Sulod is the term used for a Philippine ethnolinguistic group inhabiting the slopes of the mountains along the banks of the Panay River between Mt. Saya and Mt. Baloy in central Panay Island. They are known for their "binukot" and for the Hinilawod epic.
The Sulod acquired their name because of the sandwich-like location of their territory, the term "sulod" meaning "interior" or "closed place". They are also called "montesses" by lowlanders, meaning literally "mountain dwellers." To distinguish them from the Ati who live in the foothills, the Christian lowlanders have given these hill tribesmen distinct names. Those in the mountains of Capiz and Aklan are called "mundos" while those in Iloilo and Antique are called "buki", short for "bukidnon" or "mountain folk" which has become a derogatory term. The dialects of these upland peoples are genetically related and very similar to the lowland Kiniray-a. The mountain dialects, however, are characterized by many archaic expressions, thus accounting for the difficulty which Kiniray-a-speaking lowlanders meet when talking to these upland dwellers. Most of the mountain people are monolingual.
Settlement Pattern and Housing
Small, autonomous settlements, "puro", consisting of from five to seven houses, one or two houses being clustered a number of adjoining hills. Normally, a puro is located on top of a high ridge, although a settlement is occasionally found at the foot of a fingerlike slope, beside a river or stream, since such places serve as watch towers, where the inhabitants can guard their kaingin from wild animals. The stream or riverside preference is due to the fact that streams are an important source of water and riverine foods. The house is a poorly constructed, four-walled, one-room dwelling, raised about three meters on bamboo or timber posts and supported on all sides by props. The roof is of cogon thatch and the walls of flattened bamboo or the bark of trees. Bamboo slats are prefered material for flooring. In front of the house is a small, low, pyramid-like structure covered with long cogon grass roofing which touches the ground. This hut is called an urub and is used for emergency purposes, such as the sudden occurrence of storms.
Subsistence is chiefly by shifting cultivation of upland rice, maize, sweet potatoes, and other edible tubers, supplemented by hunting, fishing, and gathering. The Sulod do not stay in one place for more than two years, due primarily to their pattern of land use. Tough grasses and secondary growth that usually follow the harvest render the swidden difficult to recultivate, particularly as the Sulod do not have work animals or plowing implements. Hence they move to another place where trees are growing abundantly and where the soil is free of grass. The abandoned site is called lati and may be used again after five or more years, when the second growth has become established.
Leadership is assumed by the oldest man in each settlement. The leader, called parangkuton or "counselor," (literally, "one to be asked") directs activities such as hunting, house building, and moving to a new kaingin site. He also settles disputes and heads annual social and religious activities. He is assisted by a young man called timbang (literally "helper" or "assistant"). When the parangkuton dies, the next oldest man in the settlement assumes leadership.
The Sulod were known for their practice of keeping "binukot", hiding their beautiful women in closed rooms away from the eyes of any man. The binukot, who also became the record keepers of their people, later became primary sources of many Visayan epics such as Hinilawod, Humadapnon, and the story of Labaw Donggon.
Religion is an intimate part of Sulod life. Every activity is in conformity to the wishes of the spirits and deities, and the Sulod does everything within his power to please these divinities, even to the extent of going into debt in order to celebrate a proper ceremony for the chief spirit known as diwata. There are 16 annual ceremonies and a number of minor ones, most of which are conducted by the religious leader known as baylan.
Death and Burial
When a Sulod dies, everyone in the community condoles the bereaved family by contributing material things needed for the balasan, "wake of the dead." If the deceased is an important man, a baylan or parangkuton for example, he is not buried in the ground. A coffin is prepared for him by chopping down a large tree, cutting it to a convenient length, shaping it like a boat and hollowing it out. Carvings are made on the cover and on the sides. The corpse is encoffined and the slits glued with a gumlike sap. Then the coffin is placed underneath a special shed made of cogon grass, called the kantang, which has been built on top of a solitary hill. Finally, a hole is bored in the bottom of one end of the coffin and a small bamboo tube called pasuk inserted to facilitate the flow of the tagas or decomposing body fluids. After two or three months, the bones are removed, washed, wraped in a black cloth, and suspended under the eaves of the house. If the deceased is an ordinary man, he is simply buried in the ground, to one side of a kantang.
- Binukot: Revisiting Western Visayas' only indigenous group Article on Sulod people posted on Rational Insanity, column by Bryan Mari Argos (accessed May 5, 2008).
- Sulod (accessed May 5, 2008).
- The People of Capiz (accessed May 5, 2008).
- Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, Ilonggo and Aklanon Speaking People Article by Alicia P. Magos (accessed May 5, 2008).
- The Sulodnon-Bukidnon People and their Struggle (accessed May 5, 2008).