Maling, a Hanunуo Girl from the Philippines

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Just before dawn, one day in late September 1953, seven-year-old Maling tiptoed to the edge of my sleeping mat to wake me with a short but sad announcement:“namatay yi kanmi ’ari’” (our younger brother is dead). Still aninfant, Gawid had succumbed to an unknown malady during the night. Onhis death, the Mt. Yagaw Hanunуo family with whom I had been residing inthe small hamlet of Parina for almost a year immediately arranged for hisburial and began the observance of a five day religious restriction on agriculturalwork, bathing, and travel. To understand how Maling interpretedthis turn of events as she waited for me to get up and help with the preparations, it is necessary to know the part she had played in the activities connectedwith Gawid’s birth eighteen days earlier.For that occasion, Maling’s father, Panday, had rethatched a small, dilapidatedannex to the family house and had built a sturdy rail fence aroundits wooden piles and storm props to keep the foraging pigs away from thespace under the bamboo slat floor. Although the period of pregnancy hadnot been marked by any of the anomalies recognized by the Hanunуo, thecustomary magical precautions such as refraining from unnecessary binding, tying, or planting activities had been strictly observed for the precedingweek by both Panday and his wife, Sukub. On the day before the birth, after a brief final weeding of the maturing rice crop in her steep jungle clearing, Sukub harvested enough bananas for the next two days and returned toParina to spend most of the afternoon and evening in her rattan hammock-swing.Maling came to tell me of these things and of how she had helped mendan old buri [eds: fan palm fiber] mat which her father had set up as a screento shut off the annex from the rest of the house. Her older sister, Hanap, wasresponsible for most of the family cooking and during this period often relieved Sukub in caring for two-year-old Iyang. Thus, Maling was relativelyFrom “Maling, a Hanunóo Girl from the Philippines,” in In the Company of Man: Twenty Portraitsby Anthropologists, edited by Joseph B. Casagrande (New York: Harper & Co., 1960), 101–118. Conklinfree to visit the other four households in our small settlement and occasionallyto discuss her views on daily events with me. While I made more systematicattempts to elicit adult interpretations of such events, Maling oftenvolunteered crucial details which her elders deemed either too obvious ortoo intimate to be mentioned. It was partly for this reason and partly becauseof her cheerful disposition and youthful enthusiasm that I was immediatelydrawn to her. Despite her childish exuberance, Maling was anobedient and respectful child, capable of almost infinite patience and concentrationif necessary. She was one of those children who felt equally atease whether sitting for an hour quietly watching her grandfather carve intricatesigmoid curves into a bolo [eds: machete] handle or publicly—thoughjokingly—chiding and poking him for ending a humorous tale with an excessivelylewd remark. Her poise with both children and adults in quite variedsituations (including even an ethnographer’s presence), was a fortunatecircumstance for which I became increasingly appreciative.Early the next morning when I entered the refurbished room that servedas the birth chamber, Maling and her two sisters were standing with theirbacks against the palm-leaf thatch on the side opposite the door, with theireyes glued on the scene directly in front of them. Panday had girth-hitchedhis loincloth around a low beam at a point only a foot above Maling’s head.Sukub, who was facing her daughters in a kneeling position, had wrappedthe loose ends of this white cotton fabric securely around her wrists andwas pulling—almost hanging—on the taut webbing that stretched from herraised hands to the beam. Sitting on the same floor mat and just behindher, Panday was helping his wife through the first stages of labor by massagingher abdomen and applying arm pressure. No elaborate preparationshad been made for the occasion. The usual commonplace objects were leftin the room. In the corner beyond the couple were two buri rice sacks, someodd bits of clothing, and a blanket. Winnowing trays, coconut shell dishes,a pitch candle, two bundles of bark and roots used in making incense, andvarious medicinal herbs filled the remaining corners. Except for a blood-red scarf wrapped tightly around her waist and the broad rattan pocket beltat her side, Sukub was dressed as she had been the day before—in a shorthomespun sarong with three loose, plaited waist bands and numerous beadnecklaces.The three sisters were dressed like their mother in miniature, except forthe addition of loose cotton blouses. Several medicinal charms and an oldSpanish silver coin dangled from Maling’s beaded