Philippine languages

National Museum sparks debate among Ilonggos, Aklanons over ‘sadsad’ term

Jed Nykolle Harme

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National Museum sparks debate among Ilonggos, Aklanons over ‘sadsad’ term
The term 'sadsad' finds usage among various communities in the Visayas

social media post by the National Museum of the Philippines-Iloilo on Wednesday, January 24, sparked online discourse between the people of Iloilo and Aklan, as Aklanons pointed out the misuse of the term “sadsad” in the upcoming Dinagyang Festival this weekend.

The Museum posted a definition from Kauffmann’s 1934 Visayan-English dictionary, as part of Dinagyang-related vocabulary series: It means “to trip, skip, dance, step nimbly or lightly.”

While the intention was to contribute to cultural awareness and celebrate linguistic diversity, netizens from both provinces engaged in a war of words over the interpretation and usage of the term.

In the comments section, netizen Romart Martesano said there was a lack of citation and the relevance of the term “sadsad” to specific groups of people in the Panay Island. “Citing an old dictionary as a reference cannot interpret the social relevance or merely translate traditions alone. We should be more culturally sensitive.”

The National Museum defended its position, emphasizing that “sadsad” is part of the daily vocabulary of the Panayanons. Its usage extends beyond Aklan rooted in Hiligaynon and Karay-a languages.

“It is not surprising to hear Ilonggos say “sadsad ta” other than “dagyang ta” referring to street-dancing/merry-making,” said Museum in its comments.

Hours after the backlash, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas also posted an announcement of the Sadsad sa Calle Real event on January 28, as part of Dinagyang Fest. It was shared by the Museum’s Facebook Page.

The posts did not sit well with the Aklanons.

Ati-atihan Festival event manager Giselle Quimpo said in a Facebook post that those who justify the use of “sadsad” in Dinagyang by pointing out its linguistic roots across Panay Island miss a crucial point. “For us, Aklanon people, ‘sadsad‘ is not merely a shared word; it embodies a deeper cultural significance, especially during the Ati-Atihan season.”

Kalibo Mayor Juris Sucro released a statement on Thursday, saying that it is not the Aklanon’s intent to claim the ownership over the term. They aim to emphasize its cultural relevance and contextual meaning in the community.

“The focus should not solely be on its linguistic aspect but rather on how it embodies and defines the cultural identity of the Aklanon people during our revered Ati-atihan festivities,” Sucro said.

The virtual discourse also prompted conversations within academic and historian circles.

Local historian and Chief Information Officer of Iloilo provincial government Nereo Lujan posted pages of the 2003 Dinagyang Fest Program, to highlight the longstanding tradition of religious sadsad in the province. He said that term is “not exclusive to one province only.”

“Should the mayor of Kalibo wish ‘to emphasize the cultural significance and contextual meaning of ‘sádsad‘ within the Aklanon community, he can do that freely, in the same manner that the people of Iloilo can also freely celebrate the Dinagyang with our own version of the sádsad,” Lujan said in a separate post.

Meanwhile, Department of Education Aklan Education Program Supervisor Mahnnie Tolentino pointed out that Aklanon’s practice of sadsad is protected as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, according to the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

It is safeguarded under cultural heritage protections, including oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, knowledge about nature, and traditional craftsmanship. This shields it from exportation, modification, or demolition as per Article III, Section 5 of the law.

Meanwhile, the term “sádsad” finds usage among various communities in the Visayas. There’s also an annual Sadsad Festival in Oslob town in Cebu, a Sadsad in San Carlos city, Negros Occidental and a Sadsad Mindanao in the northern part of Mindanao. –

Jed Nykolle Harme is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.

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