Being a spontaneous traveler, I always love the idea of not knowing what I might go through in every places I visit especially in this isolated province of the country, Tawi-Tawi.
As I set foot in the island’s capital, I already felt a smooth smell of love in the air and the nostalgic flare of passionate emotions that was simply contagious. Little did I know that there was a big celebration in the island; the union of hearts between two Muslim lovers set during the rising of the bright full moon in December.
At first, I was thrilled to realize that I could personally witness a traditional Muslim wedding in this southernmost part of the country. I was doubly overjoyed when I learned that the groom himself was the youngest child of the Provincial Governor who happens to be an appointed Assemblyman to the Regional Legislative Assembly in the ARMM.
|Guests attending the traditional wedding ceremony|
The wedding celebration was indeed grand as hundreds of visitors wandered outside the bride’s house. Who would have thought I could be one of these guests feasting on the buffet served by her family. I tried to look around hoping to see even one familiar face in the crowd but there was none, then; I realized I am actually in the company of strangers. Ironically, I was not a stranger to them. They never let me feel that I am an outsider. I was welcomed with warm smiles and hospitality, one can only be found in Tawi-Tawi.
|The bride preparing for a ceremonial dance after the rite|
Princess Jasmine is that you?
The first time I laid my eyes on the bride, Dr. Fahda Raisa Joe Haji, I was smitten by her beauty which brought me to the world of Disney Princesses in an instant. She was wearing traditional Muslim attire designed with intricate golden embroidery and her glam was enhanced by the gold necklaces, tiara and other traditional accessories that are suited for a royalty.
|The Pandalas of the bride|
She was surrounded most of the time by her beautiful Pandalas or the bridesmaids in their traditional colorful garments known as Batawi. This ensemble is composed to 3 parts, Sawal (pajama), Badju Sigpit (blouse) and Kindang, embroidered cloth like sarong.
The bride looks stunning in her traditional white Muslim ensemble that represents purity sitting on a bin cushion while patiently waiting for her groom to arrive in her room where the actual Pagkawin was agreed to be performed by their Imam (the Islam's equivalent to Catholic priest).
And Before I Say 'I Do'
Prior to the Pagkawin or the wedding ceremony, dowry was prearranged by Assemblyman Nurjay M. Sahali, the groom and his family with the family of the bride. This is locally known as the Pagturul Taymah. The value of the dowry varies depending on the social status of the bride’s family and the wealth capacity of the groom.
Chant it to Win it!
The arrival of the groom and his family was announced by the traditional chant known as Lugoh. The groom stands firm and royal in his traditional white attire known as Kupot, accessorized with a colorful Pis Syabit on his shoulder.With them were the food offerings known as Dulang that shall be shared by the newly wed as part of their wedding tradition at the later part of the rite.
Part of the Pagkawin is the Passal where the bride and groom are being groomed by their relatives in separate chambers accompanied by a traditional chant called Lugoh.
The female in-laws of the bride lead the Passal by retouching her makeup and accessorizing the hands of the bride. For the groom, the male relatives enhanced the looks and outfit making him more presentable for his bride.
Before the groom can actually be with the bride, the Lugoh was aired again which serves as the traditional gesture or key for the groom to enter the bride's chamber .
The Imam officiated the union and vows were exchanged. The groom performed a certain maneuver around the bride and then he put his right thumb on the forehead of the bride as a significant sign of their union. Then the groom kissed his bride then both signed the ‘marriage contract’ witnessed by their friends and families. After such, the newly wed would give their Salam or gratitude to the united families by marriage.
|The newly wed with their brothers and sisters|
The newly wed were now seated on the bed for picture taking and then they would be joined by their families. This was followed by the Dulang. They would eat the food with their bare hands offered in the house of the bride. It is customary for the bride to take the first bite on the food offered by the groom.The newly married couple was then presented to the public after the ceremony for a program and public celebration.
Make it Civil!
Often times, the Pagkawin is the first and most important part of a Muslim Union. For those who can afford it, there is usually a civil wedding which will follow after such. For Assemblyman Nurjay M. Sahali and Dr. Fahda Raisa Joe Haji their civil rites were done in Zamboanga City which was attended by the five governors of ARMM.
Let me end this article with a line which I quote from the older sister of the groom the Provincial Vice-Governor of Tawi-Tawi Hja. Ruby M. Sahali when she said “the pagkawin of Nurjay & Fahda in Tawi-Tawi is a celebration Tawi-Tawians should take part because we are proud of our culture…we are proud of our heritage.”
My sincerest thanks to the Sahali Family . Best wishes to the newly wed and may your children bear and prosper the enchanting and beautiful culture and traditions of Tawi Tawi.
Credits: Primary facts of this article were contributed by Michael Guanesio, the Legislative Officer to the Office of the Vice-Governor of Tawi-Tawi, giving the author insight on the authentic traditional Muslim wedding in Tawi Tawi.