Kasipa in Marawi City

Since the second quarter of 2017, Marawi City in Mindanao has become one of the most popular cities in the Philippine archipelago. Sadly, its popularity is due to the attack of a fundamentalist group called the Maute on 23 May 2017. Since then, the beautiful city was devastated. Many families had to relocate themselves. Today, Martial Law was imposed in the city and in the entire island of Mindanao.

That’s me, standing left. My two graduate assistants are standing on the right: Kevin and Popo. In this photo, we are with our main informants from the Mindanao State University (Marawi City or Main Campus). (Photo: EDIR C06-02)

In September 2016, I was in the city for a short fieldwork. Together with two graduate students, we were seduced by the vibrancy of the city convincing us to return sometime in 2017. Unfortunately, our return never happened because our flight to the city was on 1 June 2017.

Today, all we can do is hope for its recovery. We hope for the restoration of peace in the city.

In this post, I share a “cultural performance” we witnessed during our short visit: the kasipa.

This performance is typically associated as an indigenous athletic activity. A few years ago, the popular television show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho already featured the performance. It was on that television show where kasipa was asserted as a kind of “sport.” However, the activity is highly performative. Even community members think of it as an artistic and creative form more than an athletic event. This inspired us to think of it as a cultural performance.

However, the activity is highly performative. Even community members think of it as an artistic and creative form more than an athletic event. This inspired us to think of it as a cultural performance.

A performer of the Kasipa (Photo: Courtesy of EIDR C06-02)

Everyday in Marawi City at the Town Square, a group of adult men commonly meet between 6 and 7 in the morning. Clad in their traditional dress, the group perform a traditional “game” called kasipa. The

The kasipa performed mostly by male individuals in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, is a cultural performance, commonly performed during the enthronement of a datu or a sultan. Sometimes, it is performed in the municipal halls when the town leaders are engaged in official functions. When the kasipa is performed during an enthronement or in municipal functions, a kulintang ensemble accompanies the performers. In the olden days, the

In the olden days, the kasipa is performed as a form of entertainment for the royalty and nobility. Aside from enthronement, when the elite members of the society are united in marriage, it is expected that family members perform the kasipa for good luck.

As performed in a game, two types of kasipa are popular: kasipa sa lama and kasipa sa manggis.

In kasipa sa lama, the performers (players) are required to wear a gura (traditional headdress), balud (traditional Maranao shirt), the landap or malong(traditional Maranao short), and the dalapi, a wooden instrument with traditional Maranao carving usually a sarimanokand it is placed on one foot.  The dalapi is used for two reasons: to protect the foot and for the rattan ball to fly very high when it is kicked.

In kasipa sa lama, a leader-performer kicks a rattan ball up in the air. All performers should maintain the ball in the air. When the ball falls directly to the team member, he informs everyone by shouting “hap, hap, hap.” If the ball falls to the ground at the corresponding area of a performer, the performer is considered out of the game. In other case, teams perform the kasipa sa lama by counting how many times the rattan ball is kicked up in the air without it falling to the ground in a particular time period. Normally, the sponsoring agent asks the participating teams to try having the ball float in the air for 10 minutes. When the ball falls on the ground, the game is over for the participating team.

An elder from Marawi City performing the kasipa (Photo: Courtesy of EIDR C06-02)

On the other hand, kasipa sa mangis is not a collective effort but an individual display of skill by kicking the rattan ball up in the air to catch gifts or items from a pabitin (a suspended rack with gift items). Usually, the items hung are colored boxes signifying the colors of the Philippine bills. The sponsoring agent counts the items after the performer (player) caught items from the pabitin after kicking the rattan ball. The agent then gives the monetary equivalent of the items to the player.

In many occasions, kasipa is performed simply as a recreational activity such as the group of men in Marawi City who meet almost every day at the square. When asked why they perform the ritual-like event, one member proclaims they simply display their skills to everyone. Nevertheless, the performance is their form of recreation especially since all of them are busy the whole day. In other words, it is their bonding activity or as one informant mentioned, “pagpapakitang gilas nang barkada” (friends showing creativity). Another explained they perform the kasipa every day to rehearse their skills in case a new datu or a new sultan invites them for an enthronement or in case the municipal government invites them for a competition in the town hall.

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