On Global Filipinos: Kinding Sindaw: Telling the stories of Mindanao for 30 years

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

This year marks the 30th year of the inimitable and only indigenous dance and cultural group called Kinding Sindaw, which means “Dance of Light”, from the ancient Austronesian language: Kinding meaning graceful movement and Sindaw which means Light. To shed light to the unwritten stories of Mindanao through this graceful movement.

But its history began more than 50 years ago with the founder Princess Potri Ranka Manis. Her father Datu Mamintal Dirampaten -Sultan a Gaus sa Borocot, Maguing is the descendent of the late Shiek Mohammed Nor Dirampaten, the Sultan of the 15th Pagawidan of Pat Pangempong ko Ranao. Pagawidan means pillar and Pangempong is a Meranao word which means entire sultanate.

Potri, a tradition-bearer of the Maranao people (People of the Lake), is the founder and artistic and executive director of Kinding Sindaw. Born and raised in Mindanao, she is modern-day princess. As an artist-activist, she campaigns tirelessly for the self-determination of the Muslim Moro and Lumad communities of the Philippines.

Potri grew up in a part of Lanao del Sur in the 1960s where there was no television, moviehouse or radio. When she saw the signs of dusk, with bats flying east and the leaves of the acacia tree and makahiya start to fold, it was a time for her to go home for maghrib prayers. It was followed by a gathering at the yard to listen to the chants of the epics and legends like that of Derangen and Rajah Mangandiri with other children around a bonfire that has kamote and cassava being broiled under those embers. These would become the snacks of the young audience. These epics were chanted during celebrations like weddings or enthronements, or the visit of important people or sultans from other places.

Kinding Sindaw is a community resource to help educate the FilAm community on the unique history of the Philippines.

Salsilah – the chanting of genealogy that goes back to the seventh generation — is one of the most important chants that everyone had to memorize.

Potri remembers these stories vividly as they became her refuge when she was subjected to a situation that calls for resilience. Once, when she was a young political prisoner during the martial law regime of then-president Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, she had undergone physical torture.

Potri in New York City has become a pillar of the folk arts. She is a New York Foundation Arts Folk Arts Fellow, a master teaching artist at Lotus Music & Dance, a playwright, an award-winning poet, a practitioner of the Theatre of the Oppressed. She has conceptualized, choreographed, and directed 12 off-Broadway productions, most recently Kinding Sindaw’s 2020 Pananadem (Remembering). In addition to her artistic life, she is a board-certified registered nurse and nurse educator. Committed to the health and well-being of her community, she created the healing modality, Resilient Ancestral Nurturing Knowledge and Arts.

“I came to NY as a Registered Nurse for my third league of being a globe itinerant health worker. Because of economics and politics in the Philippines, I have to work to support a village,” she said in an artist statement. “When I was in NYC, I started to fear that my children will not grow up remembering the noble ancestral heritage that they have. I was then obliged to start teaching the culture and tradition that I grew up with, which were passed to me orally by my elders. That is when Kinding Sindaw was founded.”

With daughters Malaika and Amira Aziza

“I brought my ancestral wardrobe and kulintang gong set with me (to NYC). This was my security armor, as if my amulet, for me to remember my ancestral culture chants, epics, ritual dances, court ceremonies and the stories that are told, not written. Especially the massacres, land grabbings and all the miseries that made me leave my birth land to find ‘greener pasture’ and refuge, due to war on the indigenous tribes and the stealing of our ancestral lands. With all I carry inside, I turn my dances, music, art and stories into choreographies and theater productions that will illuminate the unjust stories that are systematically erased.”

Through art and cultural workshops, Kinding Sindaw seeks to assert, reclaim, recreate and preserve indigenous Philippine culture and traditions, and show current and future participants its richness, vibrancy and significance to current and future generations. Through rhythmic movements and musical training taught by Potri and other tradition-bearers, interspersed with lectures about the historical significance of the music and movements, the participants internalize the indigenous experience and gain the ability to impart their knowledge with continued, consistent, and focused practice.  Thus, these classes not merely impart artistic skills to the participants – they also instill indigenous consciousness and identity, which will lead to advocacy for the indigenous right of self-determination.   

Kinding Sindaw is currently a resident artist group at La Mama ETC. The mission is to educate and enlighten communities about the complex history and cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.  Since its founding, Kinding Sindaw has actively performed and provided cultural workshops and educational programs at numerous venues throughout the city. These include presentation of full-scale dance dramas in venues such as La Mama ETC, Lincoln Center, The Puffin Room, Riverside Church, Mulberry Street Theater, Wave Hill and NYC colleges. In addition to these large-scale productions, Kinding Sindaw provides music, dance and storytelling workshops at colleges and libraries, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Asia Society, Museum of Natural History and other NYC institutions.

“We serve as a community resource to help educate children, youth and adults to explore the unique history and traditions of the Philippines,” she said and as Potri likes to remind young FilAms, “If you remember the resilience of your ancestors, you can never be conquered.”

VP LENI ROBREDO interview with Boy Abunda CLICK HERE

© The FilAm 2022

One Comment

  1. Darlene D Borromeo wrote:

    My sincere congratulations to Kinding Sindaw on its 30th year.

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