Remembering Elena Maquiso’s Mga Sugilanon sa Negros (1980)

What is often forgotten in current scholarship on Cebuanp folktales is the 1980 effort by Elena Maquiso and Salvador Vista to gather “sugilanons” (Cebuano for stories) from around Negros Oriental. Their effort was published in book form in 1980 under the title Mga Sugilanon sa Negros edited by Maquiso. (The out-of-print volume is so rare, only one copy is left at the Silliman Library.) The book, comprising thirty folktales, is the result of the research of Vista’s Folklore Class in 1977–1978, “six members of whom went to the different towns of Negros Oriental and recorded the tales as told to them in Cebuano, either on tapes or through direct writing,” Maquiso wrote in her preface.

For that book Dr. MacArthur Corsino, then the Director of the Southeast Studies Program in Silliman University, wrote: “The need to preserve the culture of the Cebuanos of Negros Island must be considered a prime stimulant of this publication. In this age of rapid modernisation, the forces of assimilative change through cultural diffusion unavoidably wreck their ‘havoc’ on various facets of indigenous cultures. Lowland Cebuano culture which has dominated the eastern part of Negros Island for a long time is daily reshaping itself as it accommodates to these external assimilative pressures, from Western as well as other Filipino (ethnic) cultures. Chief among such pressures on the Cebuano-Bisayan language is English as well as Pilipino. Seldom can we hear now of those of the younger generations speaking Cebuano-Bisayan or Binisaya without English words inserted into the same sentence. A consequence of this phenomenon of changing cultural shapes certainly is the gradual loss of Cebuano folktales in Negros. Cebuano-based Negros folklore is dying out, as it were, with the passing away of the older generations. ‘Old folks’ who have received the folktales through oral transmissions are fading away from the scene. With them will usually go their versions of the folktales. Those that survive in this oral transmitting process today, by force of change, will inevitably undergo some revisions associated with the passing of time. This work therefore represents a modest effort in answer to the call to preserve our Cebuano cultural heritage on this island.”

The book was to be followed by a volume on children’s folktales, and a volume of plays based on these tales. These books never came to being. Maquiso’s book was to be the last of such efforts in collecting Oriental Negrese folktales until Carded Aldecoa-Rodriguez published her book Negros Oriental and Siquijor Island: Legends, Beliefs, and Folkways in 1989, based on material found at the National Library.

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