Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Beautiful Mountain Peak believed to be Once a Volcano

I grew up believing that the mountain below my hometown was once a volcano.

We call it Mugao in our dialect which in English means a "PEAK".

It is an extinct volcano according to our old folks and in fact, even our old folks who have reached hundred years and have already passed away a long time ago haven’t seen the mountain peak alive to prove that it really was a volcano once.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Igorot Headhunters: Are they really headhunters?

Igorots are known as the head hunters of the Philippines.  They have been mistakenly recognized also as the people who have tails.  By that, people perhaps mean the G_strings that the Igorot men had worn many years ago.

Today, in this modern world, you seldom see any man wearing the G-string except for special occasions when it is a must use costume..  The G-strings are now considered a thing in the past to the new generation who have never worn the G-string. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Igorot Tradition for the Dead

Igorots keep the coffins of the dead open until it is ready for internment.  The coffin is usually made by men from wood materials around.  There are no funeral parlors so the family and the people around help each other in taking care of their dead.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nature at Its Best in Mt. Province

As the name implies, Mountain province is a mountainous region rich in natural resources.  The forests are thick with pine trees and other shrubs.  Most of the mountains are still unadulterated.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Igorot Way of Honoring the Dead

Igorots have high regard and respect to their dead.  The wake is very important.  The wake is a very significant event that needs special attention from all the community people. As soon as a member of a family dies, donations of all kinds from every household are brought to the aggrieved family. The community people try their best to make things easier for the grieving family. Aside from money and donations in kind, the aggrieved family will get the best help from all the people. The Igorots are very organized in times of calamities. Everybody is willing to give a hand in whatever way they can. There are always things to be done like preparing the food, washing the dishes and others.  At night time when the workers have come from work, they will always go and pay their last respect to the dead.

While the dead in the cities and other parts of the world are left in the care of funeral homes, the Igorots take care of their own dead at home.

The coffin is usually made by the men and the dead is usually buried in the yard. Today because there are cemeteries, most people bury their dead in the cemeteries.

My grandparents were all buried in their yard but my mother and father were buried in the cemetery. You would be surprised to see a tomb in the middle of the rice terraces or a tomb just in front of the house, because this is a part of the igorot culture.  Although in the modern world, people are advised to bury their dead in the cemetery for health reasons. This is not strictly enforced since culture cannot be altered.

The interment is considered a holiday in the community. People will not go to work because they have to attend the burial first before going to work. You can see at least one member of each family giving cash or in kind to the aggrieved family during the burial day; it could be rice, sugar, or anything in order to give aid to the family in need.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Memories of Old TImes in my Home Town

The chaotic world of the computer age made me thought a lot about the old folks in my hometown whom I had learned all the lessons of simple living. It would have been a lot worth living life if time hasn’t changed this fast and the world is still so peaceful and calm.

Looking back, I could still picture my grandparents and all the other old men and women sitting in a place they called “palasa”, which came from the English word “plaza”. This is a meeting place for the old folks if they wanted to have bonding or they wanted to talk about an important matter. They were simple folks who talked about things that were very important to the town.

If there were problems, they were easily solved by the old men without the help of the community officials. They were the voice of the people and what they said was considered law. The traditional life in my hometown was very simple.  The old men could decide matters and people listened to them.  The words of the old men were considered law in the olden times.  They were referred to as the "wise men" in my hometown.

It is sad to think that almost all the old men I adored have gone and what hurts me more is that I haven't even talked to them about the real stories of long time ago.  They are gone and what stories they might have stored in their minds to hand down to the new generation is also gone.

I was greatly saddened during my last visit in my hometown because I missed the “palasa “where I often saw the old men having a meeting. Today, what stood in place was a Barangay Building where the office of the Barangay Captain and other officials is located. Barangay is a village headed by a Barangay Captain.  The word barangay came from the word "Balangay", the boat used by the Malays when they came to the Philippines..