necklace. In her tiny sensitiveface one could easily read the signs of intense observation. Below afaintly wrinkled brow, her large, somber eyes remained motionless. She hadalmost succeeded in keeping most of her slightly tousled, shoulder-lengthhair back from her face with a tight-fitting beaded fillet. One stray lock, however,escaped the encirclement of this headband and fell in a wisp over hersmooth brown cheek.Malingв•… /в•… 67A few minutes after I had sat down next to Iyang, Panday asked Hanapto start heating some rice gruel in the next room. Maling prepared a betelquid for her mother, at the latter’s request, and helped Hanap pour somewater from a bamboo tube into an earthen cooking pot. By the time Malingreturned, her mother had already uttered the first in a series of long, piercingcries, “Udu-u-u-u-u-y, ’udu-u-u-u-u-y” which signaled to the settlementat large as well as to those in the room, that the second stage of laborwas about to begin.During the next hour, Maling continued watching every detail intently,often drawing my attention to particular points that differed from the wayIyang had been born in Alyun two years before. “Then,” she explained,“Mother’s contractions were delayed much longer. And she had to tug on arough abacб cord instead of a homespun loincloth because Father’s was beingwashed.”A little while later, Maling told me confidently that this looked as if itwould be a normal delivery, pointedly adding that her grand-uncle had beena breech baby and still had the name Su’i (Legs First) to prove it.From the beginning, it was obvious that the family wanted a boy. Malinghad told me how she envied her girl cousins who had younger brothers totake care of, and how her father would like to have at least one son who, ashe grew older, could help with house construction and the felling of largertrees during the annual forest clearance. Even Sukub had once mentionedthat she and a mother of three sons (but no daughters) had exchanged waistbands several months earlier to “switch their luck.” More recently, Malinghad confided to me that she was afraid her Aunt Agum was correct in sayingthat Sukub’s buttocks seemed to be getting flatter—a sure sign that theunborn child was a girl. Consequently, right up to the time the baby wasborn, considerable anxiety over the sex of the expected offspring was combinedwith the usual concern about the condition of the mother.It was a boy, and Maling had the pleasure of announcing the fact to threeof her cousins who had gathered outside on the veranda. In a matter of seconds the word reached the rest of the hamlet and attention shifted abruptlyfrom the untouched neonate in front of Sukub to Sukub herself. From previousquestioning, I knew that no one would move the baby until the afterbirthwas expelled, no matter how long this might take.During the first hour, Sukub was given all of the comforting treatmentcustomarily provided to induce a rapid expulsion of the afterbirth and toprevent any of the numerous kinds of relapse distinguished by the Hanunуo.Hot, liquid infusions were rubbed over her limbs which were thenbathed in sweet pitch incense. She perspired heavily as the room filled withthe fragrant smoke. Maling was asked to knot the ends of the loincloth sothat Sukub could rest her elbows in the resulting loop.Never leaving his wife’s side, Panday efficiently supervised all of theseactivities, now in a soft voice asking Hanap or Maling to prepare a betel quid for their mother, now adjusting Sukub’s waist band or wiping her foreheadwith an old shirt, and always checking to see that the requisite magical proceduresdesigned to hasten this last stage of labor were properly carried out.Under his direction, Maling helped Hanap untie everything in the housethat either of her parents had lashed, woven, or spliced together in the lastfew months so that the afterbirth would come “undone” likewise.Hanap fed her mother some hot rice gruel and kept the fire going whileIyang and two of her cousins spun areca nut tops on a nearby winnowingtray. Periodically, Maling added hot embers to the shell bowl in which freshscented herbs had been mixed and passed the vessel around her mother severaltimes.Still, there were no results, even after Sukub’s older sister, Ampan, arrivedfrom the settlement across the Silsig valley with additional rice grueland a new supply of pitch. As the delay extended into the second hour,Sukub became noticeably weaker and even Iyang, who had become extraordinarilyquiet—saying she no longer wanted to play outside—began to reflectthe urgency of this situation for the entire family.During the next few minutes, Panday, Hanap, and Ampan conferred hastilyon the most effective steps to be taken to help free the afterbirth. Malinghad witnessed several such discussions under similar circumstances duringthe last few years, but this was different. Previously, she had listened toolder relatives