Dagmay Legends: Origins of the Dagmay Cloth

Fiction by , , , | July 13, 2008

The Origin of the Dagmay Cloth, The Mariano-Muya clan version as retold by Amelia Muya Anong.

A long time ago, there was a community that was located far away from civilization. The people used the barks or leaves of trees for clothes. They lived in caves or built their houses in the trunks of trees. Their sources of living were hunting and fishing.

One day the Biya (Maiden) was taught by her friend Diwata how to weave bugti, a cloth with no color or design. She used it as her clothes. Then Biya taught other women to weave it for their clothes too. And so they did not use the barks or leaves of plants as their clothes anymore.

One day Tamisa , the brother of Biya, went hunting. While hunting, he found a beautiful piece of Cloth which was being dried under the sun. He stole it and ran home as fast as he could. Thunder, lightning and storm followed him until he reached home, half-dying.

Before he died, he gave the Cloth to his sister, Biya. Through the help of her friend Diwata, the storm, thunder, and lightning calmed down. Diwata told her that the owner of the Cloth was “Mapandig Tagamaling Magsainag ng Kilat” and the name of the beautiful cloth was DAGMAY. Biya wanted to return the Dagmay cloth but the spirit owner refused it because it was already paid for with the life of Tamisa and that it had already been touched by human hands. Thus, Biya got the Dagmay, and when she returned home, she copied the designs through the help of her friend Diwata.

The Origin of the Dagmay Cloth of the Mandaya Tribe, (The Masunag-Mapansa clan version) by Norma Mapansa Gonos

A long, long time ago, when people still wore poki, there lived a man called Tamisa, an only child. He was known for his strength and prowess in hunting. Members of the community always got a share of the game he brought home.

One day as he was returning home from hunting, Tamisa passed by a pal’lpag under a budbud tree. It was located near a little marshland, in the middle of which grew a patch of libug or batukan rice. On the pal’lpag stone, he found dagum (clothings) and a piece of cloth with intricate symbols and designs in reddish-brown color and figures of buwaya (crocodile) and inutaw-otaw (man).

As this was his hunting ground, Tamisa was very familiar with the place, and he knew there was really nobody living in the area. Enchanted and moved by the beauty and wonders of the design of the cloth, Tamisa decided to bring the cloth and the clothings as well as the libug or batukan rice to his home.

As soon as Tamisa left, rain started to fall and woke Tagamaling, the spirit or goddess of the art. Immediately, Tagamaling went to the pal’lpag stone to collect her belongings, including the rice. But she found nothing. So she cursed the thief.

Upon reaching home, Tamisa turned over the cloth and the rice to Ompo Tikunol’l, the oldest leader of the tribe. Ompo Tikunol’l called all the weavers of the community including the mother of Tamisa, an expert in the art, to copy the intricate designs. However, not one of the community experts in weaving could produce anything. It was certainly quite frustrating for the best weavers of the village for they could not copy the designs. Then, people started feeling like they were sick and could not move anymore.

Reflecting on the situation, Ompo Tikunol’l called on all the elders and together they decided to ask for forgiveness from the Tagamaling because they perceived that what was happening to their community was a bidu (curse) which needed cleansing through a ritual asking for forgiveness.

The community performed the Balilig, the highest healing ritual, to cure everyone and to implore the Tagamaling’s inspiration and permission to give them the wisdom and the skill to copy the design in the cloth. After the ritual, the bidu disappeared and Tagamaling revealed, through a dream of Tamisa’s mother, that she had forgiven them all.

Proof of this forgiveness was that the weavers could already copy the designs. From then on, Tagamaling would appear through dreams or through the wisdom of the head weaver of the clan for their particular batuk or clan design, which serves as their insignia.

The Origin of Dagmay Arts and Design (The Matucol-Tomanggong clan version) As retold by Inungay Lucia Tomanggong Mutocol and written down by Mrs. Josefina Piamonte.)

