Travel is the trendsetting lifestyle in the planet. The Venusian backpack is now virtually galloping from
one island to the next for many reasons: some maybe looking for men, some looking for love, some wanting to see places, and some maybe for work. Why do women travel? How are they different from the way men travel? Women may bring extra clothes all the time, for they are privileged to decorate themselves. An extra scarf will make a difference.
One of my most beautiful travel experiences are my journeys with women. It is travel by intuition rather than linear guide book driven. Women always carry candid open secrets, real meaty stories for they pay attention to details and listen to their hearts. They can hear the wind, touch the clouds and dance in water. These are the magic in women.
As a travel organizer, I have learned two important aspects that make travel more meaningful: meeting people and experiencing cultural diversity. Mindanao is a close encounter to having a multi-interactive and visually appetizing community where people and the living culture are distinctly diverse from those in the other groups of islands in the Philippines. Mindanao is the cultural capital of diverse indigenous and settlers communities with close connection to South East Asia and multi- racial roots.
In Mindanao, some women are remarkable healers and culture bearers. One aspect of people travel is about meeting the endangered female species of the planet, be it the biggest flower, reflesia speciousa or the truncata pitcher plant. Let us follow the footsteps of the endangered women of this promised land through the petals of pink road in my journey’s diary. Women of this war-torn archipelago manage to keep families tight even in times of war, brave the floods, keep their children safe during evacuation, breastfeed their children and create a string of hope to people’s hearts. Women in this community are very powerful symbols of hope – healers, babaylans, historians, story tellers, artists, activists. They all share a common womb of giving birth to creative ideas. These women reconnect our spirit to the great grandmother’s thread that keep the traditions alive.
May I suggest a sojourn to sunflower streets where power circles of women who shape this country live. Some of these woman are born or have a strong affinity with Mindanao such as the likes of Grace Nono, Cynthia Alexander, Bayang Barrios; all powerful performing artists.. Julie Luch, visual power sculpture artist from Iligan is someone you want to come close and personal. A rare talent as ethnomusicologist and master of Mindanao Gong Music is the spirit of Dr. Helen Tejero also from Iligan City. Bada Torralba, visual artist from the land of the Balanghay, Butuan. Geejay Arriola of Davao based women power circle, Mebuyan Peace Project is a multi-media multi-talented woman, mother, grandmother, song writer, composer, theater performer, writer, web designer, visual artist. Katrina Tan (now manila based) and Zola Gonzales Macarambon, Kelly Ramos-Palaganas and many other spirits thrive in Cagayan de Oro with their prolific visual, prose and poetry, gift of words and womanhood continue to bloom in floods or in dry summer. Lake Sebu, South Cotabato has equal share of power Leaders as culture bearers. Maria Todi continues to sustain her own community and the Sikat School of Living Tradition. Yi Gas is one of the most enchanting chanter in the Lake Sebu that will haunt your soul and make your gut gnaw in the fire of joy. The Talaandig tribe of Songco, Lantapan, Bukidnon has equally strong women leaders with the guidance of the mother of the tribe Bai Liza Saway who is the other pillar in the tribe with her husband Datu Megketay “Vic” Saway as spiritual leader. One should not miss the senior women circle of a dear Tala, Tita Ayala (the mother of most respected songwriter-singers Joey Ayala and Cynthia Alexander) based in Davao City, who never fail to grace the land with such a fresh candid spirit like a child at play, with so much wit and humor in her poetry, books, paintings and dinner conversations with a dash of brandy or rum.
Mindanao has been recognized with women who won Gawad Manlilikha Award by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. DARHATA SWABI, Creating a Legacy of Music 2005 Awardee from Barangay Parang, in the island of Jolo, Sulu province, for having continued the weaving tradition of pis syabit, the traditional cloth tapestry worn as a head covering by the Tausug of Jolo… LANG DULAY, 1998 awardee, the national living treasure of the T’nalak dream weavers of Lake Sebu, a living proof of high culture and dignity of our powerful women… SALINTA MONON, Bansalan, Davao del Sur, 1998 Awardee learned from her mother’s hands to glide over the loom, weaving traditional Bagobo textiles… HAJA AMINA APPI, known as Weaver of Rainbows, 2005 Awardee from Ungos Matata, Tandubas, Tawi-Tawi, is the master mat weaver among the Sama indigenous community of Ungos Matata. Her functional and artistic creations come out as unique multi-colored mats with their complex geometric patterns exhibiting precise sense of design, proportion, symmetry and sensitivity to color.
The power of Mindanao women shall live for centuries that shall extend for many lifetimes. This fertile land has given birth to a creative process grounded in the universal spiritual values, the same love energy that opens a flower to full bloom.
Rosalie Zerrudo is resident artist and creative activator of the Enigmata Artists Circle, Camiguin Island. Her poems have been published by the Roadmap Series and Davao Harvest 2