Cultural Potpourri | Darangen ni Bantugen @ SM Lanang Premier

THE FILIPINO Heritage Festival, in celebration of the National Heritage Month of May, presented Philippine Ballet Theatre’s “Darangen ni Bantugen” at SM Lanang Premier’s Cinema 6 last May 30, 2018.  Davao’s culturatti and ballet aficionados came in full support.  Darangen is the Maranao term for epic song.  Darangen ni Bantugen was declared in 2005 as one of the world’s 43 “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  This epic song of the Maranao people of Mindanao explores the themes of sibling rivalry, love, life and death, good and evil, peace and war, and celebrates the exploits of its legendary hero, Bantugen.

Salvador Bernal's amazing costumes and stage design at the CCP Theatre

Salvador Bernal’s amazing costumes and stage design at the CCP Theatre

“Darangen ni Bantugen was commissioned by the Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. as the centerpiece of the month long National Heritage Month festivities in 2008.  May has been declared as the National Heritage Month under Presidential Proclamation No. 439 in 2003 “in recognition of the need to create among the people a consciousness, respect and pride for the legacies of Filipino cultural history and love of country.  Filipinos are given a chance to highlight and appreciate their cultural treasures.  This is also an occasion to raise awareness on their significance,” explained the Filipino Heritage Chairperson Mita Rufino who came to Davao for the special event.  Madame Rufino was seated in front of me along with Davao’s Filipino Heritage stellar representative, Baby Maceda-Montemayor, who was dressed in a chic “Kaayo” red outfit.

The Princess and her court

The Princess and her court

“It was in 2008 when the Filipino Heritage Festival Committee requested me to do a Filipino epic that is related to Darangen as the Filipino Heritage Festival then was pushing for UNESCO’s recognition.  I chose Darangen ni Bantugen because it is the longest and the oldest darangen in Lake Lanao; and the most popular among Maranaos.  I made my own interpretation in this original ballet I choreographed.  I adapted my libretto from Lourdes Sanchez’s story of ‘Darangen ni Bantugan, and from the story of E. Arsenio Manuel’s book, ‘Myth and Legend.’  Manuel highlighted the death of Bantugan so I emphasized on the time before Bantugen dies and the time after he is resurrected,” narrated Gener Caringal, the Director and Choreographer of Darangen ni Bantugen, who also graced the event.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask him why he uses Bantugen with an “e” rather than Bantugan with an “a” which is how it appears in Sanchez’s and Manuel’s stories.

The late National Artist Salvador Bernal’s costumes and stage design are just amazing in representing the rich tapestry of Mindanao culture and tradition.   Just as praiseworthy was Jesse Lucas’ original music scoring which flows with Mindanao’s melodic passages as requested by Director/Choreographer Gener Caringal.

The Philippine Ballet Theatre’s ballet dancers performed mightily with such passion, precision and emotional interpretation; although the lead performer, Bantugen, and his close friend, Magali, could loose some weight.  I am still wondering to this time why the program didn’t include the names of the dancers, especially the lead performers.

Bantugen and Diwata encounter

Bantugen and Diwata encounter

“We have a very good epic that we can be truly proud of that can match with India’s Ramayana which is being taught in schools.  Our Darangen ni Bantugen is a classic story we Filipinos should really appreciate, learn, and absorb,” said Gener Caringal in closing with Mita Rufino nodding in complete agreement.  It was my first encounter with this epic from Mindanao.  Yes, Filipino epics were not taught in schools during my time.

Thank you Filipino Heritage Festival Committee, Philippine Ballet Theatre and SM Lanang Premier for sharing with us the rich epic, Darangen ni Bantugen.  What a cultural treat to end the National Heritage Month in Davao.  Mabuhay kayo!



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