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A preliminary report on the University of the Philippines' anthropological research in Kota Belud, Sabah.

The 2007 University of the Philippines Anthropology Field School was undertaken in Kota Belud, Sabah, Malaysia from April 23 to May 20. The field research team consisted of three anthropology professors and 17 undergraduate anthropology students from the University of the Philippines.

Various anthropological research methods were employed during the Field School, including key informant interviews, key word listing, kinship charting, material culture inventory, and participant observation. Researches were undertaken in two general areas, namely: social anthropology and ethnoarchaeology.

This paper discusses the initial findings of the anthropological research conducted in Kota Belud. Eight research papers in social anthropology and seven papers in ethnoarchaeology were generated by the Field School. The topics covered by these research papers included cultural heritage, customary law, death rituals, emotions, fishing technology, gender politics, gong music, heirloom items, the market system, marriage customs, and weaving, among others. Aside from these research papers, several essays and articles on various topics were also produced by the students in the areas of anthropological linguistics, ethnohistory, folklore, informant biography, and material culture studies.

The UP Anthropology Field School

The U.P. Anthropology Field School (UPAFS) is an annual undertaking of the Department of Anthropology of the University of the Philippines. The UPAFS aims to train senior Bachelor of Arts students in Anthropology on field techniques in archaeology, social anthropology, and physical anthropology. The first UPAFS was undertaken in 1970 in the Tabon Caves of Palawan, Philippines. Since then, the UPAFS has been conducted in several parts of the Philippines, including the Batanes Islands, Benguet, Bohol Island, Cagayan Valley, Capul Island, Cavite Province, Davao, Kalinga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Rizal, Sorsogon, and Metro Manila.

Research Area

In 2007, the UPAFS was, for the first time, held outside of the Philippines. Three communities in Kota Belud were selected to represent three distinct ethnolinguistic groups found in the District, namely the:

* Bajau of Kampung Taun Gusi;

* Dusun Tobilung of Kampung Dudar Laut; and

* Iranun of Kampung Pantai Emas.

The three communities were selected based on the recommendations of the Mahkamah Anak Negeri, the Native Court of Kota Belud, which acted as host institution. The Native Chiefs of the three villages acted as the principal contacts of the researchers. It must be noted that the Bajau and the Iranun may also be found in the Philippines, most specifically on Mindanao Island and in the Sulu Archipelago.

Research Team

The field research team consisted of three professors and seventeen students. Prof. Nestor Castro, Ph.D. was designated by UP as the Field School Coordinator. He was supported by Prof. Soledad Natalia Dalisay, Ph.D., a nutritional anthropologist, and Prof. Carlos Tatel, M.A., a historical archaeologist.

The students were all in their senior year in the B.A. Anthropology program of UP Diliman. They were enrolled in two courses offered during the Summer Semester of Academic Year 2006-07, namely Anthropology 195 (Field Methods in Archaeology) and Anthropology 196 (Field Methods in Social Anthropology). Of the 17 students, 13 are female while four are male. The four male students were assigned to Kampung Pantai Emas while the female students were further divided into two groups--one for Kampung Dudar Laut and one for Kampung Taun Gusi.

Research Funding

Partial funding for the UP Anthropology Field School was acquired from the Southeast Asian Gender and Sexuality Research Project of The Ford Foundation and from the University of the Philippines Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development. The funds solicited from these agencies covered the board and lodging expenses incurred by the faculty and students during the entire Field School. Other expenses, such as plane fare, were shouldered by the students themselves or their individual sponsors.

Research Methodology

The principal methods of research employed during the field school were:

1. Key informant interviews; and

2. Participant observation of family and village life.

The key informants came from various sectors of the three kampungs, including the Ketua Anak Negeri (native chiefs), school teachers, religious leaders, health practitioners, farmers, fishermen, market vendors, musicians, craft specialists (e.g. weavers, knife makers), Filipino migrants, and women and youth leaders.

Whenever possible, the students, especially those assigned to Kampung Dudar Laut and Kampung Taun Gusi, stayed with their host families in order to experience kampung life. They also participated in community activities, such as weddings, burial rituais, kenduri (thanksgiving) feasts, fishing activities, native court hearings, the tamu sabtu (weekend market), the pesta kaamatan (harvest festival), and a host of other occasions.

Preparatory Activities

Prior to going to the field, faculty and students reviewed the available literature on Sabah, in general, and on the Bajau, Dusun, and Iranun, in particular. They also took a crash course in Bahasa Melayu under the auspices of Prof. Emilita Cruz of the UP Department of Linguistics.

A pre-field visit to Kota Kinabalu and Kota Belud was conducted in the middle of February 2007 by Prof. Nestor Castro and one of the students, Mr. Jessie Varquez. They made courtesy visits to the Muzium Sabah, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kota Kinabalu, the Institut Linguistik SIL, the Mahkamah Anak Negeri of Sabah, and the School of Social Sciences of Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

The entire research team arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on April 23, 2007 and stayed in the Stella Maris Parish Church in Tanjung Aru for a few days before proceeding to Kota Belud. The group visited the Muzium Sabah to look into its ethnographic, archaeological, and historical collections. In Kota Belud, the researchers set up their quarters at the SIU Motel in Kuala Abai. They were welcomed there by the Ketua Daerah (district chief) of the Tempasuk area of Kota Belud and the Ketua Anak Negeri (native chiefs) covering the three research areas. They gave the UPAFS delegation a briefing about the research areas. After the briefing session, the students divided themselves into three groups and immediately planned their research schedule together with the native chiefs.

