Chapter 6

Genre Analysis of Bashiic Folklore
Limitations of Genre Analysis
Relations between Genre Change and Subsistance

In this chapter I shall draw a comparison between the Yami oral forms of folkloric expression and those of Ivatan and Itbayat. The designation "oral forms; of expression," means "genre," but, as I shall point out later, this term cannot always be used efficiently in comparative analysis. First, I shall start with an example from the folklore of the Yami and the Itbayats in which "genre" is more than a taxonomic tool, and can serve well as a basis for comparative analysis.
The Itbayat folk tradition treasures a tale about a childless couple who ask God to be generous and give them a child. They have it, but at birth it turns out to be a fish. The parents are sad, but there is nothing they can do about it. The fish is a boy, and his name is Vaxoyo. This is the name of a fish, a tuna, in the Scombridae family. In the story, he is smart and strong, but he is still only a fish. One day he decides to get married and finds himself a beautiful bride, the youngest daughter of a chief. After the wedding a celestial shaman, who sometimes is also mentioned as an anito, changes him into a handsome and rich man. They live happily ever after.
The Yami, who have several stories about zoomorphic births, have this story as well. A family has a newborn child who is called Vahoyo. In Yami this name also stands for the tuna. When at sea the Yami do not pronounce the name of this fish. Instead they use its several off-shore names. One of them is mohwas, which means, "smooth as the skin of a young man and woman." Another off-shore name for the vahoyo is pipia tawo, which means "beautiful person" (Tsuchida 1984, 86). In the Yami story the fishboy also gets married and change into a handsome man, as indicated in advance by the offshore name of the fish. Just like the Itbayat Vaxoyo, he will be given treasures by the celestial figure who changes him into a human being.
As in the case of the Kowawey-bird story, there is absolutely no doubt that the two stories are one and the same narrative. The variations between the stories are eloquent examples of the diversity produced by cultural change. While the Itbayat tale of Vaxoyo is a story to entertain children, the Yami version is the main subject of the ancestral story of sira do rarahan, the "roadside lineage," in the village of Iraralay. For twenty-one generations, this story came down in great detail, registering all the names of the family line. As the story of the "ancestral grandfather" of the lineage, it is known specifically as a story of Iraralay. Despite the fact that once the Itabayat and the Yami versions used to be one and the same story, it is obvious that today they belong to two different genres. This generic difference is very clear from the point of view of both ethnographic and literary analysis. The Itbayat Vaxoyo is a folktale, and as such it accommodates the märchen genre, in the sense of the European folktale. Here are some of the motifs: the couple prays to God for a child; all they get is a fish, but they accept it; Vaxoyo leaves home despite the warnings of his parents and returns victoriously; the two elder daughters of the chief refuse him, but the youngest daughter obeys her father's wish, marries the fish, and finally they all live happily ever after .
Like the oral heritage of the Formosan aborigines, however, the Yami kavavatanen stories have never developed the märchen form. The Yami Simina-Vahoyo is not a folktale, but a genealogical story. Since Itabayat folklore has been under heavy Western influence for the past hundred and fifty years, it is not surprising that, with the changing of the belief system, the "pagan" creation myths and their resulting genealogical stories have either disappeared or changed partly into folktales.
Limitations of Genre Analysis
Nevertheless, genre as a basis of analysis cannot always satisfy the demands of both ethnographic and literary analysis. This is obvious in the case of the Yami. We have seen that the anohod is a derivation of the rawod. It is safe to assume that the rawod was developed first because it functions as a vehicle in communicating with the spirit world. It is a language in itself, the only language to be used at the time of the performance of ancient rituals. The only proper way to address a god or a magic being is by compressing one's thoughts and desires into rawod. The other chant-type, the anohod, must have developed to fill a need for a less sacred kind of ceremonial verbal expression, one which could serve the purpose of narrating by using the ancient formulaic expressions presumably generated by the rawod. Accordingly, the tonality of the anohod is similar to that of the rawod, but has a different function.
The similarities between the anohod and laji have been discussed in chapter 2, but any analysis would be far from satisfactory if the differences between them were not examined from both an ethnographic and a literary point of view.
