Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Igorots Once Lived in a House called BINANGI

By: Felisa Daskeo

Once upon a time, the Igorots lived in a small, humble house called BINANGI.

The traditional house of the Igorots is a four-posted, thatched roofed shaped like a pyramid, one-room house. It has a floor made of thick and wide lumber that is about ten by ten foot and the lower part is usually left vacant to allow for storage of wood fuel and other materials. This house is called Binangi.

The binangi is provided with a removable ladder that serves a good purpose for the occupants to conveniently remove and replace the ladder as they leave and arrive. There is a place at the side of the house where the ladder is hanged when there is nobody home. The house is not provided with any windows or rooms so the interior is dark. There is a small hole though directly in front of the door where a speck of light passes through to slightly illuminate the interior of the house. Except for the small door, there is no other entrance. There were no locks then in those olden times and anyone could have access to the house but there were no thieves around and every house was safe even if it was left unlocked for days.

I love to reminisce those times when I was still six and one of our neighbors still lived in a binangi. The house was so dark that when you enter it, you have to squint to adjust your sight before you are able to see things around. Since the house has very limited space for playing; we weren’t allowed to play inside. We stayed instead under the house or else in the yard. I loved the binangi house because of the ladder that tickled my toes when I climbed up. Besides, we usually used the ladder like a monkey bar if we wanted to have fun. But we weren’t allowed to play in the ladder if an adult was around. Our elders were so strict then that excessive fun and noise was not allowed since it was a belief that excessive fun could have a negative requite.

Our house in those olden days has no ladders. Instead, it has stairs. We lived in a two-story house with small glass windows that had short-crocheted curtains so when it rained and lightning struck, we all gathered in the kitchen where we thought was safer for us. The windows of the kitchen were made from galvanized iron so it wasn’t transparent. I was always frightened by lightning and thunder so I would have preferred living in a binangi without windows.
Except for the main door that was  moved at the front and a few renovations, the original house that was once our house has remained.
There are some advantages of living in a binangi. Binangi is warmer during the cold season. The roof is made of thick bundles of grass which make the house warm. During summer when it is warmer, the binangi is also a more comfortable place to stay because the place is cool and very refreshing. I can still remember when I used to go up the ladder with my friend whose house is a binangi. Once inside, you could feel the cool air comfortably blanketing you. At night when you enter a binangi; the warm air is like a warm blanket and it is such a soothing thing to enjoy.

In the sixties, there were already very few binangi in my home town. Most houses were constructed using the common construction materials like lumber, galvanized iron for roofing, and even cement. I haven’t tried living in a binangi but I wish I had.

It was a beautiful house that made one felt the true essence of life. Living in a binangi makes one closer to nature and it makes one feel content in life. 

I would have stayed in my hometown and enjoyed the beauty and the serene environment of the place but I left when I finished high school and went home only after many years. Since then, I visited the place rarely; only on occasions where we need to go home. Work, time and money are the reasons why I rarely visit my hometown.

In the year 2000 when my grandmother died, I went home and found my hometown already crowded with beautiful modern houses. It was a place far different from the place I once knew. I looked around and saw no binangis standing and I was so sad to have missed taking their pictures and showing them off when they were still cared for and they were still in good condition.

Today, when I go home to my place of birth, I cannot see any binangi anymore and I miss them. In 2009 when I went home, I only saw one binangi that was abandoned and was left rotting; and that was all that I was able to picture. It is sad because no one has ever thought of preserving the binangis that were part of the Igorot culture.

What now populated my small hometown are beautifully constructed houses and the BINANGI became a history.

Lately though, the community people had constructed an exact replica of the BINANGI to preserve our culture. The house stands proudly just in front of the Tadian Municipal Hall.
The BINANGI was erected to preserve the culture. It will tell the people that once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Igorots lived in small, humble houses but not on the TREES.
These are a few of the houses that now populate my small town.

Copyright 2020 Felisa Daskeo. All rights reserved.

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