Mr. Ethnic Man
by Oliver Carlos
When I was in college, I began to appreciate ethnic stuff. In the late 1980s, wearing a tubao was a fad. The tubao is a large native checkered handkerchief made from Davao. They’re colorfully attractive, with some gold trims. We flung it on one shoulder, while some would make a bandana out of it. Some girls would tie it around their waist to function as a belt, while others would tie it on their bags.
As for me, I walked a little extra mile on my fashion by wearing a lot more ethnic materials on my body. Going to school, I had a rattan belt and a rattan backpack. I also had a wrist band called a “wet-and-wear.” It’s made from a vine that grows in the jungle. I would dip it in water, and it would expand so I can put it on my wrist. When it dried off, it would shrink and be snuggly fit on my wrist. That wristband was made by the T’boli tribe of Mindanao. I also wore a necklace with a miniature 2-inch bamboo flute for a pendant. My first musical instrument before I learned to play the guitar was the bamboo flute. I had 2 of them- a key of C flute which was around a foot long, and a key of G flute, which was longer by 6 inches.
Later on, when I started working, I collected batik shirts. I think I had a dozen of them. In addition, I carried a clutch bag made by the Manobo tribe of Mindanao. It had a red-white-and-black woven mat as an outer covering. Can you now imagine how I looked like in the 1990s?
I thought those days were over, but recently I realized I’m still Mr. Ethnic Man, I still had a handful of native crafts at home. A few weeks back, a colleague from work asked me for some help in teaching a subject that is about Philippine indigenous arts. I said to her I didn’t have a book, but I have some materials I can lend for show-and-tell sessions.
Right now, I have in my possessions the following: a bamboo piggy bank with artistic carvings made by the Aeta tribe, a rain-maker musical instrument from the Tagbanua tribe of Palawan, a blanket from Abra, a native table-runner from the south, a bamboo chopping board, a wooden toothbrush, a kubing musical instrument, a native necklace, several ethnic paperweights, refrigerator magnets, a couple of batik shirts, and of course, my UP sablay, whose design represents the tribes from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.
Why do I love ethnic materials? It’s because they remind me of the diversity of the people whom Jesus died for. The Bible tells us that the multitude of worshippers in heaven included people from every nation and every tribe.
“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy…because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, NIV)
Today, let us say a prayer for the Good News to be heard by all the people of the world, including those in the far-flung areas. God loves everybody, regardless of their race, color, nationality, and ethnicity. He wants them to be with him for eternity. May our heartbeat be the same as God’s. Let us love others with the love that God has for them.