|Origins||Lupain ng Pahimakas|
|Social Classes||Warriors, Weavers, Fishers, Painters, Sailors, Traders, Demon-Hunters.|
|Major Cities||Bago-Bago, Visan, Gapan|
The exact year-dated origins of the Balantagi Sihai are difficult to record, as they are dependent on pre-Sheng Empire history, which is mostly lost to time or difficult to reach: no one has entered the Sheng Empire in hundreds of years. The Balantagi Sihai were a large group of voluntary outcasts from the early Sheng Empire, soon after the destruction of the Meraic Civilization. The Sihai as a whole decided not to get involved, or simply did not care about the Void Invasion in the west, while the Balantagi formed a splinter group called the Pindjang. This group dissented the inwards-turning Sihai attitude and instead professed the need for the Sihai to be part of a global world, and to carry their weight in defending it from Demons. Eventually their societies could no longer co-exist, and the Pindjang moved much further south to an uninhabited archipelago of a thousand islands that they would later call Lupain ng Pahimakas, or Pahim in short. They were shortly after condemned by the Sheng Emperors who forbade all contact and trade with them, thus ensuring their culture would develop radically differently in the centuries following.
To be Balantagi is to believe strongly in the concepts of justice, equality, and fairness, but also ethnic diversity and hospitality. They are a culture singularly obsessed with fulfilling their role in the world and aiding those in need no matter the direness of the situation. The Balantagi travel the world in search of quests (and trade) to fulfill this purpose, and many have recently come to Regalia despite their low population count (a few hundred thousand, compared to tens of millions of Sihai that live in the east), brought about by Regalia’s repeated run-ins with catastrophe and occupation events. The Balantagi are a sub-culture of Sihai, with the same Racial Abilities and Specials. They are in all aspects physically the same, except that the Balantagi have skin-tones that can range from standard Sihai, to much darker, never quite as dark as Songaskian, but certainly darker than Qadir.
Ginatang is a term that describes the act of housing one’s own history on the body. The Balantagi Sihai hold tattoo artists and tattoos in general in very high esteem, and especially those who have a storied life, or travel much abroad, have large swathes of their body covered in tattoos. These tattoos often have repeating geometric shapes layered one after the other, which have slight variations that resemble a form of rope-knot language entirely separate from Kalatas (the Balantagi script). These tattoos, when read, can tell a story about the person’s life and decisions, but most of all their heroic acts. This is why the Balantagi often call those without fame or achievements “Unpainted”, a term that can also apply to other races. Some historians believe that Ginatang as a cultural custom was transferred to the Velheim people before they developed their skin-story art, shared by Balantagi warriors who moved west when the last Void Invasion occurred to aid the Altalar.
Kapayapaan as a term means two things. Firstly, it means peace, but secondly, it also means an inner duty shared by all Balantagi to bring about “the best circumstances in a bad situation”. This is more complicated than saying that the Balantagi are anti-war. The Balantagi wage plenty of war among themselves, as smaller islands fight each other or get absorbed into the feudal domains of bigger islands. The concept however demands that no Balantagi simply stands by and does nothing while people are suffering. Warriors fight on either side to minimize casualties, farmers donate some of their food to stave off hunger, and weavers produce blankets and clothes for those who have fled their homes. The Balantagi also believe firmly in the opening of one’s home to those who do not have one, and frequently have numerous refugee families living under their roof when they own a house close to a warzone. This is part of the reason why so many Balantagi travel into the wider world, to aid those in far away lands, especially during times of peace in Pahim. A Balantagi will always be there to help someone who is beaten down, defeated, or down on their luck, and especially so when it is because of Demons, who are the great evil to the Balantagi people.
