Advocate’s Overview: Indigenous holiday
By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
“Teehnnnnnngggggaaaaaooooooo!” Tengao is an indigenous word repeatedly shouted out by a group of youth early in the morning going around the community. They want to ensure that all the residents would hear their message: that it is a community holiday. As a traditional law, nobody could leave the community whether to tend their farms and fields or travel out of the town.
In the two-year short stay, of my elementary days in Tetep-an, one of the eastern barangays of Kiltepan (Kilong, Tetep-an, Antadao) in Sagada, I was one of the youth shouting to the top of my voice, going around the village calling out to the residents it is tengao. Tengao or the indigenous community holiday is a practice when the elders of the village perform rituals for community concerns. I remember these rituals had something to do with the agricultural cycle. Protection of farm production against natural disasters, against the attacks of rats and other foraging animals.
There are rituals performed before the village starts planting rice, when the grain ripens, and after harvest. In each of these rituals amam-a or the elders butcher the appropriate animal in the dap-ay (the indigenous socio-political institution where issues and concerns of the community are discussed). These rituals are sacred and are strictly observed. Villagers, upon the holiday declaration, will stay home or if one is an adult male and by established village standards is qualified, he participates in the dap-ay.
If a villager, whether he knows the declaration of the tengao or not, has left the village, then sanctions are to be imposed upon him by the elders. Early in the morning , all exit areas are marked with the podong or fresh knotted stalk of the runo (reed). The traditional warning sign that says the community is observing a holiday. By that podong, outsiders cannot enter the village and villagers cannot go out.
During those days of my stay in the village, I enjoyed most the tengao related to thanksgiving, the festival after rice harvest or begnas di say-at. My day starts as I join my peers shouting tengao all over the village. In those days, youngs boys of the community, slept in the dap-ay more as a challenge of our being young. Early in the morning, one of the older boys wakes us up to inform the community.
This practice of the indigenous holiday is done in many village of the region. They call it ubbaya in Central Sagada and Besao, and te-er in Bontoc and Sadanga.
One of my friends who decided to stay and raise his family in our village told me that the youth still come out for the community call for the tengao. He said, however the young boys now no longer sleep in the dap-ay. He explained that the boys are more comfortable at home as houses today are built bigger and are enough to accomodate the whole family.
I asked, if it might be because of the dagdagay (or kulkulis). An established tradition in the dap-ay where the older males require the younger ones to massage their feet with two pieces of twigs. The boys nowadays, usually in jest, accusingly call it a form of child abuse when they are requested by their elders. He answered me, “No”, and laughed.
However. I remember, as a boy that we obliged and usually with enthusiasm and as a matter of a kid’s task performed the dagdagay on the elders who after the hard work in the fields, went to the dap-ay for it. They used to tell us it relaxed the tired body.
In the dap-ay, we enthusiastically accepted the task , without question, as we enjoyed it too especially when they told us stories during the dagdagay. But most of us hated it when they wanted the dagdagay for long periods or until they fall asleep. This is why and when the impatience of being young, we considered it an act of child abuse.
Considering all that adventure, all those stories and being one in the group that I experienced in my dap-ay days. I look back with some sadness at what the young of today are missing by the loss of interest to continue the tradition of growing up in the dap-ay. I could understand it as part of the changing times that an indigenous community is undergoing. But I worry most that these practices, like the indigenous holiday and role of the dap-ay, might pass, lost without at least being documented and runover by the so-called modernization. # nordis.net