With the theme, ‘Live anywhere the Igorot culture with pride and passion and pass it onto the next generation’, MABIKAs Foundation-The Netherlands and the Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel) have joined forces on May 12, 2018 to hold the very first joint cultural workshop that is meant to strengthen one’s knowledge and skills in dancing our Cordillera dances and beating the gongs.
How it all begun
In our quest for cultural enrichment, we at MABIKAs Foundation (born 2016) reached out to Cordi-Bel (born 1999) for help and wrote to Cordi-Bel’s spokesperson, Ric Cuyob. We expressed our intention to deepen our knowledge and enhance our skills in dancing our Cordillera community dances and playing the gongs that accompany the Ballangbang, Takik, Bendian and Ifugao dances.
Fortunately, Cordi-Bel saw the request as an opportunity to indeed pass to the next generation what have been generously passed through to them. To some, they see it as a challenge worth taking so it’s YES to the request.
“Members accepted the challenge to impart what they know and at the same time to enhance also their knowledge by doing. So for this, they are asking you to lower your expectations since their knowledge of gong playing and of our indigenous dances are very limited,” wrote Ric Cuyob in an email as a collective response from members and leaders of Cordi-Bel following their general assembly held end of February. He further added,“Knowledge emanated from the culture our ancestors handed to us were never given a monetary value. It has been handed down freely, thus we aspire for continuity and that blessing may flow endlessly.”
Hence, the date is set on May 12, 2018 (Saturday) for the cultural training and May 13, 2018 (Sunday) a day to roam around the city of Brussels, the centre of European culture and institutions.
For every activity at MABIKAs, there are always two constituents assigned as coordinators. Having received confirmation from Cordi-Bel, MABIKAs Advisory Committee Member Yvonne Belen and Support Team Member Christina Moncado took the lead in coordinating this weekend getaway. After Christina has communicated details and more information about the May 12-13 event to the rest of MABIKAs constituents, around 19 persons expressed interest and signed up for the trip.
The team left The Hague around 9:00 in the morning of May 12th and arrived in Brussels at about 11:30. Marivonne Cuyob, who arranged for our accommodation, came to the hostel to fetch us, and brought us to the venue at 10, rue de la Digue, Ixelles.
For many of the participating MABIKAs constituents, it’s the first or second time to meet Cordi-Bel members. The day’s program officially started with a welcoming remarks from Ric Cuyob, who then set the mood and inspire attendees with his words…
“Our culture is the same as that of other Filipinos and no Filipino culture is more superior than the Cordillera culture, respect for elders and the Cordillera attire has a story to tell. Let us keep our expectations high and likened this afternoon’s activity to an empty cup, which is one to be filled up with cooperation and participation during the workshops.”
After the words of welcome, we had a warm meal for lunch followed by Loren Pugoun’s step-by-step demonstration of how to properly wear the g-string. To have that sense of totally being immersed into the culture and learning, participants were requested to wear their respective traditional clothes and accessories before the actual dancing and gong playing begins.
Introductions followed with Ric presenting the Cordi-Bel members and their second-generation called CHICO (short for children of the Cordillera), and each one introducing himself or herself. CHICO, with it 11 members present, is headed by Cristobal Agnaonao. MABIKAs Founding Chairperson Myra Colis also presented the MABIKAs constituents and they each introduced themselves.
Garbed in our native attires, the enthusiastic participants were presented with valuable background information on how to dance the Ifugao dances and hingatot as well as dinnuya, a dance performed in social gatherings and other festivities celebrating important occasions like weddings or canaos. During Ric’s PowerPoint presentation, it was mentioned that Ballangbang is performed on occasions such as wedding, harvest time and canao. The same is true with the Takik dance of Mountain Province and Benguet as well as the Bendian community dance of the Ibaloy tribe of Benguet.
For our workshop on the dances, Alice Cuyob and Angelica Pumihic taught the Ifugao dance, and Leilani (Nina), Karen Palangchao and Doris Wilson taught Takik. Many of us joined in the Ballangbang while some explained the correct dance steps and hand movements. For the Bendian, Cora Colis, Myra Colis and Yvonne Belen of MABIKAs Foundation helped each other in explaining the context and demonstrating hand movements.
Time to beat the gongs
Another workshop was on playing the gongs. Sherwin Khayad, Loren Puguon, Ric Cuyob and Peter Agnaonao were our teachers. One important key takeaway from the gong playing workshop is that when beating the gongs for Ballangbang, there are two gong players who are the mainstay and lead the sound while the rest are called ‘helper’ gong players.
We hear the sound of gongs during events in our Philippine Cordillera and we know the men play the gongs. We hear the gongs during events in the Netherlands where MABIKAs constituents are present and we will see women beating the gongs. Our group in the Netherlands has six gongs so we need six gentleman. However, we have only one gentleman in our group and to add five, we women have to learn to play the gongs.
Hands-on learning is always the best way to learn. Cordi-Bel showed the MABIKAs group how to beat the gongs accordingly, how to get the rhythm right, and how to synchronize the sounds from the lead (big) gongs with the helper (small) gongs. With Sherwin, Ric, Peter and Loren allowing us to hold the gongs ourselves and giving us tips to be able to create a fine tune worked very well. Thankfully, the gong playing workshop revealed that Janet Barcena, Gina Lagiman and Renijune Abaya of MABIKAs got potentials as lead gong players and the rest as the helper gong players.
Time flew so fast and it was time for dinner. We had another warm meal at around 18:30 until 20:00 hours. There’s no time to waste, so while resting after dinner, Ric further discussed the proper way of wearing our native attires and give emphasis on knowing how they should be worn correctly as a way of respect to our Cordillera tradition and customs.
To sum it all up, the participants put into practice what have been taught and learned that day. The men played the gongs to the rhythm of Ballangbang while the women danced until we called it a day.
The steady beating of the gongs and feet stamping on the ground leave a good impression that even the day seems short for a workshop such as this, the sense of pride, success and camaraderie is visible. In conclusion, we would like to reiterate the words of Maria Teresa G. Bisquera-Benas in her book The Maeng History…
“While culture is dynamic and may evolve, the present generation must strive hard to preserve their culture, lest they suffer the pains of acculturation brought about by advance studies and technologies as well as social mobility to the point of losing their distinct cultural character and integrity.”
Our heartfelt thank you to Cordi-Bel leaders and members. We at MABIKAs will put into practice the skills we learned and carry on.
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