Sometimes confusing to outsiders, the term Balantagi is used to describe the culture, but is also an idiom in Talumpati. It literally means “an eye for an eye,” or the longer version: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, the punishment is equal to the sin committed”. To the Balantagi, justice and equality are immensely important, and they take direct offense to the indirect suffering of others or a justice system that disproportionately favors a particular ethnic majority or religious community. The Balantagi that traveled to Regalia have been fierce opponents of its Ailor-first policies and Unionism-only religious views, trying to appraise a more ethnically diverse and minority-appreciating society. Equally, they are very opposed to the current legal system that extends vast legal freedoms to the nobles and rulers, while coming down harshly on the poor. The Balantagi also do not believe in reductions of punishment or subjective discussions of rehabilitation, but have a flat legal system. An execution for a murder, a fine for theft, imprisonment for kidnapping, and so forth. The Balantagi homeland as such has an exceptionally low crime rate for the more severe crimes such as murder or kidnapping, as the population is well aware of their punishment while they are mid-act. It does however have a rampant low-impact crime rate, like graft, deceit, and theft, because they are able to evaluate that they won’t get punished as much for stealing for example an apple, which they would only be fined the equivalent of a single Regal for. This is often off-balanced by a more forgiving society that hands out food to the needy and medical aid to the poor, so that there is less of a reason to commit crime, though it still occurs.
The Balantagi language is called Talumpati, which is based on the real-world Tagalog (but with all the Spanish and English elements removed). It has diverged so far from its Sheng Empire linguistic ancestor that there is absolutely no comparison to be made anymore with Wai-lan, or any of its dialects, as it shifted from a syllable based language to one based on consonants and vowels. It also has its own script called Kalatas, which the Balantagi have a high literacy rate in.
The Balantagi have a single-naming custom, meaning, individuals do not have surnames or middle names or any long extended complicated formal names. They have a simple first name, and occasionally a clan-name to define their allegiance, but never a family name. Balantagi names are also non-gendered, meaning they can apply to both men and women equally.
A list of example names: Lapu-lapu, Marikudo, Matanda, Puti, Matiwang, Lakandula, Lontok, Adlaw, Alindogan, Abukayan, Bantug, Halili, Lakan, Gubatan, Manubay, Dalogdog.
Balantagi who have lived in the west for a very long time but still speak Talumpati are capable of using modern Tagalog, with both Spanish and English loan-words. This emulates the fact that during decades or centuries of living in the west, these people would have had much contact with those speaking Daendroque (Spanish) and Common (English) and started using loan words from their languages to make communication easier.
Balantagi religion is somewhat similar to Loong Worship, but radically split off around 300 years ago during the Cataclysm into what in the West is referred to as a “post-Loong” religion. The Balantagi still worship the Dragons Saaima, Nishiliu, Beishén, Ao-Jin, Liu-Xing, and Xin-Shidai the same way as their Sihai ancestors, but have added onto this the practice of ancestor worship. In fact, the religion is nearly identical to the point that even the names of the Dragons are still recorded in Wai-lan (though they pronounce them with an accent). The difference is that the Balantagi believe that the stewardship of the Dragons is over, in a direct response to their slumber. They still worship them as the creators of everything, but believe that when they went to slumber, that the Sihai race as a whole needed to stand on their own feet, instead of praising the Dragons’ names and continuing to observe dream-instructions without taking their own initiative. As a result, the Balantagi started more prominently worshiping famous or legendary members of their extended families. Every family has one individual who played a famous role during the Fifth Void Invasion, during the Chrysant War, or indeed any of the major conflicts of the last 300 years, and some even in the Mage-Wars of the late Allorn Empire. These ancestors have statues carved of them or traditional paintings made, set into a shrine, where the Balantagi clap three times before saying a prayer for protection or blessings, and then lighting incense. The Dragons are still very prominent in art, literature and tradition, and are also prayed to on occasion, but ancestor worship has definitely taken prominence.
Babaylan and Spirituality
On top of ancestor worship, the Balantagi also believe in the “spirits of all things created by Dragons”, believing that practically everything has a soul, even plants and rocks. As such, the Balantagi use the concept of Pinagpala or blessed, to define whether their meat comes from a ritually slaughtered animal, and if their vegetables and spices were ritually washed. These aspects are important to the Balantagi, as they believe lack of respect for nature and the souls that reside in all things cause the soul of the consumer to become tainted. Essentially, the Balantagi do not necessarily hold themselves to a higher standard than any other type of creation, not even a rock (in the grand scheme of things), but believe they were blessed with higher thinking and thus responsibility to do the right thing for all other things with a soul. A person who is ill or depressed is usually thought of as having a tainted soul, and as such, the Babaylans are called in, traditional shamans, to perform dances to invigorate the soul and put the souls that were disturbed to rest. Isldar who have observed this process describe it as ‘strangely spiritual, even for them’, stating that even though these Babaylans cannot see or even touch the Soul Rivers, they seem to dance along with them and respond to their presence, even if it doesn’t result in any noticeable medical improvement in the patient. Babaylans are called in to do other forms of blessing dances too, to cleanse a house before first moving in, to bless a pair of clothes or a weapon, or to purify an area and turn it into an ancestor shrine.
