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I would like to explore the culture of Philippines Indigenous tribes through their myth-making and mythical narratives. I find their oral tradition extremely interesting and unique given that a huge part of their culture is represented, informed, and ultimately embodied through the rites and rituals of its mythologies. Although properly representing a culture is far more complex than just telling a story, by using IP myths as an entry-point and primary source, it is about as close as we can get to learning directly from these communities.
My idea is to take an indigenous mythical narrative and simulate it as an interactive story via the medium of augmented reality merged with virtual reality, where the audience will enter the story and face stages of decision that will both propel the plot forward and inform him/her of the culture within the myth.
For instance, T’boli tribes from Southern Philippines, and the Tagalog tribes from the North are extremely particular with how and what they wear as it is a status symbol (and social hierarchies to them are important.) Given this, a stage of decision for the audience wearing the VR could be experimenting and eventually learning the importance of the clothing process for the natives. Or learning how to cook, or how to design a tattoo—all these things can be part of the interactive and learning interface of the story.
Impetus-based goals and design questions
Ultimately, the project hopes to be the first step to advocating for the preservation of and support for these IP communities. To get people to care, they must first understand what they should care about and I think story telling has always been an appealing introduction. I am using one of the most advanced mediums of story-telling (VR/AR) and I hope to reconcile that gap of primitive oral tradition with something more tangible mostly because I have an audience in mind and that is the people of the 21st century and the people who have never set foot on these tribal lands.
I’ve always lived in the world of the Internet and that means it’s harder to reconcile the country’s rich history and relate to that more agricultural and basic settings of the IP. If you would ask me years ago, I would not have cared about the plight of these communities. But now, I understand the more pressing need for representation and acknowledgment that they must be supported and not shunned to the margins of society. The IP communities of Bicol, Ifugao, and the Mindanaons are fighting to hold onto their traditions, and frankly I see why they would still want that despite of years of colonization, and then Martial Law, and now in the age of Globalization. The world is changing around them, and they still insist on preserving their ancestors’ legacy. I think that is a testament to their zeal as a people and I am confident that that translates in their myths.
VR and AR can capture more than just the sound of their culture (because most of these mythological epics are sang, not just recited), VR and AR can also capture the actual scene (and maybe even the texture) of the culture. The colors of the clothing, the texture of what it means to weave and cook and harvest coconuts—this is the potential of the medium I intend to subject the stories to.
The design questions though would have to be on the side of how much research goes into the world-building of the myth. The myths are not exactly embedded on realism as the stories interact with the gods and supernatural creatures. The design would have to bridge that gap of fantasy and how that fantasy is translated in how the tribes understand displacement, global warming, and tradition.
Results and Conclusions
So far the current thesis strategy is research-heavy. If the goal is to foster the first step of advocating for IPs—which is awareness, then there should be precedents that would support this trajectory. Meaning, I will try and find out how other projects like these have succeeded.
The impetus analysis has made it more clear that the audience will have to care for the IP community by the end of the day, else the thesis is really just another story that holds no water.
There are still complications of deciding which myths are best for the project given that there are hundreds of them in just one IP community and there are multiple variations of one indigenous tribe alone. So the scope may have to be managed better.
The immediate point of network for knowing more about this is the Philippine academic institutions who have previously supported the research to further identify the IPs and their culture.
Armstrong, Karen. A Short History of Myth. Great Britain: Canongate, 2005. Accessed August 25, 2017.
Bierlein, J.F. Living Myths: How Myth Gives Meaning to Human Experience. N.p.: Ballantine Group, 1999.
Malinowski, Bronislaw, and Robert Redfield. Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays. Garden City: Doubleday, 1955.
Mindanao Ethnolinguistic Groups [2000 Census]
Mora, Manolete. Myth, Mimesis and Magic in the Music of the T'Boli, Philippines. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2015.
Wilson, Laurence L. The Skyland of the Philippines. Baguio: Baguio Printing and, 1953.
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