Having conducted actual interviews among Igorot elders from different tribes, it is surmised that common to these community activities are rituals performed to commence a specific activity and start another activity - whether agricultural, socio-economic related or events in the life stages of man. Just like other Igorot tribes and other indigenous peoples, starting a grand activity used to be launched with a series of rituals within a ceremony.
Among the Kankanaeys of Benguets, a specific documentation of short and simple but significant rituals is the paypay and peg-as. This researcher was a participant-observer when the rituals were performed. Accordingly, the paypay, as a short closing ritual, is performed at the graveyard before burial and the peg-as is performed outside the home of the deceased immediately after burial, before the people disperse.
The paypay and peg-as were performed on July 14, 2008 after the burial of Luciana Sarlipan, who died at age 72. She had a lingering illness for which she was confined in the hospital since March 2008 until June 27, 2008 when she died. She was buried in their family farm lot after 18 days of wake at their home in Bua, Itogon, Benguet. The family members of the deceased are all advocates of Christianity who did not favor any Igorot cultural ritual to be performed during the wake. However, for certain reasons, the family allowed the performance of the paypay and peg-as.
The elders who performed the ritual confessed that they would feel uncomfortable and guilty if they did not perform the paypay and peg-as, considering that the said goodness or consequence of such rituals are not for the family alone but to be shared by all who participated in the burial. The elders said,“Inayan baw iman no adi mi ikkan yan nawawada kami. Paggawisan met iman din pamilya ya din am-in ay inmali.” The elders expressed that performing the ritual with sincerity and persistence is grounded on their faith that there is a Supreme Being who responds to the prayers for the good of the family and the people as well.
Those interviewed were the elders who performed the rituals: Jose Esteban from Bua, Itogon, Benguet and Federico Marquez from Mankayan, Benguet. Jun Alingcotan, who traces his roots from Bagnen, Bauko, and Besao, Mountain Province, acted as the validator during the interview. He is now a miner and has been living as a migrant in Mankayan and Itogon, Benguet. For a better grasp of what the elders were saying, he explained the parallelism of the rituals with that of the Aplais in Mountain Province. The prayers were recited for almost 20 minutes making an account of Kabunyan’s journey.
The Peg-as Ritual: Its Features
Purpose and Procedure
The peg-as is a closing ritual of the wake to signal the beginning of life anew among the family of the deceased. Specifically, the prayers are directed to God Almighty (Kabunyan) to:
1. Bless the food so that anyone who partook of the food prior to the burial and all others who will partake of any other food may not suffer from any discomfort but use the food for nourishment;
2. Rebuke any bad spirit, who may be around, to leave the place and welcome the good spirits to mingle with those present;
3. Spare the bereaved family and everybody from sickness and other misfortune and
4. Have the strength to live on for abundance and prosperity.
1. A basin of warm boiled guava leaves for washing hands,
2. A basin of clear water for its cleansing effect,
3. Elongated green leaves bundled together as a symbol of God’s creation and
4. A bowl of sliced pieces of meat, which is mixed with thinly sliced ginger, rice wine particles and a little salt.
When all those who attended the burial at the cemetery arrive, they wash their hands with the boiled guava leaves. The used water is thrown away to prepare for the peg-as ritual, where the materials are placed in a conspicuous place that all those around would face.
1. Three elders are seated facing each other and the first elder says the first prayer of the series of prayers (bunong) such as the legleg, sabosab and sedeyan. The second elder recites the second prayer and then followed by the third elder. In the case of the Sarlipan wake, there were only two elders competent to perform so the first elder recited the first and second prayer.
2. An elder soaks the bundled green leaves in the basin of clear water and splashes it to all the people around (wasawas) as he recites the prayer of sedeyan.
3. Disposal of the bundled leaves. The bundled leaves are stuck in a fence or tree a few meters away as the elder says a prayer addressed to the Almighty. Prayer: “Ikaan mo din buwisit ta eyey mo ad baybay.” (Carry with you all misfortune out to the sea.)
The Prayers: Description
Leglegan Prayer: This accounts how Kabunyan, a deity, came down to earth through a long, long journey guided by his father, God in heaven. In Kabunyan’s journey, he dealt with forces of nature like ‘dakedake di bab-a na, dakedake di kalina (referring to lightning and thunder) and katagowan din ipugaw (referring to water and plants). The prayer narrates how the first peoples of long ago were taught to perform rituals. These were later passed on until the present event (like that of Bua) happens such that peg-as has to be performed to acknowledge Kabunyan’s teaching. It is also an opportunity to request for Kabunyan’s blessings to be shared by the family to everybody around.
Sabosab Prayer. The prayer narrates the offering of the sliced meat mixed with ginger, rice wine particles and salt as a symbol of God’s blessings to the people for sufficiency. It narrates a story passed on to them that long ago, Kabunyan came down to earth after a famine and performed miracles as he built rice fields and dropped a panicle to be planted in the rice field. The mixture of sliced meat, ginger and salt are symbolic of the people’s blessings from the Almighty. With His blessing, any other food they partook of or will partake of will be good for their health.
Sedeyan. The prayer is said in the process of disposing the bundle of leaves. It is a request for protection of the people from evil spirits and announces the end of the period of the wake and start of a new event. The prayer acknowledges the clearness of water for cleansing purposes, as the elder says, “Maibnong ta mangsedey ta mateb-ayan di inmali ya maikasiw da aslawlawa.” It is to rebuke any bad spirit around and request that the blessing of the Unseen be with every attendee. It is also a request for all attendees to be spared of anything bad as they return home.
