon culture advocate.

Maria Christine Muyco’s Sibod: Ideology and Expressivity in Binanog Dance, Music, and Folkways of the Panay Bukidnon explores the music and choreography of the group’s famous binanog dance.

But beyond the realm of performance, it situates the concept of síbod in the context of the group’s cultural life.

“The primary objective of this book is to contribute the ideology of síbod to the conversations about music and dance, and to the wider terrains of cultural studies,” writes Muyco, who teaches at the UP College of Music in Diliman.

The Panay Bukidnon are an indigenous group who live in the highlands of central Panay straddling the provinces of Iloilo and Capiz. For research, Muyco started to live with the community in 2001, moving from one barangay to the next, staying in one for up to a month.

“A reason for my mobility was the insurgency problem in some of these areas,” she adds. “I was avoiding encounters between military and communist insurgents.”

Once settled in, she observed rituals, festivities, and other communal gatherings, such as a patawili, a gathering in which members help out in farm work and also dance and play musical instruments. It was in one such get-together that she first heard the word “síbod.”

A pair of dancers started to dance the binanog, with people spontaneously gathering around them to enthusiastically chant and clap, joining the agung (bossed gong) and tambur (cylindrical drum) accompaniment and creating a rousing atmosphere.

But as the energy continued to rise, a dancer stopped and cried, “Wara dai-a ga- síbod!” (It is not in síbod!) while giving the musicians an indignant look. The moment made Muyco rethink her study.

The following day, a similar performance took place. This time, someone from the crowd cried, “Gai-síbod dai-a!” Síbod is working.

“I was already in the second year of my research, yet I felt that I had not fully grasped the essence of binanog,” she says.

As a result, she expanded her study from the structural aspects of the group’s music and dance to the “wider gamut of their cultural life.” The broadening of her focus also entailed a shift from using Western-oriented perspectives to a more native one.

“I was led to find síbod as the core to various interlinks within and around the binanog phenomenon.”

Aside from her work in the academe, Muyco is also the founder of Balay Patawili, a nongovernment organization that promotes Panay Bukidnon culture.

Sibod: Ideology and Expressivity in Binanog Dance, Music, and Folkways of the Panay Bukidnon is published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press.

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