talk about events which did not concern her directly. Now,however, she found herself involved in almost every activity mentioned.She had been with her father, for example, when he had planted sweetpotato vines three weeks past, and was the only other person present whoknew exactly which area in the family clearing he had “seeded.” Furthermore,in regard to this particular incident, it was agreed unanimously thatPanday should not have planted any new crops so near the end of his wife’spregnancy and that the vines would have to be uprooted. Knowing that Pandaycould not leave Sukub at this time, Maling offered to take Hanap to thesweet potato patch where both of them could perform this mechanical actof sympathetic magic in hopes of easing the passage of the placenta.The two girls left almost immediately, stopping on the veranda just longenough to pick up two empty bamboo water tubes to be filled on their wayback from the field. I decided to go with them, leaving Panday and his sister-in-law considering other possible sources of Sukub’s difficulty. The baby remaineduntouched, and for the moment, unthought of.Hanap, followed by her equally slight and even more diminutive youngersister, led the way down the six hundred yards of mountain trail connectingParina with Panday’s clearing. As usual for this time of year, the steep, narrowpath was muddy and slippery and, at several points where it led aroundthe brim of a forty-foot ravine, even dangerous. Because of their daily tripsto fetch water, however, the girls knew every inch of the route intimately.Where recent heavy rains had loosened rocks and made the footing precarious, Maling turned to warn me, adding at one point how only two nightsbefore she had nearly tripped on a wild yam vine that had grown acrossthe trail. Along the way we passed familiar stretches of bamboo forest andsecond-growth jungle, through two stands of coconut and other fruit trees,and across a small stream where the girls left their heavy containers.Once in the field, Maling took us straight to the vines Panday had planted,and the girls began pulling them up. As soon as this task was done Hanaphastened back to Parina to inform the others.Maling and I paused at the stream to talk briefly with one of her youngcousins who had stopped there to prepare a betel chew. Before he went onhis way Maling asked him to cut some coconuts for us from a nearby treewhich belonged to her family. He appeared happy to do this, and while hewas detaching nuts from the crown of the nearest palm she emphasized howuseful it is to have a young man in the family who can climb such trees. Bythe time she had filled her water tube from a stream-side spring, her cousinhad opened three of the felled fruits for our immediate consumption, andwas husking two other coconuts to make it easier for me to carry them backto Parina. Having had nothing to eat since early morning, we were greatlyrefreshed by this common midafternoon snack.After our pause at the stream, Maling and I continued the trip backalone, and although it was a difficult climb most of the way, she kept up alively conversation about the things she noticed along the trail. On numerousother occasions Parina children had amazed me with their precise knowledgeof the plant environment. This was no exception. Before we reachedParina Maling had drawn my attention to five separate clumps of productiveperennial crops—ranging from bananas to betel palms—each of whichhad been planted by her grandfather or by one of his sons, and she hadshown me two wild herbs used for making panrunas, a medicinal preparationwhich, when accompanied by appropriate rituals, is believed to be apermanent oral contraceptive.“They say,” noted Maling, “that’s the reason why Father doesn’t have anyyounger sisters or brothers. Grandmother took the panrunas treatment soonafter he was born because his had been such a difficult delivery.”“Do you know,” I asked, “what other ingredients are needed to makepanrunas?”“I’m not sure,” she replied, “but I think tunawtunaw weed is one. Hanapsays parts of seven different plants are needed; she probably knows whatthe others are.”In the course of many similar conversations, Maling had demonstratedan astonishing maturity of interests and experience, richly illustrating theway in which a Hanunуo child, without formal instruction, acquires an increasinglydetailed acquaintance—direct or vicarious—with all sectors ofthe local adult world. Geographically, this is a small universe, limited oftento an area within ten kilometers of one’s birthplace. But this small orbit comprehendsa comparatively vast realm of knowledge in all provinces of whichany member of the society is expected to be at home. In this setting, Maling’sparents never thought it particularly precocious that on some occasions sheshould be as interested in contraceptives as in learning to spin cotton or takecare of her younger