Bud Tumantangis: Sulu’s Crying Mountain

Bismillah

(Originally posted Sept 8, 2013 on my FB Page)

It has been some time since I wrote about my beloved hometown, Sulu. So I decided to fill-up the holes of long absence with some fun facts about my place. In this post we will be talking about one of the grandest landmarks in Sulu: Bud Tumantangis (Bud or Buwd means Mountain). This is going to be a bit long, so kindly bear with me until the end. I will make sure that this post is worth your time reading. 

Bud Tumantangis, is the highest peak in the Sulu mainland. It is located in the Indanan-Patikul boundary, Sulu. It is surrounded by green forests and farmlands.

Aside from just being a magnificent sight in the place, it also served as an icon, a “unique landmark” among the Tausugs which they identified with their homeland: Sulu. Every single settler, visitor or traveler in Sulu would know which and where is Bud Tumantangis. If a common seafarer comes home from a long journey at the sea, simply looking for this familiar mountain is his assurance of going back home. In fact for the Tausugs, this mountain had already become the equivalent of the word “home”. Just like Japan having Mt. Fuji, or London with the Big Ben, or Paris with the Eiffel Tower, and USA with the Statue of Liberty. Sulu has Bud Tumantangis.

It is also a mountain full of mystique. A number of Tausug folklores mention about the presence of mystical creatures appearing in the deep forests of Bud Tumantangis. There were also a number of versions of legends as to how Bud Tumantangis came into existence. Even its name “Tumantangis” (tangis is “cry”) remain to be one of the unsolved mysteries even to the mountain dwellers themselves, leave alone to someone who is new to the place. And due to its majestic presence and its popularity to the people, stories, poems, novels and songs about this mountain are not uncommon.

But Why “Crying” Mountain?

For its name, the Tausug word “tangis” is the equivalent of the English “cry” or “to cry”.  The term “Tuman-“ on the other hand has no equivalent meaning, both in Bahasa Sug or in English (as far as my little knowledge in language is concerned). But there were a number of theories as to why it was called “Tumantangis”.

The Weeping Women Theory


There was a story about a mother crying with despair after her son did not recognized her, or tried to forget her, because she got old and wrinkled and became a poor beggar. She cried and prayed to God to punish that son for what he did, and disastrous calamity occurred that day, sparing all the people but the son and the mother. And after the calamity the majestic mountain stood there where the mother asked for the punishment in tears. For a longer version of the story, click here.

Another story was about two lovers separated by the feudal war of their families. Things got worse, the guy was killed and the girl promised not to cry over this. She died in her room the next night still, with her eyes dry of tears. When her family decided to bury her, her grave turned into what we now know as Bud Tumantangis. I do not have a longer version of this story as I only heard it once.
Those were two different versions of perhaps many more versions about the existence of Bud Tumantangis and why was it amusingly called that way. Two things are common in the story: 1) the word “cry” was the main content of the story; 2) the weeping (or not-weeping) women were the source of the mountain’s existence.  Of course, these two are just products of fiction.

The Travelers’ Sojourn Theory

Although both stories above are great points of interest, there’s another theory yet that is perhaps more authentic and far more convincing than the two legends mentioned above. I’ll call it “The Travelers’ Theory” and it is still in fact applicable today. This theory is also what I tell my friends from other places when they ask “why crying mountain”? And it all boils down to History, Navigation and Geography (Yes, you heard me right).

The Tausugs are known in the pages of history as great travelers of the sea. Even before the Sulu Sulatanate was established the Tausugs have already learned to use the vast blue sea that surrounds them to their advantage. From then on, until this very date, the “sea” had always been part of the life of a Tausug. Before the era of conquest and until the American era, the only means of travelling to and from Sulu is by sea. Vintas, bangkas, boats, and prahus were used by the locals from just catching fish to defending their territory from the conquestadors. And although advance navigation was still lacking on those time, the people of Sulu never gets afraid of going far from their homeland for one thing. They have a marker, something they can identify their “home” is near, the highest peak in the island which is Bud Tumantangis.

Being the highest peak in the land, Bud Tumantangis is the last thing a traveler will see from his home upon embarking on a far journey. And its peak is also among the first thing seafarers would see upon coming back home. And as these journeys would usually take them months to years (then) before they can come back, tears are expected when they finally set sail. Then on, until the day that they will return to this land, tears of longing will creep through the eyes of these brave warriors. And being brave warriors of the sea, and with the wrong assumption that men should never cry, each warrior must try to prevent those tears from coming (or else his pride as a Tausug will be at stake). But even the brave warriors of the sea, cannot hold those tears from coming out, be it due to great sadness from separating from their homeland or of great joy of seeing their home once more.

“To prevent form crying” can be translated into Bahasa Sug as “Tumahan sin Tangis” or “Tumahan tangis”. (and later on, probably it transformed and became Tumantangis, which is the present name of the mountain).

Even to date, every time a Tausug would travel far away or comes back to Sulu from a long journey, seeing that familiar mountain never fails to make their eyes (or at least their heart) teary from longing and love, even how much they try to “prevent it”. And thus this mountain which makes every Tausug cry is actually “a mountain to prevent from crying for” and not “the crying mountain”.

To Sum it all up
(Yes, I still have something to say. Haha.)

The great Bud Tumantangis still stands tall today with great pride in taking part along with his people, the Tausugs, the struggles they had been through, ages and ages since. This mountain had indeed lived to its name as the “crying mountain” or “the mountain to cry for” (or not to cry for), as she had witnessed all the sufferings her people had underwent the past decades and centuries. She had also been a great icon for the Tausugs. Her unwavering strength serves as a symbol for the Tausugs to stay strong and firm and still remain standing amidst all the devastating storms that may come. To raise and stand tall, and reach for the sky that seems so far for us to reach. And to accept the fact that even brave souls have to cry…That even great warriors must have the courage to say “I am weak”.
Bud Tumantangis on my last visit to Sulu (c) June 2015

To my fellow Tausugs (who also survived reading this long post), I challenge you all to look back to where our people had been; what they have been through; what they are going through right now. Remember where we came from, and never to forget what had happened in the past and never forget even those seemingly tragic past we had. Instead, let us learn from them and never let them happen again. We were once a great country. We had done it once and survived for centuries. There is no reason why we can’t do it once again. Maybe not now, but in due time, we will In shaa Allah. Let us all be united in heart and in action. Let us not put all those tears we shed into waste. Let us show Bud Tumantangis, that all those tears of despair every soul had shed are worth crying for. By then, in shaa Allah, we don’t have to shed tears of pain anymore, but tears of success… where this crying mountain rests…

With tears,Ahmad ibn Hajiri

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