I start out with the underlying assumption that the difference between anohod and laji is a matter of culture change. Both are forms of folklore, and as such they are part of the constellation of features which include social, political, and religious patterns, and which are related to subsistence activities and economic arrangements (Stewart 1955, 37). Analyzing culture change as a phenomenon of cultural evolution, Julian H.Stewart establishes nine heuristic concepts to serve as hypothetical postulates: (1) the basic components of culture, (2) the origination of cultural elements, (3) the nature of culture patterns, (4) the composite character of whole cultures, (5) levels of sociocultural integration, (6) cultural ecology, (7) interrelations between culture and biology, (8) process and culmination, (9) cultural indeterminism.
Stewart points out that the phenomenon of culture change takes place as a "continuum" and that it is very complex. Transmittal errors, intellectual play with existing patterns, contextual changes, and deliberate disjunctions are causes of the changes. Borrowings are also important, but they are more conditioned by the nature of transmission.
In terms of culture change, there are no difficulties in understanding the anohod and the laji. The two cultures being studied have been isolated from each other for several centuries, so it is normal that now they are considerably different. If the ethnographer is patient enough to run the Yami, Ivatan, and Itbayat cultures through the sieve of Steward's nine hypothetical postulates, the phenomenon of change can be confined to certain patterns.
The problem seems to be with finding a proper frame of analysis for a literary investigation. Since myth is not only ethnography but also literature, I must assume also the attitude of the literary critic and adopt a double approach to the interpretation of the anohod and the laji. I shall operate from the premise that folklore as literature and folklore as ethnography differ in their use of the available data. For the folklorist of either sort, the comparison of anohod and laji is a matter of genre, but the perception of folklore by literary critics is not shared by ethnographers. Thus it is not surprising that the perception of genre is also different.
For the past two hundred years, the concept of genre has been interpreted and applied in many ways. Both literary critics and ethnographers have contributed to its development. Folklorists have perceived it mainly as a system of (1) classificatory categories; (2) a way of describing permanent form; (3) a way of describing evolving form; (4) a form of discourse.
In order to test the applicability of the genre concept here, we have to examine briefly these four approaches.
(1) The first successful major classificatory attempt in modern Western thought was the model that revolutionized the biological sciences. It was provided by the botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778). Ever since then, folklorists such as Stith Thompson, Carl von Sydow, and Vladimir Propp, to mention only the most famous ones, have attempted to create classificatory systems as a first step of analysis. It was expected that genre as a classificatory system would produce in folklore results similar to what it had produced in the sciences. Steward calls for caution, however, acknowledging that scientific accuracy should not be expected in folklore because cultural evolution is a realm of the humanities, and the principles of biological evolution cannot be applied to it. Literary figures like Ferdinand Brunetière, for instance, treated genres as biological species and paralleled the history of genre with the history of human beings. Ethnographers rejected this kind of reasoning, pointing out that folkloric genre; can work only as a "recording," or rather like a "filing" system, and that its classification criteria cannot produce results similar to those in the natural sciences.
Genre as a classificatory system stems from the notion that any such system should correspond to the actual traditional forms. This is why, in the beginning, tales, ballads, legends, proverbs, and riddles emerged as separate genres. These categories could have been ideal categories also, but due to Linnaeus' discovery of the order inherent in nature, folklorists created models that initially described an ideal order, but finally were imposed upon the reality of tradition (Ben-Amos; 1976, xvi).
Those who realized the problems of this procedure opted for a historic-geographic approach. They did not discover regularities and patterns, but instead created a system that would permit the historic reconstruction of tales and motifs as well as of their geographic distribution. The basic metaphor of tale-diffusion used in this approach led to a total disregard for the distinctive features of genres. All cultural barriers were broken down, with examples freely drawn from any tale, riddle, religious text, or legend, in order to reach the ultimate aim: to recreate a sort of primordial form of the narrative. Thus historical research in folklore became content-oriented, and genre, having become a means of subdivision of folk narratives, was used to arrange folkloric material for publication, storage, or retrieval. The table of contents of most folklore collections or journals are indeed long lists of different genres.
Later, Lauri Honko, who borrowed concepts from Max Weber and a literary critical view from Benedetto Croce, broke the initial convention and treated genre as "ideal types," not "realities," but only in technical terms without conceptual value.
(2) The approaches to genre as a permanent form can be regarded as being (a) evolutionary, (b) functional, or (c) structural. All these approaches accept the concept that genres are real cultural structures.
