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About Maguindanaon Language

Maguindanaon is an Austronesian language spoken by majority of the population of Maguindanao Province in the Philippines. It is also spoken by sizable minorities in different parts of Mindanao such as the cities of Zamboanga, Davao, and General Santos, and the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, as well as Metro Manila.

The Maguindanao, literally, "people of the flood plains", occupy the basin of the Pulangi River. The southern fork of the river flows towards Illana Bay. In the past the Maguindanao settled along the banks and in the valley regions of the river. Today they are found in several provinces. In Maguindanao province, which accounts for 76% of the total Maguindanao population, they are settled in Barira, Buldon, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Kabuntalan, Dindig, North Upi, Matanog, Cotabato City, Buluan, Datu Panglas, Pagalungan, Ampatuan, Maganoy, Datu Piang, Talayan, Sultan sa Barongis, General Salipada Pendatun, and South Upi. In Cotabato province, they are found in Pikit and Kabacan. In Sultan Kudarat province, they live in Lebak, Palembang, and Kalamansig, all coastal towns. In 1988 the Maguindanao population numbered approximately 500,000 (Peralta 1988:7).

The Maguindanao language is part of a subgroup of languages called the "Danao languages". The subgroup includes Maranao, spoken in the Lanao provinces; Ilanun (also Ilanum or Iranun), spoken by a group of sea-based people between Lanao and Maguindanao; and Maguindanao, mainly spoken in Maguindanao, Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat (McFarland 1983:96).

Literary Arts

The literary elements of the Maguindanao include folk speech and folk narratives. The folk speech is expressed in the antuka/pantuka/paakenala (riddles) and bayok (lyric poems), while the narratives may be divided into the Islamic and folk traditions. The Islamic includes the Quran; the tarsila or genealogical narratives; the luwaran, an embodiment of customary laws; hadith or sayings of the Prophet; the quiza or religious stories. The folk tradition comprises the tudtul, (folktales), and the epics Raja Indarapatra, Darangen, and Raja Madaya.

For the Maguindanao, riddles promote friendship in a group. They are also tools for basic pedagogy. The structure of a Maguindanao riddle consists of an image and a subject. There are four types of image: comparative, descriptive, puns or puzzles, and narrative. The Maguindanao believe in a basic unity underlying the various aspects of the environment and this belief is reflected in the use of often conflicting image and subject in the riddles (Notre Dame Journal 1980:17).

Riddling involves a group of people, one of which is the riddler. If one volunteers to be a riddler, he/she has to have a riddle ready or else be subject to dtapulung (ridicule), which is given not as a criticism but as part of the riddling tradition. The Maguindanao consider bad riddlers as those who add to or subtract from the "original" text of the riddler. Riddling can take place anytime and anywhere as long as there is some form of group activity in progress; it can be done during work or recreation or both.

Ambiguities of answers can be settled by an old man or somebody who is respected in the barangay (the basic political unit). In this sense, riddles allow a certain flexibility in their solutions; that is, they point to various logically possible solutions, thus providing some form of basic pedagogy.

Other beliefs involving riddling is that it should not be done at night, so as not to invite the participation of evil spirits. Another belief associated with riddling at night is the avoidance of the word nipai (snake). If the use of the word cannot be avoided, euphemisms are resorted to, e.g., "big worm" (Notre Dame Journal 1980:20-25).

Maguindanao verses are expressed through such forms as the ida-ida a rata (children rimes sung in chorus), or through the tubud-tubud (short love poem).


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