Lang-ay Festival: Musings
By: Christine de Vera
Bontoc is the capital of Mountain Province, a 3rd class municipality with a population of
about 25,000, located 396 kilometers north of Manila, Philippines. I have conducted
numerous researches in Bontoc, primarily as an ethnomusicologist from the year 2000
to the present. In the course of documenting various musical practices and rituals, I
stumbled upon Lang-ay, an annual festival initiated and sponsored by the local
government of Mountain Province thru the Office of the Governor. It started in 2005, and
was on its 5th year in 2009 – when I first documented it. This festival also coincides with
the Foundation Anniversary of Mountain Province. It is always held in Bontoc on the first
week of April with festivities that last through the entire week. The brainchild of then
Governor, now Congressman Maximo Dalog, he states the following during the 5th
“the Lang-ay Festival manifests how our province has grown and advanced towards our
vision of becoming an eco-tourist destination, and in bringing about a better life in
Mountain Province. This adds another remarkable emblem in the history of our beloved
province. With this year‟s theme it requires us to continue our journey in making
Mountain Province a cultural attraction, not only in the Philippines, but for foreign
countries as well.”
The term lang-ay in Bontoc means sharing. It could either be time, talent, resources or
caring for one another. Thus during the entire week of festivities, visitors from out of
town as well as those from neighboring provinces flock to Bontoc to witness the show of
hospitality through the numerous activities lined up for guests. It showcases their
indigenous music, dance, costumes, and other cultural symbols.
The Philippines in recent years has seen a surge in institutionalized festival-making that
primarily lends itself to boosting the tourism sector in various parts of the country. A
quick glance at the Philippine‟s Department of Tourism page will yield a voluminous list
of different festivals being commemorated and observed all over the country – some
better known than others enabling a more global and national participation, while others
are confined to a more local audience. That is to say that whether significant or trivial,
religious or cultural, big or small, festivals in the Philippines are serious business – each
capturing a specific demographic with varying degrees of patronage.
The Lang-ay Festival is a lesser known and relative newcomer in the festival scene on
account of its 5 years of existence in 2009. It showcases the various cultural heritage
practices in its appropriated form, allowing the spectators (guests) to participate and
experience tradition outside of its natural environment. Most activities are nostalgic in a
sense, a recreation of the past, re-interpreted in the present for the present generation
to experience. They are in most instances, a solid representation of their tradition, less
commercial than most festivals elsewhere. In the process however, new forms of art
and tradition are instituted to give way to a younger generation seeking significant
means of embracing their culture according to their own understanding and
appreciation. How then, from both an “emic” and “etic” perspective do we make sense
of this exercise? To what ends does this activity fulfill its purpose?
I posit the following issues in this research proposal:
1. Probe into how hybridized art forms become accepted cultural practice, particularly
from the indigenous people‟s gaze, and subsequently through the younger generation.
2. Explore how tourism impacts the consumption of art and its practice, through
3. Make a comparative study on the evolution of this festival based on documentation
done in 2009 vis a vis one in 2013 in terms of the following:
a. Market appreciation and new demographical data
b. Institutional support and participation from the LGU, Department of Education and
local indigenous groups and the media.
c. Appropriations of cultural practices
4. Provide data and documentation as possible resources for creating similar or new
models of study for students who are engaged in the field of tourism, cultural heritage
preservation, marketing, and government policies.
5. Cast a wider net for both regional and global awareness and attention through the
use of digital tools and media, providing a comprehensive analysis and coverage of the
Lang-ay Festival as it relates to art, history, culture, education, government, business
and tourism and how it could possibly be a window through which other Southeast
Asian peoples could look into and relate with.
I have utilized the ethnographic method in the initial phase of the study and shall
continue to employ the same methodology for the entire duration of the project.
Ethnographic method entails participant-observation and fieldwork. I conducted my
initial field research in Bontoc in 2009 and returned in 2013 to produce fresh
documentation and collect new data, as well as conduct more in-depth interviews with
members of the community and participants of the festival. My initial data and research
activities in Bontoc were documented using a Sony Digital 8 Handycam, JVC Everio
20GB hard disk drive camcorder, Creative Zen Vision: M 30GB digital audio recorder,
and Olympus FE – 210 7.1 megapixel digital still camera. For the second phase of
research conducted in April 2013, documentation was done using the following tools:
Canon Power Shot SX500IS 16.0 mega pixel for still photos, Sony Handycam HDR-
CX220 for shooting videos, Creative Zen Vision: M30G digital audio recorder for
1. A digital resource on the Lang-ay Festival of Bontoc, Mountain Province, which will
be uploaded to the United Board, AUDRN Mahara, and Miriam College websites.
2. Sharing of local knowledge from a socio-cultural perspective through the AUDRN
Mahara and other various digital platforms.
3. A reference material for academics, culture workers, and institutions interested in the
preservation of the past and the documentation of the present.
4. A proposed learning module for the Leisure and Tourism Management (LTM)
program of the College of Business, Entrepreneurship and Accountancy (CBEA),
1. A digital archive of performances from the 2009 and 2013 Lang-ay Festival in text
and video format.
2. A comprehensive research paper reflecting data that addresses the issues as
problematized in the proposal.
LANG-AY FESTIVAL 2009: “Nurturing Our History and Our Culture”
April 1-7, 2009
Bontoc, Mt. Province
April 1, 2009
At 12.15am, my cousin Quennie and I left for Baguio via the luxury coach of Victory
Liner at its Cubao station. We arrived in Baguio at 4.40am, took a little something to
eat and hailed a cab to the Rising Sun Bus station. We got there at 5.15am and waited
till the bus left for its 6am trip to Bontoc. The Rising Sun is a decrepit bus but
somehow reliable. They pack the bus till it is bursting to the seams with people and
boxes of cargo piled up along the aisles. The trip to Bontoc took 6 hours with one
quick stop on its 3rd
hour where the driver and passengers fueled up with a meal or a
smoke. It was chilly but not so cold. The weather was perfect. The Halsema Road,
which is the main artery that connects Baguio to the rest of Mt. Province is better
paved than the last time I passed in 2006. The view of the mountains are not as green
as it used to, with patches of land carved for terraced cropping now barren, the harvest
season being over and the land left bare till the next planting season. Even the Chico
River is dry, the river bed exposed huge rock boulders and slimy green water which
used to be a deep emerald green. In some parts I saw quarrying activities. We arrived
in Bontoc at 12nn, checked in at Archog‟s Hotel, ordered a big lunch and took a nap.
My informant Mrs. Victorina Requino, a DepEd teacher dropped by the hotel to check
on us around 5.30pm and gave us the schedule of events for the entire festival. We
missed the mass and opening ceremonies this morning which I was told was a
decidedly Catholic mass with elements of traditional rituals incorporated in the mass.
We wanted to survey the place by walking around town but the rains made it difficult to
go around. So we just took advantage of the free time to get settled, rest and relax in
preparation for the seemingly hectic days ahead.
April 2, 2009
The first event of the day was a demonstration of the different crafts and
indigenous games of Mt. Province at the ató (Figure 1) fronting the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan Building. These are: Winnower (Ligao or Bigao) Weaving, Rope Making
(abaca), Pounding Rice, Patopat (Suman made of ground rice wrapped in banana
leaves and cooked in coconut milk), Sanggol (Bunong Braso) for men, and a “pinaka”
contest, showcasing the biggest sized produce. (Figure 2,3,4,5)
Figure 1: Ató
Figure 2: winnower weaving
Figure 3: patopat
Figure 4: "Pinaka" contest
Figure 5: Abaca rope- making
The ató is a circular rock formation dug shallow in the center, used by town elders to
meet and make important village decisions. This particular ató is not just a replica of the
ones seen in the inner villages but a representation of what the custom stands for.
Conveniently situated beside the government Capitol, it is a venue for important social
events and functions that require the performance of rites and rituals during ceremonies
that usually involve the government officials. (Figure 6)
Figure 6: restaging the ritual for the opening ceremonies in the ató
From where we were staying at the Archog‟s Hotel in Samoki, the poblacion is a
leisurely 10 minute walk but it was drizzling lightly so we took a tricycle to the town
plaza where most events are being held. The plaza houses several government
agencies and buildings including the Provincial Capitol of Mountain Province. It also
houses the Multi-Purpose hall, Library, Tourism Office, a Commercial Bldg., basketball
court, public playground, post office, museum, Department of Education and other
We arrived at the ceremonial site by the ató at the appointed time of 8am but because it
was drizzling we were told that they would wait for the rains to stop before they proceed
with the ceremonies. I walked around the plaza and visited the stalls that were set up for
the trade fair. Various products from the 10 municipalities of Mountain Province were on
display such as woven cloth made into bags, tapis, drapes and clothes. Native wine,
vinegar, vegetable and fruit produce, indigenous instruments, woven baskets, souvenir
shirts, CD‟s and DVD‟s produced by a local recording company, and other indigenous
wares such as necklaces made of pig tusks, spears and an axe similar to the one used
for head hunting activities were also being sold. (Figure 7, 8, 9)
Figure 7: CD's
Figure 8: local products from Besao
Figure 9: local products form Natonin
I was a bit worried that the events would overlap by the time they started the 1st
At 9am there will be a Cultural Day for the Senior Citizens and Persons with Disability in
front of the Multi-Purpose Hall grounds but because of the rains it was moved indoors to
floor of the building. (Figure 10)
Figure 10: Multi-Purpose Building
At 9am, I went up to the 2nd
floor of the Multi-Purpose Hall and found a room full of
Senior Citizens representing all 10 municipalities of Mt. Province. There were a few
disabled persons. Everyone was garbed in traditional clothing. They came in full regalia:
the women in tapis and heirloom beads adorning their hair while the men came in
bahag or loin cloth also with their woven caps and arm bracelets and necklaces. One
can see how hard most of these old men women toiled in their fields. Some have
hunched over backs from bending while planting, most have cracked heels from walking
in parched soil under the sun for hours and the deep brown color of their skin show the
years spent toiling. Those with fairer skin and smooth heels indicate that they were
professionals, i.e. teachers, or government office workers, etc. The venue was a huge
hall, one that is well maintained with clean tiled floors. The stage had a wooden carving
that engraved the words “Gawis ay Mt. Province: a vision of the people of Mt. Province
by the grace of Almighty God”. Gawis which I asked meant “Peace/Good” in Mt.