1. Symbolism is evident through God’s creation as in the water for cleansing through the power of prayers.
2. Faith in the power of the Unseen is manifested in the people’s adherence to the ritual.
3. The ritual is procedural following the preparatory prayers to set the spiritual mood of the people, the splashing of water for cleansing and blessing, and the closing prayer with the disposal of the symbolic bundled leaves.
4. The ritual manifests the tenets of a prayer, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Except for confession, the legleg exhorts and adores Kabunyan’s power as the source of all things. The sabosab gives thanks for the water and food. The sedeyan requests for good health, for a better life after the death of a family member and for all misfortunes to be thrown away to the sea.
This is the ritual performed at the graveyard before the coffin of the dead is entombed or buried.
It is to drive away the spirit of the living and those who worked there and might have been left in the graveyard. It is believed that spirits tend to dwell in places. So for safety reasons, the spirit of the living should be admonished to leave the place intended for the dead. This is performed before the remains of the dead are laid to rest.
Procedure: The Chicken and its Significance
The live chicken is used for the ritual and is symbolic of its ability to crow for the spirits of the living to leave the place. An elder holds the chicken by its two feet and is made to crow as it is turned or twirled around the graveyard saying a prayer as this: “Lawitan as kawitan ta kok-owanay nataynan as ab-abiik di ipugaw ay nin usok onno nin galgaldin ya kumaan kayotay nay di natey ay mang-ebbey.” (The chicken is here as you hear it crow. Should there be spirits of those who are working, mining or gardening here, you are commanded to leave because the dead is here to dwell in it.)
Lawit (Mangtugup) as an Acceptance Ritual
It is to bring together all relatives once again to reflect on things about the past wake, before each goes back to each one’s normal activities.
Just like the paypay, the lawit is performed inside the home of the deceased, a day after the burial. A pig is butchered and chicken as pidpid (accompanying sacrifice). Prayers are recited to call all spirits of the living and the dead for the acceptance that the dead has gone to a life beyond and that the ngilin (mourning for the absence of the dead) starts from a certain specified period for there is time for everything - a time to mourn and a time to rejoice. Plans may also be done as to the next gathering.
Analysis of the Rituals and Recommendations as Perceived
Upon observing the ritual, the sprinkling of holy water in church comes to my mind. Likewise, if death is an event that happens in order to go to the Lord, as always preached, then there is the sense of performing the ritual to end an event and start another, since life on earth is going through a series of events.
The symbols and belief in the spirits of the living left behind is a manifestation of the power of the mind. On the elders’ statement that they believe in the significance and necessity of the rituals, this is anchored on their Total Mind Power. So, having performed the rituals with sincerity and faith, they see its effect on them.
In my perception, there is nothing wrong in performing the above-mentioned rituals. However, the prayers should be made more relevant to the event with the congruence of prayers, from the opening to the closing, all addressed to God Almighty.
*About the Author
As a tribute to Caridad B. Fiar-od, we included her biodata, even if it already appeared on the ICBE website. Caridad gave much of her time to the research in the magazine, “Cordillera Rituals as a Way of Life.” She attended several of the ICBE consultations and contributed articles for the Proceedings. (Editor. 17-04-2021)
Caridad Bomas-ang Fiar-od is a retired Vice-President and College Professor at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College in Bontoc Poblacion, Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines.
After retirement, she was hired on job order by the former Governor Maximo B. Dalog (now Congressman) as Executive Assistant on Cultural and International Affairs from October 2008 to June 30, 2010. Then in March 2011, she was hired by Governor Leonard G. Mayaen as Executive Assistant to coordinate and facilitate external affairs (Medical Missions, scholarships, donations overseas, etc.) and research-related activities. She was Chairperson of the Scholarship Program of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) and Chairperson of the Association of Retired Mentors of Bontoc.
Prior to her passing away due to a lingering illness on November 17, 2013, Caridad worked as an insurance agent for Philippine American Life Insurance (PhilAm Life) for about two years. Due to the numerous persons she insured, she received a gift, which was a trip to the US in July 2013.
Caridad was born in Besao, Mountain Province on August 1, 1946. She finished her secondary education at the Mountain National Agricultural School (MNAS that later became MSAC and then BSU). For her college course, she studied at Mountain State Agricultural College (MSAC now BSU-Benguet State University) and graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Homemaking.
She taught for a year at the All Saints Mission Elementary School in Bontoc Poblacion, Bontoc, Mountain Province and transferred to Banguitan Elementary School in Besao, Mountain Province. While teaching in Banguitan, she pursued a Masters course at BSU and finished in 1981. She also graduated from BSU with a degree in Doctor of Philosophy, Major in Educational Management with minors in Rural Development and Agricultural Education.
She is a staunch advocate of the Igorot culture. As such, she has been invited as guest speaker to conferences of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) in the US and Europe.
As a seminar lecturer, she had several opportunities to lecture in various conferences, symposia, training and seminars related to Agricultural Education, Human Resource Development, Professional Ethics, Leadership and Management and Teaching Strategies.
As a writer, she wrote 14 books from 1999 until 2011. Her first book is “Besao Traditional Knowledge on Spiritual Beliefs: Its Contribution to Sustainable Development.” One of her last books is a memoir, “Living the Igorot Culture: A Legacy.”
She got married to Teresde (Terry) Forawan Fiar-od, a native of Barlig, Mountain Province. Terry died on December 14, 1999 and left Caridad with eight children to support. With six children-in-law, she is a grandmother of nine grandchildren.
Caridad is an Igorot, and belongs to the Galeled clan of Besao and Manengba clan of Sagada and Besao, Mountain Province, Philippines.