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Reviewed by:
  • Resilient Music at the Margins, Vols 1–3 by José S. Buenconsejo
  • Mary Talusan (bio)
Resilient Music at the Margins, Vols 1–3. José S. Buenconsejo. College of Music, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Philippines, 2017. Project funded by the National Research Council of the Philippines. DVDs with English subtitles. Volume 1, Nature's Presences: Music in Manobo Dulangan, T'boli, Obo, and the Tagakaolo Communities in Southern Mindanao, Philippines (80 minutes). Volume 2, Sound Tenderness: Music of the Non-Violent Palawanun Society in Southern Philippines (87 minutes). Volume 3, Seven Dances of Life: Pledges to Others (Janji) in Two Sama Communities in Tawi-Tawi Islands, Southern Philippines (112 minutes). To obtain a copy, contact José S. Buenconsejo (

Three documentary films offer valuable insight into the intimate lives of several indigenous cultural communities in Southern Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines and make important contributions to our understanding of the richness, depth, and diversity of Philippine cultures. Songs, instrumental music, dance, and ritual convey deeply personal, social, and spiritual sentiments. This series will not only educate but also cultivate sympathy and empathy for the grace, beauty—and resilience—of rarely seen cultures and individuals against the prevalence of tourist representations and increasing marginalization in their traditional homelands. Although each film focuses on a specific area of the Philippines, chapters are organized thematically by linking music to socially communicative meanings rather than by cultural-linguistic group, instrument type, or musical genre.

Volume 1 offers a window into the daily activities, music, rituals, and mythologies of four indigenous groups that have been experiencing serious change to their environment over several decades. Settlers introduced wetrice cultivation, fish farming, and raising livestock that have degraded the diversity of aquatic life in the lake on which T'boli live, hunt, and gather. Before the arrival of outsiders, T'boli traded with other lumad (collective name for autochthonous groups) such as Manobo Dulangan and Obo people (see Buenconsejo 2002, 2008), also featured in the documentary. With the influx of tourists and tourist-related industries, the natural soundscape of the environment transformed to one infused with the noise of motorized vehicles and electronically amplified sounds. Indigenous languages and traditions are [End Page 142] threatened as Cebuano, the main language of Visayans, and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, are spoken with greater frequency, especially among the youth. Because of these major changes, Buenconsejo argues that there has been "deep Visayanization" of the indigenous peoples' lifeways, society, and culture.

The first chapter, "Songs of the Ancestors Duyuy: Managing Emotions through Song," opens with evidence of Visayanization in the land of the T'boli. As Ida, a Manobo Dulangan woman, climbs into a bamboo hut, the delicate sounds of bells on her ankles jingle amid barking dogs, boisterous children, and motorbikes. Ida's lyrics (English translation provided) reflect her love for this special place "made for the Manobo" by the Creator, yet she is deeply saddened. Without specifying the source of her sadness, she instead asks for a decorated comb shaped like "a plain mountain," a symbol of her identity, to be placed on her head. Buenconsejo asks where she learned to sing duyuy, or songs. She answers that instead of expressing anger, her mother would sing. Buenconsejo postulates that singing manages negative emotions, having the effect of "aesthetically transforming raw sentiments like anger to art."

We see other kinds of transformation in the film. In chapter 2, "Madal Tahu: Mimesis of the T'boli Creation Myth in Dance," Myrna Pula assists her granddaughter as she changes from jeans and a T-shirt into several layers of traditional dress and decorative adornments. Performing this dance connects a modern young woman to the tradition of her ancestors. Community elders explain how the stomping of feet in the dance embodies the T'boli creation myth, representing how the earth was flattened to create valleys and plains. Artistic interspersing of clips of birds, trees, and the lake provide visual richness to their story. The film consistently shows rather than tells, as there is no narrator to explain each scene.

Chapter 3, "From Work to Play," opens with a man chopping branches that...


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