Balantagi fashion has multiple different styles which are interchangeably worn by the population depending on styling or taste and wealth.
Even though the word Damit traditionally refers to a female piece of clothing, it is also generally used to describe all clothes made from colorful fabrics. Warm shades are often chosen, ranging from red and orange to more intense brown, as the intensity of the dye is much stronger than most muted pastels used in Regalia. The edges are often embroidered with yellow thread or gold thread if it can be afforded, while a belt around the waist holds together most of the ensemble. Women wear their full-body dress over their entire legs and often also the entire arms, while men wear a two-set of pants down to the knees, and a shirt covering the arms. It is also common for both men and women to wear a Kuwintas, which can best be described as a large thick necklace, with a chain that is attached to the left wrist. This is a cultural statement to remind the Balantagi that no matter what, they are always chained to the fate of the world. Many Balantagi who follow this style also widen their earlobes to form a large hoop, and then insert a ring to keep it round-shaped, often also hanging some form of decorative earring through and underneath.
Balat is considered more tribal or jungle-like, a style often favored by warriors, but can also be worn by anyone. Men and women in the Balantagi homeland wear this style topless, with only a dress with a dark muted color but bright patterning, with a sash around the waist for both men and women. Obviously though, while in Regalia and to avoid commotion, the women wear a chest binder for modesty. The point of Balat is to put the tattoos on the body on display, which are normally on the arms and torso. The torso is further complemented with necklaces, bands either made of crystals or seashells, but also chains in which warriors incorporate the tokens of their achievements, such as teeth of great beasts that were slain, or the tips of spears of fallen foes. A headband is also quite common for this style. To adapt to the Regalian climate, Balantagi sometimes do away with the bare-chestedness and wear a Bukaging which is similar to a vest, but is always worn open, and short enough to be considered a croptop, while also covering the arms to the elbows. The middle section is always left to hang open, so that the lines of the neck contour down to the clothes. This may sometimes be considered comical in the West, where they think this is instead someone wearing clothes meant for a child given it always looks cramped and too small for them.
Malaginto or “golden” is a style usually reserved for the wealthy, those that have achieved something, nobility, or ceremonial dress only used rarely. The act of Malaginto clothing is to weave golden thread at specific intervals during the weaving process so that from afar, the whole fabric appears to have been made of gold. The non-gold thread is often yellow or a more copper tint, so that the piece of clothing looks entirely made of the same material. On top of the base fabric, weavers embroider geometric patterns and shapes, usually in white or in black. Women using this style also wear a Putobae, which is a crown that only rests on the forehead, with coins attached to small rings on the bottom. The crown only ever has 6 curved peaks, each of which also has a coin hanging from it, to represent the Dragons. Men more often wear just a simple golden band across their forehead, or a leaf hat (wide cone shaped hat of dried woven leaves) with gold embroidered edges and a tip with six peaks.
Families and Romance
Balantagi have fairly common family structures, with multiple generations living in the same home, and most marriages being monogamous. Polygamy or Polyamory does exist, but the Balantagi have a very strict societal belief that this is only a valid form of marital relation when all partners can afford to take care of each other, and love each other equally. Children have a relatively creative and cooperative upbringing, with them being taught the many virtues instilled by the Dragons and perfected by their ancestors. Balantagi society puts very little value on inexperience or virginity before marriage or relations, like other races or cultures might consider a divorced partner shameful. Balantagi consider all equal in the pursuit of love.