How I wish it was the same old community where I used to live, with all the “binangi”- the traditional home and the “palasa”. But then, time is ever changing and things also change in this world and the traditional things and culture are being modernized too. It is sad but people aren’t preserving the traditional ways and things and time will come when nothing will be left of the culture of the Igorots, save for the memories of old times.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Traditional Igorot Way of Curing

Each race has their own practices, traditions and beliefs.  My home town is still rich with old traditions; from the way a family should build a home, the best day to celebrate a wedding to the traditional way of curing.

 The old men and women of Tadian, Mt. Province have their own way of curing the sick.  With rituals and other practices, the Igorot men and women could cure just like the certified doctors.  The last time we had our family reunion, my brother was having an uncontrollable itchiness around his eyes.  He kept scratching and the hard part is he could not apply ointment because he feared hurting his eyes.  After a few hours, it was all over his face.

Our elder brother told him to try consulting one of the old women who knows something about removing unseen organisms that is causing itchiness in any part of the body.  I guess her eyes are like the microscope because she could see things that an ordinary person could not see. 
I was amazed when she took some rice straw and started picking slowly on my brother’s face.  She said she could see a lot of the organisms crawling around my brother’s face.  Every time she finished picking, she crushed the straw with her nails to kill the tiny organisms.  It was unbelievable but my sister and I watched it and we nodded our heads.
My brother said he felt so relieved after that.   The old woman does not accept payment for her services.  The old men and women in my home town do not accept payment for their services rendered.  They just love helping and serving other people without the thought of the money they could earn.  So, if you want to give money or anything, just give it as some sort of gift when you visit them next time. 

It is amazing how the old men and women do things in my home town. Would you believe, the old woman said she could see winged organisms that have already aged when she did the picking too in my nephew's foot?  My sister has been having problems with her younger son's foot that didn't heal for a long time even while giving him different types of medicine prescribed by doctors.  When the old woman picked on his feet with the rice straw, it healed after a few days. The old woman said it is the organisms that are causing the skin to itch and become raw.  Once the organisms are gotten rid, the skin disease will heal.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Men Who Worked Without Pay

These men had done a lot for the community of Tadian in the olden days. As a practice in Tadian in those olden days, men worked for the community free of charge, this is called "GALATIS" which means free of charge, from the English word "gratis". The men were a bunch of strong and hard-working people who were always willing to work without pay. I really couldn’t forget our old folks before who thought of nothing but the good of the community. They worked hard but they didn’t expect any compensation.

 Until the late seventies, there used to be community work done by men and women without pay. Today though is different. Jobs especially manual labor are given to contractors who do the job with pay of course.

How time has changed; but it cannot be avoided.  Life is becoming harsh and people need money for their needs.  I would have preferred the life before in my home town than life today.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Cook Pinikpikan

When you hear the word, Igorot, you will always associate it to the pinikpikan food.  This is perhaps the most delicious food that the Igorots could offer to other people of different race.  Most people who have tried this love the taste and aroma of the food.  It has a smoky taste that makes it different from other chicken dishes because of the way it is prepared.
Here’s how to do pinikpikan:
Live chicken
salted pork (optional)
salt to taste

You will be surprised that there are no other ingredients.  This is because cooking the Igorot way does not need all the food enhancers and additives that are common in commercial cooking.  We love healthy cooking so we are against food enhancers and food additives.  This is the reason why our forefathers had lived very long lives.
Hold the legs of the chicken firmly including the neck to avoid the chicken from moving and creating noise.  Slowly beat the chicken wings lightly with a piece of stick.  This will take a few minutes until the chicken dies.  The purpose of this beating is to allow for blood coagulation in the wings.  This provides for the different taste of the chicken.  This is why it is called pinikpikan because the chicken is beaten. 
Remove the big feathers before burning the chicken on fire.  This method of burning the feathers will give the smoky taste of the chicken.  This is what makes the pinikpikan different from other chicken menus.  Make sure that the feathers are well burned but not the skin.  When the feathers are burned, clean the burned feathers well then singed the skin until it is light brown to give the smoky aroma to the dish.  Wash the chicken very well to remove the burned skin so as not to make the dish bitter in taste.  Then cut the chicken to serving pieces and set aside.
Prepare a boiling pot of water with a little salt.  If you are adding salted pork then you have to control the salt you add.  Remember also that pork is harder to cook so you have to pre-cook the pork before adding the chicken meat.
Simmer then put off fire and serve hot.
Igorot dishes are that simple to cook.  They don’t need so many additives because just like a simple life, Igorots also have simple dishes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Tailed Igorot; an Anecdote

