Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Kapampangan Spirituality

Nû: The Universal Force
Before the coming of the Spaniards, Kapampangans believed in a Universal force known as . This force permeates and sustains all beings. It is generated by them yet at the same time is independent of them. It is immanent and yet transcendent.

Ancient life and society has evolved through an intimate relationship with this force. We used to call our gods and ancestral spirits nunû, meaning "micro force", and the founders of communities as punû, meaning "source of nû". The elderly were particularly respected in ancient Kapampangan society simply because they were commencing gods; they were about to become one with Nû and thus become nunû.

The nunû were not the duendes that the Spaniards made us believe. The nunû were our fathers and mothers, our grandparents and great grandparents who have gone ahead to become one with the force and thus become gods. Ancient graves were placed on the western part of the rice field known as minangun. There, their tombs or pungsû were in the shape of small mountains, a replica of the sacred mountain of Alaya. Nowadays,
termite mounds are mistaken for pungsû are avoided and feared as to the dwelling place of the duende.

Death is the ultimate departure towards a union with this Universal force. Kapampangans believed in the idea of having a kaladua or a twin soul: One kalâ being his personal soul or lagyû, the other being his , the soul of the universe that lives through the land of his birth, his Indûng Tibuan, that sustains him in life and returns to earthat the hour of death.

Remember how our elders used to scold us when we do not eat our supper, how our kaladua would mangalug ya kng cusinâ at night because it is hungry? The ancients believed that man has the ability to either consciously or unconciously detach his other soul. They believe that it could travel to distant lands during sleep, or that it has the power to take the form of a gray butterfly known as kambubulag to seek help from friends and relatives when one is gravely ill or near death. Others believe in the power of the mangkukusim, ancient psychics who were known to have the power to send their souls to the houses of their enemies and do them harm.

The concept of kaladua would also explain the violent nationalism of the ancient Kapampangans. For them, man and his Indûng Tibuan, the land of his birth, are one and the same. Their souls are linked together intimately. They are twins. They are kaladua. Without the other, man dies a bitter death ‑ the death of a foreigner in his own native land.

Although death maybe the ultimate way to become a god, the ancients believed in humans who are more or less godlike, those who are nuan, "those who are overflowing with ". Kapampangans then believed that man is more or less nuan and must be respected accordingly. Aside from the elderly, those considered nuan by the ancients were the bayanî (warrior) who never lost a battle, the upright dátû, the powerful katulunan (seers) and mamalian (mediums), and members of the mapiâ or ancient nobility.

The way to show one's respect is often through pamanyiklaud. This is done by kneeling on the ground and then pressing the kanuan, the forehead which is "the seat of ", on the pigalanggalangan or wrist of the one being offered respect. One's rank is often times reflected by the galang or wristband one wears. If the one being respected is at a certain distance physically or in rank, one's kanuan is pressed on the ground instead of the person's wrist.

Fray Juan de Plasencia, a Spanish priest observing the legal practices of the ancient Kapampangans at the beginning of the Spanish era, was quite intrigued at why the ancient ones treated insult as the worst possible crime ever, and why it was often times repaid with death. If he took the time to understand the concept of nû, he would have understood that discourtesy then was not a mere question of forgetting one's manners but was rather a question of sacrilege.

Religion is cultural. Culture is a collective expression of man's ongoing relationship with his environment. When a religion is introduced, it naturally brings with it the culture from whence it came. There is no religion that could be totally abstracted from the culture it sprang from.

Christianity, which ultimately has its roots in Judaism, is a religion born of the desert. In the desert, the earth is death. Nothing grows from it but vipers and scorpions. So for the desert culture, the earth is evil. The intolerant desert soil would also account for the intolerant attitude of most desert cultures as expressed in their religions. In the desert, total and almost blind obedience to the head of the community is a matter of life and death, for he alone knows the trail to all the oases. To disobey is to be driven out into the harsh wilderness. Much like being excommunicated or being sent to hell. To stray away from the path is to end up dead in the hot desert sands.

Life in the desert comes in the form of rain. For the desert people, good could only come from the heavens. If there is a god, then god must come from heaven. The heaven sends thunder and lightning. The heaven rumbles like a man. So god for the desert people must be male. For them, god is a father in heaven, for like a father, he too remains distant from his children even though he provides for them.
The environment of Indûng Kapampangan are in total contrast to the desert environment. Naturally, the culture and belief system of the people here is in total contrast with the culture and religions born of the desert.

For the ancient Kapampangans, the earth is rich. The richness of the Kapampangan soil accounts for the tolerant attitude of the Kapampangans and their culture. The earth is the source of all goodness. Life came from the soil. Life returns to the soil. Because the soil is good, then god must come from the soil. And because the soil nurtures and embraces all life, god must therefore be female. For the ancient Kapampangans, God is our Mother on Earth, Our beloved Indûng Tibuan.

Imagine how the world of our ancestors was turned upside down when Christianity was forced upon them. Imagine the mental, cultural and spiritual anguish they experienced as the words of a totally alien god were rammed down their senses.

Although they would not and could not admit it, Kapampangan Christians today still experience this same mental, spiritual, and cultural anguish. The state of their Christianity remains only in the mind. Deep down inside of them, their kaladua still struggles on to free itself from this totally alien and demanding god.

The Kapampangan genesis knows no creation. All life sprang from the gods. All life is related. Oral history tells us that the first Kapampangan, Munag Sumalâ, The Dawn, was born of the union between the Sun God Bápû Arîng Sinukuan and our Earth Mother, the huge crocodile god of the great river, Indûng Tibuan.

So great was the veneration of the ancients for Munag Sumalâ that the early missionaries decided to Christianise her and call her Maria so as to win more souls over to the new religion. Using her father's name as her surname, the Spaniards reintroduced Bápûng Munag Sumalâ as Mariang Sinukuan. The image of her son Bápûng Tálâ, the god who saved Kapampangans from the floods by teaching them how to plant rice, was used in analogy to the giving of communion by the priests.

Yet the question remains as thus: If all Kapampangans then were sons and daughters of the gods and therefore gods themselves, why should they chose to become Christians and be demoted to mere creations of one god?

Siuálâ ding Meángûbié
Meantime: June 1999

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bapûng Indû, Gabun ming Tíbuan

Bapûng Indû, Gabun ming Tíbuan,
Ing sablâng bié quécayu ngan pû sísibul;
Ing sablâng bié quécayu ngan pû múmulî.
Caring uyat yu pûng ilug,
Mámagus pû ing mal yung dáyâ,
Ing danum ming mayúmu;
Inuman ding sablang bié;
Ding pun à mámunga at babié pangisnaua.

Icayu pû ó mal ming Indû,
Ing tuné lílingap at sísiuâ quécami.
Nió caulan yu kami pû sânang matálic,
Qng panaún ning bagiú ampong ligalig.
Qng dulum ning cabéngian,
Pagtumailâ yu cami pû sâna.

Indû mi pûng mal, Gabun ming Tíbuan,
Pasúsuan yu cami pû qng mitmûng lugud quécayu.
Alî yu pû sâ pábusteang mapatlud ing yamut mi pû quécayu.
Bang manatili cami pûng tapát;
Sísinup qng mal ming singsing à amána.

Bapûng Indû, Gabun ming Tíbuan,
Malugud yu cami pu sâng tanggapan,
Caras ning aldo à mulî na cami pû quécayu;
Matalic yu cami pû sâng caulan,
Caras ning aldo à mulî na cami pû quecayu.

Siuala ding Meangubie