sister. Nevertheless, I was constantly impressed withher independent thinking and utter frankness which seemed to recognizeno boundaries, except of degree, between child and adult knowledge. Herstatus as a child neither prevented her from occasionally accepting some ofthe responsibilities of her elders nor blocked her intuitive analysis of theiradult roles.As we approached the edge of our settlement, Maling suggested we pickan armload of the soft, leafy heads of the aromatic ’alībun shrub, explainingthat not only could we use some of them to wipe the mud from our feet,but that her mother would appreciate having a few in the room because oftheir fragrance.After hanging her filled miniature water cylinder on the veranda rack,Maling lifted the screen matting and quietly entered the room where her father,sisters, and aunt were watching Sukub and talking in very low tones.Maling sat quietly looking around the tiny room. Sukub and Panday hadboth undone their hair knots, and someone, probably Panday, had hung halfa dozen untied lashings, unwound arrow bindings, and the like, over a lowcrossbeam. While we had been gone, many efforts had been made to recalland remedy any recent act by Maling’s parents that might be the root ofthe trouble. Hanap leaned over to tell Maling that at Panday’s behest, AuntAgum had gone to a nearby banana grove to pull up the first and last ofthirty banana sets which Sukub had planted in August. This had seemedto please Sukub, but the afterbirth still had not appeared.Ampan remained attentively at Sukub’s side while Panday looked oncemore through his betel bag, and Maling joined in the search for nooses,slip knots, balls of wound yarn, pegs, and other bound, joined, or fastenedobjects that might have been overlooked. The muffled voices from the adjoininghouses and the occasional gusts of wind up from the Silsig valleyonly served to underscore the gravity of the quiet but intensive search inside. Maling broke the long silence by inquiring if anyone had undone theleash of the new wooden turtle that Panday had carved for Iyang. No onehad, and it was agreed that perhaps this was the knot which was causingthe delay.Maling went into action swiftly, but calmly. By gentle questioning shelearned from Iyang that she and her cousins had been playing with the toyturtle earlier in the day. Since their own house had already been thoroughlysearched, Maling decided to check in the adjoining house where her cousinswere still romping about. Her hunch was right; the toy was returned, andthe leash carefully untied, completely unknotted, and thrown over the beam along with the other lines and cords. All eyes again turned to Sukub. Aftera few more minutes of anxious waiting, and much to everyone’s relief, sheindicated that the final contractions had begun.With the expulsion of the afterbirth, the tension relaxed and things movedquickly. Panday cut the tip of an old arrow shaft into a long taperingblade and quickly fashioned one of Maling’s empty water-carrying tubesinto a small bucket-like vessel to hold the umbilicus and placenta. Malingjoined me in the background and, knowing that this was the first time I hadobserved such a ritual, eagerly explained to me all that she knew about theprocedure.“See,” she said, “we can’t use an iron blade to cut the cord. Even an arrowshaft is dangerous if the poisoned tip has not first been removed becausethen the child would grow up to be easily angered. He might evenfight his parents, and seriously injure them.”Finally, nine hours after Gawid’s birth, and after both the bamboo containerand reed knife were prepared, Panday placed the baby on its backand proceeded to tie the umbilicus close to the infant’s belly with a pieceof homespun yarn. Yuktung, who had been called in from his house, thentook Panday’s place and with a sawing motion, severed the cord just abovethe cotton binding with very deliberate short strokes. In rapid succession,he then touched the moist blade tip to the baby’s lips, waved the shaft in azigzag pattern over its head, and uttered a barely audible magical formula toinsure rapid healing. As he stuck the shaft in the roof thatch, Maling leanedback to tell me that in a few days her father would shoot it into a tree so thather brother would be a good shot with a bow.Sukub now handed the afterbirth to Panday who placed it in the bamboocontainer, filled the tube with earth, and then went off into the forestwhere, Maling said, he would hang it from a high limb out of reach of largeanimals. The bamboo floor in front of Sukub was cleared and spread withan unused homespun cloth on which the infant was placed for bathing.While this was Sukub’s responsibility, Hanap and Maling helped by heatingwater and bringing it to their mother’s side in large coconut shell bowls.Soon Sukub was holding her young son in a cotton wrap and discussing theevents of the past day with her children. Hanap began to