Among the Mandayas, the dagmay has been worn as women’s skirts but it is also used as blankets and to wrap the dead. Each design, however, carries with it a certain story. Most of the traditional designs, which can easily date back to over a hundred years, have come to them in dreams.
BY GERMELINA A. LACORTE
Posted by Bulatlat
CARAGA, DAVAO ORIENTAL— Masandag Diano-Pagsac’s face flushed when she heard another version of the story of the origin of dagmay. “It was not a tamisa (a Mandaya term for an only son) who found it,” she said in Mandaya. “It was a maiden taking a bath in the river.”
An indigenous people’s group, Sildap is working on a book on the 11 tribes in Mindanao, and in one of their researches has stumbled upon the story of the origin of the dagmay among the Mandaya tribe. In Sildap’s version, a tamisa was in a river, when he saw a beautiful cloth in a rock near the Balete tree. The cloth was so beautiful he decided to bring it home. When the Tagamaling (spirit living in the Balete) found that he lost the cloth, he was very mad and cursed the one who took it. “You’ll die, wrapped by the cloth you’ve stolen.” Right in that instant, the boy died and the people asked forgiveness from the Tagamaling. The Tagamaling appeared in their dreams, finally appeased, and taught them how to make the dagmay.
Among the Mandayas, the dagmay has been worn as women’s skirts but it is also used as blankets and to wrap the dead.
Each design, however, carries with it a certain story. Most of the traditional designs, which can easily date back to over a hundred years, have come to them in dreams.
In Masandag’s version, it was a maiden taking a bath in the river who caught sight of a beautiful cloth left near the Bodbod (Balete) tree. The maiden also saw a fleeting glimpse of its owner.
The cloth was so beautiful she couldn’t resist taking it home. When the maiden fell asleep, the Tagamaling appeared. But unlike in the Sildap’s version of the tale, the Tagamaling wasn’t mad at the maiden at all, said Masandag, for as long as she followed what she was told to do. The spirit dictated upon the maiden how to make the dagmay.
Various designs of the dagmay. (Photo by Davao Today)
“As soon as she was awake, the maiden started working on the dagmay. Thus, the designs that included the binaybayan, the otaw (man), the patolla, buaya (crocodile), bilaan and the utaw and the kal’lungnan (which refers to the poles where the dagmay cloth is rolled, represented by stripes in the design).”
Those were the designs that Masandag learned from her mother at 14.
Now at 68, she realized that no one among the younger ones is interested in the art of weaving anymore. “She and her sister Amayang are among the last who know the art of the dagmay, said Agusto Diano, Masandag’s brother. “The younger ones are not interested anymore. They go to the cities to study and then to work.”
Masandag’s eyes are welling with tears.
“She often cries when she realizes that when she’s gone, the art of the dagmay will disappear with her,” Diano said.
Diano heads the Mandaya tribal council in Pantuyan, a village about 15 kilometers of sloping road from Caraga town. It is his dream that the tribe would be able to put up a school where Masandag can teach the fast-disappearing art of the Mandayas. He said there’s still time to learn the old art while the last of the Mandaya weavers are still around and some of the men, including himself, still know how to make the tools for weaving.