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THE SOUL according to the Indigenous Filipino

The ‘soul’ or spirit of a person is called:
Kaluluwa by the Tagalogs
Gimokud by the Bagobos
Makatu by the Bukidnons
Dungan by the Ilonggos when the person is alive;
“kalag” or “detached”, “free”, when he is dead.
Ikararuwa by the Ibanags
Kadkadduwa by the Ilokanos when the soul is in the
Physical body and karuruwa when it departs
Kaluluwa, ikararuwa or kararuwa and inikaduwa all come from the root word duwa, two. That is because the soul has two existences – one physical, where it is connected to the human body and its life, and the other spiritual, where it exists on its own. The Ilokano kadkadduwa further derives from kadduwa meaning “companion.” The doubling of kad intensifies the nature of the companionship so that it means “ a constant companion” or an “inseparable partner,” therefore an attached companion of the living person (Manuel 1989).
The Ibanags of the Cagayan Valley, according to Mariano Gatan, are aware of the distinction between body (baggi) and soul (ikararuwa) but not in the Western way. In Western philosophy, the soul is the principle of life in man. Body is the matter, soul is the form. As long as body and soul are one unit, man is alive. Death is the separation of the soul from the body. The body cannot stay alive withoutthe soul. But the soul lives without the body. Freed from the body, it ceases to experience thirst and hunger, cold and heat. As spirit, the soul is the opposite of the body which is matter.
For Filipino groups the soul is not taken as the principle of life. The phenomenon the Ibanags call mekararuanan (from the word me and kararua means “to be rid of the soul”) is a state in which, because of shock, the soul leaves the body. The body is alive but it is without sense, and like a rudderless boat has no direction. For the Ibanags, the role of the soul is to give direction and wholeness to the man. But the body, as the Ibanags conceive it can stay alive independently of the soul, while the soul itself, even when separate from the body, experiences material wants and needs (Gatan 1981).
The dungan or soul of the Ilonggos, according to Alicia Magos (1986), is not normally seen by the human eye. Sometimes, however, it comes out of the body and takes on a visible form such as that of an insect (a housefly or a moth) or a small animal like a lizard. That is why lolas are always telling their children “to eat even just a little before going to bed.” For if the child’s dungan “gets hungry at night, it might go to the pot of rice in the kitchen and be mistaken for an insect.” And be killed.
The dungan may leave the body voluntarily as when the person us asleep, according to the Bisayans. When a person can see himself in his dreams it means that his “other self” has left the physical body. Among the ancient Filipinos it was deeply impressed that a person who was asleep should not be awakened abruptly. Thus a slumbering person is first called softly and gradually louder and louder to give the soul a chance to return to the body.
The dungan’s travel outside the body should be free from accidents. It could get trapped in a jar or be poured out with liquid from a vessel. Only when the soul has safely returned home would the owner be able to wake up. Whatever happens to the dungan happens to the physical body as well. It is also believed that another cause for the voluntary withdrawal of the soul is when the body is badly maltreated (Magos 1986).
According to E. Arsenio Manuel the folk believe that a soul can leave the body involuntarily too (1989). Among the people of Alaminos, Laguna, when a child gets frightened it is believed that the kaluluwa departs from the body. The babysitter or the mother shows her concern by calling the child’s soul back, saying “Uli, uli, kalagyo, Maria, magbalik ka sa bahay.” (Come bac, come back, namesake/soul of Maria, return to your home/body”) The child becomes normal again the moment the kaluluwa rejoins the body.
Another involuntary departure of the soul happens when it is lured or captured by bad spirits or engkantu. Among the Bisayans it may be imprisoned, they say, in a spirit cave guarded by old Tan Mulong whose spirit dog has one mammary gland and two genitals. If the imprisonment is temporary the person gets listless or sick, in which case the dungan has to be lured out by a skillful shaman. If it is too deep in the cave (such as in the third or fourth compartment), the person dies, says Magos. Sickness is the temporary loss of the soul. Its permanent loss is death.
The dungan is ethereal – something light and airy since it travels with the air or the wind. Prior to its entry and habitation of a human body, the dungan is believed to inhabit the region above the surface of the earth together with other dungan. It awaits the time when it can enter a body. The dungan then takes a special interest in the “unborn” being, usually a relative, which it has chosen to inhabit.
The Bukidnons believe that the soul or makatu already exists before a child’s birth but that is separate frm its body. In a pregnancy ritual a miniature cradle is hung over the place where the pregnant mother sleeps. This is where the soul of the unborn baby is supposed to sleep before it joins the infant at birth (Unabia 1986).
The Bisayans believe the soul or dungan is not located in any specific part of the body. It is also believed to grow proportionately with the person’s body. It is normally weak at the baby’s birth, that is why attractive babies are said to be susceptible to usug, that is the unintentional transfer of disturbing vapors of a strong body to a weak one by holding, talking or looking at the weaker one (Magos 1986).
For this reason the dungan needs protection and nurture. Soul-nature, the folk believe, means the performance of age-old spirit rituals many of which are still followed in the provinces today. Examples of these are birth, illness and death rituals consisting of trances, prayers and animal sacrifices. An adult person with a healthy dungan properly lodged in his physical body should have bodily health and well-being, intelligence and good sense (Magos 1986).
The Bisayan dungan has a secondary meaning of “willpower.” A strong dungan is the intellectual and psychological capacity to dominate or persuade others to one’s way of thinking. A person with a lot of willpower is said to “have a strong dungan.” Constant companionship (sometimes under the same roof) of two people may lead to a spiritual competition between the two dungan and the defeat (and sickness) of the one with the weaker dungan (Magos 1986).
At death the dungan leaves the body via the nose, eyes, ears and other orifices and eventually goes with the air or the wind towards the upper regions. There it waits until it can find another body to enter. The Bagobos believe that when the throbbing of the skull cap ceases, the soul exits through what used to be the fontanel. The Negritos believe that the soul can exit through any parts including the big toe.
The Soul Book by Francisco R. Demetrio, S.J, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Fernando N. Zialcita
Copyright GCF Books, 1991