Everyday in Marawi City at the Town Square, a group of men meet between 6 and 7 in the morning. Clad in their traditional dress, the group would perform a traditional game called kasipa. The kasipa is a cultural performance more commonly associated as a traditional game. It is performed during the enthronement of a datu or a sultan in the city. At times, kasipa is performed in the municipal halls when the town leaders are engaged in official functions. When the kasipa is performed during an enthronement or in municipal functions, a kulintang ensemble accompanies the performers. In the olden days, the kasipa is performed as a form of entertainment for royalty. Family members are also expected to perform the kasipa when the elite members of the society are united in marriage to wish the newlyweds good fortune.
Two types of kasipa are popular: kasipa sa lama and kasipa sa manggis.
In kasipa sa lama, the performers (players) are required to wear a gura (traditional headdress), balud (traditional Maranao shirt), the landap or malong (traditional Maranao short), and the dalapi, a wooden instrument with traditional Maranao carving usually a sarimanok and it is placed on one foot. The dalapi is used for two reasons: to protect the foot and for the rattan ball to fly very high when it is kicked.
In kasipa sa lama, a leader-performer kicks a rattan ball up in the air. All performers should maintain the ball in the air. When the ball falls directly to the team member, he informs everyone by shouting “hap, hap, hap.” If the ball falls to the ground at the corresponding playing area of a performer, the performer is considered out of the game. In other cases, teams perform the kasipa sa lama by counting how many times the rattan ball is kicked in the air without it falling to the ground for a particular time period. Normally, the sponsoring agent asks the participating teams to try having the ball in play for 10 minutes. When the ball falls to the ground, the game is over for the participating team.
On the other hand, kasipa sa maggis is not a collective effort but an individual display of skill where a player kicks the rattan ball up in the air to catch gifts or items from a pabitin (a suspended rack with gift items). Usually, the pabitin contains items such as colored boxes corresponding to the colors of the Philippine bills. The sponsoring agent then counts the items the performer caught. The agent then gives the monetary equivalent of the items to the player.
In many occasions, kasipa is performed simply as a recreational activity such as the group of men in Marawi City who meet almost everyday at the square. When asked why they perform the ritual-like event, one member said they simply display their skills to everyone. Nevertheless, the performance is their form of recreation especially since all of them are busy the whole day. In other words, it is their bonding activity or as one informant mentioned, “laro ng barkada” (friends playing). Another explained they perform the kasipa every day to rehearse their skills in case a new datu or a new sultan invites them for an enthronement or in case the municipal government invites them for a competition in the town hall.
Words by Sir Anril P. Tiatco
Photos by Asnanie Cabili Marohom