A Glimpse of our Ancestral Home and the Old Neighborhood: Beliefs and Traditions

Written by Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D. on .

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As I cite my experiences, I wish to give a glimpse of my birth place in the rural area of Ayobo so my children, grandchildren or other readers may compare and relate how development went through the years and how the teaching-learning process revolved around the community. 

Our ancestral home where we, the five siblings were born was located few meters west of Ayobo dap-ay and a stone’s throw below Saint Anne’s church and just beside the road that leads to about twenty meters to Loblobocan bus station. Front of our house facing east over viewing the dap-ay was the paggag-ayan where women gathered during community holidays or every late afternoons after work before they go for dinner or even after dinner during warm days. The paggag-ayan was a venue where the women in the neighborhood shared stories of their day’s activity. The women talked about different topics, the sunshine and the rain, the moon and the stars, the signs and symbols, the rat and the trap, the weeds and the seeds, etc. They exchanged seeds of any kind. Seldom did they talk about money. Instead they talked about barter in their own traditional practice. Barter involving pigs and chicken is referred as gawat and talali if the barter involves pieces of land. When at times there were children, they were asked to do any needed errand. In this paggag-ayan, children learned meaningful adages from the aphoristic women.  

`At certain times, the women were given tinikang in the form of food or drinks from anyone who felt altruistic for having gone somewhere like Baguio for some days or weeks and was blessed. Tinikang is a cultural value whereby one shares food or drink to the people in the dap-ay or paggag-ayan as a way of saying, “I am home from my visit elsewhere and thank you Lord I returned safe and sound with blessings to share.” At the side of this paggag-ayan was a water faucet where others in the neighborhood would fetch their water supply.  

While the young boys foot massage (kolkolis) the elderly men in the dap-ay, young girls head massage (gisgisto) the elderly women in the paggag-ayan. It was in the paggag-ayan where I learned from the women allegorists some popular traditional chants, raps, Lumauig stories. Vividly, I could recall the rhyme I learned from Mad-an one time while baby-sitting Labanet who kept crying as I carried her on my back.

            Rhyme: Pingew, Pingew ad tondo, into nan ay-ayen yo; Omey kamid Inggawa, nag-ed pagpag-iking mi, inyakki-akkikingmi; Et ngandi pang-agas tako? Et nan taban di aso; Adiyak tay men angso; Et nan taban di beteg, adiyak tay men angteg; Et nan taban di pusa, Siya siya payet sa.

In passing, it was only when I took literature in high school that I understood how competent the women were in interpreting rhymes and chants in an allegorical sense as a figurative way of treating a subject. The rhyme above expressing a dialogue was supposedly to entertain little Labanet to stop crying. On the other hand, in a figurative sense it implies the value of concern, the appropriateness of treatment of a wound and the information implied a sort of animal relations of the dog, pig, cat, and bat.

Fortunately, my parents’ cogon-roofed house had turned to galvanized-iron roofed house before we were all born. The house improvement was out of my father’s day to day labor. Peculiar in all houses, whether made of cogon or galvanized iron was the provision of digyan where rice pounding with mortar and pestle took place. However, later, after we finished elementary, the first major technology introduced was the kiskisan (rice mill) which was installed just across the road below our house by the owner Inggo Piluden. In terms of how valuable ancestral homes are, with the turn of events just very recently in the early 2000s about 10 years ago, one morning when Manong Rufino came from Manila for a family event, he stood at the dap-ay then looked up as he said, “Who stays in our ancestral home?” I responded, “It must had been time we left our ancestral home but we carried with us all that was good in it.” The remnants of the ancestral home we valued so much is now home owned by the family of Vicente Sapguian. However, the present occupants of our lost ancestral home may have a different interpretation of the significance of Chinese feng shui or labeg di iBesao. Position of doors was believed to have something to do with the occupants’ daily living as they relate with nature. The Sapguians changed the position of the door facing west. That made it entirely not the ancestral home we used to live with main door facing east watching the rising sun every morning and not to mind the setting of the sun. As we opened the window, we see the men elders in the dap-ay and as we opened our kitchen backdoor we see people going to church. Dealing with the elders in the dap-ay and the churchgoers developed in us the corporate optimism or positivism within the family as we relate with people in the community who can pray the Lord’s prayer and the elders who can recite extemporaneously the indigenous prayer referred as sapu. Not anymore, can you find the low-ceiling ground floor in such ancestral home where one had to bend low to enter and check the corners where baskets were hanged for the chicken to lay their eggs. Then there was the pukok where palay for seeds was kept and a narrow space where Ina used to install her back strap weaving gadgets. Overlooking the kitchen window was a little vegetable garden planted to eggplant, beans or squash, using organic fertilizer from the pig and chicken manure.