Province. At the entrance was a long table for registration, where delegates fill up some
kind of an attendance sheet. As I found out, it was going to be a competition of the best
cultural performance from among the representatives of the 10 municipalities. Each
group performed a rite that represented their particular culture such as courtship,
planting, or harvest rituals. (Figures 11-12)
Figure 11: senior citizens performing a traditional number
Figure12: senior citizens and person with disability
It started a little over 9am and opened with an Oggayam,(Figure 13) a chanted prayer
said by an elder. Afterwards, all the „traditional‟ trappings of a government sponsored
event took place such as the speeches given by the different representatives of
organizations and government agencies. The Bontoc mayor, Sanggunian Chairman for
SC, Women and Disabled Persons all gave long speeches. But the longest one was
that of the designate speaker, Prof. Federico Balanang who was President of BARP
Foundation, Inc. who spoke for more than an hour. At first, the audience of mostly
senior citizens were polite and quiet, though most were really just asleep or staring
away. But towards the full hour mark, some had begun to stand up and leave their
seats, others clapped lustily every time the speaker mentioned a „promised benefit‟. I
was seated at the back and realized that they were not at all cheering but jeering,
clapping even louder to signify to the speaker that they want him to end his speech. But
the speaker did not get it and mistook the loud clapping to mean that they wanted him to
go on, and so he speaks longer. The program was in 2 parts: the first being that portion
where all the speeches were said, and the 2nd
, for all the cultural presentations. It was
suppose to end at 10.30am but the 1st
part stretched all the way to 11.45am so they
decided to break for lunch instead and resume at 1pm that which was originally
scheduled for 11am.
Figure 13: elders performing a ritual before the start of the program
part dubbed „Living Traditions Presented Thru Cultural Presentations‟ is a
competition. The contest rules drafted by the agency in-charge, DWSD had the
1. presentations up to a maximum of 15 minutes (group and individual)
2. Selection of best presentations (integrating the 4 categories: chanting, singing,
native dancing, and use of indigenous musical instruments)
3. Criteria: (General)
a. ETHNICITY: attire, spontaneity, delivery, originality
b. Relevance: relatedness of the presentation to the theme
The presentations of the 10 municipalities came in this order:
The competition started with an introduction of the judges that came from various
sectors of the government such as the National Council for Indigenous Peoples, and
Directors from the Provincial Capitol. Thereafter, guidelines were read and men were
reminded that they should not cheat by wearing underwear underneath their bahag.
There was loud laughter in the room by the women when the men responded by saying
that their wives might get angry if they go home without their briefs on. They proceeded
to the backstage anyways to remove their underwear when one of the judges
threatened to deduct points from them if they didn‟t. (Figure 14)
Figure 14: the men in their traditional wear of bahag
It was an event that stretched longer than expected. By 4pm the delegates especially
from the farther municipalities were getting restless because they cannot travel on the
road later that 3pm. That is the cut off time for public transportation plying the routes to
faraway areas. By then the fog would be too thick for them to see the road. Still, they
went on with the program. I took the chance to interview some representatives from the
DSWD and the emcee who was a SC himself from Barlig. It was an emotional interview
as he narrates how far and hard it was to travel to get to the festival and yet he spoke of
how proud they were of their heritage.
After the contest, snacks of pancit wrapped in plastic were distributed with a bottle of
water while the judges decided on the winners. There were 2 categories, one for
Persons with Disability (PWD) and one for senior citizens (SC). The winner for the best
PWD was the blind man from Natonin (Figure 15) and the best SC group was from
Paracelis who performed a courtship ritual similar to the one they performed 40 years
ago. The election of a new set of officers was postponed because of the late hour. By
the time we got back to our hotel room there was already no electricity. While the
generator was working, we only had lights in our room but not enough power for the
plugging of equipment. The blackout lasted till the next day.
Figure 15: blind man from Natonin
April 3, 2009
The event today is the Chorale and Oratorical Competitions sponsored by the DepEd,
municipality and the Lang-ay Development Council. It was to start at 8am but
when we arrived at past 8 at the Multi-Purpose Hall, the room was empty except for
DepEd organizers, my informant Mrs. Requino being one of them. The
delegates/contestants were not yet there. I met one of the judges for the choral
competition, Father Danny Cariño (Figure 16) who I found out was a graduate from AILM.
I chatted with him while waiting for the contestants to arrive. They came in trickles, one
group composed of SPED children. (Figure 17) It was 10am when we started the
program, some guests of honor not being able to make it. The Governor‟s wife Mrs.
Dalog who was supposed to be the guest speaker chose to attend another event that
coincided with this competition.
Figure 16: interview with judge and choral arranger, Fr. Danny Cariño
Figure 17: SPED children
The event started with the usual acknowledgements and a reference was made about
one of the sponsors, the 11th
municipality. The Mt. Province being composed of only 10
municipalities had the people wondering who the 11th
municipality was. As explained by
the host, the 11th
municipality is composed of people who hail from Mt. Province but
have now settled in other places or are working abroad. They are from whom some
donations for prize money came from.
The oratorical contest had 6 contestants, each articulating their piece quite well. (Figure
18) The chorale competition (Figure 19) on the other hand, had only 3 groups: Maslang
National High School from Tadian, Guinzadan National High School from Bauko, and
Mt. Province General Comprehensive High School from Bontoc. The Lang-ay Hymn
was chosen as the contest piece. It was composed by Mrs. Sofia Bacwaden and
arranged for choir by Father Danny Cariño. The choirs had a limited time rehearsing
but all of them sang well. When time came to announce the winners, not all prize money
was awarded. The DepEd representative had to explain that the funds are not yet
available so the prize money will have to be a loan.
Figure 18: contestants of the oratorical contest
Figure 19: contestants of the choral competition
Afterwards, we were invited to lunch at the Governor‟s house. When we arrived, it was a
fiesta like atmosphere. The Governor was having lunch with the people already so we
were not immediately introduced. We took a seat in a table set outside the house
among the other teachers and principals of the different schools and were served the
lang-ay wine and food. After lunch we were finally personally introduced to Governor
Maximo Dalog, whom I sought permission to be interviewed. He readily agreed and
gave his time generously. I started the interview at around 1pm and finished around
When we got back to the hotel, we were told that the electricity came back briefly but
will be out again shortly due to the repairs being made at the substation in Sagada.
Talks have been circulating that this had something to do with the encounter that
happened between the military and the NPA. At 5pm we walked towards the plaza
where the Battle of the Bands was to be held. I was curious because it was advertised
as a competition of indigenous bands. (Figure 20)
Figure 20: Battle of the Bands banner
Figure 21: Multi-Purpose Bldg. grounds
When we arrived at the grounds in front of the Multi-Purpose Hall, the stage was just
being set up. (Figure 21) This being an event sponsored by San Miguel Corporation, huge
banners and buntings were displayed by the stage and the audience area. Mostly young
people were beginning to congregate to wait for the bands to perform. The atmosphere
was festive and the stage built on the steps of the MP Hall had all the trimmings of a
rock band concert. People were busy milling around, checking out the various goods
displayed in the booths while waiting for the bands to start playing.
Unfortunately, at the appointed time of 7pm there was still no electricity. While waiting I
walked around and decided to inquire about what was going on. Nevertheless, people
waited and by 9pm, the program started with electricity being provided by generators.
But with the huge electrical demands from the spot light, fog machines, dancing lights,
speakers and sound system, the generator conked out and gave in after a few numbers
from the band. They had to suspend the concert but were told that power will be
restored by 10pm. But time came and there was still no current so we decided to leave.
In Bontoc, tricycles stop plying by 8pm so we had to walk back to our hotel in the dark
which was so disconcerting given that it was pitch black. We used the light from our
April 4, 2009
I got a text and a call from my informant Vicky Requino informing me that there had
been a dead person on a sangachil at Samoki. (Figure 22) (As I had previously been
researching on the topic of funeral and death rituals, people automatically inform me
about such developments when it comes.)
The sangachil is a death chair where wealthy dead people are placed until the day he is
buried. We made plans to see the dead at 9.30am but plans changed when Mrs.
Requino informed me that she had to visit the son of a relative who had died that
morning. We went to the museum instead and spoke to the nun who was in charge of
the library. She was a bit hesitant to talk to me.
We went back to the hotel and waited for Mrs. Requino to come at 3pm. She picked us
up with her group Tokwifi, a group composed mostly of women who sing at wakes.
There were just a few of them. We walked towards a part of Samoki that was identified
with rich people. In Bontoc, people are still classified according to social class, with
possession/ownership of land as a primary indicator. However, in more recent years,
the lines have blurred as education and diaspora impacted the way wealth is defined or
We arrived at the wake and found the dead man inside the house, placed near the door
being tended by his mother who was seated at the foot of the dead man. On each of his
side were 2 relatives, holding on to the chair as if guarding the man. Behind him sits the
wife. It was a heart wrenching sight as the youngest son approached his dead father
and cried. I did not feel good about taking pictures and recording it on video as they
grieve. Most of the guests and relatives were seated outside. In fact we were sitting on
the alongan, an entire trunk of thick pine wood traditionally carved and used as a coffin.
But having come here for a purpose, I set out what I had to do and turned on my
cameras again. The group of Mrs. Requino started singing from a booklet, one that is
labeled Book 2 which contains songs that are for „not so old‟ dead people. (Figure 23)
This man in particular was relatively young at 59. As per Bontoc customs, men whose
children are not all married are considered young. He died from epileptic shock while
tending his field.
