Sunday, September 28, 2008

Old Agricultural Practices of Sadanga


The old agricultural cycle in the Mountain Province particularly in the Municipality of Sadanga starts and ends after the planting season called Chinamey.

Tak-chang, which actually means getting out of the field, signifies that the last season of the agricultural calendar which is the rice-planting is done. After the Takchang every household will have the Ap-apoy, a thanksgiving for having hurdled the planting season, the most difficult season of farming. During the Ap-apoy, each household will sacrifice a chicken to the spirits in their respective fields to bless their plants. After the Ap-apoy comes the Gup-khupo, a family gathering in their respective homes.

After the Gup-khupo, the elders will declare a Te-er. Te-er is a rest day after or before a grueling activity, signifying a pause, an end, or indicating the significance of the season. The Bontoc term Tengao is more popular to most. This may last for either one or three days; but always, this is a rest day or non-working holiday for the whole community. One who insists in working during Te-er is not given double compensation but is dished out a penalty.

In some cases, the elders may hold the Fvegnash after the Gup-khupo, the most festive of all the Te-er. Fvegnash is like the Gup-khupo of the whole community. The community will gather together in their Ator and have a community-wide celebration and thanksgiving with lots of dancing, beating of gongs, singing and imbibing fvayash and tapuey. Back when there were no Christmas, Hero’s days and Holy weeks, Te-er was the community’s holiday

The Sherdang follows the planting season. Sherdang is the time when the fields are turning golden brown as the rice ripens and harvest is in the offing. In some cases, Fvegnash/Begnas does not happen after Takchang but during the Sherdang. This is also a reason for a thanksgiving for the awaited harvest and also a time to sacrifice to the spirits for a bountiful harvest.

Before the harvest, the community elders declare a Te-er for Kagkaat, a one-day none working holiday. Non-working, in a sense that they are not allowed to work in their fields to harvest their rice fields. However, they’re allowed to weed out their pathways in preparation for the Harvest. Kagkaat actually means to weed out.

During Te-er, elders would police around the community to inspect who went to work that day. This is called “inlapat”. If one person in the community is chanced upon working by other members, uproar of screams will ensue and the guilty party will feel the pressure of the community. The guilty will be penalized either with a boar or other agricultural products.

Next comes the harvest season or Ani. After the Ani, the rice grains are dried then kept in their granaries called Agamang. Another Te-er is declared after the harvest.

Keshep is the second cycle in the agricultural calendar. The next timetable is to cultivate the fields for other plants like camote and other vegetables. With this system, the earth is recycled for the next season of Chinamey.

In the colder days comes the Shaknit. This is the time for them to gather sugar canes and extract their juices to make fvayash, their local beverage. The fvayash will mature in time for the next Fvegnash.

After the camote and other vegetables are harvested from the fields, the soil will be prepared for another rice planting season. Another Te-er is declared. This Te-er before planting is the strictest of all. No visitors are allowed to come to the village and no villager in the community is allowed to work. Signs will be posted in all entrances of the community. Once an outsider enters, he will be penalized. After the Te-er, the next planting or the Chinamey ensues. After the Chinamey, another agricultural cycle begins.

The system help establish unity among the people in the community. At the same time, it protects them and their agriculture from pests. If one does not adhere to the system, he will not only suffer the pressure of the community but his crops will also suffer from pests. In the old belief, this is a punishment from the spirits for his uncooperativeness. But the system has a different explanation in today’s scientific studies. Field rats live in a colony. When there are enough foods they multiply. When there’s scarcity of food, their numbers would decrease.

When the plants start to bear fruit, the rats’ populations also starts to increase. However, since the vastness of the field has been planted, no matter how fast the rats multiply their presence are barely felt by the farmers. And before their number increase to become uncontrollable plague, the rice fields are already ripe for harvesting. The goods are kept in the rice barns that are inaccessible to the pests. If someone did not follow the calendar and planted earlier or later than the rest, the bulk of the pest will feast on his field during the time it is the only one yielding fruit.

Their Panyao (taboo) beliefs also helped in the system. It served as a protector when the elders are not there to watch over them.

The system has helped protect the environment for as long as their history can tell. They have developed an excellent symbiosis with nature. No one would go hungry since everyone has his own field to till and animals to raise. Their treasures are the abundance of food, land to till and animals.

