SEAMEO-Jasper Fellowship Monograph
1997 Series 5
The Concept of Mari-it (Dangerous Zones) in Panaynon Worldview
and Its Impact on Sustainable Human Development
Dr Alicia P. MAGOS
Director of Centre of West Visayan Studies
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Philippines in the Visayas

Table of Content

I. Introduction
  Statement of the Problem
  Conceptual framework
  Locale of the Study
  Data Gathering Techniques
II. Ethnography of Six Barangays in Panay Island, Central Philippines
III. Mari-it and Sustainable Human Development
  Utilization of Resources (Flora and Fauna)
  Folklore as a Regulator of Environmental Resources
IV. Summary, Analysis and Conclusion


In the current concern over sustainable human development and a higher environmental awareness, folklore has not been given the attention it deserves as a rich source of options and cues for carrying out changes in people’s lifeways and habits, particularly among fishing communities. The reasons for this oversight are many, but perhaps the most obvious is the tendency of modern environmental planners and crusaders to distrust indigenous – and therefore “backward” – ecological belief systems.
This paper proposes that among traditional societies, sustainable development can be realized by exploring the world view of the people for some folk concepts, beliefs and practices that can enhance environmental protection. In presenting the data gathered from six barangays in Panay Island – Barangay Igdalaguit in Dao, Antique; Buntod in Pan-ay, Capiz; Suclaran, Buenavista in Guimaras, Iloilo; Gabi in the Gigantes island, Carles, Iloilo; Manok-manok in Boracay island, Malay, Akland and Caratagan, in Calinog, Iloilo – this paper will highlight the prevalent culture-based concept of mari-it (literally, “dangerous”) that defines the communities relationship with their environment. This sense of danger has bred a deep respect for the unknown and developed a set of beliefs and practices conductive to environmental preservation and protection.
To be sure, the government’s own fisheries and forest management program has been too narrowly focused, its prescriptions relieving symptoms rather than dealing with causes. Folklore can help bridge the gap. By knowing how the folk perceives their ecosystem through their world view, we can identify folk concepts and practices that can serves as options supportive to the meaningful implementation of our laws in fishing and forest resources.
I. Introduction
  “God created land for the people.  Land, the earth, owns the people.  These are sacred places.  Land is a place to live in, to use and to work for its fruits and then to be buried in and thus, finally, be owned by it.  If threatened, defend it…” These are the words of Datu Dia-on and Datu Man-ukil, two Bukidnon datus from Mindanao island in Southern Philippines which affirm the sanctity of the earth we live in and the need to protect it.  This also articulates the general view of indigenous groups throughout the world “… that land is sacred, that land and its resources is life in itself.”  (Bennagen, 1996:I )
  Over the last several years, men and women have behaved as though life systems were inexhaustible.  People felt that there were always new frontiers to explore and exploit either because of ignorance, plain survival, or human greed.  However, it has become obvious that we should adopt a new outlook toward nature to ward off the fast deterioration of our natural resources.  For us to realize the urgency of the environmental situation, we must begin to understand that we live on a planet with finite and exhaustible resources.  Otherwise, if we continue to pollute our land, our air, our waters and waste our timber, mineral and other natural resources, we are heading full speed toward disaster for all of earth’s life forms – ourselves included.  Should current environmental trends continue, by the turn of the century, we will be facing a catastrophe as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust.  (Soerjani, 1995: XVI)
  Fortunately, there is a growing awareness of the crisis, and ecology groups in many countries have surfaced calling for profound changes in the way human beings relate to the natural world.  There must be a way for us to start paying more attention on how we can enhance our natural resources rather than thinking merely about commercial gains and technological advances.  We need to recover what we have lost in our haste to change the world; we need to have a sense of limit, an awareness of the importance of the earth’s resources.  (Guanzon, 1995: 131)
  While it is true that the government is now involved in meeting the challenges of sustainable human development, its common approach to fisheries and forest management has been too narrowly focused, dealing mainly with policy intervention principally aimed at relieving symptoms rather than probing deeply into the underlying causes of fisheries resource overexploitation and degradation, often of socioeconomic, political and cultural origins.
  People utilize resources in their environment for socioeconomic advancement and to keep up with new technological trends; however, real progress can only be attained when they know how to care and use Mother Earth’s resources not only for their present needs but also for the needs of the generations to come. And here, we zero in on the use of indigenous knowledge for sustainable human development, the most recently articulated and widely acclaimed social objective defined as the ability to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs as well.
  Examining a people’s worldview, which is the way people look at the universe and all around them (Kraft, 1989, 183-184), can have a bearing on the way people utilize the God-given natural resources around them.  One way to encourage the citizenry to contribute to sustainable human development is to start where they are.  This way, whether their participation in the development is conscious or unconscious, there is a free-flow of effort that derives strength from an ideology that is culture-based.