(a) Because these structures do not have a historic primacy but a cognitive one, they are regarded as permanent forms "that underlie both changing historical emphases and differing cultural views and usages" (Ben-Amos 1976, xvi). For instance, Kenneth Burke considers them to be real cultural entities forming the backbone of folklore and remaining unchanged by social variations and technical development. One of the earliest and most convincing examples came from Edward B. Tyler. Like Andrew Lang, James G. Frazer, and George Laurence Gomme, Tyler agreed that "man progressed towards rationality and evolved from magical through religious to scientific thought." However, according to Tyler, throughout all stages of evolution, the forms of folklore stayed unchanged. For example, proverbs found in animistic societies do not differ in essence from the proverbs of modern societies. Tyler comes to the conclusion that while society changes, genre survives as a permanent form, though it may shift back and forth between a central and a peripheral position in a culture.
(b) Malinowski, within his functional approach, opposes the "survivalistic premise" in cultural evolutionism, shifting the "focus of inquiry from the explanation of surviving relics in modern life to the survival of the group as a whole." Malinowski asserts that "every single element in culture, including folklore genres, is a contributing factor to the maintenance and continuity of social groups" (Ben-Amos; 1976, xxvii).
Drawing upon Malinowski's original assumption, in which functions were regarded as universal, so that a functional classification scheme should have universal applicability, William Bascom created a folkloric genre theory which was based on functional criteria. While producing this model, he realized, however, that "although attitudes such as belief, disbelief, and amusement might be indeed universal, their application to subject matter is culturally specific" (Ben-Amos 1976, xxv).
(c) Genre as a permanent form lent itself well to a structural-morphological approach, which was built on the premise that "at the base of each text and genre, there is a fundamental deep structure, expressed in the relation between the narrative components of a particular story" (Ben-Amos 1976, xxv). The aim of structuralism in folklore is to isolate distinctive features in each genre, to see how they interrelate within their own forms and to determine how a differentiation could be worked out within the global oral heritage based on isolated distinctive features.
Allen Dundes goes as far as declaring the universal existence of genre. He considers folklore a science and underlines the necessity of "descriptive structural analyses of all the genres of folklore" (Ben-Amos
1976, xvi).
(3) The interpretation of the "evolving form" is based on the premise that at the root of each genre there is a distinct "field of meaning." According to this idea, folklore and literary types are nothing else but historical variations, which evolve from simple to complex forms within certain fields of meaning manifested in human and verbal expressions.
Evolutionist literary critics go as far as treating genres as if they were "biological species." Brunetière, for instance, describes the rivalry of genres as a struggle for existence in which genres transmute into other genres (Ben-Amos 1976, xxvii). On the other hand, ethnographers such as Andre Jolles have avoided such evolutionistic concepts, but maintained a theory of the "transmutability of genres into literary kinds" (Ben-Amos 1976, xxvii). According to Ben-Amos, Jolles' transformation of genres is based on the following three ideas: a) Language has an inherent ability to transform words into forms [concepts], under precise conditions. This process is a fundamental mental activity (Geistesbeschäftigung). b) Words crystalize into forms [genres] centering around distinct fields of meanings (Bedeutungsfeld). c) The genre is transformed into a new, often more complex, type which corresponds in meaning to the earlier kind (Ben-Amos 1976, xxvii).
(4) Genre as a form of discourse originates from Jolles' conception of forms as fields of meanings. According to this concept, "each genre has its own rhetorical features, vocabulary, disposition toward reality, use of descriptive language, types of characters and symbolic meanings -- all of which mark it as a distinct form of discourse within oral tradition" (Ben-Amos 1976, xxx). In practical terms, this approach refers mainly to differences such as the statement that the märchen is poetic, while the legend is historical. "As a form of discourse, any genre constitutes an ontological entity with a defined set of relations between language, symbols and reality" (Ben-Amos; 1976, xxxi).
How, then, do these concepts of genre pertain to the analysis of the Yami anohod and the Ivatan/Itbayat laji?
