The kalooban of our ancestors (Manila Times Walking History)

by xiaochua

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

June 13, 2020

I AM not into saying that the time before the Spaniards was a “golden age” and that our ancestors’ lives were perfect. No. I am not an essentialist, and I don’t romanticize our ancestors. I also do not believe in what others call “set Filipino values” even if sometimes I use the word in English for lack of a better term (because these so-called traits are not homogeneous and are different in various parts of the country). What I do recognize is that they had freedom. They had contact with other people and traded with them and that they had ideals — although not set and homogeneous — that were guided by our common Austronesian culture and manifested in one way or another in various parts of the country. Instead of the Westernized term “values,” I like to call them kalooban — Kalooban ng Bayan.

Since our Austronesian ancestors had a pottery culture, we are actually like the jars they made. We have labas (outside), loob (inside) and lalim (depth) and of course, laman (content).

And we go back to the figure on a boat on the cover of the Manunggul secondary burial jar. It is a “kaluluwa” going to the afterlife. The equivalent concept of the “soul” — “kaluluwa” in Tagalog, “kalag” in Visayan and “kaladwa” in Pampango. It is one of the life forces inside a person in the Filipino psychology. Let me explain how our ancestors viewed their world.

Based on the beliefs of many ethnolinguistic groups in the country, we know that our ancestors believed that a human being is composed of the “panlabas” (external, our bodies) and the “panloob” (internal). And “panloob” makes the human a “tao.” Panloob in itself contains the life forces “ginhawa” and “kaluluwa.”

The “ginhawa” is the life force located in our liver (stomach area), and it animates our well-being — comfortable life, healthy living, relief, good breathing, food, even sexual pleasure. People who want to cut your “ginhawa” would punch you in the stomach area (upper cut). But there would be no true “ginhawa,” it will not work well, if the “kaluluwa” is not in its right place.

The “kaluluwa” is the life force located in our brain, and is the one that gives us our feelings and our will as “tao.” Our ancestors believed that our “kaluluwa” has an alignment in heaven. Our soul’s alignment should always be in place because if it is moved (disoriented — nausog), we will feel ill (magkasakit, mawalan ng ginhawa). Because the belief is that the “kaluluwa” goes out of our bodies (through holes in our faces and the extremities of our bodies which are our fingers and toes), they have to come back again in an orderly fashion by waking up well. To disturb the sleep might disorient the return of the “kaluluwa” which explains one’s bad feeling and irritability. A “kaluluwa,” especially of a young kid, can be disoriented by a person with a strong “dungan” or willpower, hence, nausog and nabate.

A bad person’s “kaluluwa” is not aligned in heaven (horizontal), hence, “halangangkaluluwa.” A good person’s “kaluluwa” is “matuwid” (vertically aligned to heaven) and that animates “kaginhawahan.”

Repeat: There is no “ginhawa” if there is no goodness “matuwidnakaluluwa,” “mabutingkalooban.”

Protection of the “kaluluwa’ from intrusion of the “masamangkaluluwa”, “maitimnabudhi” was important, that is why they scare these elements through “kaliwanagan,” by wearing gold near these parts of their bodies as anklets, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and sashes — hence the culture of gold of our ancestors which amazed the Spaniards. “Mabutingkalooban” is manifested through “pakikipagkapwa” (seeing the self in the other) and “kapatiran” (treating your fellow as a brother). In short, loving your fellowmen. We even form our political communities into the “bayan” when the datus agree to come together and do the ritual of “sandugo,” from “isangdugo” or having one blood as brethren.

When the “kaluluwa” dies, he goes to the afterlife riding a boat with an “abay” — a companion. This shows the primacy of the maritime culture in our ancestor’s lives. But the “kaluluwa” can go back to nature to take care of his relatives, becoming an “anito” and dwelling in nature, taking the forms of trees, wood, rivers, mountains. This is the reason why our ancestors loved nature and respected it.

It is true that no civilization is perfect, yet, we can say that these concepts, the “kalooban,” of our ancestors are important to us because they are reflected in our words and way of life, and because a careful reading of history will show that these concepts continued to be manifested in our struggle for freedom, especially with how Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto imagined what our nation could be like after the revolution — a nation of “magkakapatid” who are “malaya,” free, because they have “kaginhawahan” and mabutingkalooban. Hence, a civilization of Love.