Lakan and I were invited to serve as principal sponsors at the marriage ceremony of Aduna Saway and Jay Manpatilan. It’s a great joy to be invited into the merging clans and respective tribes of this beautiful Talaandig bride and this handsome Higaonon groom. With the expressed blessing of Jay and Aduna, we’re sharing their wedding story to our global community.

Aduna and Jay feed each other. The final step in this Talaandig-Higaonon indigenous wedding is the ceremonial first meal of the new married couple while being blessed by their elders. 07 May 2019. Tulugan, Lantapan, Bukidnon.

We receive this honor as the Creator’s grace and mercy as we journey in our relationships with the people of Mindanao. Moreover, we take this formalized relationship as a sacred responsibility to be spiritual co-parents to Jay and Aduna along with the many people they respect and in harmony with the rich cultures of their respective indigenous communities.

From friendship to kinship

Aduna is the eldest daughter of Datu Migketay and Bae Lisa Saway of the Talaandig First Nation in Bukidnon Province. Our friendship with these traditional leaders and the indigenous community they represent started in 2007. Dann met Datu Saway in a peacebuilding conference. Both of them were part of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC). That was the beginning of their friendship. Soon, Dann and I were invited to visit their ancestral land in Lantapan town, near Mt. Kitanglad. The visits became frequent. We eventually felt at home at Tulugan, the center of their ancestral land.

Our relationship with Datu Saway and Bae Lisa led us to a peacebuilding journey that positively transformed both our families as well as certain people, communities, and institutions who embraced us and our peace advocacy.

We had great memories watching Aduna from being a youth leader in our peacebuilding network into a woman who is now uniting with the man of her love. Lakan and I felt honored to be one of their principal sponsors.

Love between two individuals; marriage of two clans

We learned about Aduna’s and Jay’s developing romantic relationship through Facebook. We became one of their fans. When Aduna requested us to serve as one of their principal sponsors, we said we’d pray about it for a few days. As soon as we were sure we had spiritual guidance and wisdom to take on this new responsibility, we agreed.

This inter-tribal wedding celebration took three days. We came on the second day.

Datu Saway handed me a brochure-like handout explaining the details of the wedding ceremony. During the first day, members of the Saway and Manpatilan clans got acquainted. The two clans finalized all the social and economic arrangements needed as the foundational resources of the new family that Jay and Aduna will start to build. They started these negotiations when Jay formally expressed to the Saway clan his desire to marry Aduna. Everything was done in accordance with their respective tribal customs.

We observed the colorful events of the second day which is the actual wedding. The Saway clan invited us and everyone who belong to their party to go upstairs where the wedding ceremony will be held. There was a small cubicle at the back corner of the hall where Aduna was hidden. Two young men, in tribal warrior gear, were guarding the bride’s cubicle. Soon we heard the groom’s party have arrived. We came out to see them from the balcony. We saw a man chanting in Higaonon language. I was told that he was asking the Saway clan, using poetic language, to allow the Manpatilan clan to enter the hall. After a few more chants, the head of the Saway clan formally welcomed them and invited them to enter the hall.

When everybody was properly seated, the customary obligations were laid down on the mat: tokens to acknowledge the dignity and honor of the bride’s family; a blanket symbolizing the appreciation for the sleepless nights of the parents in raising up the bride; a coin symbolizing gratitude for the midwife who assisted the mother when the bride was born; a black piece of cloth and a chicken for the departed relatives; a knife symbolizing the breaking of virginity; and, three plates symbolizing the communion and unity of the bride and groom.

When the bride’s clan declared that all the customary obligations were met, the groom’s clan requested the appearance of the bride. All members of the groom’s party who were there expressed their request by showering the bride’s elders with gifts of cash and goods.

While signing as a witness to this marriage covenant, Lakan waits for his turn. A local marriage registrar guides us.

I saw the bride’s elders giving the signal to let the bride appear from her cubicle. The appearance was preluded by lively drumbeats and the victory dance of the two warriors guarding the bride’s cubicle. Then the climax of the wedding happened. Aduna came out and I heard “Wow,” “Aaaww,” and clapping of hands. “There’s my new God-daughter,” I said to myself. And I quietly prayed for her: “May your marriage be so blessed by Magbabaya, our Great Creator, and may your strong sense of indigenous identity strengthen your merged clans and tribes.”

They sat down on the floor, across each other. Their elders gave them blessings. Certain sponsors were called by the couple to give their words of wisdom or advice. Lakan was one of them.

Then they sat together and symbolically ate their first meal as husband and wife – before the Creator, in front of their respective clans and tribes, in front of all their various communities. After signing their marriage covenant, we all went downstairs to eat together and dance together.

I had to catch a flight to Manila, so Lakan and I had to leave in the afternoon of the second day.

On the third day, the newly weds were given parting words by their respective elders from both tribes.

Lakan and I are praying that Magbabaya, the Great Creator, would use us to be a funnel of blessings to Jay and Aduna, to their respective families, and to their respective tribes.

Of course, the wedding concluded with the kissing of the bride.

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