Once upon a time, many years ago, after setting off for an early hunt, the Tamisa, a man of strength and wisdom and the only child of a weaver, found himself very, very tired and thought of resting under a Budbud tree. He looked around and there, before his eyes, floated what he thought was the most beautiful piece of creation he had ever seen. On one of the branches of this legendary tree hung a long piece of fabric, brown and reddish in color, decorated with human figures and long stripes of strange but enchanting patterns.

“How truly beautiful this piece of fabric,” the Tamisa exclaimed The Tamisa feasted his eyes on the richly woven cloth, deeply moved by its beauty, enjoying it in wonderment and excitement. “Who can be its maker? I must certainly find the owner.”

The Tamisa went on hunting, asking everything and everyone that came along his way who might know the owner of the wonderful piece of woven fabric. He prayed that the Tagamaling, the goddess of art and knowledge, might appear and tell him who the owner might be. Alone in the forest, he wanted to attract everyone with the fabric and, to ease himself from long waiting, he played his suding but nobody heard his music.

Thus, he concluded that there was really nobody to ask for permission so he decided to take the fabric home. Then, a heavy rain fell and the Tagamaling went out from the budbud tree. When she saw that her piece of cloth was no longer around, the Tagamaling expressed her anger and shouted: ”Syapot ing magsigabon, byudbub ing magkanu’ey! (“Whoever trampled my sacred place and took away my precious dagmay will suffer death.”)

Upon reaching home, the Tamisa asked his mother to make something exactly like it. Night and day, the mother worked hard to try to make a copy of the fabric. But it was frustrating that the best weaver of the village could not form the abaca threads the way she wanted her hands to follow her thought, as would please her only child, the Tamisa. Indeed, the strange but lovely patterns baffled and escaped her clever hands. Finding it hard to copy, she requested all the weavers in the village to help but all were in vain.

The mother continued to weave harder than ever until one day she and her son both became very, very ill. The villagers were also affected by the bidu, the serious sickness afflicting the mother and son.

On the night of the third day of the bidu, the mother dreamt that the Tagamaling had spoken to her that her son had taken her precious dagmay

The following morning, the community went with the Balyan, the Mandaya priestess, the mother and the Tamisa to the budbud tree, the home of the Tagamaling, where the original dagmay arts and design were discovered. To go to the budbud tree, they had to cross a river to get to their destination. When they were at the riverside, a crocodile, the strongest creature of the Magbabaya, appeared on the shore. However, instead of threatening to eat them, the crocodile helped the people. It offered its back for the villagers to ride upon and, in this manner, it transported everyone to the other side of the river. The Tamisa perceived this peculiar incident as the will of the spirits.
The balyan performed the Balilig, the highest healing ritual for bidu. In this ritual, the Tagamaling expressed her anger, through the Balyan, over how the Tamisa had taken her beautiful dagmay from her home So, the Tamisa cried for mercy and forgiveness.

The Tagamaling listened with mercy and forgiveness. The Tamisa and the whole community were overwhelmed with joy for, lo and behold, the bidu disappeared. Then the Tamisa offered ogis na manok, or white chicken for deeper knowledge and wisdom. Again, the Tagamaling was pleased and responded by revealing to him the tal’lagsub, the plant for knowledge.

The healing rite reached its peak, in great happiness and thankfulness, when the Tagamaling revealed the art of weaving Dagmay. The Tagamaling interpreted to the Tamisa the meaning of the patterns on the fabric that had enchanted the Tamisa in the beginning. The Tagamaling traced her finger along the beautiful bands of the river and crocodile forms that were symbols of good luck, the strong forces of nature and man’s relationship with nature and all of the creatures. She wove her hands in and out of the human figures, the most wonderful creatures tasked to be stewards of the Magbabaya to all his creation.

The community went home with renewed knowledge of the beautiful art. The community expressed their gratitude and thanksgiving in songs and dances.

(From: Bataller, Paolo Ray E, Pamela A. Bitang, Faith P. Go, and Ma. Alexis E. Marfori . 2008. “Symbols of Dagmay Motifs.” Undergraduate Thesis. AB English, Ateneo de Davao University.)

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