  Folklore, which is implied in the people’s worldview, can contribute to sustainable development by re-valuing certain folk beliefs and concepts that can help preserve the balance of ecology.  Unfortunately, there is a gap in Asian literature concerning the usefulness of indigenous knowledge because of the tendency of environmental planners to distrust what they thought was a “backward” ecological belief system.  There is a need for researches to study indigenous knowledge that has long been neglected, but has been found useful to ecosystems protection.  Many of our laws on fishing are difficult to enforce. We can try other options by looking at how the folk perceive their ecosystem and how these can be utilized to help protect our marine land and forest recourses.  It is in this context that this research is given due importance.
  Statement of the Problem
  This paper focuses on the worldview of six selected barangays (villages) in Panay Island, Central Philippines.  Specifically, traditional religious beliefs, concepts and ritual practices related to the concept of mari-it which encourage environmental protection and sustainable human development will be put to focus.  The basic question is: How do the Panay folk perceive their ecosystem?  The following specific questions were raised to examine the worldview of the people:
  1. How do fisherfolk and the mountain dwellers of Panay view the sea and their forests as part of their ecosystem?
  2. What traditional beliefs and practices exist to show their regard for the sea and the forest?
  3. How do folks in the six barangays vary in their outlook towards the sea and the forest vis-à-vis religious beliefs, concepts and practices?  What factors contribute to changes and/or variations in these beliefs and practices?
  4. What is the direct and indirect bearing of the concept of mari-it in the protection and utilization of the ecosystem?
  Based on the questions raised, the following are the objectives of the study:
  1. Describe the Panay folk view of the seas and the forests as part of their ecosystem;
  2. Identify and describe traditional beliefs and practices which show their regard for the seas and the forests;
  3. Examine and compare the beliefs, practices and worldview vis-à-vis the concept of mari-it on the six barangays studied and to identify factors contributing to persistence, variations or changes in the beliefs and practices related to mari-it;
  4. Show the direct and indirect bearing of the concept of mari-it to the protection and utilization of ecosystems.
  Conceptual framework
  Culture is a complex thing, which consists of two levels: surface and deep levels (Kraft, 1989: 181-185).  The surface level is largely visible and consists of patterns by which people behave. These shared behavior patterns are, however, closely linked to a deep level of largely unconscious and invisible assumptions, we call worldview.  Worldview which is embedded in culture is “a set of patterns and structures taught to people which defines the way people think and behave,”  (Kraft, 1984: 181) the manifestations of which are seen in the people’s economic activities, religious practices, socio-political organization, technology, and every other aspect of human life.  The power of culture as expressed in the people’s worldview can be seen in the way ideas and concepts mold norms and behavior.  Publicly expressed, rituals, which can be viewed as repetitive symbolic actions done to get a desired effect, can serve as a medium powerful to influence people’s mode of action.  While a people’s worldview can change over a long span of time and can be lost, weakened or transformed due to external factors, yet, like a script, it is diligently followed by those who accept it.
  As a traditional society regards its environment as sacred and moves toward urbanization, where man dominates or controls the environment, these concepts, beliefs and practices, which are protective of the environment, could weaken and may eventually even be lost.
  Before undertaking the study, the researcher had several assumptions regarding the worldview of Panaynon fisherfolk as well as explanations for persistence, variations or changes in their worldview.  These are the following:
  1. The maritime worldview of fisherfolk in Panay would most likely be similar due to a presumed cultural commonality of Panaynon and fisherfolk animistic beliefs and practices.
  2. Differences in ecological niche need not affect the worldview of the fisherfolk since the concept of mari-it, which regards certain places as sacred and dangerous, is built-in in the culture (worldview) of all Panaynon people.
  3. Variations and changes in beliefs and practices related to the sea/water or forest could be due to various influences; introduction of a new religion, nearness to means of transportations; entry of change agents or the like.
  Locale of the Study
  The barangays chosen for the study were selected based on their stages of transition from traditional animistic beliefs and practices to the more urbanized or modern worldview.  Their ecological niche vis-à-vis the resources of food was also considered to find out its effects on the worldview.
  The six barangays included in the study are located in Panay Island, Western Visayas, Central Philippines: Igdalaguit in Dao (now – T. Fornier), Antique in the southern tip of Panay Island for a deep sea or kantilado shelf location; Buntod in Pan-ay, (Capiz) for an estuary location; Suclaran in Buenavista, (Guimaras Island); Gabi in Gigantes Sur Island (Iloilo); and Manok-manok in Boracay Island (Aklan). They represent barangays located near coral reefs in varying stages of transition. Caratagan in Calinog (Iloilo) represents an upland barangay and was added as the sixth community studied.
  Igdalaguit was selected to represent a traditional community because, despite its access to the agents of change, it is leaning more towards traditionalism. Buntod represents a community in its early stage of transition due to its stagnant socio-cultural conditions over the past many years.  Suclaran was classified as in its late stage of transition and the presence of a change agent, consciously directing its change makes it a good example.  Gabi represents a melting pot barangay because its strategic location makes it a meeting place of people from different Visayan Islands.  Manok-manok is far advanced in all aspects of life, compared to all the other barangays due to the entry of tourism in the early 1980’s.