First, the classificatory system does not work because in both cases the content is not related to form. For example, the anohod has both a fixed and a free form. Since large parts of creation myths occur in chanted form, anohod should be similar to the epic. But the same myth can be found in spoken form, with only a few short, archaic anohod in it, and in other cases the chanting may concern a completely improvised topic. But then again, the same performance standards will be required for a narrative that could pass for a long epic, or a chant containing a good wish for someone who is about to put out to sea, or a young man's lament because he can't find himself a wife. It appears, then, that several different forms are fused into one traditional folkloric entity, for which the native language has only one term.
Second, there are deficiencies in the theory of genre as a permanent form. Its first subdivision is the evolutionary approach, which cannot tell us much about divergent evolution, but does help with the unilinear aspect of evolution. This does not apply to the Yami, however, because theirs is a case of divergent evolution from the Ivatan and Itbayat culture, after these cultures were separated geographically. The second approach found in the permanent-form hypothesis is that of the functional use of genre. This is Malinowski's "survivalistic premise." Although this theory works in the case of the Yami, for whom then anohod still functions as a means of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation, as well as a means of Yami socialization, for the Ivatans/Itbayats the laji has no such meaning. It has no "function" within their society other than that of entertainment, for which the anohod also serves the Yami. The last form of the postulate of genre as a permanent form is that of its structural significance. This aspect relates neither to the laji nor to the anohod even though they are similar, for they do not function the same way within their parent cultures. Even if their constituent parts could be delineated, it is doubtful that they could be integrated into a global understanding of folklore.
Third, there exists the evolving concept of genre, in which the form evolves but the content remains the same. An example of this would be a piece of wisdom which begins as a proverb, develops into an anecdote, which in turn becomes a tale, and from there evolves into a legend. The form has changed, but the content (the original "field of meaning") has not been altered. As such, this concept does not enlighten us about the laji or the anohod, because both have evolved differently in content and in form.
The fourth aspect of genre theory is the presentation of genre in folklore as a form of discourse. This conceptualization of folklore is most applicable to well-delineated forms of European folklore in literate societies. Also, it draws upon Jolles' idea of "fields of meaning," a notation which does not pertain to the laji and to the anohod, which are not content-specific. Those forms are equally appropriate as means of myth-telling, well-wishing, or the praise-singing of a watermelon.
After considering all the different approaches, forms, and models, it is clear that folklore genre theory, if there really is such a thing, can hardly be pinned down, let alone defined. It is like some kind of ghostly entity, because, while it does not exist, it is there. Its presence is felt mostly in its classificatory form. Its influence on publication is also felt in the sense that, for some reason, certain folkloric entities are kept apart: seldom will one find ballads and proverbs together, or myths and riddles. Or, as Ben-Amos puts it, "like biblical wool and linen that do not mingle (Deuteronomy 22:11), prose and poetry are kept apart in publications of oral literature" (Ben-Amos; 1976, xi).
It seems that if close-knit forms like proverbs and sayings have to be delimited, not one but many of the theories and models could be applied. Certain well-delimited forms like the tale, legend, and riddle are more easily explained in their relation to performer, listener, and cultural environment but in the case of anohod and laji genre categories do not seem to explain their identities. If it is the interpretive factor that counts or makes a difference in genre, then how are we to accommodate the changing feature of repetition? And if the question of the function of the anohod as a literary form is raised, then there seems to be even more confusion.
As a concluding argument, to illustrate the difficulties that literary critics of folklore and ethnographers may have if they try to orchestrate their theories, I present the case of a significant ambivalence found at the interface of literary criticism and ethnography: it is the commonly accepted notion in criticism that the purpose of literature is to entertain, but does this necessarily apply to folklore as well?
In his Ethical Criticism: Theory of Symbols Northrop Frye states that "in literature, what entertains is prior to what instructs, or, as we may say, the reality-principle is subordinate to the pleasure-principle. In assertive verbal structures the priority is reversed." Should this be the case with the anohod, then at least the form could be delimited by what it does. The problem then would be the fact that according to what it does, if we accept Frye's definition, it cannot qualify as literature. Like many other statements in literary criticism concerning the relation of people and works of art, Frye's assertion of what exactly literature is designed to do appears to be based on a limited view of what constitutes literature. Folklore is literature, though it is not necessarily performed for entertainment and its aim is not necessarily that of pleasing. Its purpose may be entirely different from entertaining, without changing it from literature to an "assertive verbal structure." This issue does not depend on the availability of entertaining oral forms, but on the social context and the cultural configuration of the group, which will determine the overall purpose of an oral form.