The Balantagi have five genders. The first two are obvious, Lakaki (man) and Babae (woman). The third gender is a bit more hard to read but still fairly common in the wider world, called Sila (them). The fourth and fifth gender are hard to determine for westerners, because they defy their expectations. They are the Magandalak (beautiful male) and Magandabae (beautiful woman). It is important to note that this does not refer to those wishing to be of a different gender than what they were born as. They are operatively still comfortable in the sex they were born as, but live functionally as the opposite gender in all manner except the romantic or erotic, where they still operate within birth assigned sex. To simplify it, these two genders are essentially cross-dressing genders, but the custom extends beyond that as they also perform roles in society that are naturally reserved for the opposite sex. Finally, it is important to stress that this is completely independent from sexuality. Most Magandalak and Magandabae identifying persons are in fact heterosexual. Within Balantagi culture, a person is considered more attractive if they are able to function within the societal norms of the opposite gender, than if they conform to their own birth-sex. Balantagi gender is usually manifested or understood through inner soul searching during the teenage years, after which they stick to that gender for their entire lifetime.
Balantagi society is matriarchal, meaning that women are always in ruling positions, and generally also run the household. In the Balantagi homeland of Pahim, each island or island group is their own nation, ruled by a Tagapamahala, or a ruler. The Tagapamahala must always be a woman. The title descends from sister to sister, until no sisters are left, or they have turned 70, after which it passes to the last Ruler’s oldest daughter. Beneath the Tagapamahala are two equal authorities, the one being the Babaylan which the West considers a shaman, and the other being the Lubae, or wise woman. The position of Babaylan is hereditary from mother to daughter, while the position of Lubae is elected for a 2-month period. In Regalia, all Balantagi come together and elect a single Lubae who acts as their community’s representative, but also social outreach to make sure all other Balantagi know the sorrow and suffering of the others, and where and how to help. They also host feasts and other communal events for the Balantagi and other races to come together and enjoy Balantagi customs. After the two month period, the position is held up to a vote again, and the same person cannot be elected twice in a row. There is one exception to strict sex based limitations to these positions, when it concerns law, to the Balantagi, a Magandalak is the same as a Babae, so there can be a male Lubae or Babaylan, so long as they are Magandalak. Equally, female Balantagi may be rejected from inheriting these positions if they are Magandabae.
- Unlike their Sihai ancestors, Balantagi are open to Magic. They have a surprisingly comprehensive and understanding world view of the Exist and Void, and acknowledge these as separate dimensions. Most Balantagi Magic users or Occult are Babaylan, though a Babaylan doesn’t necessarily have to actually be a Mage to fulfill their duty.
- Despite their open-ness to Magic, Balantagi still take a very Aelrrigan Order attitude to Magic, believing that like wildfire, it is an immensely dangerous tool if left unchecked and uncontrolled. In Balantagi society, a Lubae’s authority is required to allow someone to learn Magic. Those that learn magic without the supervision of their Lubae and every Lubae that follows after, are considered Pariah and outcast, usually expelled from their community.
- The Balantagi believe that the colors green and red mixed together in any strong capacity is an omen of misfortune and disappointment. This is why Balantagi paintings including red clothed Balantagi and green grass, always choose the color lavender or blue for the grass, instead of green.
- The Balantagi often have massive houses and are disappointed at the size of Regalian houses, finding them not large enough to house even a single person who is down on their luck. They try very hard as such to acquire multiple houses, one for themselves, and another they will pay for just to house other people.
- Balantagi cuisine is very fish-focused, on account of the large coastlines in their homeland, and also because ritually slaughtering fish is much easier than slaughtering a whole cow ritually. One of the most famous Balantagi dishes in Regalia is the Lumpia, which is a spring roll filled with some form of protein and vegetables, usually made of either Rice paper or flaky dough. Lumpias often get clumped together with general Sihai cuisine because Balantagi did not come to Regalia to open a food-stall, but they are very protective over their culinary heritage. An average Balantagi always has some Sumpia (finger sized Lumpia) tucked away somewhere as an on-the-road snack.
- A shiny looking skin is considered appealing to the Balantagi. This is why sometimes, Balantagi smear their skin with palm oil or coconut oil to achieve a shiny appearance. It has been noted to also protect their skin against the salty conditions of deep-sea harvesting or fishing, which can act corrosively and dry to the skin.
- The Balantagi, surprisingly, completely lack any form of engineering or even metallurgy. Any tools in the Balantagi homeland are either imported or produced with wood and cut obsidian, while most weapons are entirely made of wood, or only reinforced with obsidian cutting pieces. Balantagi in Regalia more often use western weapons (or ironically even Eastern Sihai blades) to be able to compete.
