This page features the different cultural pratices of the Blaan tribe. It is the world view of the Blaan tribe with respect to birth, courtship and marriage, traditional policies/politics, and economic practices.
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Some example of documented cultural practices for the Sarangani Blaan conducted by the Indigenous Peoples Development Program of Sarangani with historian Dr. Heidi K. Gloria are featured in this page.
One knows that a Blaan woman is pregnant when there is a change in the menstrual period and palpitation takes place. The appetite also increases especially craving for sour fruits. An aggressive behavior is easily aroused because a pregnant woman is easily annoyed. A general tendency to inactivity may easily be mistaken for laziness because of the many changes taking place at the same time. When a woman is pregnant, she will consult a midwife. Birth is at hand when, after a terrible stomach pain, blood flows from the vagina. The face of a woman about to deliver a baby turns to something frightful. Crossed-yes, fainting, and the blackening of the area from the navel down, are some indications that delivery is at hand.
The Blaans give special care to pregnant women. One example is by giving all the food they prefer. Another is by providing protection against bad spirits. Giving the woman a concoction of herbs strapped around the belly is believed to protect them against bad spirits. The concoction is called tubli and is composed of kalmingi or kisol (to drive bad spirits away), ufos tbo (to reduce the size of the placenta in order to ease the delivery), and tafong tambasal (same use as the ufas tbo).
In case of unwanted pregnancy, the woman hides her belly with a veil. Malong is sometimes used as a cloak. There are also efforts to squeeze the fetus from the womb. This is done when the father’s identity is not known.
The Blaans have various beliefs related to pregnancy. They believe that no one should block the door when birth is taking place. They also discourage pregnant women from eating “twin” fruits to avoid conceiving twins. A pregnant woman is not allowed to tie a cloth or handkerchief around her belly, since this might cause the baby’s umbilical cord to get all tangled up endangering the baby. It is also said that when a woman is pregnant, one is prohibited from passing behind her chair while eating, because it is believed that the child will inherit the traits of anyone who passes behind the pregnant woman’s chair. It is customary for Blaan visitors to give gift to a woman who has given birth to her eldest child; visitors may not leave the house unless they have given the customary gift. The newborn baby must wait for nine days before he/she is bathed for the first time; he/she is bathed with steamed leaves of baongon/lagundi.
Abortion is practiced, especially in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. It is done when there is no known father of the child, or when the father is already married to someone else.
There are taboos related to pregnancy and childbirth. Bad spirits lurk everywhere from dawn to dusk, so pregnant women are not allowed to go out of the house especially at dark. When it is raining and the sun is shining at the same time (mayaw tana), pregnant women are prohibited from going out of the house. Bagakay is used to cut the umbilical cord. An herbal drink is made from the roots of maltaan, afnay, bamboo, nito/sluan, and kufil kwang ( a type of grass), is given to the mother after delivery (para dili mabughat). The mother could eat any food except bangulan banana, eggplant, patola, ube (yam), and gabi (taro) because these foods might shrink the baby or may cause irritation of the pregnant woman’s navel.
Usually, the woman’s mother or grandmother takes care of the pregnant woman during delivery. The midwife in the community may also be the one to assist in childbirth. In the midwife’s absence, the elderly women assist in childbirth. During the childbirth, the husband will look for a chicken for his wife to eat, burn some herbs, and tend a fire in the yard. When, during the delivery, the husband is absent, but arrives later, he can only enter the house through the window to protect the mother and the baby from illness. Then woman who just gave birth is not allowed to go to sleep for fear of dying in her sleep.
Both the mother and the father name the baby. When the spouses are in abode of the grandfather, the latter of his spouse name the baby. The names could be based on Sangteh or Anggid, the Fulong, heroes, or names of trees. By Helen Lacna Lumbos of Lamlifew, Datal Tampal, Malungon, Sarangani Province.
The signs of approaching pregnancy are the broadening of the hips, quickening of pulse beat (which is visible on ones throat), getting choosy about food, or preference for certain fruits. Before, Blaan women were embarrassed to speak about pregnancy, but today, women do not hesitate to communicate the signs of pregnancy to members of the family.
