By KIMBERLY JOY ALEJO
BAGUIO CITY — National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) raised concerns about the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-CAR’s mechanized gong fabrication project in Bedbed, Mankayan, Benguet.
“If you are going to mechanize gong making it is as if you are going to make a big industry out of it. Is there a market for gongs?” Michael Umaming, chief of the Technical Management Services Division of the NCIP-CAR asked.
Umaming pointed out that gongs are bought mostly by Cordillerans because it is a basic indigenous instrument of the Cordillera peoples.
“In the Cordillera, it [gong] is a basic musical instrument. So anywhere in Cordillera, you will find a set of gongs. It is an instrument attached to the Cordillera people’s identity,” Umaming said.
Umaming further said that the tune of the gong set will be sacrificed in mechanized production. “The tune of the gong might not be the same as the tune of the traditional hand-made gongs,” he said.
Dr. Arnold Inumpa, DOST technical staff in-charge of the community-based programs said that the mechanized gong fabrication in Mankayan aims to preserve the culture of gong-making in the country, specifically in the Cordillera.
“Gong fabrication [is] long-existing, but we fear that someday, when these current [gong] makers would age and they would stop fabricating, the younger ones would not like [to continue the job] because it is hard—specifically the manual molding and tuning of the gong,” Inumpa said.
Luchie Maranan, vice chairperson for external affairs of the Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera (DKK), said that mechanized gong making will have cultural implications. She said that traditional gong making is in itself “an expression of traditional, collective practice of musicality”.
“We have to understand the intricacy and social elements involved in traditional gong making to fully appreciate this indigenous symbol of IPs in the Cordillera,” Maranan said.
“Imagine if gong production becomes mechanical and market-oriented, doesn’t it negate the purpose of the gongs as instruments of social interaction and cultural expression of a community’s milestones?” Maranan added.
DKK is an alliance of Cordillera artists.
Inumpa said “our point here only is the facilitation of the production, but we still have to stick with the quality of the gong, specifically the sound. We have to maintain the original quality which is a good sound of the gong, and in order to attain that.”
Inumpa added that the “role of technology there is only to facilitate or make the work a little easier” so, the manual hammering of the gong is still needed.
Gong or gangsa is a “disk-shaped percussion instrument that produces a resounding tone when struck with a usually padded hammer.”
Gongs are played in sets in the Cordillera for community dances. A set comprises of a minimum of three to six tuned in a pentatonic scale. In some communities of Abra and Kalinga a set can be as many as 12 gongs. # nordis.net