All languages and national literatures have idiosyncratic rules of rhetoric. In English, for example, sentences overloaded with clauses are not appreciated. In German, long sentences are regarded as an aspect of scholarly performance and are appreciated. The long and very complex German sentences are easy to follow due to the three distinctive grammatical genders of the language, the conjugated verb endings, and the positioning of the verb at the end of the sentence. Yet regardless of how complex the morphology and the syntax is, grammatical features alone cannot account for the difference in rhetorical preference. Other more intricate and more abstract socio-cultural vectors are responsible for the phenomenon, and the differences which they produce may upset even basic concepts of rhetoric. For instance, throughout the plot of a narrative most writing or narrating strategies require at least a clear understanding of what happened, who caused it to happen, how it happen, and why it happened. However, these rhetorical necessities can be overridden by an "overall purpose" of the narrative generated by the cultural background. The following comparison of two Austronesian language-family narratives provides a good example.
In the introduction to her Ilianen Manobo Folktales, Hazel J. Wrigglesworth lists and explains several verbal conventions. One of the seven rhetorical devices is used for introducing an entire narrative. In the North Central Cotabato of Mindanao, the Manobo narrator uses the "obligatory folktale introducer hane, take note, then pauses slightly to put his audience at ease and to help create an expectant air before transporting them to the make-believe scene where his story is taking place."
Likewise, the narrator of the Yami tribe of Irala introduces his story with an anohod, which is meant to assure the listeners that everything they are about to hear is an authentic story of the narrator's ancestral grandfather.
Another Manobo verbal convention is used for introducing individual scenes. Relying on the deictic category of demonstrative pronouns of his language and focusing on one of his protagonists, the Manobo narrator transports his audience to the scene of the plot: "take note," "here (close at hand) we (speaker and addressee) are with..." Then, as the plot develops, the narrator relocates his audience in space by using a different category of deictic proximity: "there (far away, out of sight)," or "now we return to..." "There we are now with two young women who were sisters. The name of the elder one was Meraat Bawa, while the younger one was called Mepiya Bawa." The plot first unfolds around the younger sister, then the elder sister, and then it shifts again to the deeds of the younger one: "Take note, there (some distance away) we are again with Mepiya Bawa."
The Yami narrator of Irala, however, is not concerned with such rhetorical devices. The plot of his narrative does not unravel simultaneously on parallel planes of action. Occasionally, even the identification of the protagonists who perform actions pertinent to the understanding of the plot is omitted. The following passage from the genealogical story; of the village Iranmilek is a good example. The eldest son of a family is kidnapped when he goes to examine a wooden box which floats on the water of the bay:
Elder Brother and I walked down to the shore, where the beach is covered with large stones, and then we saw the ocean. It was very beautiful, smooth and clear like drinking water. Suddenly, in the current we saw a drifting wooden box; which was moving fast towards the shore. "What could that be ?" Elder Brother said, "I'll go and have a look at it!" "Isn't that dangerous?" I asked, but he would not listen and walked down to the water to have a look at it. When he was about five feet away from it, suddenly I saw the box open. (The man) had a piece of red cloth tied onto (his) forehead and had red clay stripes on (his) body. (He) grabbed Elder Brother and, yanking him into the box, quickly drifted away with him in the current. I was left alone there, and I couldn't do anything but cry.
As a result of the kidnapping, a large boat is launched and a Yami rescue party pursues the kidnappers to their island. The fight between the two sides is described in considerable detail, involving surprising imagery and metaphors. The rhetorical deficiency of the passage is that the identity of the kidnapper as a "person" and not as a sea monster or demon can be inferred only from the context describing the incident. Furthermore, the Yami crew returns victoriously to Irala, but the narrator does not mention whether or not the kidnapped child has been found.
The basic difference between the Manobo and the Yami narratives is that they belong to different genres. The Manobo narratives are folktales in the traditional European sense of the term -- the type of stories which Propp has analyzed in his Morphology of the Folktale. The Yami narratives differ in the sense that they do not contain the elements of märchen and are, instead, parts of a sequence of stories that make up an epic or a myth.