- When leaving the Sheng Empire, much of the complex infrastructure and logistical techniques of the Sihai were lost to the Balantagi. This is often why the Sihai consider the Balantagi uncivilized, and often even call them barbaric. While this effect is much reduced for Balantagi who are acclimated to Regalia, there is always some tension between the native Sihai and Balantagi over who is the barbarian (as the Balantagi consider the Sihai unwillingness to aid the wider world barbaric).
- The Balantagi do not eat with cutlery. In fact, the very act of cutting food with cutlery makes them clumsy and feel uncomfortable. Most of their eating habits involve scooping food from a communal bowl or pot with for example leaf vegetables or some form of bread.
- When a Balantagi is speaking to a person they considered respectworthy, or want to be respectful, they use the term “Po” or “Opo” at the end of the sentence. It essentially means “yes” in a very formal way, but is even used when speaking other languages, for example: “Your hair looks wonderful today, Opo”.
- A flirtatious gesture among the Balantagi is to raise the right hand to the chin, and then to use the index finger and thumb to form a V, and then to cup the chin into that V shape. It is considered an attempt to appear attractive, or to show interest in romancing the other person.
- The Balantagi are a soft-spoken people, but when surprised, can use profanities. Very common for them is to curse either the person giving them a jump, or curse a random animal when something goes wrong. This can be for example “Tae John”, to curse John, or “putanginang aso” to curse a dog.
- The Balantagi have a custom called Pasalubong, which means to “bring something for when you welcome me”. The act means that any Balantagi that travels away from home, is expected to bring gifts for those who stayed home from the place they visited. This can even extend to Progressions, when a Balantagi is sent to a war-front. They are still expected to bring some type of souvenir.
- It is not uncommon for Balantagi households to have extended families also living in multigenerational homes. While grandparents always live with one’s parents in the same house, uncles and cousins frequently also live in the same home. It is common to split families up per floor, though common rooms are shared by the whole family.
- The Balantagi in Regalia absolutely love the Wintertide celebrations. While they are traditionally Unionist in nature with only limited application from the Old Gods, the Balantagi have wholeheartedly adopted this custom and expanded upon it. While traditional Wintertide ends near new year, Balantagi Wintertide continues well into the end of January, with all decorative ornaments still out on display.
- The Balantagi love collecting shoes, and even in a multi-generational home where space is scarce, the whole family still designates one room just for pairs of shoes. They collect shoes of all different types and from different races, which is often juxtaposed to the fact that most Balantagi walk bare-footed in their homeland, or have very simple embroidered leather soles.
- Balantagi who do, though some freak sequence of events, end up in the catering business have an interesting linguistic take on traditional dishes. They cook up fusion dishes, but then also name these dishes through the Balantagi interpretation of the common word. For example, Calemburger becomes Cajlemburjer, Ithanian Cheese Soup becomes Ittan Chiz Sup, and double fried beef from Anglia becomes Dobol Patties.
- When Balantagi use nicknames for each other, they don’t just shorten the names, they form repetitive nicknames. For example: Katkat, Jojo, Noynoy, Toto, Nognog, Bingbing, Leklek and so forth.
- Balantagi families in the homeland are never excessively wealthy, so for a few or one of their members to travel as far away as Regalia is often quite a feat. When such a person comes back, they are always lovingly referred to as “Tita,” regardless of gender. This is because the Balantagi believe that person to now live a cosmopolitan upper-class lifestyle, seeing Regalia as a land of fabulous wealth for all, instead of the pit of poverty that its underclasses actually live in.
- The Balantagi have a great obsession for fruit-like decorations or symbolisms, often having still-life paintings of bowls of fruit, or fruit shapes embroidered into their clothing. They take fruit to a whole new level, considering even cheap fruit to be a great honorable gift to strangers and family alike.
- Family means a lot to the Balantagi, probably just as much as their global awareness customs. It is said that you can never get between a Balantagi and their family, and that all issues within the Balantagi families are resolved internally and are none of the business of outsiders. Balantagi are also immensely loving to their entire family, and try to include them in nearly everything they do, dearly missing them if only part of the family traveled to Regalia.