For generations, the Ivatan people of the northern Philippines have been singing Laji, a unique and ancient verbal art that combines melody with poetic language. It is traditionally recited in social settings, such as pre-wedding conferences, wakes and courtship. The playful and complex lyrics capture the communal spirit and the cultural knowledge of this remote indigenous community.
But today, the tradition — and the spirit and linguistic diversity it embodies — is in danger of vanishing.
This project documents and preserves 44 original Lajis recorded by elder singers from all three islands of Batanes: Itbayat, Batan and Sabtang.
Its purpose is to make Laji available to the Ivatans in Batanes and in the broader global community. Specifically, it will make audio, video and lyrics available through a multimedia website and a CD, which will be used in the public schools of Batanes to teach the youth the songs and to deepen their knowledge of their traditional language. Since Internet access is still unreliable on the islands, creating an audio CD will be key to getting the material into the remote classrooms and villages.
My own family is Ivatan, coming from the province's capital, Basco, and the remote village, Savidug. I first met some of the Laji singers during a trip home in 2002 and continued to learn more with repeated visits through the years. I then spent 2010-2011 researching and recording the Laji, travelling to each village in Batanes and organizing singing sessions with the elders. This project will greatly expand that effort and get the material into the hands of more Ivatan families.
Our world faces increasing challenges in the form of climate change, food production and endangered democratic systems. This all makes preserving indigenous ways of living and interacting with each other and the world more important than ever. Laji, and other oral storytelling traditions like it, embody this cultural knowledge and can spark the imagination toward a more peaceful, loving world.
Risks and challenges
Since we already have the material recorded and mixed, the last challenge is funding the CD duplication and distribution, so we do not foresee risks or challenges at this point in the project. We already have the website up and running, but at this point it contains just a fraction of the content, so making more Laji and interviews available to students, researchers and the general public will be the goal. Thank you for your support! Dyus Mamahes!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (24 days)