The Sulod is the most populous and varied ethnolinguistic group of Central Panay. They can also be found in Tapaz in Capiz, Lambuano in Iloilo, and Valderrama in Antique. They are known mainly for their unique binukot tradition, as well as their popular binanog dance and the epic poem Hinilawod.
Sulods are called by many names. Aside from their official name Sulod that translates to “closet” or “room,” they are also called montesses (“mountain dwellers”) by lowlanders, mundos for Sulods of Capiz and Aklan, and buki, which is short for bukidnon for Sulods of Iloilo and Antique (although this last one has become a derogatory term to them).
Most Sulods are monolingual, speaking their language of the same name Sulod, also known as Ligbok. Furthermore, their dialects are closely related to Hiniraya, which is the lowland Kiniray-a. As of 2010, the Sulod population was 81,189 people.
The most unique and notable Sulod tradition is the practice of keeping binukot. The binukot are selected among the beautiful young women of the tribe and are hidden away in closed rooms, away from the eyes of men.
During the time they are kept, they become the record keepers of their people, working to memorize many Visayan epics such as the famous tale of Hinilawod, as well as the stories of Humadapnon, Suguidanon, and Labaw Donggon.
The binukot are equivalent to princesses, and so these women are treated with the care and attention befitting their stature in the community.
When they are of the right age, they are auctioned for marriage.
A Community of Five to Seven Houses
Another distinctive Sulod practice is shifting cultivation; that is, they rarely stay in one place for more than two years. While they are in a particular site, they grow upland rice and other crops for their daily needs.
During their stay in their kaingin site, they live in clusters of settlements called puro. A puro is normally located on top of a high ridge, with houses typically constructed as four-walled, one-room dwellings, about three meters in height, and supported with bamboo or timber posts. They are usually located beside a river so that inhabitants can have easy access to water and riverine foods. At the same time, they can guard their kaingin site from wild animals. Additionally, a hut called urub can be found in front of the house used for emergency purposes, such as during a storm.
Each puro is composed of five to seven houses and is headed by the eldest man called parangkuton (“counselor”), with his title literally translating to “one to be asked.” The parangkuton is the main person in charge of officiating over activities such as hunting, housebuilding, and moving to a new kaingin site. Moreover, he is in charge of resolving disputes, as well as overseeing annual social and religious events. Each parangkuton is assisted by a young man called timbang (“helper” or “assistant”). When the parangkuton dies, a transfer of leadership happens and the remaining oldest man in the puro inherits the title.
Sulod’s Way of Life
The Sulod ethnoreligion shapes their way of life. They act according to the wishes of the spirits and deities, with whom their baylan communicates during their religious rites, especially during their 16 major annual ceremonies, which are specifically to celebrate their principal spirit diwata. On normal days, the baylan mainly communicate with preeminent spirits during seances and interpret dreams and omens for their community.
On important occasions, Sulod women don headdresses of cloth lined with silver coins, as well as beaded necklaces. By contrast, men sport ordinary buri hats as headwear, with elders opting for g-strings. They then perform their binanog dance, accompanied by an agung ensemble, with the dance mimicking the flight of the Philippine eagle. Their performances also include traditional songs, dances, and epics, highlighted by bamboo musical instruments. Another art form that Sulods take pride in is their detailed embroidery called panubok, which they showcase during their Tinubkan fashion show in Iloilo City.
One important Sulod tradition is their balasan or “wake of the dead.” This is when a loved one has died and everyone in the community chips in with material things to condole with the bereaved family.
Interestingly, a Sulod of important stature, such as a baylan or parangkuton, is not buried in the ground, unlike an ordinary Sulod. Instead, a special coffin is made for them, which is then placed in a shed made of cogon grass called kantang on top of a solitary hill. Then, after two or three months, the bones are removed, washed, and wrapped in a black cloth, to be suspended under the eaves of the house. It is believed that the Sulods’ death or manner of dying were pre-determined by the three brothers Mangganghaw, Manlaegas, and Patag’aes, as stated in their mythology.
Ethnic Groups Philippines. Sulod
National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Peoples of the Philippines: Sulod
Introduction to Visayas. Suludnon
CAL State East Bay. Sulod
The Aswang Project. The ‘Sulod’ People
The Sulod – Bukidnon Tribe of Sibato