winnow rice forthe evening meal, Iyang cried for her plaything, and the household graduallysettled down to a more normal schedule. When I left, Maling and hermother were still talking about the knot around the turtle’s neck.For the next few weeks Maling was an enthusiastic observer and participantin the care of Parina’s youngest resident. Within this settlement of independentnuclear families residing in two lines of veranda-linked dwellings,she served as the chief disseminator of news about the infant’s progress. Shespent some time in each of these households almost every day, ostensiblyto borrow a shellful of salt or a needle, or to check on the identity of an unfamiliarvisitor for the folks at home. On these small errands as well as during her casual visits, she could not resist the opportunity to talk about herbrother. Her little cousins would sometimes go back with Maling to examinefor themselves the various items of behavior and appearance which she hadreported. First it was his feeding habits that drew their attention. Then hissomewhat flattened head (which Aunt Agum assured Maling would grow“round again” in a few months), then his manual skills, and so on.One day Maling was sent by her parents to see if the door had beenfinished on a nearby rice granary which was being built for the family byone of her uncles. She said she wasn’t going to be gone long and wonderedif I wouldn’t walk along with her. [.В€.€.] Maling seemed to be in a talkativemood.“Mother went down to the stream to bathe today,” she began, “and leftthe baby all alone with Hanap. We were awfully worried that somethingmight happen, but nothing did. He is six days old, and he doesn’t have aname yet. Our grandparents are coming up here in a day or two and I supposewe will decide on a name then.”“What do you think would be a good name for your brother?” I queried.“There are a lot of names that are good for boys, but some we don’t likebecause they sound too much like those used by the lowland Christians.Others we can’t use because they belonged to relatives who have been deadonly a few years. I think the best name would be the one Father has suggested,Gawid. My great-great-grandfather’s name was Gawid. See that peakbeyond Alyun? I’ve never been there, but they say that’s where old Gawidonce shot two deer with the same arrow. When my brother gets GrandfatherAndung to prepare some hunting medicine for him, he should be a goodhunter too.“You know, we used to have a brother, who was several years youngerthan Hanap, but he died of a sudden illness two rice harvests ago. It wasreally too bad. He was just learning how to trap and shoot. If he had livedwe would now have fish and game to eat with our rice or bananas almostevery day. And there are so many things he could have helped Father do.He could have operated the bellows while Father worked at the forge, andhe could have built this granary. As it is now, Father will have to forge twobolo blades to repay my uncle for this job. It just isn’t the same as havingone’s own son for a helper.“With Mother it is different. Hanap already can do most household choresincluding cooking, and she is pretty good at spinning and weaving baskets.I haven’t learned to do all these things yet, but by the time Hanap gets married,I’ll be able to take her place.”Our conversation was interrupted at this point by Hanap’s call for Maling togo with her to fetch water. As we walked down to the main settlement clearing,Maling asked if girls in America also carry water like the Hanunуo, andwhether their brothers ever helped them. Before I had time to answer shehad joined Hanap and two other Parina girls on their way to the spring. The infant’s ears were pierced the following day and, not unimpressedby Maling’s (and her father’s) enthusiasm, the family decided to name himGawid. Sukub was now able to gather firewood, cook, harvest bananas andbeans, and work in the family fields—never, however, without Gawid slungat her side, or in Hanap’s care.During the second week, Maling helped her mother tie small circlets ofred and white beads around Gawid’s wrists and legs, and a tiny medicinalamulet about his neck. He was now well on his way to becoming acceptedas a full-fledged member of the community and Parinans stopped callinghim “the infant” as they began to use his proper name.Parina children were already including Gawid in their play activities,such as the mock feast they held one afternoon behind Panday’s house. Sukubwhispered to me that they had been dining on twig and turmeric stalk stewand a main dish of ashes for almost half an hour, as I followed her quietlyto observe them from a natural blind. Iyang, Maling, their cousin Biru(Yuktung’s son), and four other three-to-eight-year-olds had set out a rowof banana leaf trays on which these foods had been placed. Mimicking theirelders, they were exclaiming loudly about the quality of the meal and shoutingfor