Three Pillars that Constitute the Core Being of the Kankanaeys and Igorots in General:
Agasiyas – Inayan – Kaasina
By Ric Cuyob
In our tradition as Igorots, our ancestors invented essential elements like values, concepts and beliefs that as the heirs or descendants, we keep cherishing, using or benefitting these days. While it is so, it also becomes our responsibility to pass them on to our children and grandchildren. In this regard, I want to put agasiyas, inayan and kaasina,(which are three essential elements of our tradition) into perspective with the hope of painting a picture of their interconnectedness.
The village folks were so used to the dalikan, the traditional stove composed of three equidistant strong stones to hold the pot. During kanyaws, these stones are sometimes replaced with newly-cut pieces of wood. And since the pieces of wood are fresh, they could stand to hold the big pot within the duration of the food preparation. (Note: while I used kanyaw here, it could also be any social gatherings where we prepare food for all attendants.)
With this experience, I would like to compare that our being or existence as a person needs to be ingrained on the agasiyas, inayan and kaasina. In the Igorot’s viewpoint, the reasons we keep crashing or stepping on other’s toes inconsiderately is because we lack a strong hold, or we let loose one of these pillars. In the Igorot’s mind, agasiyas, inayan and kaasina are three equally valuable concepts that make a person humane.
For a Kankanaey tribe at present, these agasiyas, inayan and kaasina are self-explanatory. In this dalikan image, to be a stable person means to be anchored firmly on these three concepts.
Agasiyas may signify the following: the thought, mind, consciousness, common sense, aptitude, wisdom or simply right sense. To the Igorot ancestors, the agasiyas is associated with the intimate relation of breathing and/or existence and thinking. So, when they say, “wadai agasiyasna” they mean “the person is existing and therefore a thinking being.” When they say, “magai agasiyas mo,” that means, “you are not a thinking being and implies annihilation of your existence.” In a way, a person regarded as having agasiyas is not only appreciated in having a high intellectual capacity neither possessing the most practical common sense but on top of them is the person’s ability to demonstrate a well-balanced emotional sensitivity. It therefore pertains to the whole being and/or existence of a person. Admittedly, every person is born and grows with agasiyas. And since time immemorial, our ancestors have been espousing agasiyas in their existence. Nowadays, we have all the luxury of living in a world where new scientific disciplines are easily available like psychology, anthropology, history, sociology and the like, to guide us to understand the complex reality of human existence. And admittedly while we do so, the more we are enlightened to appreciate better why agasiyas is so important.
Inayan may be understood in the following: taboo, the sense of avoiding negative actions or not doing bad deeds. It is also the push factor to do positive things or virtuous deeds. It may also be an ordinary expression for one who did not fulfill what s/he planned to do and so on. Above all, inayan is not only a simple concept, but also a commandment in one word – to be honest, righteous and just.
Kaasina may be interpreted as follows: blessings, unwavering hope, confidence or faith, mercy, reliance. This entails perseverance, patience, honesty and diligence. In times of difficulties, or calamities as well as in good health and in sickness, it is necessary to keep anchored with kaasina.We are familiar with the following expressions:
“Laton, wadai kaasina.”
“Mai et amagen tako ta asi owai nas di, wadanto di kaasina.”
“Kaasina basta e-esten tako et.”
We, the Kankanaey vegetable farmers often hear and say, “aye, magai kaasina mo!” This is a lamentation not because we do not have a bountiful harvest, but the lamentation is directed to the evils of society. Those are profiteering, greediness and selfishness. In fact, the expression is right because those who manipulate everything to favor their own ends, could not be merciful. “Awan talaga kaasida.”
A person is said to be stable, right and just if that person adheres equally to all these three concepts. That person is humane. A person is unstable, selfish and unjust if one or two or three of these elements are disregarded or weak in her/his life.
To the Igorots, anyone who has no regard of inayan, agasiyas and a sense of kaasina, keeps stepping on the toes of others, keeps disregarding set rules, keeps taking advantage of the other especially the weak ones, always inconsiderate, and has no sense of respect for Mother Nature. Such life is absolutely imbalanced, unstable and troublesome.
When our Igorot ancestors kept implanting inayan, agasiyas and kaasina in the minds of their children and to us at present, it is because they were very much aware that no one is existing for its own end. Every individual exists interdependently with everyone in the community, ili or society.
So back again to the dalikan image. The community is compared to a chef or the volunteers for cooking in the case of a kanyaw. The individual is likened to the pot that is ingrained with the three cornerstones. In this case, the agasiyas, inayan and kaasina. The positive potential in the pot is to have in the end a well done or perfectly cooked food. This positive potential is said to have been achieved when it gives satisfaction to everyone. On the other hand, when any one of the three cornerstones gives up or is not solidly anchored or is unstable, the pot becomes potentially dangerous and so whatever food is being prepared gets interrupted. A food not properly done gives dissatisfaction and disappointment. Every individual in the community has positive and negative potentials. In the Igorot’s life, the community (umili) has also an essential role in instilling these three concepts in the individual’s life.
As beneficiaries we could say that after all, our ancestors did not err in passing the three concepts to us and demanding we observe them in our lives. Nor did they err in making efforts that we continue passing them on to our children. It is existentially proven that a person with agasiyas, a sense of inayan and kaasina could easily impact positive influences and changes to peer groups, to the community and eventually to society. Like a spring water that continuously keeps flowing, it freely offers life to its surroundings. So is a person with a sense of inayan, agasiyas and kaasina. S/he naturally impacts positive changes around her or him.