By Azenith Resurreccion
After I dispensed my opinion and defined “Who is the Boracaynon” in last month’s New Boracay Sun, many reacted and commented on this “controversial” issue.
Following reactions from long term-residents, particularly the children of the first expats who settled and initiated tourism businesses on the island, I have realized that they are the ones directly affected by this subtle social discrimination.
These first-generation children of half-Filipino islanders that settled permanently on the island between the 70s and the 80s are today’s movers and shakers, and parents of the next generation. “We have lived on the island since we were born but we are not fully accepted to be called “Boracaynon,” says a 30-year-old half-European lass who expressed her views on the subject after she read the article.
Another longtime resident who owns properties and businesses also conveyed her feelings about it.
“I am glad that you brought this issue to light as many wouldn’t want to discuss it thinking there might be those that would feel offended,” she commented.
As defined in “Part 1” of this two-part series, Boracaynons are those who have settled on the island before the onset of tourism, the first families who tilled the land and raised their families on the island. Oftentimes, family members and descendants of the so-called “true-blue Boracaynons” raise an eyebrow of disapproval when newcomers are referred to as Boracaynons.
But is there really a tribal group called Boracaynon?
If you search on Google, the word Boracaynon, as well as in the written history of Panay Island, you will not find any other ethnic people on Boracay Island except the Ati tribe. Whereas, Malaynons are identified as one of the ethnic groups in the Philippines, and are supposed to be the motherland tribe of the Boracay residents, the island people still choose to be called Boracaynons rather than Malaynons.
The ethnic name Tumandok has been used by most locals today to be identified as one of the indigenous peoples or ethnic groups of Panay Island. Those who are blood-related with the earliest Boracay island settlers has to be called the Tumandok Boracaynon.
Who are the Tumandok?
According to Wikipedia, the Tumandok, also known as Suludnon, Panay-Bukidnon, or Panayanon Sulud, are an indigenous Visayan group of people who reside in the Capiz-Lambunao mountainous area and the Antique-Iloilo mountain area of Panay in the Visayan islands of the Philippines.
They are one of only two culturally-indigenous groups of Visayan language-speakers in the Western Visayas, along with the Iraynon-Bukidnon of Antique. Also, they are part of the wider Visayan ethnolinguistic group, who constitute the largest Filipino ethnolinguistic group. They were once culturally related to the speakers of the Kinaray-a, Aklanon, and Hiligaynon languages, all of whom inhabit the lowlands of Panay.
So, is the current definition of Boracaynon still valid?
As mentioned in the previous article, the Ati Tribe are neither called Boracaynon nor Tumandok, though according to history books and various references, it was the Ati tribe who named the island “Bura – Akay”. It therefore makes sense that they be called the Boracaynon as they are evidently the original inhabitants of the island.
The Tumandoks that inhabited all parts of Panay Island and who were one of the earliest migrant settlers to Boracay Island in the late 1800s to the early 1900s (thus considered also as some of the original settlers) include Tirol brothers: Ciriaco (a businessman who built his fortune as a trader of copra) and Lamberto (a town judge on Panay mainland), both of whom took ownership of substantial properties on the island. Their clan is therefore considered as Boracaynon.
If there is a term Boracaynon Tumandok that labels the families who claim to be original inhabitants of the island, then all locals and residents could simply be called the Boracaynons, regardless of their ethnicity, origin and time of arrival.
Being considered American, European, Australian, or let’s say, being a New Yorker, legally or by choice is normally accepted internationally. Should it be so difficult to formulate a basis on acquiring Boracay Island “citizenship”? Who has exclusive authority to approve or decide?
Afterall, the island is presently owned by many other newcomers, as the originals sold almost all of their properties to investors and individuals who chose to be permanent residents of the island. We should also state the fact that only 30 percent of the total land area of Boracay today are still owned by the Tumandok Boracaynons.
How can we alienate the ownership of the term “Boracaynon” and limited its legitimacy only to those who were first to use it?
Is it okay to call oneself a Boracaynon?
I can refer to myself as a Boracaynon because like other longtime residents, it is where my body, heart, mind and soul live and grow. I didn’t literally grow up on the island as many of the expat kids did, and although I have paternal roots related to some of the Tumandoks, I have invested my future on this beautiful island along with my little family, my son and an upcoming baby who will be raised here as long as living conditions allow.
After hearing the sentiments coming from some original Boracaynons, Tumandok Boracaynons, and other residents in the past decade or so, the simple answer is… YES, you are a Boracaynon.
Not only because you have possessions or investments on the island, but you already embedded a gaping connection with the island and its community. This connection is realized through a deep understanding of the culture, adhering to the preservation of its threatened environment as well as the endangered vibe and culture that was actually why this island became so famous around the globe way back when.
If you are a citizen who is well-rooted in the community and have contributed to the island’s sustainable future and its greater good and not just your own, you are a Boracaynon.
At the end of the day, labels should not matter and is in fact a concept that is fast becoming obsolete (not to mention hierarchies in society). If you feel that you are a Boracaynon at-heart then embrace it and let it be what inspires and drives you. Sometimes we simply need to be empowered by a sense of belonging, if only by association, and there is no harm in that. Then again, we hope this enlightens our readers on the responsibility that comes with calling yourself one of the tribe!