This anecdote was related to me by my first cousin who is now a Police Coronel. This cousin of mine has a habit of going home by bus during weekends when he was still a captain. His family is in Baguio City (Summer Capital of the Philippines) but his job is in Manila (Capital of the Philippines).

During one of his many trips, he overheard two young women talking about their bonus from their employer. These two young women work as maids for a rich couple in Manila and are going to Baguio to spend their Christmas Holiday because they have been given a bonus and a leave from work. To the ordinary Filipinos, having a vacation in Baguio City is considered classy and these two young women are excited about their trip to the place. Baguio City is very famous among tourists because of its beautiful geographic location, the cool weather and the vegetables and crafts plus an interesting people; the Igorot inhabitants.

During the conversation my cousin overheard one of the young women say, “I wonder how Igorots look like.”

To which the other woman laughed and said, “You mean, those tailed Igorots living on trees? Perhaps we could see them in Baguio. I haven’t seen one either.”

My cousin could not contain himself and stood in front of them. “What a pity. You haven’t seen an Igorot yet. You are quite lucky because you are looking at one now. I am Cpt. Daskeo and I am an Igorot.”

The two young women turned beet red.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Igorots discriminated in Their Own Country

Would you believe that Igorots are discriminated up to now in their own country? 
I have experienced being discriminated as an Igorot as soon as I left my hometown and went to college in another province.  That time in the late 70s to early 80s, my classmates and even some teachers thought we were still living in tree houses   There was even a classmate of mine who didn’t believe I was an Igorot because I was doing good in school.  They looked at me as someone who didn’t belong to their group.  They were surprised with my academic achievements. 
What I cannot forget was a professor of mine in my English subjects, who was so intelligent and I loved him for being so effective in teaching the English subjects yet he was the only teacher who understood me and inspired me.  I owe my being a writer to Mr. Estanislao Caldez, he is a writer in the Philippines.  I know he writes for different new papers.  He was the only professor who told me to write for my people when the right time comes or go home and teach my people.
I had been thinking of his words for some time and now that I am an aspiring online writer, wherever he is now, I want him to read what I am writing today.   The memories of him are my inspiration because I believe that I can be a good writer too some day.
Up to now that it is computer age, some people still believe that Igorots are the primitive people of yester years.
I couldn’t believe it when one man said, “Igorots live in the jungle with the wild animals.”  They think Igorots are still the G-stringed people just like the aetas.  Even aetas are now going to school and they have houses in communities, not in the jungle.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Doing it the Igorot Way

Igorots in Hong Kong haven't forgotten their culture.  In the picture, you can see them dancing their own Igorot dance.

Hong Kong is a home to more than one hundred thousand Filipinos. They have formed a friendly community in this small territory and while many people do not approve of their strong bonding and activities in different public places such as parks, malls and other public places; Filipinos have their own way of making the most of their time in a place far away from home.

Filipinos are often considered as nuisance in other countries but they don’t heed the words of other people for as long as they know that what they are doing is right. Besides, they help a lot in the families they are serving.

During holidays and day-offs in Hong Kong, Filipinos flock together doing their own thing while the locals shrug their shoulders as they pass by them having picnics in parks and having a program in public places.

The Igorots do not forget their own culture even while they are working away from home. Igorots love exposing their own culture to other people. In Hong Kong, it is not an exemption, whenever they can; the igorot workers in the territory get together and bond among themselves.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Payew, Will the New Generation Continue To Build Them?

Demang Rice Terraces in Tadian, Mt. Province.

