by Christina Sianghio
“Bontoc” is derived from two morphemes “bun” (heap) and “tuk” (top), which taken together, means “mountains.” The term “Bontoc” now refers to the people of the Mountain Province used to consist of five subprovinces created during the Spanich period: Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao and Kalinga. In 1966, four new provinces were created out of the original Mountain Province: Benguet, Ifugao, Mounatin Province (formerly the subprovince of Bontoc), and Kalinga-Apayao. Hence, people may still erroneously refer to the four provinces as the Mountain Province
.The Mountain province sits on the Cordillera mountain range, which runs from north to south. It is bounded on the west by Ilocos Sur province, on the east by Isabela and Ifugao provinces, on the north by Kalinga-Apayao Province, and on the south by Ifugao and Beguet Provinces. Part of its western territory has been carved out to the jurisdiction of Ilocos Sur, and is drained by the Chico River. Its capital is Bontoc town, which was also the capital of the former Mountain Province. It has a total of 10 municipalities and 137 barrios. The villages at the southern end of the Mountain Province are northern Kankanay. Although there is a common language, also called Bontoc, each village may have its own dialect and phonetic peculiarities (NCCP-PACT). Pouplation estimate in 1988 was 148,000. Physical types are characteristically Philippine, with ancient Ainu and short Mongol types.
Religious Beliefs and Practices
Although the Bontoc believe in the anito or spirits of their ancestors and in spirits dwelling in nature, they are essentially monotheistic. Their god is Lumawig, their culture hero and son of the god Kabunian, although the two are also perceived as one and the same. Religious practices, rituals and cañoas attend their cycles of life, death, and agricultural activities. There are many kinds of cañoa. The chao-es is the feast for the manerwap, which is the ritual imploring Lumawig for rain. A cho-es is also held when a person’s name needs to be changed because of an incurable ailment that is believed to be caused by an ancestral spirit. The fosog is the feast for fertility rites. There are sacred days called tengao/teer, which are some 46 days scattered in a year when work in the fields is taboo. The tengao are generally associated with crops, climate, weather and sickness. During this period, kapya (prayers) are addressed to the spirits for favors
and blessings. The manayeng is a group prayer asking Lumawig for rain.
Visual Arts and Crafts
Traditional clothing leave both males and females bare above the waist. However, even in early times women in the Lepanto area had short blouses, once made of bark with a warp sewed or quilted. It had no fastening in front and had short sleeves. The men sometimes wear the American coat above their G-string, and the women wear simple white blouses. Today the younger Bontoc wear the trousers, shirts, dresses and shoes of lowland Filipinos for everyday wear especially when staying in or traveling to the lowlands.
The Bontoc have a tradition of cloth weaving. The background colors are dark, the favorite being blue. Geometric designs are diamonds, triangles, hexagons and zigzags. Representational designs are the dancing man or woman, stars, leaves, and rice paddies. These are woven in yellow, green, white and red threads. These designs are used in garments and blankets.
The men’s traditional attire is the G-string called wanes. Wealthy males, however, have the lagteb, which is a G-string of pure white thread woven and designed more elaborately than the ordinary ones. A 17.5-cm. disk made of mother-of-pearl shell called fikum may decorate the G-string. Old men may wear the pitay or ewes ay pinagpakan, a thick blanket, although the younger ones claim it is women’s wear. On the head is the suklang/suklung, a small cap of basketwork, which comes in various shapes: fezlike, hemispherical, or low and flat. The fal-laka is the bachelor’s cap colorfully adorned with beads, boars’ teeth and feathers. This cap is also used to hold the things that men carry about, such as pipes and matches.
The women’s skirt is called the lufid, short and narrow, extending from the navel to the knees, and with a side opening. The rich woman’s skirt is the khinawaan, which has white strips in the middle. The poor has the kinayan, a red and white skirt of plain weave. The work day skirt, made of two strips colored white and red is called the kinarchago. The skirt woven in many colors is the inorma. The wakis, a belt 10 cm. wide, is wound twice around the waist. Sometimes it has a white background to set off the yellow, green, black and red designs. The blanket is worn over the shoulders only in dancing.