Field Exercises

As a field methods class, the students were exposed to various exercises aimed at improving their research skills. These exercises were as follows:

A. In Social Anthropology:

1. Life story writing

2. Kinship charting

3. Key word listing

4. Linguistic domain analysis

B. In Ethnoarchaeology:

1. Ethnohistorical research

2. Heirloom biography

3. Material culture inventory

4. Craft standardization analysis

The outputs of the students' exercises were short essays and mini-researches on the following topics:

A. Life Stories

1. Biliara a Uyag-uyag: A Story of Love of an Iranun Woman (by Denzil Buenaventura);

2. Life Story: Faizal bin Sagindek, Kampung Dudar (by Ma. Carmela Protacio);

3. Life Story: Francis bin Sungkin (by Marian Rica Lodripas):

4. Life Story: Hardi Sagindek, Kampung Dudar (by Ma. Gabriela Aparentado);

5. Malaysian Iranun Cikgu: Story of Ha-Fizah (by Rodelio Gagwis);

6. Seeking Refuge: Life Story of Incik Kahar bin Sinalindo (by Alvin Tengonciang);

7. Tearful Past, Joyful Present: The Life of a Filipino Migrant in Kota Belud, Sabah, Malaysia (by Jessie Varquez); and

8. Tukang Parang (by Irene Justine Agbayani).

B. Research Papers on Bahasa Melayu Gender and Sexuality Keywords:

1. A Preliminary Study on Gender and Gender Categories: Sabah, Malaysia (by Louielyn Joy Morada and Frances Keith Cortes);

2. Appeal and Attraction in Sabah, Malaysia (by Irene Justine Agbayani and Sachi Maio Panganiban);

3. Bahasa Melayu Keywords on Courtship and Sexual Strategies (by Fatima Gay Molina and Kimmy Rose Roan);

4. Kebiasaan (by Alvin Tengonciang and Rodelio Gagwis);

5. Keywords: Sex Organs and Genitalia in Sabah, Malaysia (by Diana Josefa San Jose and Cyril Santos);

6. Lust and Desire Domain (by Jessie Varquez and Denzil Buenaventura);

7. Melayu Keywords Related to Sexuality (by Marian Rica Lodripas and Ma. Carmela Aparentado); and

8. Sexuality Keywords in Partnering and Relationships (by Maria Gabriela Aparentado, Abigail Faith Luistro, and Roxanne Gale Villaflor).

C. Linguistic Domain Analvses

1. Domain Analysis: Emotions (by Fatima Gay Molina and Kimmy Rose Roan);

2. Domain Analysis: Market (by Marian Rica Lodripas and Frances Keith Cortes); and

3. Panginseda' (by Alvin Tengonciang and Rodelio Gagwis).

D. Essays on Ethnohistory

1. Ethnohistory of Sungai Dudar (by Marian Rica Lodripas and Frances Keith Cortes);

2. Ethnohistory: The Pulutan River (by Maria Carmela Aparentado, Abigail Faith Luistro, and Roxanne Gale Villaflor);

3. Ethnohistory: The Story Behind the Betel Nut (by Fatima Gay Molina and Kimmy Rose Roan);

4. Gold and Sand (by Alvin Tengonciang and Rodelio Gagwis); and

5. Shared Culture, Defined Boundaries: The Ethnohistory of Kampung Kota Peladok (by Jessie Varquez and Denzil Buenaventura).

E. Essays on Material Culture Studies

1. A Glimpse of the Gong-Making Industry in Sabah (by Ma. Carmela Protacio, Abigail Faith Luistro, Roxanne Gale Villaflor, Marian Rica Lodripas, Ma. Gabriela Aparentado, Fatima Gay Molina, and Kimmy Rose Roan);

2. A Survey of Material Culture: Kampung Pantai Emas, An Iranun Village (by Alvin Tengonciang, Rodelio Gagwis, Jessie Varquez, and Denzil Buenaventura);

3. Material Culture of Kampung Dudar (by Ma. Carmela Protacio, Abigail Faith Luistro, Roxanne Gale Villaflor, Marian Rica Lodripas, Ma. Gabriela Aparentado, Fatima Gay Molina, and Kimmy Rose Roan); and

4. Material Culture Inventory of Kampung Tahun Gusi (by Diana Josefa San Jose, Cyril Santos, Louielyn Joy Morada, Frances Keith Cortes, Irene Justine Agbayani, and Sachi Maio Panganiban).