  Caratagan, a barangay in the interior mountains of Central Panay, was added as a sixth community to represent an upland tribal community.  After identifying the five coastal communities in its varying stages of transition, it was deemed wise to include the upland community to give a holistic picture of Panay in relation to the folk’s worldview.
  In 1992, the researcher became part of the Visayan Maritime Anthropological Studies (VMAS I) group composed of Filipino and Japanese anthropologists which conducted separate studies on the coastal and marine barangays in Western and Central Visayan Islands in the Philippines.  The researcher chose to investigate the Panaynon Maritime Worldview and concentrated on two coastal barangays.  The first two barangays studied were: Igdalaguit (Dao, Antique) a barangay located near a kantilado shelf location and Suclaran (Buenavista, Guimaras Island) located near a coral reef.  They were identified as traditional and late transitional in terms of their animistic and traditional beliefs by making a background check and ocular survey of the place.   Many of these communities were also known to the researcher long before the study.
  After the first two years, the researcher moved to a new location to study three more barangays in Panay: Buntod (Capiz), Gabi (Gigantes Island, Iloilo) and Manok-manok (Boracay Island, Aklan).  These completed a total of five barangays studied in three years (1992-1995).
  The following year (1996), the researcher visited an interior upland community in Central Panay, Caratagan, one of the many tribal barangays visited and explored for epic work.  The researcher, therefore, had the chance to check the data found in the coastal barangays with that of Caratagan, the upland barangay.  With the religious worldview of this barangay considered for study, the total picture of Panay island worldview can be taken.  This last community, the sixth represents a more traditional worldview than that of Igdalaguit, for they appear to have preserved more of their indigenous outlook.
  The Tumandok or Bukidnons as the people of Caratagan are called, were also coastal people during pre-Hispanic times as inferred in their oral literature which speaks of a maritime culture.  It is worthwhile pursuing what happens to the Panaynon concept of mari-it and its associated beliefs and practices when a group of people moved to the interior, far from the forces of urbanization or modernization.
  Data Gathering Techniques
  To select the barangays to be considered for the research, a map was initially used to mark out prospective places to study.  A target barangay was selected and inhabitants there were interviewed for confirmation of the criteria set for inclusion in the study.  Later, the barangay was visited.  Options were made to consider other barangays in case the criteria which suit the stages of transition needed, would not be met.
  Questions 1 and 2 on the description of their fishing activities, beliefs and practices as well as worldview were answered by staying in the village for several days or weeks intermittently, during the semestral break and summer vacation.  Key informants, focused group interviews and participant observations, whenever possible, were utilized.
  Questions 3 and 4 deal with the comparison of beliefs, practices and worldview of the six barangays and the bearing of the concept of mari-it to sustainable development were answered by focused and unstructured group interviews, key informant methods and observation of the barangay life.
II. Ethnography of Six Barangays in Panay Island, Central Philippines
  Panay is the second largest island of the Visayas group of Islands in Central Philippines.  Politically, it is divided into five provinces: Antique on the western side runs north to south of the roughly triangular-shaped island.  On the northern side are the provinces of Aklan and Capiz, and on the south is the province of Iloilo (Please refer to the map in the Appendix).  The primary means of livelihood of the great majority of the people is farming but fishing is an important source of livelihood for towns and barangays located in the coastal areas.  In some household, farming and fishing are practiced together.  There are, however, small islands where fishing is the primary means of livelihood.  In the interior upland areas of rugged Central Panay, kaingin (slash-and-burn farming) is practiced together with hunting and fishing.
  In this section, the researcher will present an ethnography of six Panaynon barangays – five of which are coastal communities and one an upland community.  The description that follows seeks to answer the earlier questions raised. After presenting the setting of the communities, its demography and folk history, the topics to be dealt with in the order of discussion are the following: a) fishing activities; b) beliefs and ritual practices; c) fisherfolk/upland folk’s view of the sea/forest; d) concept of mari-it among the six barangays; e) factors contributing to changes or variations in mari-it beliefs and practices; f) mari-it concept bearing on ecosystems protection.
  Igdalaguit.  A traditional community, near the deep kantilado (shelf) waters of Punta Hagdan, Barangay Igdalaguit invites ritualism. It is located at the southwestern part of the municipality of Dao (T. Fornier) in Antique province and lies along the western coast facing the Cuyo Sea, which is considered a rich fishing ground.  The settlement pattern is bilinear: one group lining the highway near the seacoast and the other group living on the other side of the street.   (Please refer to the sketch in the Appendix)   In 1989, Igdalaguit had a population of 999. Almost every house by the coast is owned by a fisherman who depends on the sea for his livelihood.  Although fishing is generally the secondary source of living (farming is primary), it is the main source of income for fishermen who live by the sea.  Other people whose houses are located near small farms, not by the coast, live on farming supplemented by fishing and other occupations.
  Buntod.  In its early transition stage, Barangay Buntod, one of the island barangays of the town of Pan-ay in Capiz, is located near a friendly and bountiful estuary.  It is bounded on the northeast by the Sibuyan sea, on the southeast by Barangay Pawa and to the north southwest by a river which separates it from Barangay Agojo.