Figure 22: the dead sitting on the sangachil
Figure 23: Tokwifi singing during the wake
The area of Samoki, as with most of Bontoc have houses generally constructed from
galvanized roof and walls with a base of cement. They are proximally close to each
other, built on a slope terrain with very narrow paths for traversing other neighbors‟
houses. Pig pens and chicken pens are customarily built beside the houses. (Figure 24-
Figure 24: A typical house in Samoki
Figure 25: ato in Samoki
As I was recording the songs being sung by the Tokwifi, I heard a faint sound from
inside the house. I found the lady holding on to the chair as the one singing/chanting. I
thought at first that she was being ignored because they did not know she was singing,
but my informant knew and was totally aware that they were singing against the lady. I
could not get a good audio of her singing, she being drowned out by the singing of the
group so I went closer. Closer means being behind the dead man near the woman who
was chanting. I found out that this man had been embalmed which is why he did not
smell too much, and made it tolerable for me to come so close to him. The act of
embalming the dead is frowned upon by the elders as this would make the spirits
unhappy. In this case however, it shows that traditional customs are now being
negotiated to give in to more modern ways. Still, there were lots of flies inside the
house. Sometime soon, it started raining hard, so the group that was singing outside
had to squeeze inside the silong where the dead man was and continued singing
against the one person who was also chanting. This went on for 2 hours. The pig that
had been butchered was also scattered on the floor. When the rains stopped, the group
decided to leave. A notebook that is used to list down the names and amount being
donated to the family of the dead man was passed around. I gave all the money in my
pocket which was all of 190 pesos. I left when the group of Mrs. Requino left. I felt
depressed again. By the time we left, the place was crowded and stuffy, a vacant lot at
the back of the house was used for gambling and people were congregated around the
As soon as I got back to the hotel, I took a shower and proceeded to the Plaza for the
Mr. and Ms. Gay Lang-ay. (Figure 26) And because the concert the night before was
postponed, they had to start with that first, bumping up to a later time the Mr. and Ms.
Gay Lang-ay contest. The featured band was Daluyon, a popular band that dishes out
rock music. A band from Manila called Afterlife was also invited to grace the event. The
Battle of Indigenous Bands was divided into 2 categories: one for the 16 and below age
group, and the other for a much older group. I was curious as to how they were going to
perform as an indigenous band when all the preparations done were for that of a rock
concert. Indeed the only indigenous part was the use of indigenous instruments such as
the gansa (flat gong) and the sulibao (drum), but they were incorporated with the
electric guitar and drum set which when amplified totally drowned out the indigenous
instruments. (Figure 27) I could not help but think that the indigenous instruments were
just used as props. There were more people than last night and we had to stand the
whole time we were documenting. The Mr. and Ms. Gay contest started at 10pm with
the usual parade of costumes and introductory spiels and talent portions. We left at
11pm after I decided that the format was just that of any other beauty contest.
Figure 26: Mr. and Ms. Gay Lang-ay banner
Figure 27: Battle of the Bands contestants using indigenous instruments fused with rock band instruments
April 5, 2009
Today is Sunday and the first mass being said at the Sta. Rita Catholic Church was at
6am. (Figure 28) I went to see how they celebrated it. This being a Palm Sunday, I saw a
few carrying leafy branches. (Figure 29) The church was spacious and fairly new. It had a
loft and a huge altar, with murals painted on the walls. The mass was being heard in
Kankanaey. The church is full, but I wanted to check the composition of the
congregation and how this plays out in what they say is the conversion of the people to
Christianity. A good number were old women, who came garbed in traditional clothing
but were also practitioners of the catholic tradition. There was nothing different or
unusual apart from the singing of hymns in the vernacular. What caught my attention
was the sound of gongs in its familiar overlapping rhythmic patterns after the mass, but I
was told that they were not gongs but church bells tolling to signify the end of the mass.
Figure 28: Sta. Rita Catholic Church
Figure 29: Palm Sunday
I tagged along with my informants, Mrs. Requino and Ma‟m Jo, and joined them for
breakfast at the market. We checked out the goods and produce, which on a Sunday
are being peddled by lowland viajeros from Nueva Viscaya. The goods ranged from
pirated DVD movies, plastic ware, and an assortment of everything you could possibly
need in the household.
We were going to attend the burial of the dead man we visited yesterday at 10am, but
since it was still early we took our sweet time but still decided to come earlier. We
discovered that the burial rites had started even earlier than the appointed time. I was
not sure if there was a miscommunication or it was intentionally moved earlier. What I
saw was the sangachil (death chair) being carried to the main road and left there as
garbage. (Figure 30) I went back to the house of the dead man to find men shoveling dirt
in his dug up grave which was the same spot used for gambling the night before. (Figure
31) After he was buried, a mangmang, or the ritual of butchering animals was
performed. This being a rich man‟s burial, pigs instead of chicken were butchered. The
pig was crying, tied to a pole and held by several men, where he was pierced in the
throat and whacked down by a bolo until blood flowed on the ground. It took a while, a
slow and painful death for the pig which was quivering even after a while. When he was
finally lifeless, they threw him on the fire until his skin was charred and then they scrape
off the top layer of his skin. (Figure 32) They slit him open and take his organs out. In
particular, emphasis was made on the apro (bile) that is embedded in the liver.
According to Bontoc customs, the bile has to be of a certain quality to indicate if it will
bring good or bad luck. Elders inspect the apro and decided that it was a good one.
They bury the apro under the rock and proceeded to butcher the rest of the pig into
pieces to be distributed to the community.
Figure 30: sangachil- death chair
Figure 31: backyard grave digging
Figure 32: butchered pig
Figure 33: bundles of palay
Bundles of palay in baskets were also brought out by the family, a hundred bundles to
represent affluence and pabaon for the dead. (Figure 33) The grains are round and
golden, with all the women gathering around the baskets because after the ritual
mangmang they can take home as much palay as they can handle. As I observed,
these are gender assigned roles, the males perform the mangmang and the women
take care of the palay.
After lunch we rested for a while then went back to the MP Hall for the Sinauliyan
Theater play. It was raining and there was no electricity again but thought that they
would push through with the help of generators. When I arrived at 5pm, only the cast
was there. I spoke to one of the cast members, Butch and learned that everyone in the
play were employees of the Provincial Capitol. I spoke to the Director and playwright,
Mr. and found too that this work was originally submitted to an NCCA sponsored
contest, where he met Dr. Ramon Santos who was then an NCCA commissioner in
2001. He was told by the panel to tweak the work to accommodate the usual attention
span of 2 hours for a theater work. He laments that he had intended to submit it as an
epic. Nevertheless, he submitted to the changes and was grateful to Dr. Santos for
helping him with much needed suggestions on how to improve his work. This play was
based on indigenous materials, the concept and story based on stories told by his
mother. At 6pm we left, and they just rehearsed.
April 6, 2009
The day started early with a ritual in the ato for the opening of the Summit meetings
from various sectors and governments agencies. All the top officials of the province
were there as well as invited guests from Manila. After the usual photo ops, they were
led to a parade down to the MP Hall steps where the rest of the ceremonies were
continued. There was dancing and playing of gongs and other traditional instruments by
the children. Alternately the older men took over the playing. (Figures 34-36)
Figure 34: government officials at the opening of Summit
Figure 35: children performing dance and musical numbers during the Summit opening
Figure 36: Gov. Dalog sounding the gong to signify the Summit open
After the Summit opening, we had breakfast and went back to the plaza to do some
shopping. At 5pm, the play which was postponed last night will push through today.
(Figures 37-38) However, the waiting took so long again and the show started at 6.30pm.
In the meantime while waiting, a lady approached me and invited me to the Governor‟s
house. I mistook her for someone from the DepEd but she introduced herself as just a
housewife. It turns out she was Mrs. Dalog, the wife of the Governor. We struck up a
conversation, some casual chit chat about her background and the politics that involves
Figure 37: set of the Sinauliyan Theater play
Figure 38: Sinauliyan theater group
The events naturally overlapped, such as the fireworks display at 7pm because by then
the play was just half way through. Those taking videos and pictures were asked by the
director to register for copyright protection. The play ended at 9pm and then we
proceeded to the Governor‟s house. We were met there by Mrs. Dalog who in turn
asked her daughter to take care of us. She was the youngest child whom the Governor
takes pride in saying that she graduated from UP Diliman with an MBA, cum laude. She
is now taking her Law degree from San Beda.
At the Governor‟s house, we were led to the 2nd
floor where a feast was laid out. Mostly
family and friends were there so in the process we had some conversation with the rest
of the family. It was there that I met the son of Governor, who will be running in the next
elections and a cousin who turns out to be the lead vocalist of the band Daluyon.
After dinner at the house, we were transported to the Ridgebrook Hotel in the
Governor‟s car, where a party was being held for local officials and staff. It lasted until
10pm. There was a little ballroom dancing but we missed the performance of some
children‟s indigenous groups who we saw walking on the street after their performance.
April 7, 2009
We set off at 6.30am in preparation for the parade. I walked all the way to Chakchakan,
the road that is right at the entrance of Bontoc. (Figure 39) All groups of children and
adults from the 10 municipalities of Mt. Province were represented. It was going to be a
long and tedious day especially because most of them have travelled early in the
morning or from a day before to get to Bontoc for the festival. They looked tired even at
the beginning of the parade, looking anxious and parched from the early morning heat
of the sun. I spoke to some of them who said that they are indeed tired. They waited for
their turn on the parade and because it was a long line, it took a while for all groups to
strut their stuff. Most of them were bare foot on a hot cement floor, some wearing
uncomfortable costumes such as leaves and bark to cover the women‟s bosom. (Figure
40 - 43 )
Figure 39: The entrance to Bontoc
Figure 40: street dancing delegates waiting to perform
Figure 41: street dancing delegates waiting to perform
Figure 42: women in their organic costumes
Figure 43: men in their organic costumes
The groups performing in the street dancing parade were winners from a competition
held in every municipality during their respective festivals. Each has its own fiesta where
winners get to represent their municipality during the Lang-ay Festival. This is the first
year that children will be included in the parade. There are 5 stations in which these
groups will perform their dance. The last stop is at the Eyeb gymnasium where
participants make a final presentation. (Figures 44-46)
Figure 44: street dancing
Figure 45: street dancing
Figure 46: children's category for street dancing
During the parade, the main highway of Bontoc was littered with crowds of onlookers.