The “payew”- rice terraces, have been built by the Igorots long before the modern tools have been invented.  With only the crude tools, the Igorots have managed to build the rice terraces that have supplied them with rice and other crops for hundreds of years.

What make the rice terraces so amazingly beautiful is the fact that they have been built so perfectly hugged around the mountains, plus the fact that they have been built with the sweat and blood of the Igorot ancestors adds to its significance.
Some of the rice terraces are left to regenerate lost fertility.
In summer when the rice turn golden brown, the rice terraces look like a gold mine with the rice grains as the gold nuggets.  Rice is the staple food of all Filipinos and Igorots are not excluded. Igorots are heavy rice eaters because of the nature of their work.   Men especially are committed to their manual work in the fields from dawn to sunset and it is not with naps and breaks.  As soon as they start working, their only rest is the lunch break.  Igorots are known as hard working people.

Today, the modern lifestyle has taught the younger generations to shy away from farm work. Each child wants an executive position when college days are over. Nobody wants to go back to the field and farm. Farming is considered hard work with the least ROI. Nobody wants to work in the mud anymore and remain poor.  The young generation has invaded the modern world and they are out hurdling with the other people all over the world in order to achieve more and taste what life could offer.
Amidst the drastic change of technology lies the rice terraces awaiting hands to toil the soil.   But is there anyone from the new generations who is interested to go back to the mountain and build another terrace to add to the stairways to heaven?  .

Monday, May 3, 2010

Binangi, the Igorot Traditional House, now only a Story in the Past

For many years, the igorots had lived in small houses called binangi

But in the 1960’s big houses sprouted in my home town which made many people aware of the more comfortable houses. People started building two storey houses with rooms .  In the late 70’s there were only a few binangi left around.  These few houses were only used as storage for rice crops in the 80’s.

The traditional house of the Igorots called binangi is a four posted house with a pyramid-shape, thatched roof, with only the entrance as the opening.  It is a one room- 10 by 10 feet dwelling without furniture, save for a very low table called dulang which resembles the Japanese table and low stools called bangkito.  The floor is at least 2 meters high which makes the lower portion of the house a convenient place to stack all the family’s tools.   A portable bamboo ladder called tetey serves as stairs in going up the house.  This is portable and easily removed and raised in a corner when everybody is out for the day.  Houses in the Igorot villages didn’t have locks before but there was no robbery of any kind in those olden days.

The binangi of the Igorots had faded with time and what was left in my community is an abandoned binangi.  It is sad, but the people haven’t preserved the binangi for the young generations to see.  Today, Tadian is already a modernized town with lots of big houses copied from different countries.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The secrets of long life

Why do men and women live long in the country side?  I was there and I saw the kind of life they had.  My grandparents and all the other old men and women in Tadian were people who lived a very simple life.  The early years of my life was spent in Tadian where I experienced a life that I almost want to go back to today.  Life there when I was young was as simple as waking early in the morning, going to school and going home late afternoon.  There was nowhere to go to have gimmicks with friends and no computers to be addicted to.

My parents and most people in the community enjoyed a simple, unadulterated life, waking up early; sometimes too early at three in the morning so that they could go to the farm early too.  Before the sun sets, they should be back home for dinner at six.  Sleep time is as early as 7 o’clock.  And when the lights are off, there is no more sound except the murmurs of the pine trees and the waterfalls around, plus of course the barks of the dogs.
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As soon as the cocks crow, my parents would be up and going.  This is a daily ritual that proves that the people are disciplined aside from the fact that they are industrious. 
My grandmother who lived more than a century still went to the farm to plant sweet potatoes and weed the plants even when she was more than 90 years old.  The old men and old women worked hard because they became weak when they stopped working.  I often wondered how they could still work with their old age but looking back and reminiscing the past, I now understand why they were so strong and healthy and lived a very long life.
One reason too for their long life is the kind of food they consumed daily.  Perhaps what made them very healthy is that they never even used monosodium glutamate to enhance the taste of their food.  The freshness of every food they took in also contributed to how healthy they were. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Apo Keeg, The Man of Tadian Mountain Province

He was the oldest man I have seen who could appreciate pictures without glasses on, that was more than twenty years ago and Apo Keeg  was already more than a century old that time in 1994 when I last saw him.  He passed away after a few years after the interview I had with him. Unluckily I wasn’t present and I missed a lot of opportunities to have taken his picture as he was paraded around town to give him the respect that he deserved.  

