KEEPING THE KALINGA HERITAGE ALIVE IN RITUALS
Kalinga is a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Northern Philippines. It has eight municipalities scattered along flatlands, valleys and plateaus. Like the other tribes of the Cordilleras, the people of Kalinga were able to maintain so much of their cultural practices which are being followed up to now. Two of these rituals are described in this paper: house blessing and thanksgiving.
LUNOK JI BE-YOY AND CHOMCHOMOG (HOUSE BLESSING)
Lunok ji be-yoy (literally meaning Entering the House) and chomchomog are house blessing rituals for the people of Lubuagan, Kalinga. The former may be done when the house is almost finished or when it is ready for occupancy.
For lunok ji be-yoy, the owners bring basic items to the house which include the following: the rice keeper (pagbagasan), cooking pot (banga), water jar (pagdanuman), stove (paglutowan), viand (sida), and beddings. If nothing untoward happens along the way while bringing these items to the new house, an old woman, usually a trusted relative, would be asked to go cook food, eat and sleep in the house. This person should be a light sleeper so that she could hear if there would be unusual sounds or events at night. Unusual sounds or events may be of fights or quarrels in the neighborhood, of owls and other nocturnal birds hooting in the dark, and also of mice eating the food brought into the house. Should any of these happen, all the things that were brought into the house should be withdrawn and they have to butcher a chicken or a piglet. After three days, the whole procedure will be done again. However, if none of these will occur, she reports to the owners that nothing untoward happened. This means that it is all right to bring the rest of the things of the family into the new home after three days or when they are ready. If the house is not yet completed when this ritual is done, the bringing of the rest of the family things will take place when the house is ready for occupancy.
For those who can afford, the chomchomog follows. For this ritual, relatives and neighbors are invited to participate in the celebration. The size of the gathering or the number of guests to be invited will depend on what the owners can afford but the animal to be butchered should at least be a big pig. The pig’s blood is brushed on the walls of the house to ward off evil spirits.
Sticky or glutinous rice (diket) is cooked in two ways for the occasion. One way is the kinampayay where the diket is cooked with animal innards and blood and then later served to the people. Another is the boiling of diket with coconut oil in a way to make it very sticky. This is not to be eaten. Instead, the people attending the celebration will throw sticky clumps of diket to the walls of the house and also to one another to make the celebration livelier and fun. The sticky diket with coconut oil is believed to make the house sturdy and stay in one piece (no disintegration) and also safe from termites. (Note that plant oil extracts are indeed used to control termites). Adding to the fun of the occasion, the men would target the women’s hair in the throwing of diket. There would be a lot of running inside the house as each would avoid the flying diket. Women, especially with their long hair and delicate clothings, would be the first to run away.
Aside from the throwing of sticky diket, the people make a lot of noise to scare away the bad spirits. They beat the gongs inside the house and they also thump the walls with their bare hands, making sure that all corners of the house can be reached by the noise.
Prayers during the chomchomog are said by the mendadawak or men-aalisik, usually a woman elder. Such prayers would invoke Kabunyan and the guardian spirit Tobyay for protection, especially for those who live in the house.
The lunok chi be-yoy and chomchomog are practiced also in other places of Kalinga with some differences. In Lubo, for instance, they also thump the walls and brush them with animal blood but they do not throw sticky rice. Then the gallbladder of the butchered animal would be read. If it is full and peeping out of the liver lobes, it is considered a good omen. A shrunken gallbladder or wounded liver is a bad omen. This calls for the butchering of another animal. If the gallbladder reading would still indicate a bad omen, then the persons concerned would have to take extra precaution as prescribed by the elders like refraining from traveling or drinking.
These rituals are still practiced at present with some modifications, mostly due to economic considerations.
PALANUS (MARRIAGE OR THANKSGIVING)
The term palanus is used more specifically to refer to the marriage ritual but it may also be used generally to refer to any thanksgiving for any good fortune or any success that one achieves in his life. Thus, when people say they are going to a palanus, it is understood that they are attending a marriage ritual. However, as thanksgiving for blessings other than getting married, people would also do the palanus, thus they say “palanusan tako te nan-top si exam” (we will have thanksgiving for his topping the examination).
The palanus is done to express gratitude for the blessings and to take pride in having attained such. It may also be done to honor a respectable friend, to welcome a son-in-law into the family, or to celebrate any successful endeavor or the attainment of one’s ambitions.
Palanus ji asawa
In Lubuagan, when a man feels he is ready to get married, he sends feelers to the family of the woman to determine if he would be accepted by the bride-to-be and her family. If the signs are positive, the man’s family performs the palanus ji asawa. Representatives from the woman’s family are invited to witness the ritual at the man’s house. A pig or carabao or cattle is butchered and prayers are chanted by the mandadawak.