Although the women wear no necklaces, their hair is tied elaborately together with the apong (strings of black seeds, brass-wire rings, white stone beads either pear-shaped or many sided, reddish agate beads, and dog’s teeth). The apong is a heirloom and usually not for sale. An heirloom belt, the akosan/akkos, made of cloth covered with shells and brass wire, conceals a narrow wallet where the apong is kept.
Today some males wear the abkil (armlets of boar-tusk). This used to be adorned with a tuft of human hair from a captured head. At the ato’s head-taking ceremony, the male dancers wear the fuyaya, a necklace of boar’s teeth.
Some unmarried men and women still wear ear stretchers or ear plugs to create very long slits on the earlobes. The stretcher is made of two pieces of bamboo held apart by shorter pieces between them. It may be decorated with straight incised lines. The earplugs are of wood, shaped like a bottle cork stopper and decorated with straight incised lines, red seeds ore pieces of glass. The al-ling/senseng are gold-hand-crafted earrings with varied designs. The lingling-o is worn by the Cordillera groups either as an earring or necklace pendant. It is circular with a cut on the bottom, so that it is “an almost closed C” (Casal et al 1981:242). A favorite variation among the Bontoc is that shaped like a horned bull, with the cut representing the muzzle. The lingling-o are usually worn by the Bontoc women as earrings, to which beads and shells are sometimes attached. These pieces of jewelry, heirloom pieces, comprise the wealth of a family, along with the gangsa Chinese jars, and plates.
The tattoo used to be a prestige symbol, worn only by theheadhunter. However,it is now purely ornamental. Thereare three types of tattoos: the chaklag, the breast tattoo ofthe headhunter; the pongo, the arm tattoo of both sexes orthe woman’s tattoo; and the fatek which is used as thegeneric term and refers to all other tattoos. The tattoo usedto be a prestige symbol, worn only by the headhunter.However,it is now purely ornamental. There are threetypes of tattoos: the chaklag, the breast tattoo of theheadhunter; the pongo, the arm tattoo of both sexes or thewoman’s tattoo; and the fatek which is used as the generic term and refers to all other tattoos. The chaklag consists of geometric lines curving from each nipple to each shoulder and ending on each upper arm. Horizontal lines are made on the biceps to supplement the breast tattoo. The woman’s tattoo is on the back of the hands and encircles the arms beginning from the wrists to above the elbows. On the upper arm, the figure of a man with extended arms and legs may be etched. The man’s tattoo has a simpler pattern and uses longer lines; the woman’s tattoo uses cross-hatched lines and patchwork designs. Disfigurement such as swellings, are used deliberately as part of the tattoo designs.
The Bontoc use language to address two classes of beings: their living fellow human beings and the invincible beings consisting of deities and anito.
Bontoc social literature is that body of oral composition, sun or recited, whose purpose is to communicate ideas or attitudes to others at certain social occasions. Of great significance is the body of Bontoc literature which expresses the Bontoc world view and reflects their collective history. This consists of their riddles, proverbs, aphorism, songs, tales, legends, and myths.
Some examples of riddles are the following:
Wada san duay sing-anag-i menkasidkugda.
There are two brothers,
they turn their backs on one another. (Ears)
Mo madsem maannaannawa
mo pay mapat-a ngumadan si tubong. (Abek)
A bamboo tube by day,
by night a sea. (Mat)
Mo bumala mengagabey,
mo masiken iwwakna san gabeyna.
When a child, she wore a skirt;
when grown up she was stripped naked to the
waist. (Bamboo blossom, or bamboo shoot)
Ritual literature is that body of literature addressed or chapted to the deities or anito during ceremonies. Examples of ritual literature are the ayyeng, annako, kapya, manayeng/manaing, orakyo, and achog.
