This publication is a pilot project of the Socio-Cultural Development (SCD) sub-sector of the Socio-Cultural and Education (SCE) Pillar of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia- Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). This SCE pillar of cooperation is the newest sector in BIMP-EAGA and is responsible for developing people- to-people connectivity and promoting socio-cultural exchanges. As emphasized, the SCE is founded on the fact that BIMP-EAGA is firmly bonded by socio-cultural affinities and historical ties as well as by its geographic closeness and the crosscutting facets of socio- cultural sharing shape the concern for closer linkages and greater understanding.

The maiden issue of the Budayaw Monograph is conceived as a pathway to promote, preserve and sustain BIMP-EAGA cultures and heritage. This is a successor project of the 2017 Budayaw Festival of Cultures, the first major cultural project of the BIMP-EAGA Socio-cultural cluster which was held in the City of General Santos in South-eastern Mindanao, Philippines last September 20 to 24, 2017. The name of the biennial festival is coined from two words — budaya, Malay for “culture” and dayaw, a word from Philippine languages that means “bounty” or “praise”.

The Budayaw Festival of Cultures was designed to foster people-to-people connectivity and knowledge exchange as well as raise appreciation of BIMP-EAGA shared culture and heritage. Essentially, the event showcased the diversity of creative expressions of the peoples the BIMP-EAGA sub-region with the end view of locating areas for convergence in expanding people-to-people linkages and exchanges.

This maiden publication presents a collection of eight (8) essays that substantiate the links of the diverse cultures and heritage of the sub-region surrounded by or attached to the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas, a very rich area of natural resources and blessed with diversity of cultures. The introductory essay explores the cultures in the BIMP-EAGA region with the aim of “celebrating and appreciating our diversities and strengthening our commonalities in order to develop a stronger bond of friendship and cooperation among the different peoples of the sub-region”.

The next four (4) essays are country papers that contextualize the cultural expressions and cultural policies of the cooperating countries. The last three (3) articles present a review of the significant components of the Budayaw Festival of Cultures. Allow us to introduce the country writers in order of their appearance in the monograph.

The introductory essay is written by Dr. Macario Tiu, a fictionist, historian, and an educator who is currently the Director of the Publication Office of the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City. His essay explains the enduring cultural links among the peoples of the BIMP-EAGA, which “go back to a very dim past” but have survived in the many cultural practices shared by the peoples of the EAGA, including the fact that they speak languages that belong to the same Austronesian family of languages.

The first country essay is written by Mr. Mohammad Abdoh Damit, Director of Culture and the Arts at Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports in Brunei Darussalam. His paper stresses that Brunei Darussalam will forever be a Malay Islamic Sultanate (Melayu Islam Beraja or MIB). The national ideology of the MIB is seen as “a concept which upholds Islamic principles and values based on the Quran and hadith as the basis of all activities concerning the racial necessity, language, Malay culture and the monarch institution, as the governing system and administration of Brunei Darussalam”. The essay proceeds in explaining the Traditional Knowledge (TK) of the multi-cultural communities in Brunei Darussalam, which the various government agencies and cultural institutions have been working hand-in-hand to protect.

The next country article briefly describes the strategic policy of Indonesia, particularly the passage of Law No. 5 Year 2017, on Culture Furtherance that is considered as evidence of Indonesia’s concern in national culture furtherance in the midst of world civilization and making culture as investment to build the future and civilize the nation for the realization of national goals. Ms. Retno Raswaty, head of Regional Cultural Diplomacy of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Republic of Indonesia explains that in the future with the spirit of mutual cooperation in culture through the Indonesiana Platform, the parties who collaborate together are expected to form and get facilities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of cultural activities.

The forth essay, written by Mr. Terence Lim, narrates the age-old customs, common values, beliefs, and attitudes, of the indigenous Bidayuh (also known as the Land Dayak) who still continue to live in the oldest settlement in Sarawak, the Annah Rais, where the oldest Bidayuh longhouses exist. The article highlights the spirit of solidarity, togetherness, and unity of the present day Bidayuh people, who takes pride of their “ability to work together as a united entity in their daily life, supporting one another and doing things together for the good of the members of their community”. Dr. Monela M. Mua is a retired professor of sociology and humanities at the Mindanao State University – Maguindanao. With her interest on intercultural solidarity, Dr. Mua ably describes the cultural diversity of the Bangsamoro peoples in Mindanao and concludes that “despite the differences in culture and traditions, and the diversity of their traditional arts, these different ethnic groups in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao live in harmony with one another, especially because they profess the same religion which is Islam”. This common religion is what makes them united despite their diversity.

The next three articles are reviews of the events that unfolded in the Budayaw festival. Writer, journalist, editor and cultural worker, Roy Manipon recalls that dance and music, as well as theatre and ritual, are “compelling, persuasive and infectious” during the first BIMP-EAGA Festival of Cultures. These expressions of culture, as Roy clarifies, play important roles in social activities and gatherings, with multiple functions— “to entertain and give pleasure, to serve as spiritual conduits/drivers especially in rituals if not the embodiments of rituals themselves, to facilitating social cohesion, to tell the stories of a people, and now to serve as vital components in cultural diplomacy and exchanges”. Professor Abraham Ambo Garcia Jr. is a visual artist who curated the Budayaw Festival Visual Arts Exhibition — “Under One Sky”. In recollecting his experience, he asserts that “the exhibition projects a common vision of a community of cohesive, equitable and harmonious societies, bound together in solidarity for deeper understanding and cooperation through expressions that shape local identities—as individuals, as a nation, and as a region.” Moreover, his essay emphasizes that it is important to anchor culture and the arts as enduring factors to further deepen appreciation for the sub-region’s diverse cultures and traditions, and strengthen the sense of belonging and regional identity in the making of a people-centred, people- oriented BIMP-EAGA.

The last essay is written by Ms. Teofila E. Remotigue, who did the synthesis of the Budayaw Colloquium, a significant component of the festival. She maintains that during the colloquium, “the great hearts and minds of the speakers, reactors and floor discussants served as the crucible from where the thoughts emerged as shining jewels of wisdom”. Furthermore, she declares that the holding of the Budayaw Festival as an opportunity for cultural exchange is an indication of “narrowing the development gaps” among the four (4) cooperating countries of BIMP-EAGA, because cultural diversity is among the strongest resources of this region, and harnessing cultural diversity is a driver to narrow these gaps. Together, the featured essays in this first issue of Budayaw Monograph Series anticipate that the readers can actively pick up from various threads of shared heritage and common aspirations of the peoples, thereby reaffirming the connections and rediscovering the commonalities of the creative peoples and the nurturing communities in the BIMP-EAGA sub-region.

Adelina M. Suemith
Chief, Program Monitoring and Evaluation Division-NCCA Head,
BIMP-EAGA Socio-Cultural Committee