Yes, Apo Keeg is considered a hero in my town and he was a real hero to his people.  

 I sat beside him on the long wooden chair, watching his century-old smile that I haven’t seen for a few years.  Back then I was on emergency leave from my job in Hong Kong because my father passed away.  Although my vacation wasn’t for fun I was still delighted for the chance of interviewing the man I had idolized for many, many years since I was still a young high school girl.  I was hoping to write an article about him in one of the magazines owned by a Filipino in Hong Kong.  He has been always a favorite of mine even when I was young and was hoping to someday become a writer and write something about him.  But the interview was impossible because Apo Keeg has returned to his childhood days.

Apo Keeg’s life story was related to me by my elder brother, Manong Pacio.  Some were murky memories that I heard from my father a long time ago when he was still living with us.  I had clarified it with my brother and made sure the stories were correct.  This is not a complete story but the most important events and achievements of Apo Keeg are here.  I hope to write some more about Apo Keeg in the future.

Apo Keeg - ( Apo is an address used as a respect to older men and women.  It could also mean a high regard or respect for a person of authority.) – as he was addressed by all of us was a man who was old and wrinkled but the years he had spent on earth was considered very fulfilling not only for him but most especially for his people.  A man like him is rare and I would have loved him to have lived a thousand and one years.
The author with Apo Keeg in October,1994.
Apo Keeg’s life came as an issue of curiosity and a source of inspiration in my dreams of becoming a writer while I was a young girl playing on the streets with other kids my age.  I never even had that simple notion that Apo Keeg who looks so cute and fragile was that strong a man to have done such enormous achievements both in strength as well as brains.   I am perhaps the luckiest woman to have been the only one who has given him something special even if he has been gone from us for a long time.  This is such an honor for me to do for him and to the people of Tadian, Mt. province.  In the hope that the great works of Apo Keeg will be preserved. I made my research and wrote something about his achievements in life.

The years that Apo Keeg had spent on earth is considered a record for he was able to live a long life of 115 years and beyond that are the treasures that he has handed down to his people.  Many years ago, he was one of the most honored men in Tadian.

Tadian wouldn’t have become a town if not for Apo Keeg.  Apo Keeg worked hard for the transfer of the municipality from Kayan to Tadian.
In 1942 amidst the World War II that ruined countless properties and killed countless number of people, Apo Keeg joined the forces to fight for his people.  Despite the dangers of joining the forces, Apo Keeg ignored it and fought instead.  There were always dangers of course but perhaps Apo Keeg was one of those spared from the devastating war because he had a mission to fulfill for his people.  His courage and loyalty to the people won the hearts of everybody and he was appointed municipal councilor, despite illiteracy.

When Apo Keeg was appointed councilor, his grade 2 son has to teach him to scribble his name.  But illiteracy wasn’t a hindrance in Apo Keeg’s dream to serve his people.  He did everything to make the people realize that he was worthy to be a leader.  He served the people with no bad records and bad issues about his service from 1942 – 1944. The issues over illiteracy didn’t stop Apo Keeg from running for mayor in 1945.   There was loud clamor from his supporters for him to run for mayor because they have proven his worth when he was still a councilor.  The support he had from the people was so great that his opponents feared his victory over them.  To get rid of his votes, his opponents snatched the ballot boxes to make sure that Apo Keeg will lose.