One folktale tells a stepson who, unable to bear a cruel stepmother, mutilates himself and is transformed into a kuling (a large bird) to teach her a lesson. She repents and becomes a loving mother to her remaining stepson while the kuling keeps a watchful eye over them. Carrying a similar theme is another tale of a mother who, becoming so absorbed in the pursuit of livelihood, neglects to feed and care for her child. The angry child becomes a tilin (a grain-eating bird) and yearly returns at harvest time to eat the harvest to punish the selfish parent.
Another story revolves around a nameless man, practically an outcast, who finds the opportunity to kill a monster snake that has been plaguing the village. Having done a great deed for the people, he obtains a name. His grateful townsfolk call him Kawis, meaning “Good”.
A legend tells of a rich man’s son who falls in love with a poor girl. His father tries to put an end to the affair. Catching them by the stream of the Kadchog one night, he beats them up. They are transformed into two great white stones, which one can still see there today. Since that tragic event, the Bontocs say, the kadangyan no longer force their children against their wishes.
A myth claims that the three stars in the Belt of the Orion are the three daughters of a Bontoc rich man and the Star Maiden. The maiden had descended to the earth with her sisters one night to cut sugarcane and to bathe in the river. The owner in the sugarcane field, coming upon them, hid the clothes of one of them. When the maidens left for the sky, one could not fly away because her white robes were missing. The man took her as his wife and they had three daughters. But the woman spent her nights weaving white robes for herself and her three daughters. One night, while the man slept, the woman and her daughters donned their white robes and flew back to the sky. Today, they say, the three stars and one big, bright star in Orion are the Star Maiden and her three daughters.
The most important of the mythology are the oggood, the narratives concerning Lumawig, the Bontoc god and culture hero. Lumawig came from Mt. Kalawitan to the land of the Bontoc searching for adventure. He choose to marry the beautiful and industrious lady Fukan after rejecting one lady whose hair was too short, another who lived in a village that was too small, and a third who “tittered like a bird”. To Lumawig are attributed the beginnings of many Bontoc sacred traditions which survive to the present. He rewarded good and punished evil. He wanted peace and prosperity. He established the institution of the ato. He established the rituals. He performed wonders to teach ethical norms. He changed his own selfish father-in-law into a rock with water gushing forth from its anus, because the older man refused to stand in line for a drink of water the Lumawig had caused to spring from a rock. He established the chom-no ritual to forge peace among neighboring communities. In Bontoc town is a tiny garden patch that is tended by a special priest and irrigated by a constant spring; this is where Lumawig first taught agriculture to the Bontoc.
On Mt Kal-lat is a huge stone said to have been set down there by Lumawig. When bad weather threatened the people, the men gathered around this stone and performed the kapya. Women are tabooed, but one curious woman came one day to see the stone. Lightning struck the rock and broke it into two. Today it still lies in that condition. It was Luawig who decreed the tengao, which he began when he gave his wife to the widower leader of the Tinglayan in order to establish some peace between those people and the Bontoc. This new marriage brought two lovely daughters who, on a trip to see their Bontoc grandmother, lost their way because of bad weather and were killed by the Kanew. the bodies of the girls were buried on Mt Papatay, which is now held sacred. It is believed that the Great Spirit resides in the mountain; hence, a shamn offers prayers and sacrifices there. It is forbidden to cut the trees on this mountain or to pick their leaves.
The myths are also an integral part of the ritual. In the traditional wedding of the ceremony, the narrative of Lumawig’s wedding is recited. Part of the planting rites for an abundant harvest is the recitation of the myth about how the gods multiplied and increased the size of the crops.
Although he tales recounting the adventures of Lumawig are not in epic form, they bear similar narrative and thematic characteristics and may be fragments of long narrative chant, not unlike the epics of the Ifugao and Kankanay. These myths are the literary basis of tribal moves, social and political institutions, social history and religious practices.