the men to fill up their shell bowls with more “stew.” Maling and thegourmandizing tots demanded better service from Gawid and other malesnot actually present almost as often as they did of Biru and his older brother.This most entertaining make-believe meal ended in a round of laughter onall sides as Gawid himself betrayed our presence by beginning to cry.Though no one would say so, it was obvious that there would be anabundant rice harvest. Maling evidently knew this should not be stated directly,but at the same time she found it difficult to ignore. Once, for example,she suggested that I visit “her” field in order to gather some cucumbers whichwere now ripe. “And,” she added, “one of the two kinds of rice Father gaveme is almost ready to be cut.”Maling was still too young, of course, to do much agricultural work ofher own, but she took immense pride in the fact that she possessed someseed of her own which had actually been planted in a full-sized hillsideclearing instead of only in a play garden such as the one she had helpedIyang make in their Parina houseyard.That afternoon I accompanied Sukub and Maling on a brief cucumber-picking visit to their fields, during which I saw for myself that the rats andgrubs had not done nearly so much damage as local farmers would haveled one to think. In a few months there would be plenty of rice for a largecommunity-wide feast.Recalling that the last feast her family had sponsored was for the disintermentof her deceased brother’s bones, Maling proposed that this yearthey should hold a post-harvest rite to celebrate Gawid’s birth. On the wayback, she composed, in the form of a familiar children’s chant, a number ofextemporaneous verses addressed to Gawid, informing him of the preparations which would soon be undertaken in his honor, how much rice his differentkinsmen would contribute, how many people would participate, andhow many pigs would be slaughtered:’Anung ’ari’ari’an Oh little brotherkang di waydi sabīhan I must say againdūru ti ’gdulud ’aban That more than fiftybalaw lāmang kalim’an will attend,kay pāsung dūru hanggan And that our feast willkay bābuy ’imaw diman! never end!In a few words set to a very simple melody she expressed the spirit withwhich the whole family looked forward to the harvest season.During the third week after his birth, however, Gawid caught a slighthead cold which was evidently accompanied by complications other thanthose observed by his parents. Two days later, on the seventeenth night ofhis short life, he died quite unexpectedly—while the rest of the family wasasleep.Maling had seen death before. She knew only too well what would happenthat morning when she woke me with the sad news. Her father wouldcut a digging stick and sufficient bamboo poles for the grave mats, while hermother would wash the baby and wrap it in cotton cloth and beads. Hanapwould help her mother tie the corpse and carry it out through a hole in thewall on the eastern side of the room in which he died, while Maling herselfwould assemble some of the usual grave goods, including a small cookingpot, some rice, water, and vegetables in separate shell dishes, and a smallbetel basket with all essential ingredients—nuts, leaves, lime, and tobacco.Iyang would cry. Many rituals would be performed at the grave and thefamily would not be able to leave the settlement, even to visit their ripeninggrain fields for five days, lest all types of misfortune descend upon thealready grief-stricken household.However, there were no tears. While this was a very sad moment fora seven-year-old, Maling was well prepared to accept such events realistically.Her voice reflected sincere disappointment, but, with characteristicoptimism, she added that perhaps her mother’s next baby would also be ason. As we went to join the other members of her family, she said succinctly,“mahal māna ti magkabalākih” (it would be nice to have the same number ofboth boy and girl children).This, then, was Maling as I knew her in 1953. Four years later, in the summerof 1957, I returned to the small Yagaw hamlet where she and her familywere living. The Maling who greeted me in the houseyard had the samethoughtful eyes and modest smile but she stood at least a head taller thanwhen I had last seen her. Her black hair, still held in place by a beaded band,now fell gracefully down her back to the top folds of her sarong. Her very short blouse was beginning to flare out slightly in front, and she had tightenedher corsetlike rattan pocket belt about her otherwise bare midriff inan obvious attempt to accentuate her fast developing wasp-waisted (“ant-waisted” in Hanunóo) figure. And straddled on her now shapely hips wasa new member of the family.This particular pose was to become a familiar one. From early morninguntil shortly after the evening meal, Maling’s time was almost entirelytaken up in caring for her younger siblings. She was unassisted