Despite modernization, hopes are high in preserving the Cuyonon culture for a 16-year old child from Brgy. Tanglaw, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
Arjen Abubakar, whose family belongs to the Cuyonon Tribe, is sharing their culture through his artworks. The Cuyonon Indigenous Peoples (IPs) are known for their great preservation of their cultural heritage for years. Up to now, the Cuyonons still perform different customary activities such as comedia, performing native songs while dressed in colorful costumes and inocentes, dancing with masks made of fibers with leaves of grass strewn all over their costumes.
At the age of 13, Arjen already started creating paintings that feature his tribe’s culture, tradition, and arts. His tribe was his inspiration when he made his first artwork. “Doon [his paintings] pinakita ko ang mga kultura, tradisyon, at sining ng ibat ibang tribo sa Palawan. Inspirasyon [ko] ang iba’t ibang [mga] tribo dahil malaki ang ambag nila sa [aming] sining at kultura”, said Argel when asked about his artworks.
Showcasing the Cuyonon Culture
In 2015, Arjen’s family became a member of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) under the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program for IPs. Through his attendance at the different Youth Development Sessions (YDS), he was able to share his talent and learn more about his tribe. Arjen was also able to go to a school where he developed his gift in expressing art through painting.
Being the second child in the family, Arjen knows how hard their life is. His father, Adan, a fisherman, takes home roughly Php 5,000.00 in a month that can only suffice the basic needs of his five children. He can clearly recall the days when his parents had to borrow from a nearby grocery store just to have something to eat.
Arjen recognizes his parents’ hard work just to send him and his other 4 siblings to school. Realizing their situation, the aspirant Cuyonon architect is eager to reach his dream by finishing his studies. “Ipinapangako namin sa kanila [his parents] na [kapag] umasenso na kami ay magkakasama pa rin kami”.
Sometime in 2018, Arjen was invited to join an art contest and exhibit that allowed him to share the Cuyonon customs. The event opened more doors for him to share his tribe’s culture through his paintings. “Pagtapos ng exhibit, sinabi sa akin ng teacher ko na may gusto bumili ng artwork ko at dahil nga kailangan namin ng pera pumayag ako binili nya ito ng halagang Php 1,500.00. Malaki tulong ‘yun sa amin. Doon ko naiisip na gumawa pa ng marami at magbenta”. This opportunity gave Arjen the idea to use his talent to help his parents while sharing their culture and tradition through his artworks.
Arjen’s favorite painting that he fondly calls Kultura mo, Bayan ko that symbolizes his tribe became a head turner and gained attention. According to Arjen, all of his paintings aim to call for the support from non-IPs and appreciate their customs as it bears a big share in the society’s heritage.
Keeping up with his dream
“Huwag [nating] susukuan ang anumang pagsubok. Tuparin natin ang ating mga pangarap para hindi masayang ang pinaghirapan ng ating mga magulang. Lalo na ang tulong ng 4Ps”, Arjen’s message to other beneficiaries of the program.
Arjen currently takes Arts and Design Strand (Grade 11) at Palawan National High School. As of this moment, he was able to make 35 paintings and sold 13 pieces that range from Php 500.00 to Php 1,000.00. His painting Kultura mo, Bayan ko can now be viewed at the Palawan Heritage Center in Puerto Princesa Palawan.
“Nais naming mga katutubo na mas makilala pa ang aming kultura at tradisyon sa pamamagitan ng media. Sa pamamagitan nito, mas marami ang makakaunawa ,tatangkilik at rerespeto. Kailangang respetuhin ang aming relihiyon at pananampalataya lalo na ang aming kulay at tradisyunal na kasuotan. Kailangan ng respeto, pag-unawa at paggalang para makamit ang kapayapaang aming ninanais”.
The Cuyonon child’s quest in preserving his tribe’s cultural heritage does not end in selling his artworks. Through his artworks, Arjen is able to share his talent and present a promising future for the Cuyonon Tribe – culture embraced by young Cuyonons and appreciated by many.