By Jude C. Baggo
IFUGAO mountain villages have their playgrounds called tah-angan. These grounds are the happiest areas in the villages. Children gather in the morning to play games before going to the rice fields and in the afternoon when they come home from work.
In my village, the ground can be empty during the day. One can only find domestic animals sunbathing and scratching the ground for food. The ground starts to come alive when the sun sets on the mountain ridges.
During the full moon, children stay here until their parents call them. A lot of games can be played here that can be participated in by all. Sometimes parents choose to gather at the sidelines and talk about life while chewing their betel nut.
In between agricultural cycles, people gather in the ground to discuss and talk about anything under the sun, including community plans that are decided here.
Another interesting fact about this place is that it is where all weddings in the village have taken place. This is the only flat ground that can accommodate a large number of people.
Locals have their joke about this, “Dakol met patad mi ngem nun kidangkig. (We have flat lands but most of it are 90 degrees in slope.)”
The ground is also where politicians make their promises. Some promises have been fulfilled and others have gone with the wind.
But time changes, and with more of the young people having left the village, nature then has started to reclaim the very ground where childhood memories were made. Also with children getting hooked more and more to their gadgets, the ground is left alone even more so.
Soon, trees may grow on this ground and community memories will be buried.
But in recent years, a few young people have chosen to stay and build their families in the village. This is a promising development for a village that has witnessed the diaspora of its people for greener pastures. The abandoned hamlets and rice terraces are some examples of the impacts of outmigration. This has been the trend since the 1960s.
With the remaining families and the addition of new households, there is hope. Soon, a new generation of children will run on the ground, feel the air, and create lasting memories that will bind them together.
It is my prayer that my village children will value the spirit of community life and the importance of growing up with peers and developing a support system among themselves. The current situation even dictates the need to develop a strong psychological foundation in order to cope with its impacts. The tah-angan is one way to promote community solidarity among children.
As the elders say, happy children reflect a safe and happy community.