  Buntod is about eight kms from the poblacion of Pan-ay via barangay Tanza Norte, or about 7.5 kms via Barangay Arellano, and could be reached by a motorboat or banca ride from these two barangays during high tide.  The barangay used to be a mangrove area in the early 1940’s but today, a large portion of its 258.898523 hectares has been developed into fishponds.  Unlike Igdalaguit, Buntod is a small barangay situated between two estuaries which go around the barangay. (Please refer to the sketch in the Appendix).  These rivers go around Pawa-Buntod, two contiguous barangays which appear like an island on the map.  One branch of the river leads to the highway towards the town.
  Suclaran.  A barangay in its late transitional stage, Suclaran dwells near a five-kilometer shallow fishing zone on the southeastern portion of the municipality of Buenavista, in Guimaras province. (Please refer to the sketch in the Appendix)  It is 18 kms from the town proper and 24 kms from Sto. Rosario wharf where motorboats ferrying passengers to and from Iloilo and Buenavista are docked.  The barangay can also be reached by a 45-minute ferry boat ride from Pulupandan Port in the province of Negros Occidental.  Some portions of Suclaran are flatlands, especially those near the sea.  Farther away from the sea, Suclaran is quite hilly and mountainous.
  Gabi.  A meeting place of maritime people from different Visayan Islands, Barangay Gabi lies northeast of Gigantes Sur and has become a haven of sojourners. (Please refer to the sketch in the Appendix).  It faces the southern part of Gigantes Norte, which is about ten kms from its shoreline. Both islands are separated by the sea. Las Islas de Gigantes, where Gabi is located, is shaped like a reclining giant.  It is politically part of the municipality of Carles, province of Iloilo. The existing port facilities and bustling trade of the coastal town of Estancia, a municipality which lies near the southeastern portion of Carles, enables the people to travel and engage in business. A motorized boat, which takes two hours to reach Gabi, enables people to commute from Gabi to Estancia or vice versa.
  Manok-manok. Once a pristine village inhabited by simple fishermen, Manok-manok, located at the southern portion of Boracay Island, has now become a haven of tourists. (Please refer to the sketch in the Appendix).  It is one of the three barangays found on Boracay island (Aklan), a two kms long and one km wide stretch of white sand island found offshore at the northwestern tip of Panay. From the wharf of Caticlan on the mainland (Aklan), it is a 15-minute boat ride to Manok-manok.  The whole barangay is hilly and rocky and only root crops like camote (sweet potato) and cassava are planted by the old residents.
  Caratagan.  An upland barangay of Calinog (Iloilo) in the rugged terrain of Central Panay, it is about 18 km. Jeepney ride from the poblacion. From there, one gets down from the jeepney and start trekking to the interior mountains. (Please refer to the sketch in the Appendix). The trek takes 5-6 hrs for an outsiders depending upon the weather which can make the terrain very slippery.  But for a native, the trek can just be about an hour.  The barangay is on the flattened  portion of the hills.  Ten to fifteen minutes from the village one can see both barren and forested hills and for yonder one can view the thick forested Mt. Baloy reserve which is believed to be very mari-it or dangerous due to the presence of environmental spirit.
III. Mari-it and Sustainable Human Development
  In this section, a brief summary of how the following six Panaynon barangays utilize the resources in their environment towards sustainable human development will be discussed: Igdalaguit (Dao, Antique), Buntod (Pan-ay, Capiz), Suclaran (Buenavista, Guimaras, Iloilo), Gabi (Gigantes Island, Carles, Iloilo), Manok-manok (Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan), and Caratagan (Calinog, Iloilo).  This discussion will integrate the salient points needed to show how sustainable development is attained in traditional communities in Panay.  Specifically, folklore illustrated in the concept of mari-it will be zeroed in showing its bearing to sustainable human development.
  Utilization of Resources (Flora and Fauna)
  In the village of Igdalaguit, fishermen fish in their limited shallow zones (1-3 km), during certain months only when fishes breed in the narrow coves.  The fishing gears used are nets, traps, spears, and hook and line which are not efficient in catching marine life; the boats they use are the small non-motorized sibid-sibidan manned only by one person; and fishing is done only near the shores. The deep zones, the kantilado (shelf), are avoided by small fishermen and even by motorized boats because it is reputedly a very dangerous area as it is near the famous spirit-habitated, Punta Hagdan cliff.  To highlight the danger of the deep sea, the communal samba ceremony is performed annually before the year starts to warn fishermen of the dangers of sea spirits, thus, minimizing its overuse.  The deeper dangerous stretch have traditionally served as some sort of sanctuary for marine life and as of this year, (1997) fishermen of Igdalaguit together with the local agriculture officer have included the stretch as part of the sanctuary reserve to be declared by a Municipal Ordinance.  As of late (2 years), they have planted mangrove in the shallow rocks although they have difficulty in maintaining it due to high mortality rate that occurred in the place attributed to typhoon and barnacles.