As proof that the palanus was done at the man’s house, the woman’s representatives bring a lungos (token) to the woman’s home. The token is the posterior half of the carcass consisting of the hind leg of the animal butchered in the man’s house. Representatives of the man’s party also go along with the woman’s representatives in bringing the lungos to the woman’s home. The woman’s family then performs her counterpart ritual (subyat), the palanus ji lungos, to acknowledge the token from the man’s family. For this ritual, the female’s family butchers a pig, or a carabao or a cattle. The prayers are also done by the mandadawak (either a female or a male) and a token or will likewise be brought by the man’s representatives to the man’s home. The token consists also of the posterior half of the animal butchered at the woman’s house.
The whole ritual has to be done very quickly in order to avoid any disruption from any untoward incident, hence drinking is not allowed until the ritual is over. The male should eat very quickly during this occasion to show that he is alert and that he does not eat so much. The elders attending the occasion may also be given meat to bring home. The girl may wear the native attire if she likes, otherwise, the ritual is done with both parties wearing their everyday clothes.
After some time, around one week or one month, the man calls for his friends and they would go cut the best firewood – straight, long and clean- to bring to the woman’s house. This signifies that the man is ready to live with the woman as her husband, so he stays behind to live with the woman while his friends go home. Confirmation of the union (inom chi asawa) is done when the bride misses her monthly period or when there is a sign that she is already pregnant. This calls for a bigger celebration.
Among the Biga tribe of Amlao, Tabuk, Kalinga, the palanus as marriage ritual is done differently. The man tells of his intention to marry the woman by giving her banat, a gift of bongor (beads). The woman’s family show their acceptance by doing the palanus. They butcher a pig or a carabao or cattle and prayers are also chanted. In addition, the elders from the bride’s family or community take turns in giving advices to the bride and groom. The advices center on how to have a good relationship as husband and wife and how to raise children properly. Furthermore, if the bride’s family has something to give as inheritance to the daughter, it is mentioned during this occasion. But in Lubuagan, there are distinct rules for inheritances, thus these are not mentioned during the palanus.
A lungos or token from the animal butchered in the woman’s house is also brought to the man’s house by his representatives. The bride goes along with them because there will be a repeat of the prayers and giving of advices, although this time, these will be from the groom’s family or community. Likewise, inheritance from the groom’s family to their son, if any, shall be mentioned during this occasion. The male’s family may butcher an animal in addition to the lungos from the female’s house since there will be people waiting at their house.
Palanus for a Friend
For the Biga tribe, when an honorable person or a friend visits the community and chooses to drop by or stay in the ordinary house of an ordinary person, that person should do the palanus not only to welcome the visitor but also to take pride in being chosen as his host. This is done by preparing the best that he has for the visitor. Unlike for the marriage palanus, this does not require that a pig or a bigger animal be butchered. This all depends on what the host can afford. So the people will tell the host “if you have issiw (chick) or iyas (piglet), palanusam a”. While it will not really be a chick or a piglet that the host will butcher for the visitor, this expression is an indication that for this kind of palanus, it is really up to the host to offer what he can. For the palanus ji asawa and palanus ji lungos, the animal to be butchered should not be smaller than a pig.
Lunok chi be-yoy and chomchomog as traditionally practiced in Lubuagan are very similar to modern-day house blessing or housewarming rituals. The idea of an advance party (old woman, in the case of Lubuagan) to try out the house first is a very sensible move which helps ensure the safety of those who will move into the house. For example, the entry of mice would mean that something still has to be done to make the house more secure, like covering holes or slots. The light and happy atmosphere as the people throw diket at one another in the chomchomog is the ideal one to have in a new house so that the dwellers will start their lives in the house on a very light note.
The palanus as a thanksgiving ritual for accomplishments and milestones is commonly observed until today. It may have taken another form but the main essence of thanksgiving and fellowship with relatives and neighbors have been preserved. The belief that important things should be celebrated in thanksgiving and in fellowship is a part of the Cordillera culture worth preserving.
Hon. Manuel Bacacao (former Board Member of Kalinga from Lubuagan, Kalinga)
Dr. Macario D. Cadatal (BSU Professor from Amlao, Tabuk, Kalinga)
Dr. Marcos A. Buliyat (BSU Professor from Lubo, Tanudan, Kalinga)
About the Author
I am Maria Luz Delson Fang-asan, 44 years old, married, and a member of the Kankanaey ethno-linguistic tribe in Northern Luzon, Philippines.
I earned the degree BS in Agriculture (cum laude) in 1983 from the Mountain State Agricultural College (now Benguet State University); MS in Human Settlements Development in 1986 from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand; and PhD in Rural Development in 1996 from BSU. I finished these degrees through the Selected Ethnic Groups Education Assistance Program (SEGEAP) of the National Scholarship Center, US-ASEAN Grant, and BSU Scholarship. In 1983, I started working as Assistant Instructor in BSU where I am now Professor III.
I teach undergraduate and graduate students of Agriculture, Development Communication, Environmental Science, and Rural Development and was awarded as Center of Excellence Outstanding Teacher in 2004 by BSU.
My research and extension activities are geared towards development initiatives which include the preservation and utilization of indigenous knowledge. I have published articles in local and international publications.