F. Essays on Heirloom Biography

1. A Mother's Memento (by Abigail Faith Luistro);

2. Family Treasures: Heirloom Biography of a Celapa and Kili (by Cyril Santos);

3. Gong (by Alvin Tengonciang);

4. Moligun: The Basin of Our Fathers (by Maria Gabriela Aparentado);

5. Pusaka (by Rodelio Gagwis);

6. Pusaka: Sumbul and Gadur (by Roxanne Gale Villaflor);

7. Tana' Near the Sungai: The Pemasoko of Dingga Binti Tangoh of Kg. Sembirai (by Jessie Varquez);

8. Tempayan, Talak at Kasarian: Isang Pagsilip sa Papel ng Kababaihan sa Lipunang Dusun [Tempayan, Talak and Gender: A Glimpse on the Role of Women in Dusun Society] (by Marian Rica Lodripas);

9. Tinukol: Unraveling the Journey Around the Seas of Southeast Asia (by Fatima Gay Molina); and

10. The Tandas (by Kimmy Rose Roan).

All of the outputs of these exercises served as inputs into the final research papers that were expected from the students by the end of the summer class.

Final Research Outputs

The final research outputs were eight research papers in social anthropology and seven papers in ethnoarchaeology. The titles of these papers are as follows:

A. Research in Social Anthropology

1. Bajau Marriage Customs: Kota Belud, Sabah (by Frances Keith Cortes and Louielyn Joy Morada);

2. Death Beliefs, Rituals, and Practices Among the Bajaus of Kota Belud, Sabah (by Diana Josefa San Jose and Cyril Santos);

3. Mahkamah Anak Negeri and Adat: The Use of Native Court and Customary Laws in Conflict Resolution (by Jessie Varquez and Denzil Buenaventura);

4. Notes on the Female as a Primary Icon in the Dusun Tobilung Agricultural Society of Kampung Dudar Laut (by Maria Gabriela Aparentado, Abigail Faith Luistro, and Roxanne Gale Villaflor);

5. Panginseda': Beyond the Iranun Sea Hunter's Line (by Alvin Tengonciang and Rodelio Gagwis);

6. The Bajau Beat: Bertitik (by Irene Justine Agbayani and Sachi Maio Panganiban);

7. The Gender Politics of Dusun Tebilung Traditional Marriage Ceremony (by Fatima Gay Molina and Kimmy Rose Roan); and

8. The Tarou Sabtu and the Social Life of the Dusun-Tobilong People (by Marian Rica Lodripas and Ma. Carmela Protacio).

B. Research Papers in Ethnoarchaeology

1. Notes on the Gongs of Sabah (by Maria Gabriela Aparentado, Abigail Faith Luistro, and Roxanne Gale Villaflor);

2. The Bajau Bertitik Instruments as Heirlooms (by Irene Justine Agbayani and Sachi Maio Panganiban);

3. The Saging and the Barait: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of the Dusun-Tobilong Handicrafts (by Marian Rica Lodripas and Ma. Carmela Protacio);

4. Threads and Ethnicity (by Alvin Tengonciang and Rodelio Gagwis);

5. One Bajau Graveyard: Identification of a Bajau Burial Site (by Diana Josefa San Jose and Cyril Santos);

6. The Craft of Parang Making in Kota Belud, Sabah (by Louielyn Joy Morada and Frances Keith Cortes); and

7. Weaving and Embroidery Tradition of Dusun People: A Mechanism for the Survival of a Cultural Heritage (by Fatima Gay Molina and Kimmy Rose Roan).

Museum Exhibit

The results of the Sabah field school were shared with the academic community through a museum exhibit at the U.P. Anthropology Museum entitled "Fieldwork across the Border: The Sabah Experience." The exhibit formally opened in November 9, 2007 and is still on public display at the U.P. Anthropology Museum in Palma Hall of U.P. Diliman. The exhibit is a project of the Museology students of U.P. Diliman under the auspices of Prof. Maria Mangahas. Among the exhibits on display in the museum are the maps and photographs of Kota Belud, a showcase on the kenduri, the tamu (market), a Bajau wedding, Iranun handicrafts, and field materiais actually used by the students while in Sabah.

Last July 4, 2008, OKK Tuan Haji Masrin Haji Hassin, the Ketua Daerah of Tempasuk, together with 14 native chiefs and staff members of the Mahkamah Anak Negeri of Kota Belud visited the U.P. Anthropoiogy Museum to view the exhibit on Sabah. During that visit, they presented the U.P. Anthropology Department a token of their gratitude for undertaking the Anthropology Field School in Kota Belud.

Plans for Future Studies

The U.P. Department of Anthropology plans to pursue in the future more in-depth studies of the cultures of Kota Belud. It is hoped that these future research endeavors will be implemented in collaboration with local research institutions in Sabah, such as the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the Institut Linguistik SIL, and the Muzium Sabah. Cross-cultural research on the Philippines and Sabah should also be undertaken, such as ethnological studies comparing the Iranun of Mindanao with those of Sabah.

Nestor T. Castro

Department of Anthropology

University of the Philippines

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

(1) This Brief Communication summarizes a longer paper presented at the Ninth Biennial BRC Conference in Kota Kinabalu, July, 2008.
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Author:Castro, Nestor T.
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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