(Figure 47) Traffic management and security was provided by the Mountain Province
police force, but reinforced by a group of women elders called “brigada”. (Figure 48) On
any given night, these women go around the village at night to ensure that curfew is
observed and that young men limit their alcohol intake.
Figure 47: street dancing and parade onlookers
Figure 48: brigade
From my estimate, guests and spectators were mostly form Bontoc and surrounding
provinces. I don‟t think there were very many who came all the way from Manila. The
projected 30,000 visitors did not materialize and if at all, only those who were part of the
official delegation from the 10 municipalities were there to witness the event.
At the last station which was the Eyeb Gym, participants were strewn about in the open
grounds. By now it was around noon and the temperature was getting hotter. This part
of the event must be grueling to the participants. While the rest of the spectators were
inside the roofed gymnasium listening to politicians make their speeches, participants
were left under the sun for hours, waiting for their turn to perform. The contest featured
dances that are tied to ritual practices such as life cycles, planting and harvest seasons,
etc. They were choreographed and executed of course in abbreviated form but I guess
the essence was preserved. The program also featured guest performer Grace Nono
who sang a chant supposedly learned from a Kalinga friend but my informant raised her
eyebrows saying that she lived in Kalinga and she‟s not had heard of anything like that.
Congressman Domogan spoke particularly long and the program that was suppose to
highlight the competition started after a long while. The schedule went beyond 2pm and
everything else had to be moved down. The lang-ay by the Chico River, the fellowship
over meals and drinks followed the street dancing activity. Tents were set up and
everyone was invited to partake of the feast. (Figure 49)
Figure 49: Lang-ay by the Chico River
I on the other hand skipped the village feast and had lunch with my informants, Mrs.
Requino and Mam Jo at Cable Café. I went back to the hotel and rested then went back
to the plaza around 6pm to do some last minute shopping. I also met up with a fellow
researcher from the UP College of Music, Papo who had just arrived from Tabuk from
travelling all day. We had dinner at a restaurant in the Commercial Center then
accompanied him briefly to the restaging of the play at the MP Hall. We ran into some
government officers who invited us to the testimonial dinner at Ridgebrook Hotel but we
decided not to go since it was most likely going to be like a gathering of politicians, etc.
We retired to our room at 9pm and prepared for the trip home the following morning.
April 8, 2009
There are no tricycles plying the route before 6am so we had to take to 7am bus to
Baguio thru the Rising Sun. The driver was unusually slow so it took us a little over 6
hours to get to Baguio. We in fact missed our reservation in the bus who had already
left just a few minutes earlier. Luckily there was another bus leaving in an hour because
of the holidays. But we got caught in traffic and the usual 4 hours took us from 2.30 -
Lang-ay Festival: “Sustaining the Torch of Cultural Heritage”
April 1 – 8, 2013
Bontoc, Mountain Province
Day 1, April 1, 2013: The long and winding road
In the evening of Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, I went to the Victory Liner Bus station
in Cubao at 11pm to board the 12.15am bus to Baguio. I was on my way to Bontoc,
Mountain Province for the Lang-ay Festival.
The ride to Baguio was uneventful, unmarred by traffic which has plagued the main
thoroughfares just earlier in the day from Holy Week vacationers trekking back into the
city for next day‟s work. The Victory Liner deluxe bus was comfortable, with spacious
legroom and wide seats that could recline to a good angle. There was a “stewardess”
on board, garbed in business attire distributing bottled water, a light snack of cupcakes
and chips, and the day‟s newspaper. The bus is equipped with Wi-fi, though traveling
past midnight I would imagine that most passengers would rather catch some sleep
than surf the internet. Before I knew it, I was in Baguio before 5am.
The Victory Liner Baguio terminal was busy as usual, with buses and passengers
arriving and departing incessantly. I had planned to stretch my legs and grab some
coffee before embarking on the next leg of trip. Manila to Baguio was a walk in the park.
Baguio to Bontoc was a bit more challenging in terms of travel comfort. Nevertheless,
after about 30 minutes of relaxing at the bus station, it was time to move again. I
boarded a cab which will take me to the Rising Sun Bus station, located near the Baguio
market. It‟s been a while since I was in Baguio, a pleasant sight was the proliferation of
taxis that were clean and of recent models. Because there was no need of air-
conditioning, the fares were much lower than in Manila. The meter read P57.00.
The Rising Sun Bus (Figure 1) has been a reliable transport for me in the many years that
I have been going back and forth Bontoc. The bus station, typical of most regional
provincial bus terminals is sparse and meager. The buses are old, but I trust are
periodically maintained. Slightly bigger than a mini-bus, it seats about 30 – 35 people.
The bus could easily be bursting from the seams with cargo of merchandise and goods
which include some livestock. The passengers are mostly locals who travel to Baguio
and back to buy supplies, or visit family who are employed in the city. Seldom are there
tourists in the bus to Bontoc. On this particular trip, there were only I think two of us. I
am travelling with Quennie Moreno, my cousin/assistant. The bus leaves every hour
from early morning till noon. I took the 6am bus with travel time approximately 6 hours.
The limited bus schedule is on account of the roads becoming quite treacherous in the
evening because of the low lying clouds. Halsema Highway is the main artery that
connects Baguio to Bontoc.(Figure 2)
Figure 1: Rising Sun Bus
Figure 2: Toll gate exiting to Halsema Highway
Figure 3: Early morning view of the mountain vista
Immediately after exiting Baguio, one‟s senses are assaulted with so many different
colors, smells, textures and sounds. One enters into an unmistakably different zone.
The varying gradations of gray seen in fog covered mountain ranges against a backdrop
of clear blue skies just as the sun was about to shine brightly is exhilarating.(Figure 3)
Vistas of pine tree covered mountains abound and the unadulterated scent of pine trees
while traversing the Halsema Highway wafts in the air. (Figure 4) The sight of lush
vegetation and the feel of cool mountain air gently beating against your face while the
bus plods through the maze of zigzag roads is experienced for hours. Miles upon miles
navigating the zigzag roads can be tough on the body, though impressively enough
roads are now paved with cement throughout. (Figure5)
Figure 4: pine trees
Figure 5: well paved roads
Figure 6: makeshift houses by the highway
Small communities of people with permanent or makeshift houses dot the landscape,
but mostly farmers who are engaged in terrace- planting. (Figure 6) Every town we pass
by has a poblacion, a place where people converge to go about their daily business.
Market stalls, banks, and other business enterprises are found here, as well as a drop
off and pick up station for people travelling to other parts of the province.
After 2 hours on the road, we make a stop somewhere between Atok and Buguias,
Benguet. The restaurant called Northway Sizzlers is a designated pit stop for
passengers to get a quick bite or make a toilet visit. Men usually grab the opportunity to
smoke and stretch their legs. Women with children in tow, bring their young to the
toilets. Some take their meals, and some just wait inside the bus. After about 20
minutes or so, the bus rolls again for the next 4 hours until we reach our destination.
The scenery changes even more dramatically as we approach Mountain Province. One
side of the road, somewhere along the long stretch of Buguias, Benguet are sights of
„terraces‟. (Figure7)Probably not as scenic as the rice terraces of Ifugao, terrace cropping
is nevertheless also practiced in this region for vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots,
cabbages, broccoli, and the like. The cool weather and good soil makes it an ideal
environment for tending crops so the mountainous terrain was no impediment for
planting cash crops. Farmers just carved the terraces to level the planting grounds.
Mountains upon mountains of carved terraces are a testament to the hard work that
went into this endeavor.
Figure 7: terraces
Figure 8: granite walls
On the other side of the road, are walls of granite expertly cut and carved to pave way
for roads. (Figure 8) These huge rock boulders are intimidating, yet one observes that
throughout the stretch of the Halsema Highway, very few artificial barriers have been
erected to stop the landslides. These solid rock formations are magnificent! At every
turn of the road, the rocks presented itself in different hues of red, brown, green,
orange, yellow, slate and beige. Even at the dizzying pace by which the bus navigates
through the roads, and by now the increasingly warm air as we approach noon, one
cannot help but marvel at this lovely sight. As we approach Bontoc, we descend down
the mountains and encounter the Chico River. This river traverses all of the Mountain
Province and is calm during the summer months as we saw today. (Figure 9)
Figure 9: Chico River
We arrive in Bontoc around 12 noon, hot and humid, and hailed a tricycle that will bring
us to our hotel. Bontoc has 16 barangays, one of which is Samoki, where the hotel is
located. Archog‟s Hotel has been my home in Bontoc since 2006. Newly built at that
time, it is still to this day the better maintained lodging facility in Bontoc. (Figure10) More
of a hostel than a hotel, all lodging facilities in Bontoc are called hotels. More expensive
than the others, Archog‟s is clean, safe, quiet and reliable. The rooms are basic and
small, but equipped with cable TV and a hot shower. The bed frame is made of pine
wood, covered with a layer of cushion. There are no air-conditioned rooms in the
Figure 10: Archog's Hotel
Down by the café, one can already have access to the internet thru Wi-fi which 2 years
ago was not yet available. The staff and hotel owner have become my friends. Quennie
and I immediately settled at the hotel restaurant to take our lunch even before we
checked in to our rooms. We were famished by this time, a simple dish of chicken
apritada and pakbet quenched our hunger. (Figure11)
Figure 11: lunch
I chanced upon Grace Archog, the hotel owner and asked about how the opening
ceremonies of the Lang-ay festival went. We had arrived on the opening day of the
festival, but missed the opening ceremonies early morning of that day. She expressed
dismay at how this year‟s festival had been seemingly unprepared. By this time, she
said, the festival should have been in full swing- this being the first day. I suddenly
shared the same feeling of disappointment with Grace, as I remembered how
uncommitted the people were into accepting my hotel booking reservation weeks before
my planned trip. I could not even get an answer as to when the exact dates of the
festival was that I had to call the office of the Governor to inquire. As Grace had
confirmed, the casual atmosphere that greeted us upon entering Bontoc was a
giveaway. There was not much excitement in the air. If I had not purposely come to
Bontoc, one would think that there was no festival to begin with. This being election
year, there were more banners that had the faces of candidates plastered on them.
