Maguindanao, meaning “people of the flood plains,” occupy the basin of the Pulangi River in Mindanao. The word "Maguindanao" means "to be inundated", and is derived from the fact that the Pulangi River used to overflow its banks periodically, flooding the whole vast countryside and giving the impression that the whole region was one big lake or "danao”. Shariff Kabungsuan, an Arab-Malay preacher introduced Islamic faith and customs, in Maguindanao which has three Sultanates: Maguindanao, Kabuntalan, and Rajah Buayan.
Sayap, premiered at 35th Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, is from Maguindanao, in Mindanao’s Pulangi River basin.The region is Islamic—Maguindanao has three Sultanates—and its rich heritage is seen in this performance of the legend of a Maguindanaoan princess:
Once, the Sultan’s favorite daughter ran away to escape an arranged marriage. She fell in love with a man beneath her social class, and disguised herself in a sayap hat to meet with him. Some people say she turned to stone for disobedience, but others say she returned home, and her father forgave her. A royal banquet was held in her honor and there, among her suitors, she saw her true love was not a common man, but a prince after all! The prince still had to prove himself through brave dancing feats. But eventually the prince and princess rode happily away in a decorated boat on the Pulangi River.
Eric Solano created this U.S. premiere presentation. His choreography follows the arc of this traditional story:
The piece begins with Bayok, a sequence of storytelling chant. Then Kabpangengedung brings us inside the royal house, as the groom’s kin whisper their intentions to arrange a marriage. Next, Silong sa Ganding showcases the continuous flickering of wrists to a rhythm called silong. The rest of the dances are: Malong, the wearing of tubular cloth in preparation of the princess wedding; Sayap, the princess meeting her lover disguised in a sayap hat; Kuntaw Minaguindanao, the fight between the groom and his rival, featuring ancient martial arts brought to the Philippines by Indonesian, Malaysian,and Chinese immigrants; Mussah, with handkerchiefs of Maguindanao’s royal colors, and flowers to show the princess’s feelings; Pagana, the royal banquet held when the princess returns; Sagayan, a dance recalling the epic of prince Bantugan; Singkil, the well-known Philippine dance with bamboo poles, showing the love triangle; Kawing, the wedding; and Guinakit, where the boat with royal flags sails away.
The company learned the legend and dances for Sayap from Faisal Monal, appointed as cultural bearer and master artist by Maguindanao Sultanates; also from Bryan Batu Ellorimo from the Philippines.