In a journey that resonated with cultural discovery and preservation, the USeP–DOrSU Bangsamoro History and Culture (BHC) Research Team recently concluded their insightful fieldwork expedition across the landscapes of Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi. From August 1-5, 2023, these lands bore witness to a significant endeavor supported by the BARMM Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBTHE). Since the program’s inception in 2021, the team initiated a mission to weave BHC into the educational landscape. Through extensive research, publishing a Bangsamoro literature anthology, and developing modules for selected Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), this mission unfolded under the leadership of Assoc. Prof. Gladys Florangel I. Ortiz.
Led by Asst. Prof. Roland A. Dalagan of DOrSU, Assoc. Prof. Sajed S. Ingilan and Mr. Francis N. Reginio of USeP – CAS, and Bangsamoro Literary Review Editor Mr. Guiterriez ‘Teng’ Mangansakan III, along with Mr. Arvin Jay P. Costales and Mr. Meil Frolidan B. Icban, the project staff of the program, the team’s drive was to safeguard the islands’ cultural heritage. The said fieldwork involved immersing in the traditions of the Tausug and Sama-Bajau communities, witnessing a harmonious coexistence that defied negative stereotypes depicted in the media. As hidden narratives surfaced and customs were laid bare, the richness of the region’s identity was revealed, with each thread contributing to a vivid tapestry. The team’s interactions with local communities were more than an exchange of ideas; they were windows into the significance of preserving and promoting history and culture. Through these conversations, inclusivity blossomed, and the embrace of diverse perspectives became a cornerstone of the fieldwork.
The visit to the Mindanao State University Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography (MSU-TCTO) campus on Sanga-Sanga Island added layers of enrichment. Collaborating with local scholars and experts fortified the team’s understanding and assured a comprehensive representation of Bangsamoro history and culture.
On Simunul Island, a gem of Tawi-Tawi, stood as a testament to the community’s commitment to preserving values, nurturing peace, and fostering progress, all while safeguarding time-honored traditions and a harmonious way of life. In this setting, the awe-inspiring Sheikh Makhdum Mosque emerged as a towering beacon of history and heritage. Built in 1380, it whispered stories from centuries gone by, while its four wooden posts housed within a new structure preserved the echoes of time.
A captivating twist led the team to ‘Bud Bongao,’ a mountain cherished not only for its ecological significance but also for its cultural importance. Housing ‘Uwangs’ – the guardians of the sacred peak – and an array of unique flora and fauna, the mountain stood as a living testament to the region’s natural wonders. The Bud is not only a place of adventure but also holds sacred importance to the locals. Revered as a site of deep spiritual significance, it is believed that two preachers, direct followers of Sheik Makhdum, rest beneath what is known as Tampat Shrine; a unique tradition practiced by visitors who tie ribbons as symbols of their ascent and cast stones toward a nearby hill, creating lasting memories in the process.
The USeP-DOrSU BHC Research Team’s fieldwork was a symphony of culture, history, and nature. Through their dedication, they etched a narrative that wove Bangsamoro History and Culture into the rich fabric of the Philippines’ educational landscape. Aligned with our vision of transforming communities in the ASEAN region and beyond, this commitment has not only enriched the TEAM’S understanding but also sown seeds of enlightenment that will flourish for generations to come.
As the sun sets on this remarkable fieldwork, it casts a warm and hopeful light on the path ahead—a path where history and culture intertwine to shape a brighter and more inclusive future for all.