The difference in the employment of rhetorical devices lies in the overall purpose of the narratives. The overall generic folk aim of the Manobo raconteur, as a traditional narrator of tales in accordance with Frye's theory, is to entertain his audience with his stories while reinforcing the moral structure of his culture. The Yami narrator is also entertaining, but the narrative serves a different purpose. Since the tribe is illiterate, its creation myths, genealogical stories, and the history of its subsistence activities have been transmitted as an oral heritage. The main purpose of the narrative is to reinforce the listeners' knowledge of their descent, which includes the territorial rights of their lineage and precise information on land, water, and pasture ownership.
If the Manobo narrator does not employ the verbal conventions that regulate the traditional telling of tales, the listeners will complain that the story is "too broken up." Among the Yami, the omission of such rhetorical devices, which do not serve the overall purpose of the story, will be easily accepted by the listeners. Even alterations of the plot may be accepted by the listeners, but the smallest mistake in the katapilanda, or "genealogy," or an erroneous place name will surely arouse protests. The most serious complaint of a story listener is beken na oyod a cizing no inapo ta, "it is not the real story of our ancestral grandfather." Though this is a severe criticism, it has nothing to do with the narrating skills of the story teller, but questions the narrator's right to tell the story.
The correct succession of personal names as related to the names of settlements and fields is more important than what happened to the bearers of the names themselves. Since rhetorical devices serving the clarity of the plot are occasionally omitted, it is safe to assume that in certain Yami folk narratives rhetorical devices are controlled by the overall purpose of the narrative, a purpose defined by the Yami cultural context in which the narrative occurs.
Relations Between Genre Change and Subsistence
Genre analysis is not the only difficulty when examining the Yami chants. The tune, rhythm, and meter of the chants suggest that more questions remain to be answered.
Because I am not qualified to analyze and interpret the musical heritage of the Yami, I drew on the expertise of Dr. Samuel P. Bayard, a distinguished American ethnomusicologist, who transcribed from my tapes the music of a Yami rawod, a manlolobit so rawod, and an anohod. In a letter addressed to me, Dr. Bayard writes:
There are perceptible and sometimes pronounced rhythm and rhythmic patterns in the singing, and a fundamental and rather even underlying beat can be discerned. But a strict poetic meter seems not discernible: an indeterminate number of syllables can sometimes occur, and the notes to which they are sung make it impossible to bar the music in measures of anything like even length. This is true even of pieces like the manlolobit so rawod, which has nevertheless pronounced rhythmic patterns. In the slow rawod and anohod the impression given is that of comparatively free-time, leisurely singing.
In general, a syllable of the text takes a separate musical note, though occasionally two or more notes will be sounded to a syllable. However, two syllables can be run together under a single note of the music; and a separate syllable will be made out of a consonant cluster, which will then have its separate musical note.
Here, as in traditional singing pretty much everywhere, one can detect the presence of microtones: intervals of less than the half-tones which are the smallest melodic interval recognized by ordinary musical notation. Two signs are used to attempt to convey these intervals: The sign before or after a note signifies a rapid slide up to or down from a note, the interval being usually less than a halftone. These short glissandos can be easily perceived, but their exact range or extent cannot be satisfactorily registered. The sign (little arrows pointing up or down) indicates, for the note so marked, a slightly raised or lowered pitch, again less than a half-tone. Such slight pitch changes can sometimes be detected in the duration of a single sustained note; how "intentional" they may be is unknown.
The sign over a note indicates that its duration is slightly prolonged or shortened, with reference to the perceived underlying rhythmic beat.
The sign above a note or notes indicates a tremolo--a small shake or vibration--which appears to start on the note so marked and to waver between it and a note above it by a half-tone or less. These tremolos can be added anywhere in the musical strain, apparently, and would seem to be regarded as an ornament in the singing.
The sign indicates a syllable not sung, but spoken. Its placement shows the approximate register where the syllable would have been heard if it had been sung.
At the end of this chapter I have reproduced the three Yami chants transcribed by Dr. Bayard. All three were chanted by Siapen-Manabey of Ivalino in March 1984, and are part of the creation myth of Ivalino.
The first chant is a rawod. It preserves the words of Simina-Vohang's wife on her first voyage to Ivatan. The translation of the chant is the following:
I am aboard a swaying boat
with my companions,
none of them is of the same age and so handsome
like the one who holds the steer.