To avoid miscarriage or abortion, a Blaan woman wraps several kinds of herbs in red cloth. This is worn around the waist like a belt throughout the pregnancy. The herbs are: kalmenge, kisol, tawiling, and sufeh blawen. It is believed that a pregnant woman is attractive to evil spirits because of the baby and that this causes the woman to emit a certain fragrance. To protect her, men drive stakes of sharpened bamboo to the ground as in a fence, to ward off the evil spirits.
A pregnant woman is allowed to sleep a lot and she is prohibited from eating certain fruits (singkit nga prutas), so as not to have twins (fangi). She is, at all times, under the guidance of older folks, who tell her what to avoid lest something of physical misfortune happen to the baby in her womb.
If the pregnant woman sees any flower she likes, she must ask for this in a gentle manner for it is believed that a pregnant woman’s tongue can be very sharp or potent in some manner; so that the plants she desire could wither and die. The pregnant woman is not allowed to sleep in a supine position and should avoid going to creeks or rivers for fear of the uray. During labor, smoking for purification purposes should be done.
Assisting in childbirth is the usual job of the mananabang (healer), hilot, or arbularyo. The husband should be around or nearby for an easy delivery. If the husband arrives late, she should not pass through the door, but through the window. In his absence, any of his clothes should be wrapped around his wife’s belly in order to facilitate childbirth.
The privilege of giving a name to a newborn child belongs to the child’s father or, if living with old people in the house, to the grandparents. The child’s name is usually that of famous personages, such as warriors and other important persons. The child may also be harmed after certain events of incidents that took place when he/she was born. By Betty Katug of Brgy. Kihan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province.
Death and Burial Practices
The Blaan consider death as the end to one’s life. A person is pronounced dead when he no longer has any pulse. When a person dies, his soul leaves the body and lingers in the surrounding area. It eventually goes to kilot, if the person died through natural causes or to kayong if his death was caused by any acts of man, including barang (withcraft).
The Tufa Lam Eel is the ceremony performed in case of death in the community. Food is prepared and musical instruments, such as the edel, accompany the activities. Those participating in the ceremony gather leaves of the nama, tubad almaga (palm tree), and naben, to be used in carrying water. This ensures that the surviving family of the deceased will not become forgetful and will have a good life despite the death in the family. The ceremony is also believed to remove the bad luck brought about by the death in the family.
If a small child dies, his body is wrapped in a banig (mat made of the romblon slats), buried in a covered hammock and hung on a tree. If an adult dies, the Sufeng is done. His body is wrapped in his own blanket and a banig (Eclatan), and buried in the middle of the big tree. If the person who dies was an important person, his body is buried on the roof or bulel of his house. Members of the community guard the dead to prevent the samkot mati from stealing the body. During the wake, the family and anyone else present at the wake yell and chant. The mourning usually lasts for one day. If the person who died was an important person, the mourning may last for a month. According to Eclatan, however, it lasts 3-5 months. During this time, no chicken shall be killed, no members of the deceased family shall be reprimanded for any reason whatsoever, and the close kin shall not change their clothes. In some cases, the dead is buried in the soil. Four persons carry the body to the grave site. Some guard the path and the grave site against the samkot mati.
Before finally laying the dead to rest, all the relatives gather and talk to his soul. Once the relatives have buried their dead, they count nine (9) days, after which they prepare a feast. Then they count another forty (40) days) and prepare another feast. This is done to ward off any bad luck from befalling the family of the deceased.
Courtship and Marriage
The primary expectation of a wife as a partner of her husband is to be someone who can share the burdens of life. A good wife acts as a good hostess in the presence of her husband’s guests. This role is especially expected of her if her husband is of royal blood and entertains frequently in their home. A husband’s role is that of a good provider. This may not necessarily mean actual labor in the fields. A husband is expected to be able to plan and think for the well-being of the family.
A newlywed couple has to live with the bride’s family for at least a year so that they may be guided in their first year of married life, as they are still adjusting to it. The woman’s parents also monitor the couple so that the elders may correct any mistake. In the olden days, a man who has not completed the payment of dowry for his wife may not leave the house of his in-laws. Part of this dowry is service rendered to his parents-in-law, which he has to complete before he can establish a household of his own. Sometimes, a couple may opt to stay with in-laws permanently, especially if the in-laws are rich. The couple that shows respect and love for parents residing may be rewarded by letting them inherit the property.
