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Preserving the Ifugao heritage

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THE cold breeze blowing through the Dianara Viewpoint in Banaue did not bother the three mumbakis (medicine men). They started chanting their prayers to the gods Monday night, and they drank tapuy and chewed betel nut and leaf until Tuesday morning. This ritual, which they called "Alim," is a form of thanksgiving and a request for blessings especially during planting and harvest season. I witnessed this recently, as they performed this ritual from nine in the evening to eight the next morning. "Hindi namin inaalam dahil yun na ang itinuro sa amin ng mga ninuno namin. Hindi pwedeng bawasan ang oras, di rin pwedeng dagdagan. [We did not ask (our ancestors) why they’re spending a long time doing the ritual. This kind of ritual was what they taught us. We cannot change it]," said Jack Yadang, 58 years old and the youngest among the three mumbakis. Part of the ritual is this ritual is the offering of palay, chicken, tobacco, lime, wine and pig. The slaughter of the pig is the culmination of the ritual, said Yadang. "Habang kinakatay, ino-offer namin kay Likdum. [We offered the pig to Likdum while it was being slaughtered]," Yadang said. But before the pig is slaughtered, the eldest mumbaki, Lumigat Bayanin, danced and chanted around it. Then, he took a knife and stabbed the pig at the heart. I heard the pig whine until it died. The pig was then brought before the mumbakis. The eldest mumbaki started hitting the dead pig in a rhythmic manner. It was then placed over a fire, as they shaved its hair. Yadang explained that the slaughtering of the pig I’ve witnessed was the traditional way of doing it. The ritual ended when they ate the boiled pork with salt. The ritual done at the Viewpoint was done to ask blessings for the marker declaring the Ifugao Rice Terraces as free from genetically modified organisms (GMO). Local government officials along with Greenpeace witnessed the declaration of the province as GMO-free. "We [should] not put chemicals [in the planting of rice]. We use grass as fertilizer. That’s what we have learned from our ancestors who used wooden spade in building the terraces,” said Aida Gano, 76 year-old farmer in Banaue, when asked about her thoughts on declaring the famous rice terraces GMO-free. However, Yadang expressed his concern over the lack of manpower in tilling the rice terraces. "There’s a lack of manpower. Only few are tilling the land. Others have abandoned their homes while the children are now in school,” Yadang said. Gano shared the same sentiment. She feared that the next-generation of Ifugaos would forget their heritage. "The children have no time to plant now because they’re going to school It’s nice if they can also learn how to plant and continue what we’ve started. Because when we’re gone, who will do the work?” said Gano. “[I want to] teach them our culture. It’s up to them whether they’ll preserve it or not,” added Yadang. In 1995, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization included the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao in its World Heritage list. The Ifugaos built the terraces 2,000 years ago. Hence, the UNESCO described it as an “enduring illustration of ancient civilization and a priceless contribution of the Philippine ancestors to humanity.”

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This page contains a single entry by published on March 23, 2009 2:58 PM.

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