He is like the spray of the ocean at the stern of the boat.
The second chant is a manlolobit so rawod. It is the chant in which Simina-Vohang describes the hardships of the sea journey back to Irala. The translation is the following:
We were on a big boat, all kinsmen,
in a big boat, sailing on the open sea.
We almost reached our island,
but the ocean prevented us from sailing home.
We are discouraged. We have not sailed far away yet.
Ocean it was you who came to prevent us from sailing,
the huge waves hitting us left and right,
huge waves as they wanted to turn us over,
often showing the bottom of the boat.
We are going, floating, driven in a drift, thrown about.
Do not stir big waves. I wish we could fly like birds.
I have to apologize to all of you whom I see here,
my fellow villagers, because I am
the youngest one among all of you,
however, I am about to tell stories
which you probably know better.
This friend came to ask for our stories,
to ask about the great flood which I have never seen,
the one that once had covered and destroyed this island.
I know that after our friend will leave,
he will go around on their faraway island,
and he will let everybody know about our stories.
All kind of people mixed in a crowd will, come,
pushing each other, eager to hear them.
In the anohod and rawod no clear metrical pattern could be isolated. The chanters very frequently alter the words to the point of rendering them unrecognizable even to Yami listeners. This is not unique to the Yami; such alterations of words occurs in the singing of many cultures. For example, in many ethnic groups of West Africa, one of the distinctions between an apprentice and a master griot may be the extent to which the more talented bard is able to violate normal patterns of word usage and pronunciation (Hale 1987). Why the Yami distort the words of their chants is not clear. How a culture can not only tolerate, but preserve for a long time an oral heritage that is not understood is also hard to understand. If the words of the transcribed music are compared to the "reconstructed" form of the words, it is clear that extra beats are introduced into the tune in the form of musical melismas or occasional long "hooow"-sounding embellishments usually at the end of breath-groups, which, of course, increase the number of syllables and thus affect rhythm and meter.
If there is no clear meter that could accept only a certain number of syllables, thus enforcing selective wording, it is hard to see how the meter could have given rise to a formula. According to the Parry-Lord theory, not any wording, but only the one that fits the metric pattern, can be retained and developed into a mnemonic device. By reducing or increasing the number of syllables to suit the breath-group and not a metric pattern, in the approach of the Parry-Lord theory, chanting, according to Parry and Lord, does not create the conditions for developing and stabilizing large amounts of poetic formulas. Nevertheless, the Yami narrators use a great number of established poetic formulas.
My attempt to investigate the meter and formula in Yami chanting would have probably ended here, had I not by chance discovered among the more than one hundred and twenty hours of recorded narratives one in which the chanter is not only chanting but also reciting the anohod. The Yami chanter was asked to do this to make the transcription of the text easier. As the narrator is reciting the text of his chant, he lapses miraculously into a rhythmic pattern from which a clear meter rises. The meter is identical with that of the Western ballad, also known as trochaic trimeter with an alternating masculine ending (Balaban 1978). Hornedo has recognized this poetic meter of the recited anohod as identical to the meter of what he calls the "archetypeal text" of all laji (1976, 271). This means that although the poetic meter of the recited anohod and the recited laji are the same, when they are performed as a chant or a song, their poetic metric pattern is no longer discernible. It seems reasonable to assume that in the beginning all Yami oral performances had such a well distinguishable metric pattern, and this may be valid for the laji as well.
Since the Yami chants as currently performed do not provide a clearly emerging metric pattern that could account for the rise of the poetic formulae, my hypothesis is that when the formulae came into being, the chants were not chanted the same way as they are today, or they may not have been chants at all, but rhythmically recited verbal entities that later became musical. My arguments to support this hypothesis are as follows.
