THE discussion of the theme “Strengthening Communal Capabilities for Cultural Protection and Appreciating Cultural Richness as Instruments for More Resilient and Peaceful Communities” of the 16th Lang-ay festival during the 56th Mountain Province Founding Anniversary was quite extensive.
Atty. Joseph B. Sagandoy Jr., now the deputy legal counsel of the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel in Malacanang under Juan Ponce Enrile or JPE for short, broadly illustrated his topic as guest speaker in the celebration in his Bontoc hometown.
That part of his talk where he said, the “practice of headhunting was necessary for the promotion of peace” and a “means of dispensing justice and deterring crimes,” brings me back to an unfinished summer class in college.
In one night class, Col. Ibanez, a retired soldier and our professor discussed “détente” (French), a diplomacy term which means the “relaxation of strained political relations” between two or more hostile nations.
Similarly, the practice of headhunting in the past in some way led opposing tribes in this mountain region to design peace agreements called “bodong” or “pechen”. By the way, the term “pechen” or “peshen” appears in the Ibaloy language. Similarly, its application means “hold (your punches)” or “immobilize” or “do nothing”.
The peace pact or “bodong” rules were strictly heeded by tribal members, and nobody had the guts to break the truce without first executing the rituals prior to ending the peace deal deliberately or by mistake, or paying the penalties after.
Comparably, the deals that nations at war agree on try to ease the tension between them, as in the Cold War. With détente, the relationship between the US and the USSR from the late 60s until the 70s, turned warm from cold.
That is true with peace pacts like the “bodong.” The primary goal of each tribe is to attain peaceful co-existence as in the détente process between nations. I am reminded of my teacher who said, all humans think the same way when it comes to peace and security.
Lang-ay speaker, Atty. Sagandoy, the son-in-law of provincial administrator and former Bontoc mayor Franklin Odsey, went on to say that culture as a way of life is “shaped by our environment, knowledge, beliefs and experiences”.
But it evolves as these influencers change while we mingle with other cultures.Then we find out that preserving our culture by holding on to our beliefs and practices may not always be possible because they are no longer useful as we come across new realities.
Although there are values, beliefs and practices in our culture that we Igorots want to protect because these were proven to be useful and beneficial to us. Atty. Sagandoy said, “These aspects of our culture have now become part of our identity”.
He is right. Igorots are peace-loving. Aside from that, we still do the “wat-wat” and distribute meat in canyaos by butchering animals during festivities. That is the case, even while the purchase price of a live black pig is “higher” than the roof of the public market.
But JPE’s deputy further says that the peace-loving trait of the Igorot is disputed by lowlanders because of our practice of headhunting. I believe so, too. That is why he pointed out that ironically headhunting in the olden times was a way of dispensing justice and deterring crimes. Thus, it was necessary for the promotion of peace.
By the way, it should be made clear that headhunting does not just happen for fun or as an ordinary practice of a tribe. It is a collective decision of tribal elders that is executed towards a member of a tribe who committed a punishable crime against a member of another tribe.
As governments were established, part of the old culture has changed. We no longer see headhunting parties as peace and order is being upheld, and justice is being administered. Atty. Sagandoy says it is the innate peace-loving nature of the Igorot and his aspirations to avoid conflicts and violence that must be preserved as part of Igorot culture.
Another part of our culture that should be preserved is the hard-working trait of the Igorot. True, Igorots are used to hardships and they teach their children the value of hard work and discipline early in life.
Another practice which he thinks has helped Igorots is the practice of “og-ogfu” which is the version of “bayanihan” in Mountain Province. While it is practiced all throughout, it is made stronger and more meaningful for Igorots because they practice it not only in building houses and in farming but in helping others in need in some other ways.
President Bongbong Marcos’es deputy legal adviser says, since “og-ogfu” is constantly practiced, it becomes ingrained in the younger generation who pass the trait to their children, hopefully.
Atty. Sagandoy, the cousin-in-law of Dept. of Agriculture regional head, Cameron Odsey, ended his discussion by telling his kakailyans and the audience that as they come to the Lang-ay every year, they should remember that they are not only celebrating the past and present, but more importantly, “we are charting our future.”