An important ensemble of the Bontoc is the gangsa pattung, consisting of five or more flat gongs struck with padded sticks. Depending upon the type of dance and the village where the performers came from, there are variations in the style of playing the flat gongs. In the central town of Bontoc, gangsa pattung has three categories of flat gongs with specific musical functions: mangokngok, maerwas and matayoktok.
The mangokngok is the largest and lowest-pitched gong playing an alteration of ringing and dampened sounds, and providing the regular steady beat of the music. The merwas play plays patterns combining the ringing and dampened sounds. The matayoktok is characterized by the prominent use of dampened sounds.
Bontoc flat gong ensembles are used on festive occasions like victory celebrations for a successful tumo (headhunting trip), sa-eb (initiation rites for young men), chon, peace pact gatherings, and thanksgiving rites. In Sadanga, the playing of flat gongs in religious rituals is called feyar, and this is performed with the paliwat (recitation of challenges) and iyag (group chanting).
The musical instruments that often stimulate flat gong music are the bamboo tube zither called kullitong and the jew’s harps called abil-law and awideng. The kullitong has five strings of metal. These strings are raised by small stones that serve as movable bridges at both ends of each string. Jew’s harps are the abil-law, made of bamboo, and the awideng, made of metal with a pulling string attached to its pointed tip. These harps are played by young men for entertainment and courtship at the ulog. Also associated with courtship is the nose flute karraring/kal-leleng/kalaleng, which has three fingerholes and a thumbhole. Musical instruments, particularly for the young, are the sapsap-ok or pipes in a row, teptepew or short whistle flute made of bamboo or used gun bullet casings, arsip and patpatfag or reed aerophones made from rice stalks. When a person has died violently, the sinongyup, a notched mouth flute, and the reed aerophones are sounded together with the wedwed (bullroarer) in order to disturb the killer’s soul.
Bontoc music accompanies the daily affairs of the people. Parents who work in the fields hand over their children to the old women in the kol-lob, where lullabies, folk songs, and the og-good (epic) are sung to the children.
The fal-lukay/fal-lugay is sung during ablution rites of headhunting victory celebrations. Young men courting ladies at the ulog sing the ayegka, love songs, which have traditional tunes but improvised lyrics. Many such songs are never sung again. Rice-pounding songs chay-assa and kwel-la/kudya are also sung to communicate mentally with a loved one who is far away. The ayoweng/mangayuweng, the laborer’s song, is sung when doing farm work, pounding rice, or walking on the trail toward the field.
Song farms used at social gatherings, such as peace pacts, weddings and thanksgiving rites, include the ayyeng, chag-ay, charngek, salidum-ay, surwe-ey, and wigwigan. The pagpaguy is a salidum-ay sung in groups during the wake of a deceased grandparent. It is a happy tune because it is believed that grandparents have lived their lives fully. Singing accompanies the dance in the sukaidan ritual, which is performed exclusively by men of the upper class in order to implore the god Kabunyan and other nature spirits for rain. The bagbagto/ fagfagto refers to both the song and the stone-throwing game that the men of Bontoc and Samoki town engage in to begin the camote-planting season.
Different types of salidum-ay are heard at the chono. The small boys sing the aygaen, an improvised song consisting of one line repeatedly sung to a simple tune. All through the night, in front of all the houses of sponsoring families, men stand in a semi-circle with their arms around one another’s shoulders and sing maiwag to the staccato rhythm of the gangsa. The next evening, the old men sing the al-layo, which is an improvised song about the history of sponsoring families. The ayyeng, also sung by the elders, is a cañoa song imploring Lumawig to bless the singers and the cañoa host with strength.
Funeral songs are drama, for these are chanted conversations with the deceased. The annako is a mourning song by old women keeping vigil beside the dead, which seats on the death throne. If the dead is a victim of violence at the hands of the enemy, the annako challenges the spirit of the dead to take revenge and restore his honor. An excerpt follows:
Into’y nabay gatanam
Inka’y tay mid alam
Palalo ka’y kasegseg-ang
No inka et maeesang
Inka et ta alam nan
Ta wad-ay et en kaduam
Ta adi ka et maeesang
Inka et ta alam nan.