by Hanap,who had graduated from this type of surrogate motherhood several yearsbefore, and who, in fact after a long series of courtships, was about to leavethe immediate family circle to establish one of her own. Iyang of course wasstill too young to be entrusted with such baby-tending duties. And Sukub,except for the feeding and bathing of the youngest child, devoted most ofher time to food-getting activities and heavy household chores.Maling’s two young charges were both boys. In 1954, within a year afterthe death of Gawid, Panday happily took a year-old orphaned baby (anddistant cousin) as a foster son. Sukub nursed the infant whose name wasBilug, and Maling soon had the task of caring for him most of the time.When Bilug’s mother’s bones were ritually exhumed the following dry season,Maling proudly carried him at her side to the grave site several kilometersaway. Then, in 1956, Sukub gave birth to a son of her own, Tabul, whoimmediately became the focus of the whole family’s attention. After the firstfew months, and except for nursing and bathing, Tabul became Maling’smain responsibility.The constant care of two small children in a Hanunóo hamlet is by nomeans an uneventful or easy task. There are goats, pigs, chickens, cows,dogs, monkeys, and occasionally millipedes, lizards, snakes, and insects forthem to watch, play with, or be harmed by. Flat areas being nonexistent onthe eastern slopes of Mt. Yagaw, the houseyard itself is usually a steep inclinedown which a child may slide, tumble, or slip; and the fact that theraised verandas are frequently unrailed does not lessen the danger of falling.When one notes further that favorite playthings, even for a two-year-old, include such weapons as keen-edged meat knives and fire-hardenedbamboo pokers, it is rather remarkable that Maling showed practically nooutward signs of fatigue, impatience, or discontent with her lot. On the otherhand, she seemed quite indifferent to the fact that her mother was againpregnant. And once I heard her say that when she got married she reallywouldn’t care if she didn’t have any children at all!Though her former enthusiasm for baby boys had waned, at least temporarily,her interest in older ones was rapidly taking its place. Soon shewould become a full-fledged, marriageable young maiden, a status which isthe acme of female social existence among the Hanunóo. With this changewould come many new privileges and opportunities. Maling, as Hanap beforeher, would hand over what child-care duties remained to her youngersister Iyang, set up living quarters in an adjacent but separate pile dwelling, and, for several—perhaps five or six—years, lead a relatively independent lifedominated by the direct but intricate local patterns of courtship ending inpregnancy, or marriage, or both.Maling was well along in preparing herself for the new role she wouldbe playing. In addition to dressing in a more meticulous manner, she hadbegun to oil her hair regularly, to trim her eyebrows, and to bind her wristsand ankles with fine red beads. Hanap had given her several decorativetortoise shell combs and a round mirror small enough to be carried in herpocket belt. Whenever her father went to Alyun, she would ask him to digfresh vetiver roots for her to use as a sachet to keep with her sleeping blanketand extra clothes. Many of these practices she had started years before,but refinements in them had been added more recently by virtue of closeobservation of Hanap’s behavior.She had also begun to acquire many of the domestic skills that Hanunуowomen are expected to learn. During the late morning hours when the childrenwere napping, and by the light of a pitch candle after they had fallenasleep exhausted from a busy day at play, Maling could often be seen weavinga small betel basket, spinning cotton, or repairing a torn blouse. In thisway, during the past four years, Maling had found time to learn many ofthe steps of basket and mat weaving, of producing homespun yarn, and ofcooking native dishes. She still was not skilled in tailoring and embroidery,nor could she yet set up a cloth loom by herself.Maling had learned to conduct herself in a more reserved manner inpublic, to initiate conversation with male guests only when asking for betelleaf or areca nut, and to communicate simple messages effectively witha minimum of facial gesture. All phases of betel exchange etiquette, whichI had first seen her practice with mock chews or red sugar cane four yearsbefore, were now perfected. She had become quite versatile with the bamboojew’s-harp and had already learned the rudiments of nose flute playingfrom her mother and Aunt Agum.To go with these instrumental skills, however, Maling knew she wouldneed to build up as large a repertoire as possible of chanted verses whichform the basis for most serenading and courting activities. While, like allHanunóo children, she could already sing some ’ambāhan songs, she alsoknew that to memorize enough appropriate verses to participate successfullyin extended repartee, it would be very helpful if she could record newlyrics solicited from her close relatives in some semipermanent form. Hence,about the time I arrived, she was attempting to learn the Hanunóo syllabary.Inasmuch as Maling’s newly acquired reticence in talking openly withmen outside the immediate family did not extend to me, I was able to observeand discuss with her at great length the details of these various preparations.The manner in which she learned to read and write, for example,afforded an intimate picture of how she managed to acquire this bit of usefulbut specialized knowledge without any formalized course or tutor. From previous visits to the Hanunуo, I knew that their Indic-derivedsyllabary of forty-eight characters functioned primarily as a vehicle of amorousand often poetic communication, and not as a means of historical, religious,or legal documentation. There are, in fact, no permanent records inthis script, the component symbols of which are scratched into the hard butperishable outer surface of bamboo with a sharp steel knife. But what of theactual process of learning how to use this script which is never arranged inan “alphabetic” order or formally taught?One morning after she had shaped toy animals from a half cylinder ofgreen banana sheathing for Tabul and Bilug, Maling grasped the tip of hersmall knife blade between her thumb and forefinger and began pushing itacross one of the flooring slats with her other hand so that a series of lightlyengraved marks were produced. In reply to my asking her what she was doing,Maling said, “Nothing, just scribbling,” and left quickly to stop Tabulfrom twisting the tail off Bilug’s “carabao” [water buffalo]. She had seemeda bit embarrassed by my question, so I did not press the matter at that time.But later, when I had a chance to examine her “scribbling,” I found half adozen clearly inscribed syllabic characters among what apparently were agood many false starts and scratch-out erasures. That night she admittedthat she didn’t know what all the characters she had written stood for; shehad simply copied them from her mother’s tobacco tube. Yet she seemedquite interested in learning and said she would get Hanap to read some ofthe ’ambāhan their father had written on their lime containers so that shecould memorize the words and compare them with characters.A few weeks later, while her mother was bathing Tabul, Maling came towhere I was typing and began to inscribe something along the edge of mylarge bamboo desk. From the halting way she was singing to herself, it wasobvious that she was trying to write down the words:kang ma-nuk sa bid-la-wan My dear bidlawan bird,nu ka-’in-da ma-’u-ran In a storm like thispī-san dap ti hu-ru-nan We are perched together,nu may. But when Assuming that she had now learned to use some of the characters adequately,I gave her a simple “dictation test” covering the whole range of syllabletypes. After every word I paused while Maling inscribed the characters deliberatelyor told me she didn’t yet know them. At the end, she had writteneighteen characters correctly. These represented syllables of high frequencyin simple conversation and children’s ’ambāhan, and included those symbolsnecessary to sign her own name.At six- to eight-week intervals thereafter I made additional checks to noteMaling’s progress. Each time she had learned seven or eight new characters,until she had mastered all but those representing the five or six rarest. Harold C. Conklinsyllable types in the language. By that time she had become quite skilledin rapid transcription, and could and did read almost any verse she couldfind. Inside of six months, and without giving up any of her family dutiesshe had all but completed the technical training she would need to recordand read innumerable songs and letters for the rest of her life. No oneperson had provided her with more than a fraction of the reading materialsshe had studied, although Hanap, who at this stage spent a good many leisurehours practicing ‘ambahan, was most frequently consulted.Although Maling’s ability to read and write will probably prove to bevery useful, it will not introduce her to any worlds beyond that which shecan see from Mt. Yagaw. She has remained close to home all her life andwith Hanunуo marriage residence rules as they stand, her future husbandwill undoubtedly help her set up a new household in Parina or in whatevernearby hamlet her parents are living at the time. He will probably be a distantcousin from one of the other Hanunуo regions near Mt. Yagaw. Severalyoung men of this description have already begun to visit Parina rather frequently.Ostensibly these visits are for medicines or bolo handles, but no onein Parina is deceived.

 

 

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