WHAT IS IT IN IGOROT CULTURE THAT SHOULD BE PASSED ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION by Yvonne Belen

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3rd Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation
5-8 May 2005

By Yvonne Belen

During my childhood in Bontoc, I had experiences on several aspects of the Igorot culture. But I have taken most for granted. Now that I write on what have to be passed on, I want to share some I distinctly recall.

One is strict adherence to community tradition. I refer especially to tengaw, a day or days designated by village leaders as community holiday.

Since I consider myself a student of Igorot culture, I requested for information from Caridad Fair-od. She wrote:

Tengaw is a community or village holiday. On the day of a tengaw, no one is allowed to enter or go out the village the moment a signal is announced through village criers and with knotted plant symbols at strategic entry places. The purpose of tengaw is to avoid any spiritual disturbance that might be the cause or reason for any misfortune or the non-realization of the very purpose of the community ritual performed.

Tengaw is observed after a community ritual is performed. The tengaw could be after the following rituals with their common purposes: 1) Victory or loss over a tribal tribal war, performed to acknowledge and thank Kabunyan and other spirits, 2) Kanyaw in celebration of harvest or the symbolical sowing of palay seeds, performed to acknowledge the Creator and to wish for abundance and prosperity, 3) Cleansing ritual after a bad omen was observed in the community, performed to pray for divertion of the bad to something good.

In the western municipalities of Mountain Province, they call it obaya not tengaw. The procedure and purposes are the same. The difference is that the western people or iAplai do not have ritual after a tribal war. Among the Bontocs and Sadangas, the most nairut is the tengaw after a tribal war.

I only realized the effects of tengawthe last time I went with my family to Bontoc. We were there in December 2002 and decided to go to Mainit to see the hot springs. But we were refused entry because the community had a tengaw.

We were already going up the village when the woman, at the first house we passed by, said, “You can’t proceed. It’s tengawtoday. Didn’t you see the plant with a knot?”

“Yes, I did.” I replied.

But I didn’t know the meaning of the knot in the plant.

“That means it’s tengaw,”she told us.

Disappointed, we returned to Bontoc. While we missed the hot springs, I admire and respect the village elders for their decision.

We had a similar experience when my family and I went to Alab. I wanted to show them my grandparent’s house in Dongyuan, where I was born. We weren’t allowed to go to that part of the village because they had a tengaw. Somebody died. So, I could only show the house where I was born, from my cousin’s house at the mountain opposite Dongyuan.

While we were at my cousin’s house, he brought out etag from the luden. Etagare pork slices,which are kept in the dried shell of a gourd called luden. We Igorots and Cordillerans have been practicing this method of food preservation for generations and I think it should be passed on. The meat is free of chemicals except table salt, which is used as the preservative.

Aside from food preservation, the Bontocs make safeng, a fermented food product. Amongthe Bontocs, they call it safeng; those from Sagada call it, sabeng.From the internet, I was able to get the recipe of Marya Tsullipas. The ingredients are spring water, sweet potatoes, cassava, fresh corn ears, broth from boiling rice (am), ripe frying bananas, cooked glutinous rice and small young squash (optional). These are placed in an earthen jar and sealed. After a week, the concoction is ready and the liquid can be drunk in a gulp or taken in sips. It is used as vinegar when cooking fish, which the Bontocs call khachiw. Others mix the liquid from safengwith water and use the mixture to boil sweet potatoes.

I’ve tasted sweet potatoes boiled in this mixture and it has a different taste from those boiled in plain water. I must say the taste of safengis acquired.

The women in the ili in Bontoc and Sagada still make safengor sabeng, respectively, since the recipes may have been passed on by their mothers or grandmothers. They know its nutritional benefits. It is for this reason that I think the knowledge of making safengshould be passed on the next generation.

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