In cultures where there is a rich musical heritage in instrumental tunes, it is probably easy for changes to occur simply because there is a large variety of established melodic patterns. The Yami, however, do not have musical instruments, not even drums, and the traditional Yami songs are limited to almost a single tune. It is very unlikely that the rhythmically recited oral heritage changed only because of progress in the musical skills of the Yami. In my opinion, this change was initially generated by a change in emphasis in the ways of exploiting the ecosystem, particularly the increasing role of diving in the subsistence activities of the Yami. Consequently, this produced a relevant physical change in the respiratory organs of the natives. Once they had an increased lung capacity, it was only a question of time until the voluminous breath-group-controlled chanting style was also developed. Good lung capacity is one of the conditions for good chanting, and old people always blame their poor chanting performance on their short breath. Some old men directly associate their poor lung capacity with their inability to dive any more. As a further argument, I want to mention the fact that on Ivatan and Itbayat, after the Spanish turned the natives towards a greater dependence on agriculture, and especially after the introduction of large fishing nets, the natives lost the habit of regular diving, and thus the rawod has also slowly disappeared and been totally replaced by laji. It appears to me that the Ivatan inabayren, a folksong which is "sung slowly with prolonged, sustained musical utterance" (Hornedo 1987), is a form of transition between the anohod and laji.
If my hypothesis associating the change in the oral heritage with the increase in lung capacity is to be accepted, several related questions have to be answered: Do both men and women chant and dive? Did the Yami always live next to the ocean? And if they did, why did they dive instead of hook fishing? How could they dive efficiently if they did not have any optical aiding devices?
The rawod is chanted only by men, but the anohod may be chanted by women as well. It is true, however, that the occasions for women to perform in front of a great festive audience, where great chanting-skills; must be shown, are far fewer than those for men. Consequently, men's chanting skills, especially their capability to produce very long breath groups, are much more developed than those of women. But this may equally be explained by the fact that women do not dive and thus have a more limited lung capacity than men.
There is no telling how long the Yami have lived in the vicinity of the ocean, but based on the archaeological data of the Bashiic area it is safe to assume that they have been "island dwellers" for at least the past two thousand years. Because of living by the shore, even in historic times, probably most of their protein intake originated from the ocean. This fact, however, does not necessarily mean that they had to dive for their proteins. While diving was a pragmatically discovered and implemented subsistence activity, it was probably the belief system that regulated it, and occasionally made it a necessity. It is true that one cannot tell what the belief system of the tribe may have been thousands of years ago and what impact it had on its subsistence, but at present the belief system regulates very strictly most subsistence activities, especially summer fishing. After the ritualistic festival of mivahnwa, which is the opening day of the flying fish season, the taboo against all netting, hook fishing and spearing is firmly implemented. As a rule, there is at least one month between the day of the festival and the time when the Yami actually start catching migratory fish; in great numbers. During this period, which lasts from the end of February to the end of March and sometimes well into April, the Yami are almost forced to dive if they want to eat more than seaweed. Diving is necessary because during this period all they are permitted to catch in the ocean is shellfish and octopus. These items, especially the shellfish, can be obtained only by diving.
In their stories, for example in the Creation Myth of Yayo, the Yami often mention that during the time described as "before," there were no taboos and no rituals. While such a statement cannot be considered as necessarily true, logically speaking there must have been a time when these taboos were not developed yet. It probably took hundreds of years, for instance, before all the food taboos were developed. The importance of regular seasonal diving may have grown along with such subsistence-regulating features of the belief system.
If one opens his eyes under the water, the clarity of his vision is strongly limited by the effect of the water that comes into contact with the cornea. To spot a shellfish under the water while diving with open eyes is nearly impossible. In ancient times, when there were no goggles, the Yami aided themselves by the use of a tropical fruit. They chewed the nut-like fruit of the gago tree and then spat the oily contents of the nut onto the surface of the water. The small fat particles merged into large roundish oil spots on the water -- just as on the surface of an oily soup. Through these oil specks, one could see into the ocean as if through a diving mask. In this manner the Yami could locate the shells and, after taking aim, dive for them.
Because good diving skills assured a continuous access to protein for the natives of the Batan Archipelago, diving became an important subsistence activity. As a result, the lung capacity of the men was enlarged, and the men took advantage of it when they performed their oral folkloric heritage. The fact that they could sustain long breath-groups in performing their folklore allowed the rhythmic, formula-generating recitals of their ancient oral forms to be changed into chants. Of course, diving could not have been the only cause for the development of long breath-group chanting, but it must have been one of the main factors.
From the evidence presented in this chapter, it appears that one must take a broad view of both man and his environment if one wants to understand more fully the verbal art of a people. In the next chapter, I shall explore in more detail the need for an ethnoscientific approach to Bashiic research.