This was what the conquerors saw when they arrived in the Cordillera mountains, yet they branded them as ignorant. They introduce accumulation of monetary exchange as the real treasure. With their mind set changed, the people of the mountains began to abuse their lands to produce more. Their important inheritances found their ways in the halls of the affluent as decorations. They would try different systems like fast growing seedlings so that they could convert more rice to the much coveted symbol of wealth. The use of chemical fertilizers was introduced and it slowly affected the land. In many places, rice can no longer grow without the use of these chemicals. The old agricultural cycle has changed in many places. Some have abandoned their fields to find a better way to earn. Farm workers decreases while other ventures increases. With less farmers, shortages of food is in the offing. Such is just one prize of the introduction of the so-called civilization.

But many places like Sadanga still adhere closely to the old system and they are proven to be effective agricultural practice that will still work in the centuries to come. These people may not have enough money in the banks but they will never run out of daily necessities for their main treasures will always be what sustained their ancestors in the past, their farmlands.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My Sadanga Cultural Retreat

Returning home feeling sick after an extended coverage in the Mountain Province. Exhaustion, having to get up early and sleep late, the heat, and eating mostly meat. But in those mountains you get a lot of time for yourself. No cell phone signal, no internet, and no noisy traffic. Just friendly people still following the old Agricultural Calendar. That's why Sadanga was dubbed as "a living museum".

Not much photos, mostly video is what I got coz the LGU and NCCA wanted a video documentary of their Fvegnas. The rest of the Media people weren't able to come so my coverage would be what a one man team can get. Only one angle and just using a power shot for the video but I guess I got the most important parts and the result came out ok. I created the video titled "Fvegnash 2008", it's Sadanga people's show of their undying legacy. It showcases their different customs they presented during the event. Karareng (nose flute), Ullalim, Uggayam, Tinaroyod, Darngek/Ayegkha and other cultural presentations.

Watching them perform revives an old passion I gave up years ago. To create a documentation of our dying cultures before they are completely forgotten and while there are still people practicing our customs.
I started a book on the Myths of Igorots six years ago after I read the Aenid of Virgil and the Greek Mythology. I believed there was a way our story can be told also in such a manner by collecting all the myths and legends throughout the Cordilleras. And true enough, each place has a story to tell that are consistent to other tribes. All that’s left is to stitch them together and correlate each story to find out what we Igorots really believed in in the olden days.

Studying our mythology and our diverse customs will help us understand what we are as people. And if you try to live in those places, if you look hard, you will find out that we were not as ignorant as the first travelers and conquerors labeled us to be. In the urban areas, we are adopting the segregation of garbage that our ancestors had been doing for centuries. And that’s just one of their systems that are very orderly. The most important of those is when they follow their stablished agricultural calendar that blends well with nature.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cultural Retreat

Returning home feeling sick after an extended coverage in the Mountain Province. Exhaustion, having to get up early and sleep late, the heat, and eating mostly meat. But in those mountains you get a lot of time for yourself. No cell phone signal, no internet, and no noisy traffic. Just friendly people still following the old Agricultural Calendar. That's why Sadanga was dubbed as "a living museum".

Not much photos, mostly video is what I got coz the LGU and NCCA wanted a video documentary of their Fvegnas. The rest of the Media people weren't able to come so my coverage would be what a one man team can get. Not a complete angle and just using a power shot for the video but I guess I got the most important parts and the result came out ok. The video tittle, Fvegnash 2008, a Sadanga show of undying legacy will be out next week. It showcases their different customs they presented during the event.  Karareng (nose flute), Ullalim, Uggayam,  Tinaroyod, Darngek/Ayegkha and other cultural presentations.

Watching them perform revives an old passion I gave up years ago. To create a documentation of our dying cultures before they are completely forgotten, while there are still people practicing our customs.

I started a book on “Igorot Mythology” six years ago after I read the Aenid of Virgil and the Greek Mythology. I believed there was a way our story can be told also in such a manner by collecting all the myths and legends throughout the Cordilleras. And true enough, each place has a story to tell that are consistent to other tribes. All what’s left is to stitch them together and correlate each story to find out what we Igorots really believed in in the olden days. 

Studying our mythology and our diverse customs will help us understand what we are as people. And if you try to live in those places, if you look hard, you will find out that we were not as ignorant as the first travelers and conquerors labeled us to be. In the urban areas, we are adopting the segregation of garbage that our ancestors had been doing for centuries. And that’s just one of their systems that are very orderly. The most important of those is when they follow their stablished agricultural calendar that blends well with nature.

Coming up soon in my blog will be the Agricultural Calendar cycle of the Mountain Provinces and the difference in every municipality.