Separation is allowed if the couple cannot overcome their problems. If after counseling by the two sets of in-laws the problems remain unsolved, the leaders of the community are called to take over the medication process.
The properties of a separated couple will be divided in this manner: if the wife is the erring one, she is expected to return the doubled amount of the dowry paid by her husband. On the other hand, an erring husband makes some payment to his children in compensation for the wrong he has done. If husband and wife equally share the guilt, the elders and leaders of the community will determine how the couple’s property will be divided. Their decision is final. Children of minor age go to the mother, but when the child is not of minor age, he/she may choose whom to live with. The separation is usually marked by a certain ceremony, which calls for the sacrificial pig or chicken, so as not to bring bad luck to any of the participants in the divorce process. By Betty Colano Katug of Brgy. Kihan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province
There is no exact time or age for courtship. In fact, it is also possible that parents pre-arrange the marriage. A man me begin courting when he thinks he is ready to cope with the responsibilities of being a father. When a married man courts another woman, he has to ask the permission of his wife for dwaya (second wife). If the first attempt is failure, there are other ways to obtain the wife’s consent.
The preparation for the wedding involves several stages. The first stage is the Slulok Tising. Here, the parents of the future spouses exchange rings. The second stage is Kfligu, wherein the man’s relatives give dowry of movable property such as agong, fais (kris), bu-us (betel not container), kmagi (gold necklace), horses, carabaos, etc. The last stage involves the determination of the date of the wedding. The stage is called the Mimo Ale Butang. During this stage, the woman’s side decides when the wedding will be held.
Fan-ngulan means that a wife is expected to know her roles and the thing she must do for her family. The husband, on the other hand, is given same tools, such as a bolo ( a tool used for kaingin) and sibat (spears), which he will use to work his kaingin. The new couple resides in the house of the wife’s folks so that the couple’s demeanor may be observed and guided. The new couple may establish their own abode only when they are ready for a family such as when the wife gives birth to their child. At this point, the choice of the family residence will be determined by the location of the family source of livelihood; the kaingin.
Mis-understanding, jealousy, and failure in the observance of the spouse’s duties are the usual reasons for separation and dissolution of the marriage. If the husband is in bad faith, the wife gets all the family’s property. If it is the other way around, then the wife should return the dowry (sunggod) two fold. The children may choose with whom they want to live with. When the child is very young and is incapable of making choices the custody shall be given to the mother. By Helen Lacna Lumbos of Lamlifew, Datal Tampal, Malungon, Sarangani Province.
There are thirteen steps followed in a Blaan wedding. The first is the bringing of the groom to the gumne gu samsung/bahay kasalan (the place where the couple are to be wed). Prior to the wedding, the groom stays in the house. When he leaves this house, he will be riding a horse and the Fulong (tribal chieftain) and other members of the tribal council will be carrying open umbrellas over his head while someone plays the agong. A man and woman will place a mat and some pillows inside the house where the couple will be sitting for the duration of the wedding ceremony.
The second step is the bringing of the bride to the gumne gu samsong/bahay kasalan. The bride often waits inside a mosquito net while waiting for the arrival of the groom. When the groom arrives, she will then move out of her house. She will also be sheltered under the opened umbrellas held by the Fulong (tribal chieftain) and other members of the tribal. Same as with the groom, there will also be the playing of the agong.
When the bride is nearing the gumne gu samsong/bahay kasalan, a tribal leader will give the fais or kris to the groom, this is a symbol of courage in life and protection for the family and the community. When the bride arrives, the groom arises to meet her, which is a mark of pagsusumamo (respect) for the people who accompanied his bride. After this, the bride and the groom will sit in order to be blessed.
The fourth step is called the Amleng, where in an unmarried woman will walk from behind the couple. This symbolizes the departure of the couple from the unmarried life. Next comes the Samtingko Ulo. Here, the Blaan leader will place his hands on the heads of the bride and the groom and will bump the heads together, symbolizing the mutuality of the couple in thought and action.
