December 26, 2012 in Featured
By ARTHUR LAPAAN ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY – While Congress talks of divorce as a another proposed legislation that they could possibly pass, it (divorce) has been practiced by indigenous peoples in the Cordillera since time immemorial.
Indigenous divorce sets aside a marriage primarily on the ground that the couple cannot bear a child, elders and studies on Cordillera culture revealed.
In other tribes, the grounds for divorce aside from the inability to bear a child include non-performance of marriage obligations, adultery, continous violence against the wife by the man, and laziness of the man.
Elders pointed out that even if the primary ground for divorce is present, it is still considered as a last resort.
“Spouses can still agree to maintain their marriage even without having a child born out of their marriage. In fact, they can adopt a child or children from their relatives,” explained Tigan-o Dugao, an elder of Sagada, Mountain Province, an area inhabitted by Kankanaey indigenous peoples.
He explained that indigenous divorce is a practice that calls for a tedious process. “Aside from the rituals mandated to be done, it cannot be done if the woman does not agree to it,” Tigan-o added.
In a case the woman consents to the divorce, all their earnings during the existence of the marriage would all proceed to the woman. This is to assure that the woman will not live miserably, added Tigan-o pointing out the pro-women aspect of the indigenous divorce.
The elders in the community where the spouses belong are obliged to perform a ritual called “senga.” Here, the divorce would be processed where the former spouses will treat each other as “besat” or sister and brother.
After the divorce, the spouses are free to re-marry. Indigenous divorce is by different terms in as many different tribal tongues. Its is known as Maxadi among the Isnegs of Apayao, added the Cordillera Schools Groups (CSG) in its book Ethnography of the Major Etholinguistic Groups in the Cordillera.
Lakay Tigan-o explained that divorce is the only way for married couples to end their marriage. But the practice are to be done on strict grounds. “It’s a last resort actually,” he said in Kankanaey.
Extra-marital affairs condemned
Solidifying the marriage is still the general policy of Cordillera indigenous peoples. It is within reason that a married man and woman are condemned if they engage in extra-marital affairs, CSG added.
“Adulterous relationships would mark those involved in their communities. Respect for them would erode and would be manifested in social gatherings. For example, an elder who had a past extra-marital affair cannot open jars of rice wine, cannot deliver ritual speech for inheritance of newly wed couples, would receive a drink where the drink distributor would turn his back on him,” added Tigan-o.
This shows that marriage under the indigenous system is sacred, added Tigan-o. “You suffer from the socio-cultural consequences of your act if you violated your vows of marriage.”
Tigan-o ended saying that divorce is done particularly by spouses who are childless as they need somebody to tend their fields and take over after their life time.
While divorce is a time-immemorial practice by indigenous people in the region, state laws however do not recognize it. Another manifestation of the contradiction between indigenous laws and state laws. #www.nordis.net