Some woeful memories that happened in our ancestral home include the youngest baby brother next to Estrella who died at birth and was buried underneath the house as a matter of tradition. There was the spiritual belief that innocent babies serve as guardian angels in the home. On the brighter side, was the said gabay of which our pigs and chicken would easily multiply based on the belief that before and during the construction of the house, the spiritual beings were dealt with through the appropriate rituals in accordance to customs and traditions. Rituals were performed towards preserving our health and foster longevity in life. At any rate since we can not take back our ancestral home, with the blessing of our father who was widowed in 1983, he allowed us to build a house in 1999 above our ancestral home which used to be our backyard piggery. The first floor of the house is now Rommel’s carpentry and welding shop.

Our Barangay is Besao Proper, also poetically referred as Golinsan, which was later politically divided as Besao East and Besao West but the division did not change the people’s socio-cultural living and all other aspects of community life. After the division, my father was the Kapitan. Groupings are by family membership to the seven dap-ays of Besao Proper, namely: Ayobo, Bocao, Baybaygo, Kusina, Laoingan, Tangid, Mong-o. The main seat of indigenous governance is dap-ay Lao-ingan which is known as the Malacanyang ad Golinsan. A man named Datu Apiwa of prodigious strength was so influential in the 1930s to ‘50s that made him headman. His competence in culture and governance, his dexterity and being a member of a big Mamago clan empowered him to be a Datu that implied strong leadership. Apiwa’s wife was Lemia, my mother’s distant relative.


About the Author

Caridad Bomas-ang Fiar-od is a retired Vice-President and College Professor at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College in Bontoc Poblacion, Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines.

After retirement, she was hired on job order by the former Governor Maximo B. Dalog (now Congressman) as Executive Assistant on Cultural and International Affairs from October 2008 to June 30, 2010. Then on March 2011, she was hired by Governor Leonard G. Mayaen as Executive Assistant to coordinate and facilitate external affairs (Medical Missions, scholarships, donations overseas, etc.) and research-related activities. She was Chairperson of the Scholarship Program of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) and Chairperson of the Association of Retired Mentors of Bontoc.

Prior to her passing away due to a lingering illness on November 17, 2013,  Caridad worked as an insurance agent for Philippine American Life Insurance (PhilAm Life) for about two years.  Due to the numerous persons she insured, she received a gift, which was a trip to the US in July 2013. 

Caridad was born in Besao, Mountain Province on August 1, 1946. She finished her secondary education at the Mountain National Agricultural School (MNAS that later became MSAC and then BSU). For her college course, she studied at Mountain State Agricultural College (MSAC now BSU-Benguet State University) and graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Homemaking.

She taught for a year at the All Saints Mission Elementary School in Bontoc Poblacion, Bontoc, Mountain Province and transferred to Banguitan Elementary School in Besao, Mountain Province. While teaching in Banguitan, she pursued a Masters course at BSU and finished in 1981. She also graduated from BSU with a degree in Doctor of Philosophy, Major in Educational Management with minors in Rural Development and Agricultural Education.  

She is a staunch advocate of the Igorot culture. As such, she has been invited as guest speaker to conferences of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) in the US and Europe. 

As a seminar lecturer, she had several opportunities to lecture in various conferences, symposia, trainings and seminars related to Agricultural Education, Human Resource Development, Professional Ethics, Leadership and Management and Teaching Strategies. 

As a writer, she wrote 14 books from 1999 until 2011. Her first book is “Besao Traditional Knowledge on Spiritual Beliefs: Its Contribution to Sustainable Development.” One of her last books is a memoir, “Living the Igorot Culture: A Legacy.”

She got married to Teresde (Terry) Forawan Fiar-od, a native of Barlig, Mountain Province. Terry died on December 14, 1999 and left Caridad with eight children to support. With six children-in-law, she is a grandmother of nine grandchildren. 

Caridad is an Igorot, and belongs to the Galeled clan of Besao and Manengba clan of Sagada and Besao, Mountain Province, Philippines. 


Note: The article is taken from Caridad B. Fiar-od’s self-published memoir, “Living the Igorot Culture: A Legacy” published in the Philippines in 2010. The book was edited by Gina P. Dizon. Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) would like to thank Dr. Joy Fiar-od Dicdican, Xaverine Fiar-od and their siblings for providing their mother’s biography and for granting permission to post the article in the ICBE website. (Y.Belen,27July2014)


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