A quick survey of the place tells me that the people crowding the town poblacion were
locals just going about their daily routine and business. Archog‟s Hotel was nearly
empty. Except for maybe 3 or 4 rooms that were occupied including ours, there was not
much out of town guests. Exhausted from the 12-hour trip, Quennie and I retired to our
rooms and took a nap. At 5pm, we walked over to the poblacion to see what activities
have been lined up during the festival. As customary of provincial festivals, several
socio-civic groups have organized their respective trade fairs to showcase their
products. On the 1st
day, the Agro-Industrial Fair was set up in the town plaza. (Figure12)
The plaza was teeming with people with so many booths scattered about offering food,
regional products and the like. At 7pm, there will be a beauty pageant with contestants
representing all 10 municipalities of Mountain Province. (Figure 13) This year‟s festival
theme is: “Sustaining the Torch of Cultural Heritage”.
Figure 12: Agro-Industrial Fair
Figure 13: beauty pageant
Day 2, April 2, 2013: Off to a slow start
Browsing through the festival program last night showed that except for the Medical-
Dental Mission there were no activities for tourists today. After breakfast and bath, I
decided to see my friend and informant, Mrs. Victorina Requino at her office in Dep-Ed
where she is a regional supervisor. (Figure14) The Department of Education building sits
in a complex that houses all government institutions including the municipal office, post
office, museum, tourism office, provincial library, and the town plaza. (Figure15)
Figure 14: with informant, Mrs. Victorina Requino (R)
Figure 15: Department of Education building
Afterwards, I decided to revisit the Bontoc Museum where a collection of artifacts and
photos from the different municipalities of Mountain Provinces – some donated by the
famous photographer, Masferré can be found. It also has an Ethno Cordillera Library
where one can browse, research and copy articles, books, maps and other literature
about Mountain Province. The souvenir shop sells the usual items of trinkets and bags
made from woven traditional cloth and materials. The outdoor museum recreated a
miniature Bontoc Village featuring their material culture that included traditional houses,
coffins, and other physical structures. Symbols of their sacred culture, as well as
recreations of the Bontoc way of life can also be found here. Entrance fee is 60pesos.
Taking photos inside the indoor museum is not allowed, but the outdoor museum can
be photographed. (Figures16,17,18)
Figure 16: Entrance to the Bontoc Museum
Figure 17: A depiction of a Bontoc wake
Figure 18: Ulog, a house where young ladies sleep/accept male visitors
After the Bontoc Museum visit, I proceeded to walk towards the market and found a
place to have lunch. There are no fancy restaurants in Bontoc, most eateries are of the
kitchenette types that could be found inside the palengke, in hotels, or lined along the
stretch of the main road. A typical meal commonly served and palatable to most would
be a plate of rice topped with fried egg, fried chicken and a small side of sautéed mixed
vegetables. The more adventurous types could try a Bontoc staple called etag (air-dried
pork), (Figure 19) or the pinikpikan which most locals term „killing me softly‟ pertaining to
the way in which the dish is prepared, that is, beating a live chicken to death before
Figure 19: Etag, fresh pork meat cured in salt and left to dry in the sun
I hailed a tricycle back to the hotel at mid-afternoon from the market, which under
ordinary circumstances would be a 5-10 minute walk but it was so hot that day that I
was in no condition to pursue it. Around 4.30pm I walked back to the plaza and after a
quick snack at Dunkin‟ Donuts, the lone franchised food chain in the whole of Bontoc, I
decided to browse thru the different product offerings at the trade fair. I stopped by each
booth, representing all 10 municipalities of Mountain Province: Besao, Sagada, Bontoc,
Natonin, Paracelis, Bauko, Barlig, Sadanga, Sabangan and Tadian. (Figures 20-26)
Figure 20: trade fair booth from Bontoc
Figure 21: trade fair booth from Sagada
Figure 22: trade fair booth from Besao
Figure 23: trade fair booth from Tadian
Figure 24: trade fair booth from Barlig
Figure 25: trade fair booth from Sadanga
Figure 26: trade fair booth from Bauko
The Agro –Industrial fair exhibited farm products from the different municipalities which
range from fresh produce of vegetables, to heirloom rice. The prices however are quite
steep one wonders how people can afford the merchandise. The booths that exhibited
textile range from the usual souvenir shirts to woven indigenous fabric in designs that
represent the different municipalities of Mt. Province. These woven fabrics were
fashioned into different items of tapis, skirts, bags, belts, shoes and other garments and
trinkets. A furniture exhibit displayed items made predominantly out of solid chunks of
wood using traditional craftsmanship of not using nails or ropes to bind the furniture.
Smaller wood products for the home include food trays, hampers, all kinds of basket,
spoons, and other decorative pieces and carvings. (Figure 27-30)
Figure 27: local products being sold at the fair
Figure 31: the shawarma stand
Walking over to the food fair, most offerings were light snack fare. In the afternoon the
place is busy with so many people enjoying a meal with family and friends over
shawarma, which seems to be in fashion here in Bontoc. (Figure 31)
Tomorrow, I will meet with Mrs. Requino to attend her niece‟s graduation from college. I
also got an invitation to judge the choral competition which is part of the festival, on
Sunday. I stayed up till 1am. I couldn‟t sleep. Maybe it was all that highland coffee.
Day 3, April 3, 2013: Of family ties and fostering relationships with the
I woke up at 7am quite grudgingly as I was still sleepy from staying up so late the night
before. I decided to stretch the time in bed a bit and finally got up just before 8am. I got
a call from Mrs. Requino instructing me to proceed to the Eyeb gymnasium where the
graduation rites will be held. I jumped into the shower and decided not to eat breakfast.
We left at 8.30am. We hailed a tricycle going to the venue which is about a 2 minute
ride. In reality however, everything in Bontoc is a nice comfortable walk away except
that it was quite warm and toasty that day.
I arrived at the gym with graduates converging at the open grounds with parents, friends
and relatives in tow. The place was packed with a fiesta-like atmosphere with ambulant
vendors scattered about, selling cold drinks and snacks. There were about 500
graduates that day from the different colleges of the Mountain Province State
Polytechnic College (MPSPC), most of which were from the IT, Nursing and Education
sector. It was a good study in contrast as some young promising college graduates in
togas were accompanied by their elders in traditional clothing as they assemble by the
open grounds and march together towards the covered court area. I was the guest of
Mrs. Requino who had a niece who just earned her master‟s degree in education. The
ceremony ended at past 11am with each graduate being called one by one to the stage.
By this time the temperature inside the gym had gone up to a feverish high. But the
mood was festive, with both graduates and parents beaming with pride, full of hope and
promise that education brings. (Figures 32-35)
Figure 32: at the entrance to the Eyeb Gym
Figure 33: graduates lining up for processional
Figure 34: graduates with their elders
Figure 35: graduation rites
After the ceremony, Mrs. Requino brought us to Samoki where her niece was hosting
lunch. Samoki is one of the barangays of Bontoc, a self-contained village where houses
are in close proximity to one another, separated only by barriers of animal pens found
next to the owner‟s house. Live pigs and chickens are staples of the Bontoc household
as they are important for the observance of various feasting activities and where
butchering animals is required of the Cordillera culture.
During this celebration, the family butchered a pig. Jed, the nephew of Mrs. Requino,
who owns the house and who had just recently gotten married was our host. His house
is new, quaint and clean inside, but the smell of animals waft in the air from being
surrounded by pigs and chicken. We arrived just as they were rounding up the
preparations of the food. Huge vats of food, as well as piles of plates and utensils were
laid out to greet the swarm of guests that were expected to arrive. Quite expectedly, all
the dishes were concocted from the pig that was butchered earlier. Pork adobo,
barbecue, apritada, braised pork and igadu were some of the dishes that I recognized
on the table. On the side were lettuce leaves and cucumber with a thousand island dip,
macaroni fruit salad, green mango salad, spaghetti with sweet tomato-meat sauce, and
cake. Cold soda was also served. Flies were swarming all over the table where the food
was spread. The food was quite bland for my taste. I can imagine, it could be the reason
why no one is fat in Bontoc. All that walking, and all that bland food must do the trick. It
was pointed out to me though that most Mt. Province folks are hypertensive from all the
pork in the diet. (Figures 36-38)
Figure 36: preparing the meals
Figure 37: graduation feast
Figure 38: the boy and his lettuce
During lunch I met some of the guests, including Karl Lapniten (Figure 39) who was a
media person from the Baguio Chronicle. He was covering the Lang-ay and had shared
my observation that everything had been scaled down since Leonard Mayaen assumed
the governorship. As he recounted, during Governor Maximo Dalog‟s time everyone
from the media had a personal invitation from the governor‟s office inviting them attend
the event. He had described this new governor as a snub. In fact, the incumbent
governor has yet to make himself available for the interview with his paper. I in turn also
lamented the fact that no one really wanted to comment about the governor‟s
performance as far as the Lang-ay Festival is concerned. Karl made an excellent point
of saying that everyone in Bontoc is related one way or the other by affinity or
consanguinity which explains why people would not comment about what they dislike
about the governor. Quite accurate actually, as when I arrived, I had asked so many
people about him and they did not conclusively say what they thought was wrong or
bad, or lacking in his governing style. Karl pointed out that this governor has more
issues of impropriety than the previous one. He also shared my views that festival
activities have been drastically reduced and downplayed. Karl told me further that some
people had the impression that Lang-ay was not commercial like the Panagbenga
Flower Festival of Baguio and yet it seems like this is the direction that the festival is
inevitably headed towards.
