Ginaw Bilog

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Ginaw Bilog (3 January 1953-3 June 2003) was a Hanunoo Mangyan poet from Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. Being a master of the Ambahan poetry helped him understand the Mangyan soul. He was given the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA) award in 1993.

Ambahan, written in baybayin, is a poetic literary form composed of seven-syllable lines. It is sung to convey messages through metaphors and images. The songs are accompanied by guitars, fiddles, flutes or jew's harps. The poems inspires lively chanted debates that display wit and creative imagery during social gatherings.

The ambahan supports the fact that Filipinos already have a system of writing even before the arrival of the Spaniards. It also supports the observation of Jesuit historian Pedro Chirino in 1604 in Relacion de las Islas Filipinas that “there is hardly a man, much less a woman, who does not read and write” in the country. The said system of writing is common and established among the locals.

Messages range from courtship, giving advice to the young, asking for a place to stay, saying goodbye to a dear friend and so on. The ambahan is etched on bamboo tubes using Southeast Asian, pre-colonial script called surat Mangyan. They are engraved with the use of stylus or knives. Some of the bamboos with inscriptions are left along forest trails to greet strangers or guide travelers.

As Bilog grew up in a cultural environment, he kept scores of the ambahan poetry recorded on bamboo tubes and on notebooks passed on to him by friends. Those he inherited from his father and grandfather served as inspiration and guidance for his endeavors.

Bilog received the GAMABA award in 1993. It is an award given to the finest traditional artists of the land. He received the award wearing a traditional Mangyan garb of loincloth and a blue type of jacket.

In 2001, Bilog was among the special guests/presentors at the Dayaw: Philippine Cultural Communities Arts Festival at Rizal Park, Manila which was held from 3 to 9 December 2001. About 400 traditional artists, craftsmen, scholars, and cultural provinces from 38 cultural communities were brought together for the festival and freely interacted with visitors. Bilog presented how the engraving the ambahan onto the skins of bamboos was done.

Bilog established the School of Living Traditions (SLT), an institution where a living master/culture bearer or cultural specialist imparts to a group of young people from the same ethnolinguistic community the skills and techniques of doing traditional art or craft. Bilog's Training Center is located at Bait, Mansalay.

The establishment of the SLT is in response of the UNESCO declaration of the two approaches to the preservation of cultural heritage: (1) to record it in tangible form and conserve it in archives; (2) to preserve it in a living form by ensuring its transmission to the next generations.

Bilog died on 3 June 2003 at the age of 50 because of a lingering illness.

Example of Ambahan

Minangyan Tagalog English
Kamo ay mga babaye Kayo, mga babae, You, maidens,
Burungan inyong kapte Paggawa ng sinulid ang inyong harapin. Attend to your tasks and the spinning of thread.
Kami ay mga lalake Kaming mga lalaki We, men,
Kami manakayam de Ay mamamangka na lamang We shall paddle on the waters
Bukun sakayan sa dili Kahit ang bangka ay di sa amin, Though we do not own this banca
Pan huraman lamang sa pare Kahit hiniram lamang sa pari, Though we have merely borrowed it from a priest,
Sa baybay kami maage. Kami’y sa aplaya magdadaan. We shall travel by the seashore.
Urukay undok undok Pabirong urukay Here’s an urokay joke--
Ang tao nagpinurunto Mga tao’y nagsiumpok Everyone gathered together
Sa idalum itlutok. Sa ilalim ay putik. With muddy bottoms.

Minangyan Tagalog English
Dogdog napanipasan Ang nangyari ay dumaplis sa pagtaga A blow glanced off while I was cutting
Ti pangalima gamtan Heto na nga ang manggagawa So here are the workers
Ruyung de anahawan Nakatungo ang anahaw And the anahaw is bent
Kami di od magkamgan Ito’y di naming kinakain But we do not eat this plant
Kangko bay ti nahuywan Ang aking nabihasnan What I have been accustomed to
Ga maggabod inwagan Ang kinakain ko ay iyung pumupulupot sa kahoy Is to eat the vines that twine themselves around the tree
Gamislakay sa duyan Natutuwa ako, tila dinuduyan I am pleased, my mind rocks gently like a hammock
Bantabay nakan kun man Siguro kaya gano’n And I think this is something that will take 
Lantang di kigbadbadan Matagal pang makalas A long while to fall away
Ginan babaw sangdulan. Ang aking isipan. From my memory.




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