  Fishermen in Buntod limits utilization of marine life to the estuaries which they regard as “friendly” places and a “blessing”. Since the water resource  is regarded as a friend, there is no abuse of its use.  The distant sea is hardly used for fishing, except only during safe months of the year because it faces an open sea.  Besides, food from the estuary is quite enough for the villagers.  The land is not used as it is barren. Some trees, locally known as akasya  identified as mari-it and some species of bakhaw (mangrove) found in the fishpond and the canals of rivers, which stretch outward to the poblacion, are not cut thus protecting the environment.
  Like Buntod, Suclaran fisherfolk use traditional gears and view their shallow five-kilometer sea as a “friend” and should not be abused. Fishing using nets, traps and the small boat, sibid-sibidan is only done in the morning when it is low tide.  Since these types of fishing gears are not efficient, the sea resources are not exploited. The yonder deep zones are seldom visited. In the Siete Pecados Island (Seven Islands), a big strange white rat is believed to live under water and fearful sounds could be heard by the more daring fishermen. A ritual to protect them is needed before visiting the areas. Food offering is also needed for fishing ritual, hence if one is not ready with the ritual paraphernalia, he should not fish. Fishing, therefore, in deep dangerous places, is very seldom done.  Hence, exploitation in these areas, which serves as fish sanctuary, is minimal.
  Gabi’s, the 5 km shallow zone is frequented by small fishermen who use fishing gears like nets, traps, spears, and the hook and line which are not efficient to catch fish.  The small sibid-sibidan is used by fishermen in shallow waters where it is safe.  The bountiful shallow zone rich in marine life is also considered safe.  But like Suclaran, the yonder deep zones of 40-75 fathoms are considered very dangerous. Only big fishing vessels owned by two people in Gabi fish in these deeps zones and a daga (blood letting) ritual is needed before sea vessels can fish, a warning that the place is sacred or dangerous and should be used sparingly. Similarly, Olympu, a 40 fathoms diving place in Gigantes waters, is a strong reminder to Gabi divers never to go near the place except in very extreme cases and at one’s risk. These waters which are less frequented serve as sanctuary for marine life and the dangers told about them  remind the villagers that the sea is sacred or dangerous for people who use it wantonly.
  In the village of Manok-manok, only a remaining few people fish.   Fishing is seasonal and only by a few part-time fishermen. With the flourishing tourism industry in the island, at least 85% of traditional fishermen abandoned fishing for tourism related industries. Those who fish seasonally do it on the other side of the island, away from the stretch of white sand. Only one diver can be seen on the shallow white shores during fieldwork.  Seasonal fishing and traditional gears like spears are not efficient to catch fish. The burgeoning number of visitors in the island are fed by fish bought at the mainland since fish is not enough for the increasing population. This is beneficial for sustainable fishing because marine life will not be depleted.
  For these remaining few fishermen,  the sea is friendly and a God given blessing. It is the land, especially in the far northern and southern tips of the island, which they consider as mari-it, and where trees and bushes are not touched and frequented by people.  Some trees believed to be the dwelling places of land engkantos (environmental spirits), such as those locally known as bubog and lunok and are not cut.
  The tumandok nga Bukidnon or (mountain dwellers) of Caratagan have a clear concept of mari-it and non-mari-it zones. The nearby hills, about 15- minute walk from the village proper, have forests and hills which are entirely bald, save for some grasses. But there are forested hills and mountains which are preserved by the folk because of the strong belief that the environmental spirits like the mangingilaw (a huge man-eating monkey-like animal) and other ancestral spirits, who have lived with the engkanto as binihag (captives) inhabit these places. These places should not be disturbed lest something terrible should happen to them.  Past and recent stories of people, believed to have been harmed or killed by the mangingilaw (man-eating monkey creature) serve as control to the use of primary forests. 
  The Carataganons do not dare go and explore the forested mountain of Mt. Baloy, a mouontain reserve which is rich in rare species of flora (e.g. orchids) and fauna (e.g. wild birds, deer, pigs) for fear of disturbing the peace and tranquility of spirit beings and their pet animals that dwell in the place.  Mountaineers who dared to go there were cautioned of taboos to be observed (e.g. keeping quiet and not getting anything, such as flora and fauna). As a way of symbolizing respect for sacred sites, a little earth from the ground and a tiny piece from the bark of a tree should be eaten.  If they wanted to pick wild orchids, they should only get few and only when they are on their way back home. Thus, the concept of mari-it limits man’s activities away from dangerous zones many of which serves as sanctuaries of endangered wildlife species.
  Folklore as a Regulator of Environmental Resources
  Folklore as expressed in stories, legends, narratives, beliefs and taboos are oral traditions handed down from one generation to another. It attains its mark of traditionalism after it has passed the three generational test, which means it has been handed down through three generations. Folklore, as expressed in the belief of mari-it zones, discourages entry into deep forests and fishing grounds, thus preserving and protecting these areas from increasing population pressure in the coastal zones and the forest.  It defines the people’s norms and taboos on the use of resources, when to use, what to use and how to use them.  Implicitly, it argues for obedience to village traditions like the observance of silence in deep forests and seas which are sanctuaries of pelagic fishes and wild life. Once the natural habitat of flora and fauna are frequently visited, their growth and reproduction will be disturbed.