Figure 39: guests of the graduate, including Baguio Chronicle journalist, Karl Lapniten (4th
from the left)
April 4, 2013: Sagada on a whim
There is still not much going on in the festival as far as tourists are concerned. The
schedule today includes: A Provincial Youth Summit where activities are centered
around lectures about human sexuality, AIDS and gender issues; and a Farmer‟s
Techno Demo cum Marketing Exhibition. After subsisting on fried fish with fried egg,
fried chicken with fried egg, and Dunkin‟ Donuts spaghetti for most meals, I decided to
hop on a jeep going to Sagada where they say lots of good eats are available. I‟ve been
to Bontoc so many times but never had the chance to go its neighboring municipality.
Today was the day I wasn‟t going to let up on the opportunity. My companion, Quennie
and I proceeded to the Walter Clapp building where jeepneys plying the Bontoc-Sagada
route are stationed. (Figure 40) We went around 8am but had to wait a while for the jeep
to fill up. We left Bontoc at 8.30am and arrived in Sagada at 9.15am. The trip took all of
45 minutes, on good roads that were mostly uphill. Interestingly, I met a priest who was
with a group of people from Mindoro. The priest turned out to be a student of Dr. Noel
Racho at Christ the King Seminary, and his team comprised a group of Mangyan
weavers. They were in Bontoc to observe weaving practices and was going to Sagada
to learn more about replicating the business practices of the Sagada Weaving in
Figure 40: the jeep plying the Bontoc-Sagada route
Figure 41: the famous Yoghurt House in Sagada
Figure 42: bestseller, pancake with banana and yoghurt filling
We arrived in Sagada and was greeted with pleasantly cooler air than in Bontoc. There
were no tricycles to ride, just buses and jeepneys that converge at the town plaza to
pick up or drop off passengers. Everything in Sagada is a walk I think. Some quite far
distances actually, but walkable. We ventured to find the Yoghurt House which has
been getting good reviews on the internet. It seemed like a good idea to start out with
that. After a 15 minute walk, we found it. We had breakfast of pancake with yoghurt and
omelette. Typical western fare, but considering how difficult it was to get a decent meal
in Bontoc, it was quite a treat. (Figures 41-42) After breakfast around 10am, we ventured
around town by foot. We stopped by to take photos by of their famous landmarks such
as: the entrance marker, church, and the weaving center. (Figures 43-48) We didn‟t have
time though to visit the caves. After walking around town we hailed a jeep back to
Bontoc just before noon as the last trip going down to Bontoc is around 1pm. After that,
jeepneys stop plying the route. Around this time, the Sagada group who will perform in
the Lang-ay were rehearsing along the main road. Traffic had to stop for a few minutes.
Even the children‟s group were practicing in the poblacion in costumes under the heat
of the sun. (Figures 49-51) We arrived in Bontoc just a little after noon.
Figure 43: A Sagada icon. The bell in front of the church
Figure 44: Episcopal Church in Sagada
Figure 45: church façade
Figure 46: Sagada entrance marker
Figure 47: Sagada local gas station
Figure 48: Sagada Weaving Shop
Figure 49: Sagada mixed-group rehearsing along the main road
Figure 50: Sagada mixed-group rehearsing along the main road
Figure 51: Sagada children's group rehearsing a day before the street dance festival
After having late lunch at Archog‟s, I settled at the restaurant where there is wi-fi and
connected with the rest of the world. I also spent the rest of the day transcribing and
writing down my field notes.
April 5, 2013: Of pageants, dog shows…and interviews with informants
I woke up early and realized that I had retired early the night before. It is 6.20am when I
decided to get up and go down for breakfast, and access the internet. Around 8.30am
we walk to the provincial library to get some information about Lang-ay‟s past programs.
It was a nice library with pinewood furniture. (Figures 52-53) I was entertained by Paula
Tagalen, who was the assistant librarian. She asked another library staff, Alice Afali to
assist me with photocopying the programs in the municipal office but it was closed so
we walked to the commercial area across the street where Xerox is 2pesos a page. I
decided to Xerox only one booklet and photograph the rest. While waiting for the
photocopying job to finish, I interviewed Alice and asked how she sees the Lang-ay
differently from previous years. She said that the first one was really good, most of Mt.
Province came to support the festival but in recent years people came less. It had
become dull and uninteresting, she says. We walk back to the library where I was able
to access the souvenir programs from previous Lang-ay festivals but some years were
missing. The librarian said she couldn‟t find them. I took photos of the ones that were
Figure 52: library staff
Figure 53: library
Figure 54: provincial capitol under renovation
After the trip to the library, I proceeded to the tourism office which is in the same
complex as the Provincial Capitol. It was being renovated at this time. (Figure 54) When I
went up to their office to inquire about the Lang-ay, there was practically no resource
person around. Everybody was busy running around in preparations for the busiest part
of the festival, which was the street dancing. Eventually, I was able to get hold of a
tourism officer, Annie Graal, who assisted me in finding my resource persons. She
contacted the choreographer of the mixed-group for Bontoc, and subsequently
contacted Mr. Bitot also for the Children‟s group.
The choreographer for Bontoc is Ross Cam-ed Jr. (Figure 55) I caught up with him at the
multi-purpose grounds where he watching the rehearsals of the beauty pageant. He had
a half-sister who was participating. He is originally from Sabangan but found work in
Bontoc as a teacher at St. Vincent High School, as a Physics teacher. He is now very
active in cultural activities for Bontoc but his family laments that he should be sharing
his talents instead for Sabangan. Ross Cam-ed Jr. has won many competitions for
The following is a transcribed excerpt of the interview I had with Ross Cam-ed, Jr:
Interview #1: Rosito Cam-ed Jr.
Christine: Did you change choreography this year?
Ross: No. The choreography is essentially the same since we feel it‟s the best. We stick
to traditional dances so that there‟s no need to change.
Christine: Do you think that in some ways, contemporary choreography is infused into
Ross: I stick to traditional since we feel that it‟s slowly fading away. We are conscious of
that. We want to preserve our culture.
Christine: Some say, others (choreographers) are veering away from tradition?
Ross: Maybe others do so, but I try to maintain the traditional steps in my choreography.
Christine: How did you learn to be a choreographer? What is your background? Were
you part of any dance troupe?
Ross: No, I wasn‟t a part of any dance troupe. I‟m a teacher who was just asked to
choreograph the dance during the 1st
Lang-ay. I teach Physics and Chemistry at the St.
Vincent Elementary School. Actually, what I know is the Benguet tradition, but I also
learned the Bontoc dances from watching and observing. Soon I just tried it out. I am
also originally from Sabangan.
Christine: Is there a difference between Bontoc and Sabangan dances?
Ross: Yes. There are some differences: like in the beating of the gongs, and in the use
of certain instruments. For example: in Sabangan we use the sulibao (drum) but in
Bontoc they don‟t have drums. Also in Sabangan, the beats are louder and faster, here
in Bontoc it is soft and slower.
Christine: You won‟t say that this festival is commercial?
Ross: It is not commercial. I saw the one in Baguio and it‟s not the real thing. Let me tell
you about how they turn this into commercial ventures. They try to manipulate the
presentations to fit what they perceive is acceptable or appealing to the audience. It
happened to us in Baguio during the WOW Philippines 2011, where we represented
Bontoc. We were asked by the organizers in Baguio regional to make the beats faster. I
told them NO, we are representing the rhythmic tradition of Mt. Province which is of a
slower tempo. They were insistent so I pretended to agree. But during the performance,
we performed it in the original tempo.
Christine: This is sensitive, but I will ask anyway… the governor is new. When I last
came, it was Governor Maximo Dalog. I noticed that Governor Leonard Mayaen is not
very active with the Lang-ay. Maybe this is just my impression. What do you think? How
is his support?
Ross: Okay lang. It used to be that there were so many activities. Now there‟s an
impression that there are less. Maybe it‟s because they replaced some activities with
new ones so they think it has been lessened, but I really don‟t think so.
Christine: Since when were you choreographing for Bontoc?
Ross: For Lang-ay, I have been the choreographer since 2010, and every year
thereafter. But for the municipal festival of Bontoc called, Am-among, I‟ve been
involved since 2005. I always feature the dances during the agricultural cycle every
year. We just enhance it. The members come from different barangays of Bontoc, and
mostly high school students. The organizers state that there can only be a maximum of
80 performers, so I maximized it.
Christine: There‟s a prize for this right? Does Bontoc win?
Ross: Yes , last year we won. Maybe we have a hometown advantage.
Christine: Can I watch you during rehearsals?
Ross: Yes, we rehearse at the St. Vincent grounds. Yes you can watch the rehearsals
later. The minute you start hearing the gongs, that‟s us.
*****End of Interview*******
Figure 55: with Bontoc choreographer, Ross Cam-ed Jr.
After interviewing the choreographer of Bontoc, Ross Cam-ed, I proceeded to see Mrs.
Requino at her office to tell her that I have already met Ross. I asked who the
choreographer for the children‟s group was and he said it‟s Mr. Ventura Bitot. She sent
me to see him at the municipal capitol but he was not there. I ran into Annie Graal at the
multi-purpose hall and she contacted Mr. Bitot for me, who was then rehearsing at the
Bontoc Elementary School that time. (Figure 56)
I had thought that I was going to find children rehearsing but I found a group of adults
singing and dancing and playing instruments. The children as I found out will no longer
rehearse. This group of is made up of employees from the provincial capitol who used
to be identified as a theater group but recently revamped and restructured to make it a
cultural troupe that performs traditional music, chants and movements. No longer able
to get funding for theater plays as well as members requesting to take a break from the
grueling theater rehearsals, Mr. Ventura Bitot formed the Dayday-eng in February 2013
to replace what was once called the Sinauliyan Theater group. As director, Mr. Bitot
envisioned the group to be a role model in the community for performing cultural
traditions so that the young children can emulate and remember their customs. They
wanted to preserve culture through the performances of chants and dances. This group
will perform a number during the pageant tonight.