In those olden days when life was still very primitive in the mountains, when paper and pens were not in stores and very few people went to school, the Igorots used colored papers to cast their votes.  Apo Keeg chose green as his color.  During the election, the ballot box of Apo Keeg was stolen. Perhaps his opponents thought Apo Keeg will lose his votes from his supporters but the people were wiser than the educated opponents.  While Apo Keeg’s opponents were busy trying to cheat for their victory, the people were smarter than them.  Who could have thought of banana leaves as substitute for the green colored paper?  Casting their votes using banana leaves, Apo Keeg won by a large margin over his rivals.
As a public servant, Apo Keeg has been loved by the people.  

Here are the titles that the people have given Apo Keeg:

Father of the People and Father of the Igorots

As a Father of the People, Apo Keeg has been always available for the people.  People approached him for every problem they had, and Apo Keeg tried to do everything he could to ease their problems.

Head of the Igorot Traditions

As the Head of the Igorot Traditions, Apo Keeg was always there to teach the other men to perform their rituals which they believed could cure sick people, cleanse bad vibes and drive away bad spirits around.    I have always believed in the beliefs of my people up to now because I could see the relevance to real life situations and they work for me and the others.  Would you believe that the old men have a ritual for men and women who are in the critical age of not getting married too?  Yes, with just a few rituals, the man or the woman would be tying the knot with someone.  It is hard to believe but then I was there and I’ve seen everything.

Miracle Doctor

Apo Keeg was known as the Miracle Doctor.  This was his greatest contribution to his people as a public servant.  Apo Keeg was known for delivering babies in this world just like a real doctor.  According to the people whom I interviewed, they considered Apo Keeg as a better doctor for delivering babies than the midwives and the real doctors around.  This made him the most sought after by women who were laboring.  In those days when there was no easy access to medical gadgets and machines, Apo Keeg has proven that even with just the bare hands, he was able to deliver a hundred babies on earth, thus his title, Miracle Doctor.

One very remarkable incident happened in 1960 when a woman had a still birth and the baby was pronounced dead.  Being a gifted doctor, Apo Keeg didn’t lose hope upon seeing the dead baby.  He burned an old army blanket (blanket from the US army that came from relief good for the minorities and from World War II).  He put the placenta over the burned blanket to warm then slowly pushed the liquid to the baby’s stomach through the uncut cord.  After a few minutes, the baby moved.  The baby lived and grew up a healthy boy. I came to know from a kind kailian that the baby was Elmer Hull. He is a half-Igorot, half-African. His mother is from Tadian, Mt. Province and he is a country music singer until now.

Apo Keeg is a man of his time.  What he did was more than what any leader had done to his people and from there his people had reserved some traditions that up to now are being practiced.  Although a lot has changed in Tadian, the fact still remains that Tadian will live to be a place molded by the best man I’ve ever known in my younger years.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pinikpikan: The Igorot Specialty Food

Pinikpikan is a chicken delicacy among the Igorot tribe. Although it is very delicious, the way it is done would be unappealing to other people.

This is part of the Igorot practices so how it is done cannot be questioned. I have been asking the question to myself too many times when I was already weaned from my hometown and I was exposed to modern life but looking at it, perhaps killing animals for food are all the same, only different in style. To explain how Pinikpikan is done, it is hard to elaborate because other people may not agree with it but I would say, it is not a brutal or sadistic way of killing animal for food because it is done in good faith and it is part of the practice.

 People who do not know how Pinikpikan is done could excuse me but I will say that this is not a practice of cruelty. The chicken is merely beaten then burned after it dies to give the aroma of a real Pinikpikan. This delicacy is one of the best chicken recipes that I have tasted. What makes this recipe especial is that no other culture has this kind of delicacy. To make the food tastier, salted pork is added. This makes the combination perfect.

The Igorot people have their shares of good food too which is becoming known to other people. A lot of people with different culture who have tasted the food have commented on the different flavor that the Pinikpikan has. This could be a real treat to those who want something different. If you want a taste of the best Pinikpikan then visit Baguio City, the Summer Capital of the Philippines. Baguio boasts of its cold and refreshing climate so it would be a fine place to spend the summer vacation and taste the Pinikpikan.