The next step is the Sasungit Knaan, wherein a woman will bring two heaps of rice placed on top of a banana leaf and a man will bring two small glasses of water. The tribal leader of the Fulong will be the one to feed the rice and water to the couple, at the same time uttering a regulation that comes from Dwata or Mele. This means that neither of them should be left to go hungry. The food and water are symbols of a healthy mind and body and care for each other, especially when they will have children and become a family.
The seventh step is called Amngawe. This is where the bride and groom will each receive one or two messages or admonitions from a man and a woman. One can learn how to handle a family from such advices.
The eight step is the Kasable or the gift giving. One gift will come from a man and another gift come from a woman. The gifts will be presented in front of the newlyweds. When the gifts are already in the front of the newly wedded couple, they will exchange the gifts. This act symbolizes the love of close relatives and it also means that they will be there for the other when a crisis arises.
On the ninth step, called Kasgare Di Sasato Nawa, a provincial officer will proclaim that the couple is officially married and will be together for the rest of their lives. The next step is called Admasal, wherein the Fulong (tribal chieftain) will give his closing prayer, which symbolizes the end of the wedding.
The eleventh step, the Kaflahew Di Dad Lami Sansong, is a celebration of the wedding with the performances of the maral, faglung, agong, etc. Almibot Dad Lami Sansong is the next step, wherein the couple will shake the hands of all the visitors. The last step is called Fanles E Kaflahew. This is where the celebration is continued until all the guests have left the celebration, and the wedding is officially ended. By Fulong Samuel M. Gangoso, NCIP Sarangani CDO III from Maasim, Sarangani Province (deceased as of website creation)
Traditional Political Practices
The Blaan leader is chosen by the community from among their nobles. A man or a woman is qualified to become a Fulong (leader) for as long as the man/woman belongs to a fulong libun (family or former leaders or wisemen). The community’s choice of a Fulong need not be directly communicated to the person chosen when people begin approaching him for help or assistance. Once chosen, the Fulong must be brave, loyal to his people, trustworthy, honest kindhearted, merciful, generous, hospitable and friendly to be considered a good leader. He must also possess a lot of property.
The Fulong serves as the community’s lawmaker, the law enforcer and judge, with the assistance of the community’s elders. He resolves or decides conflicts. He determines the proper punishment for someone who has committed an offense. His decisions give rise to the laws of the community and sees to it that the laws are followed. With his many responsibilities come several privileges. He is well respected and obeyed at all times. He is allowed to have many wives. He has servants to attend to his family’s needs. Whenever he has a visitor, everyone in the community brings food to his house.
Laws are made by means of the Kasfala or the process of conflict resolution. Murder, theft and adultery are considered as major offenses. An example of the minor offense punished is an act of lasciviousness committed against a girl or a woman. The punishment imposed depends on the nature of the offense and the demands of the offended party. Adultery is punishable with a fine is the fine is not paid; the man and woman who committed adultery are tied together with a rock, and then dropped into the sea. If the penalty consists of payment and the Fulong assumes this obligation on behalf of the offender, the offender must work in the service of the Fulong until such time that he decides that he has served long enough to pay his debt.
The most common causes of conflict are slad yaan (adultery), stugad salek (gossip) and jealousy over the prosperity of another. These conflicts are resolved by the Fulong with the assistance of the elders. The Fulong and the elders are called to discuss the problem. The parties are then summoned to appear before the Fulong and elders and settle the conflict. If the parties fail to arrive at amicable settlements, a determination of whether or not an offense was committed follows. The appropriate penalty or punishment is the thereafter imposed on a party who has been adjudged to commit an offense.
In some cases, a pangayao is resorted to resolve conflict between persons belonging to different tribes. Adultery between a woman of one tribe and a man of another tribe is considered a major offense against the tribe of the woman’s husband. It is considered an insult and calls for a resort to pangayao. When a person from another tribe kills another belonging to a different tribe, the family of the victim will seek to get even with the family of the offender. The pangayao ends when the aggrieved person is satisfied with his revenge. A pangayao may nevertheless be averted by a dyandi (blood compact). The Fulong summons both parties, who kill a white chicken, light a fire, and cut rattan, to symbolize the end of the conflict. They call upon the spirit who takes away life and pledge that whoever betrays the dyandi shall die.