Nearly lunch time, the group broke up to go home and prepare for tonight‟s show. I was
asked to see them again at 5pm at the multi-purpose hall when they rehearse with
Here‟s a transcribed excerpt from my interview with Mr. Ventura Bitot, (Figure 57)
choreographer of the Bontoc group- children‟s category and director of the newly
Interview #2: Mr. Ventura Bitot
Christine: Sir, how long have you been the choreographer of the children‟s group from
Mr. Bitot: I have been the choreographer of the Bontoc group since it started in 2005. In
2005 I was actually the director of another contingent, which is Tadian. I am really from
Tadian. I was then a teacher under the Department of Education. At that time, there was
a directive that if a teacher has other skills and talents that he can share to the
community he must contribute those for the good of the province. So they had to get
me, because they thought I have something to give for Mt. Province. They have since
continued to need my services up to this time. I retired in 2010 but they agreed to
extend my services until this year (2013). I don‟t live in Bontoc, I just commute to work. I
stay in Tadian because living here in (Bontoc) is expensive. It‟s 35 km commute but it‟s
cheaper to live in Tadian.
Christine: Tell me about the kind of involvement you have with the children‟s group from
Mr. Bitot: Since 2005 I have been preparing the kids in the community for Lang-ay
Festival. I monitor their preparations through the teachers that I‟ve trained in numerous
workshops. I serve as consultant of dance for the street dancing event of Lang-ay. The
children come from different schools in the municipality, this year they are from St.
Christine: Do you change the steps every year?
Mr. Bitot: The choreography must have a story. The story guides what steps we will
make in the choreography. However, the choreography should be able to tell the story
that ends in the festival so that the dances will always be the same. We consider these
dances as relics of our history. That is what we are trying to protect. We are not
changing it to become a commercial street dancing endeavor.
Christine: Have you observed the other groups? Are they true to tradition?
Mr. Bitot: There are municipalities with a more cosmopolitan culture such as Sabangan
and Bauko. Sometimes changes are evident to reflect the suggestion of others. They
are modified. It is not really wrong. We are conscious of the need to protect our culture,
however I can be contemporary but still preserve ethnicity.
Christine: Where does the strong effort to preserve tradition come from? Is it from the
Mr. Bitot: There are some elders in the community who gives me feedbacks. At least
somebody is behind me. The dance will still be there, it‟s just the choreography that
Christine: How did you become an expert in dance?
Mr. Bitot: I became an expert because I belong to the tribes. I am from Tadian. That is
actually where the idea and concept of street dancing came from before this Lang-ay. It
has been a tradition that on December 30 we have these dances, during a thanksgiving
festival where they prepare rice wine and food, and dance every year. We don‟t call it
street dancing. We call it dancing on the street because it is steady. We don‟t parade.
We stay in one place until we are ready to move to a bigger place for the pattong. It
used to be that each purok has a tradition of dancing in the streets but they‟ve stopped.
I am trying to continue it by organizing theater groups, just to retain what we had before.
Christine: I saw your play 4 years ago.
Mr. Bitot: It used to be active but the members wanted to lie low. So this is the 1st
that we don‟t have a play.
Christine: Does this have to do with the governor‟s support?
Mr. Bitot: I don‟t think so. It‟s the members who wanted to break. They want to do
something new. I do have a group, but we could not present from lack of funds. This
group is now called Dayday-eng. (Figure 58)They sing, chant, rhymes, and dance. We
practice 3x a week. They will be performing an intermission number tonight for the 1st
time during the beauty pageant.
Figure 56: Bontoc Central School
Figure 57: interview with Dayday-eng director and children’s group choreographer, Mr. Ventura Bitot
Figure 58: the Dayday-eng Cultural Troupe during rehearsals at the Bontoc Central School
After the interview with Mr. Bitot, I went out to lunch as well and waited for Ross Cam-
ed to contact me for his group‟s rehearsal. At 3pm I walked over to the Sta. Rita Church
grounds where the group of performers from Bontoc under Ross Cam-ed was
rehearsing. I had a chance to interview the participants. All of them are students of the
St. Vincent School, this year‟s winner during the Bontoc feast, Am-among. (Figures 59-62)
Interview #3: with the boys
Christine: How did you learn to play the gongs?
Boys: We learned how to play the gongs from our community, not from the school. The
style of playing using sticks is called pat-tong, while the beating of the gongs using the
palm of the hand is called top-paya.
Christine: How long did you prepare for this festival?
Boys: We practiced 4 days for this street dancing.
Christine: Have you participated in the Lang-ay before? Or is this your fist time?
Boys: Some of us are new, others have been performing for 3 years already. We were
chosen as the best group to represent Bontoc in the Lang-ay during the Am-among
festival. We will gather around 6am for the festival tomorrow.
Christine: Are the gong beats traditional or modern?
Boys: We use traditional beats on the gong, not modern. But there are groups who use
modern beats. *
*In Bontoc, only males play the gongs. Women dance.
Interview 4: with the girls
Christine: How are you? What is the dance called?
Girls: We are enjoying it. The dance is called pasuk-uy; it is part of the agricultural cycle
which includes harvest, rainy season and planting. The dance is about 5-10 minutes.
Christine: Tell me about your dance:
Girls: Our dances use traditional steps not made up steps. We joined this group as
volunteers. We learned how to dance from our communities. We come from different
barrios and municipalities, but because we study here, we have to represent Bontoc.
After the brief interview with the participants, I left them alone to rest for a while. They
have been practicing barefoot under the heat of the sun for more than an hour, one of
them even collapsed from exhaustion. I was told that before they break up as a group
later, the boys will have to perform the tradition of drawing “tattoos” on the girls in
preparation for tomorrow‟s performance. (Figure 63)
Figure 59: Bontoc mixed group during rehearsals at the St. Vincent School grounds
Figure 60: interview with the young male participants from Bontoc
Figure 61: interview with the young female participants from Bontoc
Figure 62: Bontoc group during rehearsals
Figure 63: customary tradition of men doing the "tattoo" of women
As night approached, I proceeded back to the Multi-Purpose grounds to witness the Ms.
Mountain Province beauty pageant. The place was swarming with people, all eager to
see the contestants. Little by little, guests started to arrive which included the governor
and the judges from out of town. (Figures 64-65) Some I believe were corporate sponsors.
It took a while for the event to start. There was the usual parade in long gowns and
“indigenous” costumes but what I really came to see was the newly formed group of Mr.
Bitot called Dayday-eng who will perform during the intermission. I left after they
performed. (Figures 66-68)
Figure 64: Governor Leonard Mayaen during the beauty pageant
Figure 65: waiting for the beauty pageant to start
Figure 66: Dayday-eng cultural troupe performing an intermission number at the beauty pageant
Figure 67: contestants of the beauty pageant
Figure 68: contestant in costume
April 6, 2013: Lang-ay: street dancing, indigenous games, etc.
The main road where the parade took place was filled with people. But the streets were
narrow and short, the onlookers were mostly from Bontoc, I suppose.
The parade took maybe an hour and a half to finish. I was told that one municipality was
not able to join the parade. (Figure 69-74) There were floats made of organic materials
representing produce from their municipalities. This year‟s beauty pageant contestants
also joined the parade. The costume of the street dancing participants reflected each
municipalities‟ respective cloth design, along with their culture of dance, gong patterns
and chants. They depicted various occasions and events in the life of people from the
Mt. Province such as harvest and agricultural seasons, and other festivities. The
categories were divided into 2: children and mixed group with participants from the
The parade culminated at the Eyeb gym which is a facility huge enough for hosting
events such as this. (Figures 75-78) At the gym officials sat on stage and this being
campaign season they were all visible, but the guest speaker Manny Villar did not show
up. The venue had a good showing for an audience but it was not overflowing as
before. All the participants in the street dancing have to perform their dances once
again, this time on a set stage and with choreography. I positioned myself at the stands,
beside the panel of consultants who were there not to judge but to make sure that there
is integrity in each of the participant‟s performance. This is to ensure that the dances
are not way out of tradition. A report will be made to the cultural council after the
Huts were set up for each municipality by the Eyeb grounds. I was told that this is
already where the Lang-ay (sharing of food and wine) will be held instead of by the
Chico River in previous years. Guests and participants can go and partake of the food
sponsored by the local government. It was just so hot that day! While dancers were
waiting to present their dances before the audience of government officials and guests,
they were by their own respective huts under the sun.
Just before noon, I had run out of batteries so I decided to go back to the hotel to
charge batteries and meet up with Mrs. Requino for lunch at Ananaya‟s. We had set up
an appointment with the research team of Dr. Ramon Santos to go to Samoki, this time
to follow up on the community which I had been documenting for years. It was time to
see what new projects and activities they have planned. As most of my informants are
teachers and culture bearers of the community, I was pleased to know that they have
ventured into writing a Bontoc-English dictionary, a collection of chants to be published
and a songbook to be copyrighted. This group in Samoki where my informants are from
are very active participants in the “preservation” and “propagation” of culture.
At 2pm, we went back to the Eyeb grounds to witness the Indigenous games contest. I
ran into other ethnomusicologist friends from UP and University of Hawaii, Wayland and
Earl. Except for the three of us, together with the people in charge of the event, the
place was empty. No one registered for the event. The person in-charge was there with
a box of live chickens, for a game that included dressing chickens. They were hoping
that someone would come to participate even if no one had registered. We left the place
Figure 69: street dance
Figure 70: float parade
Figure 71: children in stilts
Figure 72: street dance
Figure 73: street dance
Figure 74: street dance
Figure 75: assembly of local politicians and government officers at the EYEB Gym
Figure 76: last station performance, at the Eyeb Gym
Figure 77: last station performance, at the Eyeb Gym
Figure 78: street dancing route
April 7, 2013: Foundation Day: Of more parades and singing contests…
The civic military parade was one I have not seen before as it comes at the tail end of
each festival. Usually a day after the street dancing event, guests no longer stay for this.
