December 12, 2004


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Ibaloi traditions on courtship and marriage vanishing?

BAGUIO CITY (Dec 6)- The Ibaloi is one of the Cordillera tribes which practices the “Kalon” and the “Kaising,” customs on courtship and marriage.

These have been practised by the Ibalois since the early 50’s until the early 80’s. The Ibaloi man need not court a woman, instead the former chooses a woman he wants for a wife and expresses his love through an intermediary with a good reputation in the community and through parental agreement.

According to Lakay Bugawi, 78 years old, an Ibaloi elder from Kayapa, Nueva Viscaya, almost all Ibaloi communities practice kalon which he thinks is good for the man because he can choose the woman he likes without direct courtship. A respected individual intercedes in his behalf including his parents who have to talk with the woman’s parents.

During the kalon, the third party or intermediary talks about the man’s good qualities so the woman gets to know the man who wants to marry her. One way to determine if the woman likes the man is when she agrees to drink the tapey (rice wine) offered by the intermediary. If she refuses, the proposal is aborted.

Lakay Bugawi also revealed that because of this practice, Ibaloi men have become dependent on other persons or on their parents to court the woman they love. To begin with, many Ibaloi men are very shy to court and express their feelings of love. “Ashakel pay laeng e ibadoi ja agto amtan mangashem, ambaeng ton ekwan e ayat to so ni bei, isu nga talaga emon shy kami mango”.

The Ibalois also practice kaising where parents enter into an agreement with the parents of one they wish their child to marry in the future.

According to Lakay Bugawi, one of the reasons for this practice before was for the rich clans and families to keep their wealth within their class. Thus this arrangement happens despite the children’s wishes or decisions. “Baknang koma ket para soni baknang ngo”.

Lakay Bugawi added that in cases where one party retracts, the latter will have to butcher a pig, cow, or a carabao and pay for all the expenses incurred during the tongtong (agreement).

According to Baket Diana Bulso, 86, of Bokod, Benguet, “I was a victim of this practice which I won’t forget for the rest of my life. I was not happy when I got married because I didn’t love the man they wanted for me. ‘Napilitanak laeng nga naki-asawa’ (I was only forced to marry him). Not all those engaged by their parents are successful because many of them also separated like me.” In kaising, parental agreement is done even before the children are born and in fact many Ibaloi men and women are surprised when informed by their parents that they have been engaged by their parents. During the preparation for the marriage, the man and the woman are locked in a room for them to get to know each other more. Others even tie the couple together, Baket Bulso added.

“As a mother, I don’t want that to happen to my children because I know the bad effect. Let them decide and choose who they want to marry and parents should not intervene, just advise the children. Mayat ketdi ta naawannen tatta, ngem uray siguro adda pay, awan ti mamati nga uubbing gapu ta moderno ita nga panawen,” (It’s good we don’t have this anymore, but even if we did, no youth of this modern time would believe this) Baket Bulso said.

According to Pastor Vergel Aneceto , from Itogon, and a member of Inter- Itogon Barangay Alliance (IIB-A), this tradition has no effect on why Ibaloi men are shy to express their love to a woman today. The reason, he says is that many Ibaloi men have no money to spend if he got married, unlike before when one had only to talk to a well-known personality in the community who will sponsor the wedding.

Vergel also added that this tradition is not entirely wrong although it is bad if one is forced to marry somebody one did not love and others would even want to escape from such arrangements.

There are good and bad traditions. Better to undo and unlearn the latter and pass on to future generations those that are good and worth-keeping, he said. # Johnny Fialen for NORDIS

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