Remembering: ‘Tao po’ and invitations to a ‘pintakasi’

lifelong advocacy
The author with the young people in his hometown in this photo taken in 2006. —RODIL FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM

EDITOR’S NOTE: CoverStory is running the life story of historian and peacemaker Rudy Buhay Rodil in five parts, in an effort to contribute to “a deeper understanding of Mindanao society, history and culture,” a lifelong advocacy that he has pursued with fervor and vigor. 

Mr. Rodil, now 80, has much to say about what he called, in the Conversation on the Integration of Mindanao History into the Philippine Educational System held at Ateneo de Davao University on Aug. 8, 2018, “my personal story in the advocacy of the history of Mindanao-Sulu.”

(Third of five parts)

As far as I can recall and from what I have heard from my elders, there was never any major problem in the interaction among the groups of people we lived with, none of which was large enough to exercise dominance. Each group carried its own culture and language, yet somehow was able to communicate with the others.

Opportunities for interaction abounded, the more common among which were—and still are—the market day on Saturday, a half-day affair when people converged in the town; the collective farm work called “pintakasi” (opening the land, sowing, harvesting, etc.); and the construction of houses and school buildings. 

Day to day among the neighbors, the interaction included requests for fire or salt, “borrowing” rice, other farm products and food items, even needle and thread, a knife, shovel, pick, harrow, and other farm implements—and returning the favor. 

There were also social occasions like weddings and other celebrations, a dance, and so on. An invitation to a social celebration always included the whole family. It was considered bad manners to invite only one or two family members. Even when written invitations became fashionable, the envelope would always have as addressees “Mr. and Mrs. __ and family.” It was a social crime to omit “and family.” 

As far as I can remember, no celebrator ever complained of running short on food.

‘Tao po’

A number of times, somebody would come to our door from several kilometers away very late at night and say, “Tao po!”(The Tagalog phrase, roughly translated into English, means “I am a human being announcing my presence and I mean well.” In Bisaya, it’s a contracted “Maayo” or just “Ayo,” meaning “Good.” The Teduray announces his presence with “ehem, ehem” and stops when acknowledged.) 

My father or my mother would respond, the fellow would introduce himself, explain his presence, and request a place to sleep for the night. My mother would prepare him a meal and a sleeping space, which sometimes was under the kitchen table where one of us would be already asleep. Very early the next day, he would depart quietly, taking care not to wake anyone in the household. 

That was perfectly okay. What would have been bad form—”nakakahiya,” or shameful—was for the guest to wait for breakfast. I do not know, really, because it never happened that anyone waited for breakfast before departing. 

Our house was never locked. Anything of value was just lying in the open in or outside the house for anyone who would be interested. But our household has never been robbed. Nor has anyone tried to enter the house clandestinely, or forcibly.


Our nearest neighbor was an Ilonggo family a kilometer away towards the west; the next nearest was a Bol-anon (from Bohol) family about a kilometer and a half away towards the south; the next was also from Bohol, a kilometer and a half towards the northeast. And so on. But for purposes of bayanihan, that distinctive Filipino spirit of unity and assistance, such as in a pintakasi, neighbors from as far away as two or three kilometers would be invited to help, and they would come. The gesture was always reciprocated in kind. 

During a pintakasi, work began as soon as the participants arrived. Breakfast, a heavy meal, was served at around 9 a.m., lunch at noon, a snack, light but plentiful, at around 3 p.m. Female neighbors were also invited to help in the kitchen work. 

The talk naturally focused on farming, seeds, harvest, beliefs, prices of farm products, tools, etc. But what I found interesting was the unspoken sanction in a pintakasi. One who responded to a bayanihan call in farming could always expect a return in kind: If I plow your field, you plow mine, so to speak. But the participants expected to be fed generously. In the round robin, the stingy one, or the one who served inadequate food, would in subsequent invitations be presented with all kinds of excuses, never again a positive “yes.” 

Good food 

Me, I always looked forward to a pintakasi because it always meant good food throughout the day. My mother is a good cook. Her adobo is superb, as is her tinolang manok. For the afternoon snack she served coffee or chocolate or peanut butter and drank a la chocolate. and puto or bibingka or ginataan. We were never sanctioned! My father saw to it that my mother had the wherewithal for such occasions. He was always generous to neighbors.

There was never any Muslim or Teduray, none within the neighborhood, in my father’s pintakasi. But during harvests, everybody would come. This was when we had some Teduray from around the area and Maguindanawon from as far away as the coastal villages. The latter would in fact stay during the entire harvest season to take part in the farm activities. Afterwards, they would trek back to their villages.As far as I can remember, all verbal transactions during a pintakasi and on market day and in all other social occasions were made in a mixture of languages. That’s how I grew up with Tagalog, Ilonggo, Teduray, Ilocano, and Maguindanao.

Related: Remembering: the rock that grew into an island, Remembering: Growing up in ‘Little Baguio’ in Mindanao, Remembering: logging concessions brought drastic change

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.