  Folk beliefs as part of folklore and worldview defines norms and answers questions pertaining to traditional ethics in resource utilization. The following are examples of stories regarding incidents which took place in mari-it places and  constantly remind the folks of taboos on restricted or limited zones believed to be sacred and potentially dangerous.
    CASE 1
    Baknit, a known hunter together with his two friends, went on a hunting trip for wild animals. Coming from the other side of Madia-as range, they crossed the mountains of Mt. Baloy for three days to catch a big wild boar. Exasperated, they finally caught the boar.  In excitement, Baknit shouted to his friends, “I will have its liver to compensate for my tiredness.”  However, his companionss sternly reminded him that they should just let go of the boar because it belongs to Diwa, the deity. Unmindful and boastful of his prowess as a hunter, Baknit was about to strike the boar when a crashing sound was heard.  Quick as a lightning, he was petrified and turned into a big stone. Today, in that mountain of Central Panay (now politically part of Valderrama, Antique), stands a rock which looks like a man about to strike a boar. It serves to remind daring hunters of the misdeed of Baknit. (Translated from “Baknit”, an illustrated reading material of the NGO, Green Forum, 1996, based in the Province of Iloilo).
  Another well known story regarding the fate of a person who disobeyed taboo on mari-it places is told of Ando, a diver from Gabi, in Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo:
    CASE 2
    Ando, a resident of Gigantes Island was in the process of constructing his house with galvanized roofing. Since the materials are far more costly than the usual temporary materials used like cogon and nipa, he had to earn more money. Therefore, he decided to dive for tipay (seashell) in a place called Olympu, a very deep fishing ground of 40 fathoms, located about 50 miles from Gigantes Island. This was in 1988. He had recalled three years earlier, that one of his men died mysteriously in the same spot, an hour after diving. Still, Ando was not fazed. He went diving in Olympu, accompanied by three of his men. They had oxygen tanks and attached to their belts was a rope which could be shaken to signal that the diver wants to be pulled up.
    On his first visit to the diving area, Ando had a very rich harvest of tipay. The area underwater looked like a beautiful garden with tipay-looking flower pots on a row. It was too beautiful to be true and tempting for a second visit. As such,  Ando went back in the afternoon to continue his rich harvest. He needed more money to construct his house. The following day, he went back on the same spot. His third visit proved fatal. The rich harvest was a sign that he should not have gone back. When he shook the rope and his companions pulled him up, he fainted on the boat. He was able to reach the shore, but he died just upon docking. Before his death, he was able to tell his companions that a hairy man underwater hit him with a hard vine. (Based on the story of T. Francisco’s uncle. Interviewed in Gabi, January 1993)
  Indeed, according to the folks who had heard the story, it was the siyukoy (sea monster) who hit Ando because he got more than what was needed. Going to Olympus waters for the second time and seeing numerous beautiful tipay, though an enticement,  was already a stern warning not to go back. Stories told about Olympu waters have made the place a safe sanctuary for marine life and have disciplined the folks not to be avaricious. Most divers, then prefer to avoid the place despite its bounty. This concept of a sacred or spiritual environment, which serves as some kind of an unwritten obligation between mortals and the supernaturals, is stronger than written law and had transcended time and generations.
  Another illustrative case study of land use, where the belief in mari-it serves to prohibit the exploitation of land through building construction, happened to an urbanizing area in Miagao, where the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) now stands. Prior to the construction of the UPV buildings, a bugay rite was performed by a baylan to request the environmental spirit beings to leave the place.  The town mayor requested for it as she would not want to be answerable if an accident would happen in the future.  Here is the story regarding the spirit-inhabited place.
    CASE 3
    The whole town of Miagao in Iloilo including the place where the UP Visayas building stands is believed to be mari-it. A big port and a commercial establishment of a big city believed to be owned by engkanto is found there. Many years ago, prior to the construction of buildings, the place had many trees such as mangoes, duhat, and wild fruits locally called pasi. But nobody dared harvest the fruits since the people considered the place as mari-it. The river, Idot, which passes in front of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), used to be a navigable river and many batel (big fishing boats) had entered that river in the 1920’s. But this body of water is  also mari-it.  If a place is inhabited by environmental spirits, it should be avoided. Cutting or taking  trees and branches is strictly prohibited, except for branches and fruits which have fallen to the ground. When the hilly UP Visayas site was leveled, strange incidents took place. There were cases when the carpenters’ food kept in the night would disappear the following morning. A worker woke up one morning to discover that he had his shoe on. During the construction of the dormitory, a big duhat tree was about to be uprooted but the bulldozer chain  broke down. It could not uproot the duhat tree.  The same thing happened when they attempted to cut the big sampaloc (tamarind) tree near the location of the present overpass. So many strange things happened which frightened and intimidated people.  This delayed the work until the engineer finally decided to divert the overpass a little bit and leave the tamarind tree protected.  (Based in an interview with Prof. Teresita Nunal, resident of Miagao, January 1995.)
