|Binukot, The Hidden Princesses of the mountains||2017.01.01 20:33:08|
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"Binukot, The Hidden Princesses of the Mountains"
The non-magical of a princess' life
Iloilo is a province in the island of Panay. Precolonial Panay was inhabited by the Atis, native
aboriginal people described as small, dark-skinned people. It is believed that they came to the island by
the now-lost land bridges connecting the Philippines with mainland Asia. One of the settlements of
the Ati people were the provinces of Iloilo and San Joaquin. In the 13th Century, Datu Puti and nine
other datus from Borneo landed in these areas following an escape from the growing tyranny of Sultan
Residing in the mountainous area is the indigenous group called the Tumandok or the Suludnon.
They are also called the Panay-Bukidnon or Panayanon Sulud because of their roots in the Panay Island.
One of their traditions is the Binukot, derived from the Hiligaynon word which means “kept,
“secluded” or “confined.” It comes from the Hiligaynon root word “bukot” and its verb form is
“bukotán,” which means “to cover” or “to wrap.” In this cultural practice, well-off parents isolate
their most intelligent and beautiful daughter—the "binukot"—from the eyes of public.
As a highly treated princess, she is not exposed to the sun, allowed to work, nor bathe herself.
She receives only the best of things. She is raised to a hammock so her feet won’t touch the ground. If
she is needed in a social function, she wears a veil and is carried in a hammock so she will not get
Because of this way of living, the binukot grows up frail and unknowledgeable of the
harsher and more pragmatic aspects of the outside world. But in spite of this, she is the only carrier of
the most precious information that the tribe holds: their epics – legends and history woven in verse
that only a binukot has committed to memory and knows how to sing.
As thehistoryoftheprecolonialphilippines.wordpress.com (2011) says, “They are the repositories
of ages-long epics and legends of their society. They are raised to chant these epics and legends, and to
learn traditional dances.”
But these epics grew dangerously close to being buried forever during World War II. One fateful
night, the Japanese stepped into the region with their rifles and grenades and unlawful intentions and
the residents had to flee for their lives; and the binukots, who were too frail to run and were not
allowed to be seen were left behind. Here enters the gruesome tales of the Japanese abuses. By the
end, only around 10 binukots remained.
Today, only one binukot lives. Although no longer confined and long past the frivolities kept
sacred to one of her kind, she stays faithful to her chants and dances.