By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
Coming Wednesday night is the western adopted traditional – Halloween Night, where costumes of the scariest monsters are donned by the children and those feeling-children and then they go around the neighborhood to “trick or treat” for goodies. Though we Igorots never did that, here in our city maybe some feeling American-families still do this in their homes.
Though in some communities, even here in these mountains, did or still do practice the kararua where each house prepare their favorite rice cakes and meat dishes for visitors who are welcome to come and warm-up relations and friendship. At this time, a privilege only allowed to the growing teen-eagers; the chicken-in-the-coop under the house is fair game to the neighborhood teenagers (usually only boys).
Since this cultural tradition, as all traditional practices are; is “imposed” on the young by the elders, – to visit relatives or family friends and have dinner or evening snacks with the family – the elders sit and talk (to catch up on whatever is common interest) while the kids, instead of sitting around and get bored, run along to play. One of those games is particularly identified to the tradition of Kararua.
The boys go out with their favorite group to play ghost and scare the neighbors or relatives. Half of the group entertain the target house inhabitants in the front door and keep watch while the other half go to the back door to get a chicken in the coop then run away. They cook it to celebrate their feat and have a new adventure story to show off and relate the whole year round until the next Kararua.
Well, that tradition has been so abused and so corrupted through the years that it is now clearly more convenient to see it as a punishable crime.
On the other hand, the Halloween night is a consumerist and commercial gimmick to con all the good people to make Halloween a modern day traditional celebration so that every year business can sell transnational company-produced monster costumes, junk food, candles and whatever catches the fancy.. So, it is politically correct to make it yourself or buy homemade or locally made monster costumes and locally produced – organically grown and cooked food.
Thursday, November 1 is our (Filipino) All Saints Day. Some make it the time to mourn their loss again, most make it to the cemetery loaded with candles and flowers and even packed lunch and merienda. Members of the Chinese community usually fill the top of the tomb along with the flowers and large red candles trays of food: fruits, sweets and meat as lavish as their economic status allows. The wealthier also burn besides incense, bunches of what some call the “money of the dead.” Or paper replica of houses or airplanes or the worldly possessions of the departed.
One practice I appreciate among our Chinese community members in Baguio is some of them go around the cemetery to plant and light candles on the graves of other relatives and close family friends who have gone ahead.
Though overshadowed now by the Christian Faith, a deep belief shared by most Asian communities and still strongly observed by our Indigenous people’s communities is that our ancestors’ Spirits live among us and they keep watch. They can punish us or they can bless us. So much so, that many among us, burn saleng (pine wood) or darami (rice hay); then call them to share and partake in the food offered – broiled baboy (pork), manok (chicken), or clothing etc. to appease, to show gratitude or to make a request.
Many homes, on this nationally observed day, will try to have a candle and flowers to remember their dead by. I just hope all those who have more or especially those who have exceedingly more would rather feed those who can hardly live a decent life than to bury their dead in all those shimmering ribbons, candles, trays of food as if flaunting their wealth to the dead.
Remembering our dead this November 1st, all of us shall offer the beautiful flowers to remember and celebrate the good life with those “who have gone ahead.” For our living let us buy our flowers from our local farmers so we may all help each other make a living. Happy holidays! #