  One can view the relationship which is formed not only between humans and the spiritual beings, but also between man and her/his physical environment, as one that is bonded with respect. Since the makaako (Almighty God), owns the earth and everything in it and has apportioned some areas to be secured by environmental spirits, human beings have no right to do anything as they please. They are just stewards and should never overuse, cut down trees or exhaust marine life.
  The folks of Panay whether living near the coast or in the mountains, have a concept of the environment or ecology called palibot (literally, “around”) which they sustain wisely. This incorporates the physical environment which includes man made things like infrastructure, the social environment which includes human beings and lastly, the spiritual environment which includes the unseen spirit world. If man intrudes on the spirits’ dwelling and disregards the spirit presence, the latter would get hurt and demand payment or propitiation.
IV. Summary, Analysis and Conclusion
  Data drawn from the six Panaynon villages showed that traditional means of livelihood like fishing, farming and hunting use implements and gears which are sustainable to the environment and do not deplete the sea and the forest resources. There are also beliefs regarding spirit beings in the sea, like the siokoy (half-man, half fish sea monster), and the mangingilaw (half man, half monkey man eating monster) forest which are very harmful.
  The Panay folks have also a notion that the earth and the universe where they live has a layered structure with spirit beings living in each layer e.g. the lupan-on (spirit beings on land), the idalmunon (spirit beings living underneath the surface of the earth), and the tubignon (spirit dwellers living in water). These beliefs only serve to remind Panaynon folks that the earth is sacred, spirit-inhabited and hence, dangerous. To use,  therefore, the resources of the earth with discourtesy or greed would incur the ire of the spirits.  Thus, there is a necessity for fishing and farming rites to be performed regularly to gain the favor.  Implicitly, rites like the daga (blood letting) and the samba (communal fishing rite) only serve to remind the Panaynon folks of the dangers of spirit habitated zones.
  Ethnographic data on the six barangays showed some variations as well as commonalities in the worldview of fisherfolks and mountain dwellers of Panay.  This could be attributed to their environmental location as well as other exogenous factors sipping into their traditional worldview.
  For the  fisherfolks of Igdalaguit (Antique), who lived near a kantilado (deep sea), the whole sea is considered very dangerous, even more dangerous than the land which they believe is also inhabited by spirit beings.  In contrast, fisherfolks from Buntod (Capiz) who lived near the two estuaries considered the waters around them as friendly, safe and a blessing.  It is the barren land and the spirit beings inhabiting it that they consider as mari-it.  The same is true with the fisherfolks of Suclaran (Guimaras) and Gabi (Gigantes Sur, Carles) where the sea is also considered friendly, safe and a precious gift from God, in contrast to the land which hardly gives them any means of sustenance. 
  Deep, dangerous and spirit-inhabited waters have been identified as far and beyond their usual day to day fishing areas.  Since these places are less visited, the ordinary fisherfolks are not too concerned with the perils it posed.  Because fishing is seldom done in these areas, pelagic fishes found in the deep sea are protected and there is no overfishing. In the same vein, Manok-manok (Boracay, Malay) fisherfolks who no longer considered fishing as a primary source of food after tourism related jobs proved more profitable, also viewed the sea as safe, friendly and a source of food. However, with the shift to tourism related jobs of about 85% of the fishermen, fishing was abandoned as they were no longer considered the primary source of livelihood, which is good for the sustainability of marine life.
  Fisherfolks from the barangays of Igdalaguit, Suclaran and Gabi, then,   have a clear concept of what they consider as mari-it (dangerous) and potentially dangerous places. Generally mari-it are places in the sea which are very deep and considered to be dangerous because of the presence of sea monsters and malevolent spirits coming from far flung islands. Deaths are reported in deep waters, and are seldom visited by ordinary fisherman.
  Various traditional beliefs are invoked by the fisherfolks to ensure their safety from the dangers posed by the sea. To Igdalaguit fisherfolks who consult religion, rituals are the answer. Aside from simple rites of fumigation, samba, a community rite is performed early by  religious practitioners called ma-aram (also, babaylan) to befriend malevolent sea spirits who come to their shores, bringing pests and diseases, and causing accidents and poor fish catch.
  Among other fishing villages like Suclaran and Gigantes, some rituals like padaga/padugo are still performed to ensure a bountiful fish catch and to ensure the fishermen’s safety.  There are, however, no religious practitioners in Suclaran to perform sea rites. These are done by  fisherfolks who come from other places in the Visayan sea. There are some variations in their performance of padaga and padugo rites. Generally, if a vessel is big, padaga is employed and the pig is slaughtered. A religious practitioner may or may not be hired, depending upon the owner’s financial capacity. One babaylan from Gabi says that a lot of fishermen no longer believed in ancient ritual practices. For small boats, however, even young fishermen are aware of the need of fumigation (tuob rite) and a number still perform padugo. Like the communal ritual, samba, padaga and padugo rites are reminders to fisherfolks and their families of the sacredness of the sea and the dangers that await over-fishing, which would then limit fishing activities.
