Tuesday, May 31, 2005

almost the groom

I forgot. On Saturday, the fiance was "almost the groom" in a staging of a Maguidanao wedding ceremony held at Asian Art Museum as part of the artist-in-residence tour from KulArts. Well, he was the back up groom, but they managed to find another younger guy to take his place.

Maguidanao weddings are a joining of families. The groom's family must make food offerings and other dowry that must follow a very strict protocal as written in the Maguindanao book that delinieates their rites and rituals. The groom must then try to catch a gold ring on a scarf swung by an elderly woman. He has three tries, if he fails, then the wedding will be delayed. Afterwards, the bride is brought out. And we follow a pair of dancers, one completely covered by a malong. It reminded me of a lion dancer. The groom recites his vows with the Imam, while clutching the hand of another elder, their hands under a white cloth, their right foot under a pillow. The groom still clutching the hand of the elder circles the bride three times then places his thumb on her forehead. After which the celebrations with dance performances begin. At the very end, the bride and groom are brought to their wedding bed, where the community gathers to tease them, then we leave them alone, completing the ceremony.

We were both a part of the groom's entourage. I was one of the groom's elders, supposedly the bluest of the blue blood. The groom was presumed to be the son of the sultan, followed by a man carrying the traditional family sword who was second in line. The Fiance carried the bintang or chest of gold and other riches. He was third in succession. All of us followed by women holding fancy umbrellas and others.

I just walked around and looked regal. During rehearsal I was wearing this hair cover that had an advertising for a cell phone, Model 2003. It was a traditional head covering, just with the advertising sitched into it. Like Nike putting their swoosh on a baseball cap. It was quite amusing, but I switched it for the actual performance.

The dancing was wonderful. The female dancers were all local dancers with years of folk dance experience, who have been cramming the last couple of weeks perfecting the dances. They did some chanting with asik, the solo female dancer with the long metal nails...breathtaking. The chants rising to the large decorated stone ceiling of the museum. The room looked like it would have held a Venetian ball, but today it was a royal Maguindanao wedding.

Though it was a celebration, the couple weren't so outwardly happy. As one put it, Maguindanao people smile with their eyes. The other factor is that it is an arranged marriage. If they're lucky, it's about love, but it's also about empire building. And a hundred years ago, marriage in this country was about that too.

The hall was packed, must have been some 200+ folks there with more coming in. Lots of families and kids. A really fun event!

Some friends of ours joked that me and the fiance should have been the couple, then our wedding would have been done! We could still do it for the show on June 4, but probably not. By the time we get to our wedding in October, we will have been betrothed to each other so many times, this marriage isn't going anywhere! We did pick up a few ideas, not sure which ones we'll use. I began to mark the similarities of the entourages and the rituals between Maguindanaoan and Christian weddings. All the basic parts: the couple of course, gifts (dowry), prayers, vows, some kind of encircling binding (cord/veil or the groom walking around her), how the bride is hidden from view until the moment in which the vows are taken.

I'm looking forward to the show at Brava Theater, it's going to be complete with Mindanao Marketplace.

No comments: