November 4, 2010

Burying Our Dead

I am an Igorot. A full-bloodied one at that. I was born and raised in a small town in Mt. Province. I know most if not all of the cultural traditions and practices on that side of the Cordilleras. I grew up to the chants of the elderly, the beating of the gongs and the shouts of the town crier. I'm not going to say that I know the Igorot culture inside out because I don't but I do know a lot of things.

When I graduated from high school, I moved to the city, our beloved Baguio. I've been a resident of this pine-ridden place ever since. And I've been introduced to the culture of other Igorot tribes namely the Benguet Igorot, the Ibaloi and our brothers and sisters down from Ifugao. We have more similarities than there are differences but such differences never cease to interest me.

Since today is Halloween time, All Souls Day, All Saints Day or whatever it is that we call it these days, I'll talk a bit about the differing traditions among Igorot tribes in burying their dead. As I said earlier, I'm from a small town in Mt. Province and as long as I can remember, we bury our dead in a cemetery, following the Christian traditions. I was born in 1986 so I'm still young. Where we buried our dead before the year I was born, I don't really know. I've heard of some caves on the outskirts of town which are supposed to be burial grounds of our ancestors. In fact I've been to such a cave and indeed there are skulls, bones and rotting coffins in there. And it makes sense since Sagada, the neighboring town bury and hang the coffins of their dead on caves. This was a long time ago though and the hanging coffins are now more of a tourist attraction than a sacred burial ground.

Back here in Baguio City. I'm currently staying in La Trinidad which is a melting pot of people. People from the lowlands and Igorots from the other Cordillera provinces call this place their second home. But La Trinidad is Benguet territory so majority of its residents are Benguet Igorots. Now, I've noticed that Benguet Igorots are still practicing their tradition of burying their dead on their backyards. I have a neighbor, a widow whose late husband is buried nearly in front of her house's door step. I don't know if this is a tradition that our ancestors practiced. Could it be that this is a practice that developed only when we were introduced to foreign cultures and influences? There are numerous places in and around Benguet, most notably the caves in Kabayan which served as burial grounds. And I don't think these burial grounds are being used anymore.

To be honest, I have more questions than answers regarding our ancient as well as modern practices in sending our dead to the other side. And it's really frustrating. I'm a full-blooded Igorot man. I've lived in and around the Cordilleras pretty much all my life. Yet I don't know that much about my own culture, my own traditions, my own practices.

[thanks for reading]
[sala-salamat]
[till next time]





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