Book Review: Guardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan

Blog Tour Header I already talked about the book: GUARDIANS OF TRADITION: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Thursday last week. For those who had missed my blog entry, you can find it using the link below:


Guardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (2012)

Guardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (2012)

I love this book. There simply is no other way to say my feelings for it.

Just reading its summary—I already came into conclusion that GUARDIANS OF TRADITION is unique. Reading the entire book had only confirmed that theory.

The book talked about The Manlilikha ng Bayan awardees who are indeed guardians of tradition because they are the last few who promote and live by our ancestors’ culture and art. Masino Intaray of Pala’wan for example, keeps the Pala’wan’s musical and literary tradition so did Samaon Sulaiman of Maguindanao before he passed away in 2011. There is also Uwang Ahadas, a Maestro of Yakan Music.

It also featured weavers like Lang Dulay of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato; Salinta Monon of Tagabawa Bagobo; Darhata Sawabi of Barangay Parang, Jolo, Solo; and Hadja Amina Appi of Ungos Matata, Tandubas, Tawi-Tawi.

Alonzo Saclag is another noteworthy guardian of tradition awardee. He is called a Cultural Crusader because he is a proud cultural warrior.

Then there’s also Federico Caballero—dubbed as the Storyteller of Memories—probably mainly because the epics he can chant are in Kiniray-a—said to be a language that is no longer spoken.

Another interesting talent was that of Eduardo Mutuc who is dubbed as the Metalsmith of Saints.

I’m neither a musician nor a weaver, and I’m most certainly not a metalsmith! But I was happy reading about such talented people and I couldn’t help but envy Ginaw Bilog—the Engraver of Rhymes—who could read and write baybayin (baybayin was the Philippines’ writing system prior to the Spanish rule). Her talent was something that I would want for myself. While reading about her, I couldn’t help but think how it is to read poems and documents that had been written hundreds—maybe even thousands of years before!

The Philippines' traditions, culture and the arts at a glance.

The Philippines’ traditions, culture and the arts at a glance.

Yes, that’s what made this book vastly different from the others. It talks about the Philippines’ traditions, culture, art—that’s already existing long before the Spanish era and has been, thankfully, successfully handed down to the current generation by these awardees.

It showed that everywhere in the Philippines, even that long ago, we had talented people.

While I was reading, I was stuck to the term Pre-Spanish. Just how long ago was that?

It certainly made me grab my calculator. I couldn’t help it, I was curious! Well, it’s been 493 years since the Spanish rule. These traditions therefore, had existed for far longer than that. You could say that I was fascinated, captivated. It’s amazing that these talents have been passed down even after all these years.

I’m glad.

This is proof of our roots. These traditions are something that is originally ours—not an influence of some conqueror that had tried their best to subdue our ancestors and made them acquiesce using a clever excuse: that we were uncivilized.

Clearly, we were not. We would have been fine on our own. We would have been spared of the history of abuse that has been perpetuating since the Spanish era. Even now Filipinos seem to think that the best way to rule our country is to abuse their power by taking the money from taxes, land, etc. of the people. Riches that are not rightfully theirs.

And, as in during that time, we—the greater majority—continually let them. Only, the abusers are undoubtedly not foreigners anymore but our very own people.

Why not? We have certainly learned from the best. It had been going on for over 300 years that the Filipinos had finally accepted the practice as a norm.

The readers may scoff and say that the book is just a children’s book and had nothing to do with the mess that is our country and the scammers and thieves that we call politicians (Yes, yes, I know. Not everyone is like that. Maybe).

I beg to defer. GUARDIANS OF TRADITION tells us a lot. It tells us that our culture was rich. And more than that, it was ours. We had a strong set of values. We used to not get the tax money of our people. We had talent and we use them instead.

The way I see it, the opposite had happened after we were conquered: that the Filipinos became barbaric like our conquerors were as we sought for that power for ourselves. How else would you call plotting and killing people of our own—people who were deemed on the way to getting that power—people who were like Andres Bonifacio? Remember the Martial Law? Remember the people who would just suddenly disappear never to be seen again?

The sad thing is that these things still happen. It’s such a vicious, vicious cycle that we keep repeating. Why? Because we Filipinos don’t know our roots. That we weren’t like that, at all. We had talents. Killing people for money and stealing the public funds and grabbing lands were something that was started by the Spanish friars. Let’s not emulate them anymore.

I know I already sound like a broken record so I will stop. If we don’t try to understand this collectively—as a people, no matter what I say—it will be useless anyway.

Let me just conclude this by saying that books like GUARDIANS OF TRADITION have the power to make us look back.

It tells us our truth.

It tells us of history that we do not know and in effect, make us proud. Because these things happened hundreds of years ago when we were not yet alive, the Filipinos of today didn’t know that we weren’t like this before and therefore, accept things as they were because it was standard practice.

Kudos to Adarna for producing books like this one and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for making sure the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan act lives on and that the deserving people get recognized (Although if you ask me, I think their grant must be increased. That way, the awardees will be able to build schools just as Lang Dulay had, making the learning and sharing of their craft and talent more accessible).

And of course, kudos also to the talented bookmakers as well: Mae Astrid Tobias who wrote the book, Rommel E. Joson who made the illustrations, and Renato S. Rastrollo who took the pictures of the “Guardians.”

Now, if only Filipinos would love reading as well. They would know that GUARDIANS OF TRADITION exists. Then again, going back to that era again, reading was practically prohibited. The friars were so afraid our ancestors would become “educated” and “enlightened” they would revolt against them. And the friars were right, voracious readers like Rizal and Bonifacio after all, were the ones who ignited the revolution.

Now I know why only few of us loved to read. What a tragedy, indeed. But let us all change that. After all, it’s been 115 years since that period. It’s time to stop the corruption. It’s time to read. There are no friars anymore who will persecute us if we do otherwise.

It’s time to break this vicious cycle.


For the duration of the Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour, Guardians of Tradition is available at discounted price at the Adarna showroom in Scout Torillo corner Scout Fernandez Streets, Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City 1103 Philippines (Trunkline: (632) 352-6765, Fax: (632) 352-6765 local 125, Email Address:

For international readers and Filipinos abroad, an ebook version is coming soon. To order paperback copies online, visit

Come back to my blog on October 18, 2013 and join our raffle. We will be giving away exciting prizes which includes Amazon Gift Cards, signed copies of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna, and CDs of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA to 10 lucky winners!

Needless to say, I rate Guardians of Tradition 5/5 and is highly recommended to everyone – both young and adults – especially Filipinos.

Thank you for reading this entry.


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