This time, I had purposely stayed to see what it was all about. The civil military parade
is an activity that precedes the commemoration of Mountain Province‟s Foundation Day.
Government agencies and NGO‟s are represented in the parade through the employees
who march around the main road of Bontoc with their respective banners. (Figures 79-81)
The route commences in front of the Eyeb gym all the way to the provincial capitol
grounds and down to the steps of the Multi-Purpose Building where a program shall be
held. (Figures 82-85) City officials are assembled on stage, government employees are
milling about, preparing for the ceremonies to start. The incumbent Governor Leonard
Mayaen delivered his speech and this being an election year, took advantage of the
opportunity to win some votes by enumerating all the good things that he has done for
the province. It was also a time to refute all the supposed “wrong” accusations hurled at
him, such as corruption issues and non-support of programs such as the Lang-ay
Festival. In the end, he asked the people to be proud of their province instead of
spreading bad news about it.
Figure 79: Civic Parade
Figure 80: Civic Parade
Figure 81: Civic Parade
Figure 82: 46th Foundation Day celebration
Figure 83: 46th Foundation Day celebration
Figure 84: Former Governor now Congressman Maximo Dalog
Figure 85: Civic-military parade route
Afterwards, I went to lunch with my informant, Mrs.Requino and her staff at Chico Inn
just before the Oratorical and Choral Competition, for which I was invited to judge. It
was a good lunch of black rice and vegetables, fish and meat. (Figures 86-87)
Figure 86: lunch
Figure 87: lunch
At 1pm I proceeded to the multi-purpose hall to judge the choral competition. The place
was full both from contestants of the choral and speech competition. They were in their
costumes. I had read the guidelines set for the competition days ahead and was also
given a copy of the contest piece. To my surprise, it was a Tagalog piece written with
complicated harmonic arrangement. The arrangement was just too western for that kind
of palate. True enough the contestants had a hard time figuring out how to sing or learn
it. There were 2 contestants in the junior category and 4 in the adult category. It was
heartening to see how hard they tried. The Bontoc being the more cosmopolitan group
than the other municipalities interpreted the piece more accurately. (Figures 88-91)
My fellow judge who hails from Bontoc wondered why a Tagalog piece was chosen
when they have a hard time speaking in Tagalog. One of the more fruitful exercises
though was translating the Tagalog text and singing it in their own dialect. Still, several
conductors and observers expressed concern at the choice of piece.
Figure 88: Oratorical and Choral Competition at the Multi-Purpose Building
Figure 89: contestants register during the Oratorical and Choral Competition
Figure 90: Choral Competition contestants
Figure 91: Choral Competition contestants
After the competition, I went back to the hotel and rested a bit. A little while,
Mrs.Requino dropped by to give us camote and peanuts from her harvest, to bring
home. We went back to Chico Inn for dinner, had a chat with the cook and walked
home. It was our last night in Bontoc. I settled my bills in Archog‟s and chatted with the
staff of the hotel for a while before retiring to my room. We made arrangements for
breakfast to be served earlier as we have a bus to catch at 6am.
April 8, 2013: Going home
We left the hotel at 6am without breakfast as the cook was not yet awake. We hailed a
tricycle to bring us to the Rising Sun Bus station. The bus was still half empty when we
arrived, so we were able to get good seats by the bus door. It was suppose to leave at
6.30am but we left at 7am already. Somewhere along Halsema Highway our bus had a
flat tire, but it did not take long for the driver to fix it. (Figure 92) Pretty soon, we were
rolling again. We arrived in Baguio around 1pm, proceeded to the ticket counter of the
Victory Liner to purchase tickets then ordered lunch at the cafeteria. We hopped on a
cab to buy the usual pasalubong at Good Shepherd and attempted to go to the Baguio
market but the traffic was so bad, we decided to go back to the bus station and wait for
our 4pm trip to Manila. The trip just took so long, we arrived at the Cubao station around
The Lang-ay Festival is a joint effort of all 10 municipalities of Mountain Province. As a
local government sponsored event, it enlists multi-sectoral involvement from both
private and government institutions and entities to ensure active participation and
representation from all sectors of the community.
In 2009, some of the major events were from groups which included: the Senior Citizens
and Persons with Disability group for a Cultural Day; the Department of Education thru
their oratorical and choral singing competitions, and the Department of Agriculture thru
their trade fairs, among others. However, elements of commercialism combined with a
need for novelty and a desire to attract the young and the marginalized produced
activities such as: the search for Mr. and Ms. Gay Lang-ay; a pinaka contest, a contest
to determine who has the biggest sized fruit or vegetable, a cooking demo, and the
battle of the bands for young people.
But the street dancing is the biggest attraction of them all. It is the highlight of the entire
week, and attracts the biggest audience and participation. Preceded by a parade of
floats, the participants are assigned 4 stations to perform in. Bontoc is such a compact
community that the entire stretch of the main road where performers are assigned to
stage their dances are not far in between. All throughout, people are scattered about,
positioning themselves at vantage points whichever view is best for them to watch the
dances. Each of the 10 municipalities of Mountain Province is represented in the parade
and street dance, with a delegation that comprises the children‟s group and the mixed
group. It then congregates at the gymnasium where all local politicians and guests are
assembled for a last showcase of these indigenous dances.
The 2013 Lang-ay is not very different from the 2009 festival in terms of program
content. In fact, they never deviated from previous years‟ formula. All of the major
components and elements of the festival in 2009 are still present in 2013. The souvenir
programs can attest to this. However, the biggest factor that affected the tone of the
proceedings was the change of hands in the provincial government. In 2009, as with the
previous years since its inception in 2005, the Lang-ay was instituted and nurtured by
then Governor and now Congressman Maximo Dalog. He graced every event during the
weeklong festivities and was naturally very involved not just with the planning and
implementation, but in ensuring that he had the support of the community and vice
versa. His successor, Governor Leonard Mayaen continued the Lang-ay Festival and its
format but was so far removed from it that his non-involvement was palpable to even a
non-local like me. My interviews with members of the different sectors represented
yielded various reactions and comments or the absence thereof. This in fact is related to
kinship, a value that Bontoc culture puts a high premium on where everyone is related
to one another either by affinity or consanguinity. This web of relationships affect the
way people react to circumstances present in their environment. In rare instances, few
people in the community verbally expressed dismay at this seeming lack of support by
the current governor. Most of the time people choose to say nothing, as this might
offend someone who is related to them. As a collective activity, the people of Mountain
Province embraced this festival to showcase how proud they are of their culture.
Corollary to that is the need to educate the young people about their need to keep
traditions alive and in their consciousness. However, as with any venture that involves
the movement of people and the exchange of goods and services, capital is needed to
churn out the necessary and intended output. This invited a plethora of advertisers who
brought along with them their own agenda, in the process infusing the community with
disjuncted notions of culture and tradition. (Figure 93)
Figure 93: cellular phone companies as corporate sponsors
In its convoluted notions of what it takes to hold on to a past and carry it over to the
present and the future, the people of Mountain Province may have entered a gray zone
where everything becomes defined according to one‟s personal convictions and
persuasions, in the end creating an entirely new dynamic for their consumption of
tradition and culture. As a result, hybrid identities emerge where the old and new
interact with one another, on the surface, looking seamlessly smooth but up close,
bursting with conflict.
Bontoc can be by in itself a study of two contrasting sets of tradition. It seems syncretic,
creating an illusion that everything blends beautifully together to create synergy but this
argument or case can only be made for a specific site, situation and demographic. I
have only ventured into parts of the more cosmopolitan areas of Bontoc like Samoki and
Bontoc Ili, where people are more open to change. Bontoc being the capital of Mountain
Province is a melting pot of so many confluences that it is easy for them to embrace the
external. However, it is not the same for people who are less exposed to the trappings
of the modern world. In the inner villages where transportation is limited and the
exchange of goods are less because of their economic situation, people remain more
attuned to the traditional way of life. These include beliefs, customs, practices and
traditions that were handed down to them by their ancestors.
Nevertheless, the Lang-ay Festival according to the people who institutionalized it (local
government) saw differently and saw it as an opportunity for Mt. Province folks to earn
and be known as a cultural attraction both here and abroad through tourism. This was
clearly stated in Governor Maximo Dalog‟s statement during the 5th
While the supposed benefits of staging this festival include jobs and income, the people
are also very conscious of the need for their culture to be “preserved”. I say this in
quotes as the very idea of staging an event for public consumption removes it from its
natural state and therefore dilutes the purity of the tradition. Appropriation has long
been accepted in theory but in practice it feels different. Culture is a source of pride for
Mt. Province people and some have come to believe that the festival is the proper
platform to showcase such pride. In the end, it became a venue to satisfy their notions
of cultural preservation by including an external audience, which includes the out-of-
town guests who come and patronize this event. They thought of it as an opportunity to
re-create tradition over and over again until it is ingrained in the minds of their young, a
means to continue tradition. However, culture is not meant to be learned in staged
performances. It takes on the role of a ceremonial function, far removed from their
actual way of life, which their elders are still practicing up to this day. It could be framed
not so much as a preservation tool but a means to engage the younger generation in
more dynamic processes that allow them to embrace their culture according to their own
terms. That is an issue that we cannot debate. We who document such activities have
no right to say what is right or wrong, or what is authentic or not. We can only afford to
attach labels such as hybrid, syncretic and nominal identities but in the end, we are just
looking in from the outside. We have labored to put so many theories and frameworks to
explain what their culture means to them, and yet at the most basic level, they are just
people who do not love their culture less, but are dynamic evolving creatures who have
their own appreciation and understanding of their own culture. We can only observe
from afar the many intricacies and nuances that these changes bring, but really, who
are we to say that what they are doing is wrong? Maybe they are going in the direction
that they want. Some may not agree. Culture is never homogenous, it is in constant flux.
It can grow and go towards different directions each with its own set of followers and
believers but can still be conceived as parts of a whole. This is the fate of all cultures as
we move along the lines of globalization and diaspora, of technology and innovation, of
consumerism and capitalism.