TABUK, Kalinga, Philippines?Naty Sugguiyao is a Kalinga woman who literally wears her heart on her sleeves. Both of her arms are heavily tattooed with the ethnic designs that link her to her birthplace in Tanudan.
Sugguiyao, who is also the provincial coordinator of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, has another way of ?coming home.? ?I chant the ullalim. It?s my way of fellowship with my grandmother,? she says.
The ullalim or ?Ullalim Banna? is the epic of the Kalinga people through the love story of the warrior Banna and his sweetheart, Laggunawa.
?My grandmother would chant it to us one episode at the time during the night. It would take four days and then it would be repeated,? Sugguiyao recalls.
As in most traditional chants, it was not really the story but the sing-song glottal way that the ullalim was chanted that enchanted her and in due time, she, too, was able to chant the epic.
?Not everyone can do it. There has to be a poet in you,? she says.
During a recent Ullalim Festival, the top chanters in Kalinga tried to out-chant each other at the provincial auditorium, but they had to battle as well the din of the trade fair outside with its loud pop music. The ullalim is usually sung in small gatherings, like the bodong (peace pact) rituals, and would not adopt much to microphones.
Something was lost in translation. Sugguiyao says the people adopted the Ullalim Festival as a sense of pride for the province, but it has become, at least in the festival, an all-encompassing term for the Kalinga way of life and the chanting was no longer the highlight.
Over at the remote Aeta village of Nabuklod in the mountains of Floridablanca, Pampanga, is Teresa Tamtam, who is in her 70s and one of the last few duroro chanters of the Aeta people of Mount Pinatubo.
The duroro is an Aeta hymn, which not only heals the bodies and souls of the Aeta but their whole cosmology as well. Tamtam goes into a trance as she dances the talek while singing a hymn to Apo Namalyari, their supreme god. The benevolent spirits take over her as they battle in song the malevolent spirits within the afflicted.
She is dressed in a red traditional dress and is often accompanied by a kitara (native guitar).
A duroro performance is spiritually and physically draining, and Tamtam would usually be paid in chicken or cash. But doctors hardly visit the village and Tamtam is usually not only the last but the first resort for healing.
?Most of them do not have money and I always advise them to go down the mountains and seek treatment from a doctor,? Tamtam says.
The powers for healing through duroro is transferred through another elaborate ritual, but Tamtam has no successor. ?There is no one worthy and no one is interested,? she says.