Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kali From Kalis: The Martial Art

This golden statue unearthed in Agusan is just one of the Indian artifacts that support the idea that Hinduism was practiced in the Philippines before the Spanish colonization. The other famous gold find is the Garuda, the Hindu phoenix associated to Vishnu, a Hindu deity, excavated in Palawan.

This is the statue of Shakti known in India as the Mother Goddess or Amma-- Ama (father) and ima and later, ina (mother) must have come from that Sanskrit word. Filipinos long ago already had the habit of merging two elements into one-- Amma was both a mother and a father as a deity.

In the Philippines, the idol is called Golden Tara. Shakti also symbolizes divine power and assumes the role of Kali, the destroyer. I believe both Shakti and Kali were deities merged into one by the early Filipinos in the ancient region of Caraga.

Even the name Caraga is from Karaga, a festival of dance that is still celebrated today in honor of an Indian goddess in Southern India. Part of the celebration is the carrying of the deity. I suspect that even before the Spanish word carga reached the region, they already had karga-- meaning, to carry. Karaga, as an ancient place, appeared in the early maps and chronicles of the Spanish explorers and missionaries with capital C instead of K. It already existed in prehistoric times.

The image of Kali as a ferocious, scary goddess of death was rejected by the people, thus Kali, as a word, does not exist in Philippine languages and dialects today. Even an image of her is elusive. Her statues must have been destroyed or buried. Basically, Shakti was more acceptable than Kali. Her image was used instead of Kali's. Even in the ancient times, death was already a taboo among the Filipino natives and hysterical, crazy women in violent rage like Kali's image were not really socially acceptable.

Animism in the Philippines has lots of goddesses called 'diwata." They are all motherly and protective-- very opposite of what Kali is. Shakti is comparable to the Filipinos' Makiling, Sinukuan, Haliya, and Mayari who were revered as "ina" (mother). They are beautiful, helpful, and graciously divine.

Although Kali, as a word and a deity, ceased to exist a long time ago, the concept of kali still lives on. Asuwang or ongo, a humanoid monster; manananggal or wakwak, a winged, long-tongued blood sucker; and mantiyanak, a dead pregnant woman who comes to life to kill men, are some of the feared characters in the folk beliefs of the Filipinos.

If you analyze them, they exactly resemble to Kali-- dark, ugly, murderous, and vicious. Even her multiple limbs could be mistaken as wings and her hanging tongue as the long blood-sucker.

When the image of Kali was suppressed and rejected, people's familiarity of her did not totally vanish. Even Shakti, being related to Kali, was not spared. Her name evolved into sakti (hurt) and sakit (pain) and became words that still exist in Philippine languages and dialects. These words prove that the early Filipinos knew about Kali, the goddess of death and yes, pain and suffering.

In Bukidnon, Kaamulan (celebration) festival is held annually. Amul means precious or valuable in Hindi. It is related to celebration like the one for the birth of a son. In fact, Amul is a male Hindu name. This festival has an Indian origin. The headdresses of the lumads in the area, usually worn for Kaamulan and other festivities, also display Indian influences.

There is a place in Bukidnon called Kalilangan, from Kali and langan (pacify)-- it basically means "the place to pacify Kali." Naming a place after Kali is not rare in Southeast Asia. The traditional name for Borneo, for instance, is Kalimantan from Kali and mantan (commemoration)-- it is the malay for "the place to commemorate Kali."

There are also lumad words that are related to Kali being scary and terrifying-- such as
kalisang (terror or fear), kaligutgut (trouble or worry), and kalingog (noise or annoyance). Ka- or kali- are not prefixes in these local words. They are used as they are-- as nouns.

Now, where did kali, the one used in FMA, came from? I believe its concept came from Kali, the goddess, and its term, from kalis, the sword. Omission and addition of s in Philippine words are not rare. We see that in pareha-parehas, kata-katas, and sala-salas. I think this martial art was a dance-based ritual performance-- Kali dance is still performed in India.

It is possible that this blade fighting art is still being practiced in Caraga region although it is no longer called Kali. It might be a mix of Hindu and Muslim influences. The lumads of Bukidnon has a dance form called Mangalay, obviously, an influence of the Muslim Pangalay, a meditative dance resembling tai chi and kung fu. Kalis, the sword, must have also reached the area.

Kalilangan is famous for Pulahans (red warriors) and Itumans (black warriors) who are good in blade fighting and known for their anting-anting (amulet), oraciones (magic prayers), and other superstitious beliefs. They are sometimes called suicidal vigilantes.

These fierce warriors are also known as Tadtad gangs. They chop their victims or enemies into pieces with the belief that they will not become human again in their next life-- this is, to me, a Hindu concept of reincarnation. I think the Pulahans and the Itumans are the ones who still practice the ancient fighting art of Kali. Their names alone are obvious influences of Kali's gory red and dark aura.

To sum up, Kali as a word does not exist in Mindanao, but it might have existed before. As a concept, it existed, and it still exists. As a martial art, I think it still does with a different name or no name at all. Was it called Kali before? If it was called Kalis, it should still be called as such today. Since it's non-existent, its old name must be Kali, and it was not spared when the people of Caraga region in the ancient times rejected and destroyed Kali, the deity.