filmmaking, laundry therapy, music, musings, travel

lake sebu revisited

this is y’egas, a t’boli singer from lake sebu in south cotabato. i came across her in 2004 when i went up the area to work on a documentary (which unfortunately i didn’t finish).  the first time i met her at her home and asked her to sing for the documentary, y’egas started lamenting in song about the conditions of her people and fighting for ancestral domain land titles in a largely government protected area (watershed). i gave her a token of thanks (p500) for her help and left.  i later learned from my guide that she didnt like me recording her; she was saying i might exploit her and her people and all that jazz. i was oblivious because she sang in her native tongue and didnt speak a word of bisaya! i also found out my recording got corrupted (used minidv tapes and for some reason they were pixelated and “choppy”) so i had to go back and redo the footage. i braved asking her to sing again and thankfully this time she was more than helpful, smiled a lot more and sang of the beauty of lake sebu and hoped i bring with me only good memories of her and her land.  she even recounted the death of a beloved datu chieftain and sang about a local epic.  here is the video to that song.


sorry, i have no way of translating this video.  took me a while to find this file, one of the few scenes i was able to digitally convert and keep 5 years ago, and upload on youtube.  has it been that long?  i have one more of y’egas dancing and her brother, ma’afil, playing the hegolung he made for me.  ill upload this vid at another time.  here are my blog entries on the trip around zamboanga and lake sebu in 2004:

cruising down the freeway in the hot hot sun
more on motorcycle diaries


5 thoughts on “lake sebu revisited

  1. Well… those were the times… As you will remember, Ben, I was sitting right beside you during this occasion, and the video I made myself almost looks the same. Ye Gas is an amazing singer, with a beautiful and very expressive face. I don’t have a translation of the song either, but I clearly hear the words “Lake Sebu” and “Amerika,” the latter referring to me as a “kano” visitor. So, it must be a greeting song for us visitors telling about the life situation of the people around Lake Sebu. I had a remarkable stay there, having the chance to know Ma Fil, the virtuoso hegelung player and one of the nicest people I met in the Philippines, and to meet the Tasaday, who were “sold” by the media as an alleged stone age people in the 1970’s to 1980’s. And a young Tasaday man was one of the best boat lute players I have ever heard… All this was perfect — if only I wouldn’t have relied on my guide there in Lake Sebu, because my acquaintance with that woman started a whole series of cheatings and to the discovery of many cheatings and frauds she did to other people and institutions, which finally led me to the decision that I will probably never return to Lake Sebu anymore… Actually, you show her picture on another page of your blog, which you better should not do, thus encouraging other people to meet her…

    • hi hans, thanks for the note. yes i remember our facebook chat re maria wanan. i did find a docu produced in 2008 (or 2010) on the t’bolis which featured an interview with her. i remember you told me the t’boli cultural group has prohibited her involvement with the promotion of their culture so i was surprised to see her so prominent in the video. i might just take out the photo you were talking about 🙂 i wouldnt know if much has changed since 2004 but i hope she would have changed though. anything is possible, but it helps to be wary 😉 hope you are in good health. cheers!

      • Hans Brandeis says:

        Well, she is just shameless enough to simply ignore what a Tboli tribal panel has ruled against her, because of her fraudulent actions: she did not comply with any of the commandments that she was ordered to follow. Obviously, nobody in Lake Sebu feels responsible for keeping her under control: she neither sent me a formal apology, nor did she pay back any money she fraudulently received from me, and she still represents the Tboli tribe towards the outside world – something she has strictly been prohibited by her own people.

        During the “National Symposium on Schools of Living Traditions” in Baguio last October 2010, she attended as a representative and alleged board member of the SIKAT school in Lake Sebu…

        In November 2010, she visited the House of Representatives where is had photographs made with Congress Woman Carol Jayne B. Lopez. She is also mentioned in the “Congressional Record” of the House of Representatives from Nov. 17, 2010, page 7: “REP. GUNIGUNDO. Mr. Speaker, may we also acknowledge the presence of the guests in the gallery of Hon. Carol Jayne B. Lopez of YACAP Party-List and Hon. Daisy Avance-Fuentes of the Second District of South Cotabato, namely: Mesdames Maria Todi Arroz, Barbara Ofung and Mr. Michael Angelo Yambok.”

        There are still a lot of things this woman did, which I heard about from other people, but I have no evidence at hand so that I cannot talk about them here. But just ask Commissioner Felipe de Leon from the NCCA, why she was kicked out from the NCCA before… When I met him, I just mentioned that I went to Lake Sebu but did not even mention her name, and he immediately said: “Be careful in Lake Sebu… there are people who will take advantage of you…”

      • oh wow the gall of some people. i cant fathom how some people can go rip off others and still sleep at night. just look at the former president of the country (now congresswoman). crazy!

        im glad of the assistance of the now-defunct ngo KFI in lake sebu. they brought me around to meet and interview key persons from the t’boli tribe and from the government as well as bring me to see more of the rainforest in lake sebu. i hope the family of y’egas and ma’fil are safe and well though.

  2. Pingback: THE ARTFAIR or Why it is important to teach kids today how to appreciate art properly. | benjamin padero

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