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MeaningThe Tagakaolo Death Ritual
Dance CultureHighland traditionalist group
Place of OriginDavao
Ethnolinguistic GroupTagakaolo
Background / Content

Udol is a dreaded but essential ritual performed by the villagers of Tagacaolo settlements in Davao, Mindanao, where a coffin-like box, also know as udol, is pounded by women to safely guide the return home of their lost men-folks who went off to fight a war. The udol box which hiding place known only to the Tagacaolo ritualists is brought out, and the last recourse to retrieve lost souls is to be performed. The box comes with several poles similar to pestles. The affected women grab hold of these pounding poles and strike on the udol to produce a rhythm in syncopation.

3 to 5 women may pound the udol at one time, and take hold of their places as long as they want. They let go of the pestles for other women to make sure that they carry on the musical rhythm on the box. Some women break into tender dancing using their malongs to emphasize the grief they are experiencing. Tiny bells attached to women’s bead belts and their anklets add to the melancholy melody produced by the udol. Smoke from burning local incense called kamangyang mixed with the udol sound is believed to move to compassion of the Tagacaolo gods and lead the lost or wondering souls of their loved ones back to their lifeless bodies and guide them home to their village. When the udol has been sounded endlessly for many days but no warriors return, the women drop away one by one withdrawing in great disappointment and resigning the fate of their beloved men-folk to their gods.

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