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NCCA translates into Filipino, publishes Silliman’s research on Manobo Epic



DUMAGUETE CITY — The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has translated into Filipino and published recently the Ulahingan epic using the research of the late Dr. Elena Maquizo, a Silliman University (SU)-Divinity School professor who worked on the preservation of the Livunganen-Arumanen Manobo tribe’s Ulahingan chants.


Dr. Elena G. Maquiso, a Silliman University (SU) Divinity School professor who worked on the preservation of the Livunganen-Arumanen Manobo tribe’s Ulahingan chants.

According to Melita Aguilar, director of SU-Office of Information and Publications (OIP) that the book “Ulahingan: Epikong-Bayan ng mga Livunganen-Arumanen Manobo,” is based on the “Ulahingan Series,” a six-volume English translation of the Ulahingan chants produced by Maquiso as the principal researcher and transcriber of the research project.

The Ulahingan is an ancient epic of the Livunganen-Arumanen Manobo of North Cotabato, traditionally told through a sacred chant performed by a tala-ulahingan (chanter). Jose Silay, a tala-ulahingan, narrated the Ulahingan for Maquiso’s research, Aguilar said.

The work of Maquiso and her team of Sillimanians on recording, transcribing, transliterating, translating, and editing the Manobo and English text to produce the Ulahingan Series spanned three decades that started in 1963.


Dr. Earl Jude Paul L. Cleope (left), SU vice president of academic affairs, with Rev. Samaon Bangcas (right) in 2010. Cleope and Bangcas worked together to publish the sixth volume of Maquiso’s Ulahingan Series.

Among those who worked with Maquiso on the Ulahingan research project are National Artist for Literature Dr. Edith L. Tiempo and Rhoda Montes as the English translators; Jose Humabad as a recorder and transcriber; and Abraham Sailing as a transliterator, Aguilar added.

When Maquiso passed away in 1995, she had already published five volumes of the Series with the NCCA financially supported Maquiso’s research. Her unfinished manuscript on the sixth volume was continued in 2009 by history professor Dr. Earl Jude Paul Cleope, currently SU vice president of academic affairs, Aguilar revealed.

On the sixth volume, Cleope worked with Divinity School professor Rev. Samaon Bangcas who served as the Manobo text editor. Bangcas, now retired also worked with Maquiso on the Ulahingan Series as a researcher. Bangcas, a Livunganen-Arumanen Manobo introduced the Ulahingan to Maquiso when he was then her student at the Divinity School.

According to the introduction written by Cleope for the Ulahingan’s sixth volume, Maquiso was initially interested in the musical aspect of the chants for her research on indigenous hymns before she became interested in the epic.

The NCCA book credited Silay as the narrator, with Tiempo, Montes, and Cleope as the English translators. Kriscell Labor, publications manager at the Commission on the Filipino Language, made the Filipino translation.

Cleope said the book was published as part of NCCA’s Epikong Bayan project, which aims to publish books on Philippine epics. He said he was contacted by former NCCA chair, National Artist Virgilio Almario for the publication of the Ulahingan in Filipino.

“I hope that it can now be incorporated in the Philippine Literature subjects in college and senior high school,” Cleope said.

Cleope hopes that the epic would become popular so that the youth would be able to learn more about the folk literature from Mindanao. He said the epic’s story is comparable to “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

“It is something that has to be read, because it talks about the story before the coming of Islam…It’s really (the Manobos’) story,” Cleope said.

In the sixth volume, Cleope wrote that the Ulahingan deals with the story of creation, the life and exploits of Agyu and his people before reaching Nelendengan (paradise) and their subsequent life in a paradise on earth.


Cleope bared that the book is set to be launch online this month and NCCA will send 200 copies of the book to Silliman University. (Photos: SU-OIP/Melita Aguilar)