By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
They braved the winds in its coldest. Dressed in their wanes (g-string), bolo on their waist, and with spears on their hands, the amam-a (elders) – followed by younger men of Sagada – formed a single line procession as they cross ricefields and orchards. Their destination: the patpatayan or community sacred ground, and upon reaching the area, the eldest shouts at the top of his voice and the rest followed in unison. It was the first day of the ubaya or community holiday to celebrate the begnas, a time-immemorial ritual for thanksgiving and for the betterment of their ili (village).
At the patpatayan, they sacrifice an animal, usually a pig, The meat, sliced into pieces, is distributed among the participants. Then they go back to Lusban, the host dap-ay (indigenous socio-political center for community elders meet) where the mensapit, where a recognized elder, will recite the sabosab or prayer. The gist of his prayer: “Kabunyan, bumegnas nan ili para isnan kapayan nan ilugam da ya nan kapayan da ida ay umili” (Kabunyan, we seek your blessings as the community perform the begnas for bountiful harvest for the rice seedlings they would be planted in their fields and for the betterment of the community people.)
After the ritual, the merry making starts. And the sounds of the gongs played by men will guide the dancing women.
This celebration called the Begnas di Yabyab is performed before the start of the planting season. It was in November 2012 that the Yabyab was performed in Lusban dap-ay, one of the 12 dap-ay(s) of central Sagada. The practice is anchored mainly on the preparation for rice planting in the century old-hand carved payew or rice fields at the waist of the mountains. Sagada elders in the dap-ay earlier decided on the schedule of the begnas after considering all the development in their agricultural preparation and rice seedlings.
The elders will then declare community holiday called ubaya if there is no omen that would be interpreted by elders for the postponement of the community begnas. If the ubaya is declared, nobody should leave and enter the community; and it is taboo to attend field work during the duration of the ubaya. The old men in the host dap-ay will lead and perform the ritual for the Begnas di Yabyab.
“If the rice seedlings in the fields are about one inch in height they are ready to be replanted in the prepared fields, then the elders will declare the Begnas di Yabyab,” said Lakay Tigan-o Dugao, a Sagada elder.
After the begnas, the recognized family in the community, whom the umili call bangan, will have the privilege to formally open the tunod (riceplanting) in their rice field. The other members of the community will follow suit. Their rice planted would then be expected to bear a bountiful harvest.
Aside from opening the panagtunod (riceplanting), yabyab also serves to open the community weddings that usually happen in December, explained Tigan-o.
Begnas had been a part of the cultural lifeways of the villagers of Sagada that they continue to maintain. There are different begnas celebrated in various periods or in the different agricultural cycle in their ili.
Sagada elders said that there are at least five begnas each year practiced by the Sagada Kankanaey. These practices are related to agriculture and community matters. But aside from the aim of a bountiful harvest and thanksgiving, there are begnas related to cleansing of experiences that had been encountered by the community. Elder Lopez enumerated the begnas related on agriculture as follows:
· Begnas di Tiagew or Dook is performed usually in March. It will serve to close the milling of sugarcane called lobek and starts the period for building called sasaad and repair of houses in the community as a preparation for the rainy season.
· Begnas di Latab is usually done in June to close the babayas or community weddings that happened in May and opens the period for harvesting of rice.
· Begnas di Tangeb di Lakat usually done in the last week of August to close the harvest period and to open the fields for the planting of taro.
· Begnas di Yabyab is performed in the last week of October or first week of November which elder Tigan-o shared.
· Begnas di Tangeb di Babayas is performed usually in January to close the community wedding or babayas that happens in December.
The three begnas(es) still performed regularly are the Begnas di Tiagew or Dook, the Latab and Yabyab, explained Lopez who is also a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Sagada. The begnas di Tangeb di Lakat and Babayas are not regularly performed now, he added in an interview after a Begnas celebration earlier.
He explained that the begnas celebrations are institutionalized in the agricultural calendar of Sagada and is recognized by the local government of Sagada. “In knowing the schedules of these indigenous celebrations, the Sagada LGU is guided not to schedule activities on these celebration dates,” he added pointing out that it strengthens the said indigenous practices.
“And the role of the dap-ay and the elders are very notable in our Sagada culture,” he ended. And visitors whether foreign or local can experience these indigenous practices called begnas. # nordis.net