Look where you have gone
Because you have not taken any
You are very pitiful [you are]
For look, you are alone,
So, you get [him] now
So you will have some company
So you will not be alone
So, go get [him] now.
The achog tells about the life of a dead person and is sung by two or three groups of people during the night vigil for the dead. The first three stanzas of a 19-stanza funeral dirge follows:
Id cano sangasangadom, wada’s Inan Talangey
Ay bayaw ay nasakit, ay isnan nadnenadney
San bebsat Inan Talangey, maid egay da iyey
Bayaw issan masakit, ay si Inan Talangey
Sa’t ikokodana dapay anocan nakingey
Wada pay omanono ay daet obpay matey.
San Nakwas ay nadiko, ay ba’w si Inan Talangey
Dadaet isangadil, issan sag-en san tetey
Da’t san ab-abiik na napika et ay omey
Bayawan ay manateng ab-abiik di natey
Adyaet mailokoy si’n anito’y sinkaweywey
Nan danen daet mattao bayaw ya nabaginey.
Da’t cano menlingos, ay san deey nal-ayan
Ay dan’t cano ilan, ay nan enda dinaan
Ay daet maid wan-ey, bayaw ya’s nadapisan
Dapay adoadoda san ena nilokoyan
Da’t si Inan Talangey, wada ay masidingan
Ulay ikakamo na dapay kayet matayna.
A long time ago, it is said,
there was Inan Talangey
Who had been sick for a long time
The brothers and sisters of Inan Talangey,
they did not bring
To the sick who was Inan Talangey
But she was lying in bed
and yet was very fussy
And at length she finally died.
After she was dead she Inan Talangey
They tied her to the death chair
and near the ladder
Then her soul started to go
To join the souls of the dead.
She went with a long line of anito
Their path was grassy and among the
Then back she who was dead looked
Then she saw the path from whence
There were no wan-ey and no signs
of trodden plants
And yet there were many, they with
whom she was going
Then she Inan Talangey, she was
giving out strength
Faster she went and yet could be left behind.
Orakyo is the song of children in connection with the chom-no ritual, in which carabaos are sacrificed, an occasion when the ato elders try to strengthen the pacts with the neighboring tribes, and guests come bearing gifts for the chom-no host. The singing is done by the children while standing on a platform called patongan and the song narrates how the sacrificial carabaos are caught and killed by being made to fall down the cliff. The orakyo may also be any improvised song. For example:
Kinchag chas fakintot
Chinachapan chas kipan
Kinchag chas ad falakyo
Rakyo-o rakyo-rakyo-o rakyo
Sapalit si kawitan
They have felled fakintot
They have hanged their heads
See the crown of the rooster
The distinctive features of Bontoc music are the predominant use of vocal ornamentation, the rendering of various types of songs in leader-chorus style, and the playing of the gangsa with padded stick. Vocal coloring in music is rendered through heavy tremolos, hissing and loud rhythmic breathing. In addition, the choruses sing in harmony often in parallel thirds. Bontoc musical genres are closely correlated with sociopolitical activities, such as the pedin/pechin (peace pact), kayaw (headhunting rites).
Among the Bontoc dances, the most spectacular are the war dances. The balangbang, a term derived from the sound of the gangsa, is a victorious dance performed by old men and women when warriors return with an enemy’s head. The faluknit, another victory dance, is initiated by a returning warrior recounting his headhunting feats and inviting his beloved to share in his triumph in the fal-lukay. He is followed by the other warriors and the rest of the community. In the past, the captured heads were placed in the center of the dancing circle as the women took turns kicking the heads to show their scorn for the enemy as men beat the gongs. These dances are presently performed only for ceremonial or entertainment purposes.
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