The late, eminent anthropologist F. Landa Jocano was awarded with Dangal ng Haraya, the highest honor given by the country’s primary agency for arts and culture, the National Commission for Arts and Culture (NCCA).
Jocano was known for his pioneering works in anthropology in the Philippines, particularly his work in Philippine prehistoric civilization. His contributions to cultural and historical research was recognized on May 22 at the NCCA Lobby in Intramuros, Manila.
Born into a farmer family in Cabatuan, Iloilo, on February 5, 1930, ninth of eleven children, Jocano ran away to Manila after finishing elementary school because his family could not afford to send him to high school. He worked his way through high school at the Arellano High School. He returned to Iloilo in 1954 where he finished a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Central Philippine University in 1957.
During this period, he developed an interest in folklore. He came to work at the National Museum through noted anthropologist Robert Fox. Through a grant, Jocano pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago, earning a Master in Anthropology in 1962 and a doctorate degree in Social Anthropology in 1963.
When he returned to the Philippines, he taught at the University of the Philippines (UP), where he served for more than 30 years until his retirement. At UP, he became chairman of the Department of Anthropology of the College of Arts and Sciences; dean and professor of anthropology of the Institute of Philippine Studies at the Philippine Center for Advanced Studies (now Asian Center); and head of the Asian Center Museum Laboratory.
At 83 years old, Jocano passed away on October 27, 2013, due to cardiac arrest, leaving behind an important body of works that contributed significantly to Philippine anthropological scholarship and our understanding of the peoples of the Philippines.
Jocano was a prolific writer dealing with a wide range of subjects including ethnology, folklore, pre-colonial history, international relations, and rural and urban community life. One of the earliest Filipino researchers with proper scholarly training in anthropology, he pioneered the use of participant observation as a methodology in Philippine ethnographic research and was one of the first scholars to suggest alternatives to H. Otley Beyer’s Wave Migration Theory in the peopling of the Philippines. Jocano’s contribution to the study of Philippine folk literature is the documentation and translation to English of the folk epic Hinilawod of the Panay Bukidnon of Western Visayas. From 1955 to 1957, he spent time with the Panay Bukidnon chanters and eventually published the book Hinilawod: Adventures of Humadapnon (Tarangban I). His other books include Sulod Society (1968); Folk Medicine in a Philippine Community (1973); Slum as a Way of Life (1975); Ilocano: An Ethnography of Family and Community Life (1983); Hiligaynon: An Ethnography of Family and Community Life (1983); Filipino Indigenous Ethnic Communities: Patterns, Variations, and Typologies (1998); and Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage (1998).
During his career, he has earned several accolades, including the National Science Awards (1973), Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1971), Ten Outstanding Young Men (1965), and the Philippine Legion of Honor (2007) with the rank of Grand Officer. National Artist for literature F. Sionil Jose regarded him as “the country’s first and foremost cultural anthropologist.” NCCA’s honor will be the latest to be included in the list.
The Dangal ng Haraya is given together with the Alab ng Haraya (Flame of Imagination). The two recognitions were created under the leadership of former NCCA chairman Jaime Laya and executive director Virgilio Almario, who would become National Artist for literature.