In 2021, a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grant Program will support the filming of a documentary to preserve and increase access to information about the practice of Sagayan, a pre-Islamic dance of the Maguindanaon in Mindanao, Philippines.
The project is currently in progress until February 2022 and this page serves as living document
Sagayan is the true and ancient dance that predates Islam and Christianity of Maguindanaon people from Cotabato, Mindanao, Philipppines. It is performed as a ritual for healing called ipat or as a festive dance for wedding, enthronement, and other festive celebrations. The attire, props, music, and dance movements consist of important meanings serving overall as medium to the friendly spirit called “tonong”. Today a festive version of the dance called, Kalilang, is performed for weddings and other festive celebrations to bring good fortune.
This project will document
Sagayan Dance: traditional (healing), festive (traditional/exhibition)
Music: Ritual - Tagunggo; Festive - Sagayan a balabad, Sagayan a sinulog
Attire: proper attire terms and meaning
The completed documentary that will be produced aims to be available at the following platforms
Social media (except ipat)
Schools & Public Libraries
The Project Team
This project highlights the collaboration between cultural masters in Cotabato, Mindanao, Philippines and dance and music cultural practitioners and cinematographer in California, USA.
Maguindanaon Cultural Masters
Faisal Monal - Maguindanaon Master Artist
Graduate of two bachelors degree, Bachelor of Arts Major in Social Work (2000) and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education Major in Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health (MAPEH) (2011) from the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College Cotabato City, Philippines. He is currently the choreographer of the CCSPC Salamindanao Dance Company. An exceptional Moro master artist, he is a dancer, shaman, chanter, and a traditional musician (Maguindanoan Tribe). He plays various Maguindanaon traditional instruments like the kulintang, agong, debakan, babendil, and gandingan.
Bapa Danny Mokatil - Maguindanaon Sagayan drum and gong Master Artist (left) and Bapa Kalikod Samad - Maguindanaon Sagayan Dance Master Artist (right) are from Municipality of Talitay, Maguindanao, Mindanao, Philippines of Makambimban Group, an award winning and champion of Sagayan competition during Inaul festival 2017 and 2019. Makabimban means attractive.
Maguindanaon Cultural Practitioners
Eric Solano - Project Lead (Founder and Artistic Director) Cultural researcher since 2005, studied Sagayan from Faisal Monal since 2005, dialogue with Master Danny Kalanduyan in 2012 including several Maguindanaon Sagayan master artists since 2017 in Philippines. Eric has participated in several ipat rituals between one to four days since 2011.
Major Estrella Julian Co-Project Lead (Music Director) has been involved with traditional arts for over 20 years and currently Parangal's Music Director Musically, he has trained with Kulintang Master Danny Kalanduyan, among others, and has been involved with Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble playing
Matthew Espina Harris (Sagayan Music Practitioner/Musician) studied traditional Maguindanaon/Meranao Kulintang music under House of Gongs established only student lead kulintang group at UCDavis. He's the Music Coordinator for Little Manila Dance Collective in Stockton, as well as a field researcher and performer with Parangal. Matthew has participated in Ipat ritual in 2020. He also serves as contributing write for this project
Rey Amado Arcilla (Sagayan Music Practitioner/Musician) has trained with Kulintang Master Danny Kalanduyan and is currently performing artist both musician and dancer with Parangal. Rey is also a field researcher and has participated in ipat ritual in 2018.
Jerico De Guzman (Digital Producer) graduated from SF State University in 2017 with a degree in Broadcast/Electronic Communication Arts, primarily being trained in news and documentary filmmaking and gained experience at ABS-CBN International as a camera operator to Digital Producer. He has trained under Jeremiah Ysip, an 11x Emmy Award winning cinematographer.
Jonathan Mercado (Sagayan Practitioner/Dance Lead) has been a Sagayan practitioner with Parangal since 2015 enriching his practice and skills from Eric Solano, Faisal Monal and various master artists through cultural immersions. He has been a guest Sagayan artist/teacher at USF's Philippine Dance/Culture class 2019-20 and lead several workshops for Parangal. He has participated in couple ipat rituals since 2018
Darren Garza (Sagayan Practitioner) has been a performing artist with Parangal since 2016. Trained by Jonathan Mercado, he started his Sagayan practice in 2018.
Ipat is a pre-Islamic healing ritual performed in the outskirts of Cotabato City and Maguindanao. In the Maguindanaon culture, it is believed that human existence is governed by elemental spirits or energies called tonong (spirits) and that they need to be appeased. Ipat is hosted by a family or community, and led by a pagagamot (shaman) who enters into trance to facilitate the interaction of spirits and people. The ritual can last from three to seven nights, with some even lasting fourteen. This is subject to the needs of the person/people on the receiving end of the ritual, as well as their economic status. The ipat will be documented with Maguindanaon culture bearers and community, documentary project team, and participants of Maguindanaon cultural immersion.
As a reference: Taken in 2018, this image is taken during the 4th day of the ipat ritual called Kadtumana - the final rites or sending off of the tonong or spirits of the ipat. The project documentary will cover the various days/phases of ipat
Sagayan is an ancient dance that predates Islam and Christianity of Maguindanaon people from Cotabato, Mindanao, Philippines. It is performed as part of a healing ritual called ipat. The attire, shield and sword, music, and dance movements serve as an overall medium to the friendly spirit called “tonong”. Today a festive version of the dance called, Kalilang, is performed for weddings and other festive celebrations to bring good fortune.
Personally attended by Eric Solano, this image of Bapa Danny Mokatil, in Tambol, and Bapa Kalikod Samad, in Sagayan Kalilang, Champion of Sagayan competition at the2017 Inaul Festival, the beginning of connection and learning from master artists, literally after the competition.
Major Julian in Pinasintik style tubaw and Magui attire also worn by musicians
The Banggala na mama includes embroidered designs of Kinayupo and Siko siko with the objective to showcase the traditional and classic designs of inaul weaving.
Jonathan Mercado in full Sagayan ensemble
Designed by Eric Solano & Mark Tolentino (also made by) as approved from Faisal Monal
One of the key features of Ipat is the music that plays during the ritual. Through the duration of the ceremony, the kulintang ensemble will continuously play a piece called Tagunggo. Also spelled Taggungo or Tagongo, it is a crucial song for Ipat because it is meant to invite the spirits to the space. In the context of dance, this piece is most attributed to Sagayan, a spiritual dance that welcomes ancestral spirits with its movements and wards off evil spirits with the rattling of its klung (shield.)
Major and Matt play the tangunggo during our work in progress documentary. See video here
Tagunggo instruments not shown gandingan, dabakan, babendil
Events & Performances
May 4, 2021: House of Gongs - Gongster’s Paradise
September 25, 2021: Mosaic Festival
October 15-17, 2021: San Francisco Trolley Dances
October 22, 2021: Work In progress virtual and in person dialogue with project team including release of work in progress video and performances