  Buntod fisherfolk see no need for the performance of rituals even for new boats or gears. This could be possibly explained by the fact that they do not fish far into the sea and they do not consider the estuaries as mari-it. They simply fumigate the boats and gears themselves. Only the owners and caretakers of the sangha (fishpond) perform rituals and employ a babaylan (shaman) from outside the community, where it is available, since they cannot run the risk of a poor catch, or of frequently destroyed dikes. However, the  postponement itself of the sangha operation until a ritualist is available may give mature fishes time to reproduce or swim out to the far sea for safety.
  Former fishermen from Manok-manok also fumigate their fishing boats and gears, but urbanization made them abandon their traditional religious practices. Only a small number of folks fish seasonally.  They do not view the sea as dangerous. Instead, it is considered friendly and a source of blessing. It is believed that the land used to be very mari-it but with the coming of foreigners, the spirit beings have moved to the northern and southern tip of the island where they cannot be disturbed.  There is not a single babaylan left (possibly because they are no longer sought), though there is a sirhuano, a ritualist for simple rites. One informant reports the existence of an old babaylan in their place some generations ago but, just like the ritualist from Buntod, nobody followed the calling after his death.
  The fisherfolk concept of mari-it places is informed by the babaylan ideology perpetuated by the ma-aram or babaylan. Where there are more elderly shamans present in the area, the tradition is strong. This explains why folk beliefs in Igdalaguit are quite clear of the notion of mari-it and are persistent in performing rituals compared to the other villages studied. Tradition has informed them that the deep sea is dangerous.  Thus, fishing rituals are must for boats and gears.  Folklore and folk stories of sea accidents constantly remind fishermen of the sea and of the nearby Punta Hagdan as mari-it (dangerous).  In Suclaran, the presence of a change agent – an Aglipayan priest had contributed to the weakening of the tradition while in Gabi, the convergence of different people and ideas and the improvement of fishing technology also weakened the  tradition. In both barangays, fishing in deep sea is regulated because of the fear of sea spirits and the required ritual before going to fish.  Also, the use of traditional fishing gears like traps, nets and, spears which are not efficient allows for the replenishment of fish and other forms of marine life.
  The presence of the strong babaylan tradition is explained by the fact that the babaylan are traditionally associated with farming communities.  Igdalaguit is basically a farming community, although fishing is an important occupation. Thus, the babaylan is sought in fishing but even more so in farming.  But the admonition of old babaylans on ritual requirements and the explanation they give for sea accidents and poor catch can be viewed as regulatory measures to prevent over-fishing done by the visiting commercial fishermen.
  The sea is viewed as friendly by the fisherfolks from Suclaran and Gigantes because it is a source of food.  Their usual fishing grounds, are the shallow waters which are not considered to be the abode of sea spirits. The same is true with estuaries located closed to the land.  They are not known to be deep, and are rich sources of marine life. Hence, they are considered as a blessing to the fisherfolks of Buntod.
  In Buntod as well as in Gigantes, it is the land which is considered as mari-it because of the presence of land spirits, aside from the fact that fishermen get nothing from it. In Buntod, there is no single farmland for cultivating rice while in Gigantes, there is still a small area planted only annually. The land is barren during the rest of the year. In that sense, the land is not friendly, rather, it is dangerous, for after all, it gives very little or no yield at all rendering life very dangerous.
  Is there a direct or indirect bearing on the concept of mari-it to ecosystems protection?  Illustrative case studies showed with certainty the direct bearing of the concept of dangerous zones to sustainable human development in that the belief restricts limits on the use of resources found in mari-it places making them a safe sanctuary for marine and wildlife.  It defines ethics for resource utilization – when to use, what to use and how to use them.  The strength of tradition over laws and ordinances is seen in the way traditional people protect their forest and seas which support not only their traditional or indigenous culture but their very own survival.
  Unfortunately, however, the fast encroachment of technology from first world countries and the entry of consumerism have slowly eroded indigenous beliefs, concepts and values of  people in traditional societies.  It is my contention that the destruction of the belief in sacred places are caused by technological advancement, which is greatly responsible for destroying our natural resources.
  I suggest, therefore, that we make use of extant folk beliefs to generate ecological consciousness by including them in songs or ballads (known as composo among the Panaynons), slogans, radio dramas, films, comics, children’s stories, paintings, plays, and even dances. If most of our mountains became bald because of indiscriminate logging, if some of our reforestation efforts have been mere exercises in futility because people keep on cutting them, replanting them with trees (e.g. bubog, acadia, talisay) believed to be spirit-inhabited, will make people think a dozen times before they cut them.
  Finally, in a world (traditional societies) lacking in technology but possessing indigenous wisdom, it is still the idea of a Maka-ako (Almighty God) revealing himself to man in different societies and culture through time, in diverse ways, that has taught man to love and care for Mother Earth – so we may live safe and secure despite the folly of man’s wantonness.


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