By Germelina A. Lacorte
Davao Today

Caraga, Davao Oriental Masandag Diano-Pagsacs face flushed when she heard another version of the story of the origin of dagmay. It was not a tamisa (a Mandaya term for an only son) who found it, she insisted in Mandaya. It was a maiden taking a bath in the river.

An indigenous peoples group Sildap is working on a book on the 11 tribes in Mindanao and in one of their research, has come upon the story of the origin of the dagmay among the Mandaya tribe. In Sildaps version, a tamisa was in a river, when he saw a beautiful cloth in a rock near the Balete tree. The cloth was so beautiful he decided to bring it home. When the Tagamaling (spirit living in the Balete) found that he lost the cloth, he was very mad and cursed the one who took it. Youll die, wrapped by the cloth youve stolen. Right in that instant, the boy died and the people asked forgiveness from the Tagamaling. The Tagamaling appeared in their dreams, finally appeased, and taught them how to make the dagmay.

Various designs of the dagmay( photo)

Among the Mandayas, the dagmay has been worn as womens skirts but it is also used as blankets and to wrap the dead.

Each design, however, carries with it a certain story. Most of the traditional designs, which can easily date back to over a hundred years, have come to them in dreams.

In Masandags version, it was a maiden taking a bath in the river, who caught sight of a beautiful cloth left near the Bodbod (Balete) tree. The maiden also saw a fleeting glimpse of its owner.

The cloth was so beautiful she couldnt resist taking it home. When the maiden fell asleep, the Tagamaling appeared. But unlike in the Sildaps version of the tale, the Tagamaling wasnt mad at the maiden at all, said Masandag, as long as she maiden followed what she wanted the maiden to do. The spirit dictated upon the maiden how to make the dagmay.

As soon as she was awake, the maiden started working on the dagmay. Thus, the designs that included the binaybayan, the otaw (man), the patolla, buaya (crocodile), bilaan and the utaw and the kallungnan (which refers to the poles where the dagmay cloth is rolled, represented by stripes in the design).

Those were the designs that Masandag learned from her mother at 14.

Now at 68, she realized that no one among the younger ones is interested in the art of weaving anymore. She and her sister Amayang are among the last who know the art of the dagmay, said Agusto Diano, Masandags brother. The younger ones are not interested anymore. They go to the cities to study and then to work.

Masandags eyes are welling with tears.

She often cries when she realized that when shes gone, the art of the dagmay will disappear with her, Diano said.

Diano heads the Mandaya tribal council in Pantuyan, a village about 15 kilometers of sloping road from Caraga town. He dreams that the tribe could put up a school where Masandag can teach the fast disappearing art of the Mandayas. He said theres still time to learn the old art, while the last of the Mandaya weavers are still around and some of the men, including himself, still know how to make the tools for weaving.

Since most of the younger ones are studying in the cities, they could target the youth who dropped out of school so that they can also earn a living at the same time.

But they dont yet have the funds to realize their dream.

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