What is a Kutibeng?
I first came across the term “kutibeng” in the title of a book my father gave me when I was first starting to write poems seriously. It was an anthology edited by the late Marcelino Foronda, KUTIBENG: Philippine poetry in Iloko, 1621-1971. According to Foronda, the kutibeng is a five-stringed instrument used by the bards of the Ilocos region of the Philippines during pre-hispanic times.
 
From that book I learned about several early verse/song forms originated in Ilokandia: the dal-dallot, an extemporized courtship form in which a man and woman exchange witticisms; the badeng or love song; the dung-aw or death chant (dung-aw is also used to describing the keening, which approaches heartbreaking chant and song, at Ilokano funerals); and the duayya or lullabye.
 
I was struck, as I perused the anthology of Ilocano poetry, by this far-reaching legacy of verse, song, and oral tradition, albeit mostly occluded by a profoundly layered colonial history.  My parents and their parents and all the generations of lolos and lolas before us, every day, come to me, in part, from those rhythms and stories and songs. And, every day, I come from them — humbly, with music — and hope one day to arrive, too, at some distant and constantly moving Now.
 
                                                                    —PR
Kutibeng
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