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CAR’s own ‘branchifying’ festival–versions
by Morr Pungayan


Before the ‘Freedom Constitution’ of 1987, we were witnesses to efforts of government for the soonest and effective achievement of nation-wide ‘Solidarization’ – bannered in the slogan: isang bansa, isang wika, isang diwa. (lit. “one nation, one language, one spirit”). Or, it all appeared: Policy-makers of this Leaning imagined an ‘ideal’, monolingual Philippines – via that Spirit, no matter how elusive; and “Integration into the Mainstream”, be this soonest, within time-frames, or subsequently. Such efforts were indeed massive, and meant to be conclusive, for the ‘Good of all’. So, like the rest of the country, the populations of these Northern Philippine territories have had their share of those milestones and upheavals.

In the Gran Cordillera ranges for instance, the local NPA regulars were at odds with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as were their other co-regulars in the different locations in the country; also, the same Tagalog-based ‘national’ language was expected Acceptance and Use by every citizen; and other uniformities – or else ‘parallelisms!

But as history always writes, the challenges against – as well as the responses to, such policies or ‘impositions’ need not duplicate, nor pattern-after, each other.

In these ‘mountains’ for example, the local NPA had a Splinter – later identified as the Cordillera People Liberation Army or CPLA, headed by one Fr. Conrado Balweg. Expressedly unique about it was that: it wanted to handle ‘special, specific concerns’ obtaining – or that might obtain, in the mountain areas….these later to be known as “the Cordilleras’, collectively.

The Sipat at Mt. Data

The Sipat is an indigenous practice in the semblance of a Peace Accord and it was consummated at Mt. Data, Bauko, to signal among other things: “xxx the cessation of hostilities between the CPLA and the government forces xxx”

Most, if not all, of us Mountain people rejoiced at this Turn of events..”finally, there is Peace” was the prevailing expression; for indeed, before said Accord, were not the tabloids and newspapers replete with ‘Encounter’ accounts – CPLA vs. government forces?

On the part of the CPLA, they were promised – or so it seemed, to play major roles in “keeping the Peace in the ‘Region’ and to continue protecting the rights of the minorities thereat whom, for years they’ve been fighting for.” Further, they were to be included as part of AFP, in the Identity – more or less – of a Regional Security Force (Please note: the present Updates on this matter can best be issued either by the CPLA and/or the AFP; but for purposes of this discussion, the Sipat accord was supposed to be a ‘success’ story, for both government and the CPLA – up to that Point-in-time, wasn’t it?).

These ‘developments’ were fortified later by the Issuance of Executive Order No. 220 by then President of the Philippines Corazon C. Aquino.

EO #220 provided for the creation of the CAR bodies, nl. The Cordillera Executive Board, the Cordillera Budong Administration, and the Cordillera Regional Assembly; plus, many contend: provisions favourable to the then ‘yet-to-be-finalized’ Security Force of the Region.

That was circa post-1986, and government goals for Peace, Harmony, and Security all seemed to usher a great, ascending Success; at least in two respects, i.e. in those chapters of the CAR’s military and political History.

Language, Culture and Society

Taking the same barometer-goals of ‘Solidarization’, ‘Integration’, and the like, for government policies and initiatives, how do we see the ‘outcomes’ – especially in the CAR or Cordillera Administrative Region, whose populations we note, fell enamoured by the often-quoted term “Cordillera” and thus ‘shifted’ somewhat to favour self-reference as: Cordillerans, from the CAR?

Language. Obviously enough, not only Tagalog-based Filipino, or simply Tagalog, was ‘adapted’ to the CAR language areas; in fact, it was adopted and is to this date in a ‘flourishing’ Level of Usage in many Cordi homes.

At first or earlier stage, observers thought the ‘shift’ from Cordi lingua-franca Iluko to Tagalog was just the usual City or Semi-Urban area “jitter” – especially during the Incumbency of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada; but sooner – two decades or so; Tagalog had been making Overruns after Overruns, even in the remotest of Cordi Sitios! Ask the present Cordis: even in Pihpihket, Mapmapao, and Tikitikip.

Ahoy! and Hurrah! must we not thus say to the government goal-setters, whether CAR-based or beyond, for the unmatched overruns of Tagalog-based Filipino?

Culture and Society

Instead of the projected, ‘normal, upright’ Growth, of Culture and Society in the CAR, we have had – and are still having, two other ‘directions’ which we may identify as Branchifying and Twigifying.

The Grand Cañao which ‘flourished’ in the 80’s and before (- many say it was an American middle Regime ‘grand Idea’) was originally meant to get all the tribes together, in one big Show or Festival.

And they did! Not only up to some post-American afteryears, but on to the pre-EDSA ‘Revolution’. Was not the last Grand Cañao held in 1983 at Burnham Park? Then, there was a Lull..almost a decade.

Branchifying. In 1993, Jose Alunan III – then the Secretary of the DILG, was ‘adopted’ as an Ibaloi and given the name of Backdao – a great local hero and hunter whose present-day descendants could be traced in the Southern Cordillera, almost one-third of the population count, in fair estimate..

Apo Alunan was adopted ‘formally’ in a ritual festival known as Adivai. That was the first Adivai ever; in fact and in truth, initiated by the Baguio Ibalois but participated in by nearly the whole of Benguet Province. Years after, that first Adivai of 1993 became a yearly provincial Event of the Province of Benguet.

Meanwhile, when then Gen. Renato de Villa, the AFP Chief of Staff, was raring to run for President, he ‘charismatically’ won the admiration of the Tinoc Ifugaos and he was ‘adopted’ – in similar rites indigenous and given the name Baglao [It appears up to now, no one is interested to know that Backdao and Baglao is one-and-the same name, the same reputed culture hero – except that the first-mentioned is the Nabaloi rendition; the second, Ifugao].

When the Adivai Festival was later held at BSU, and much after, at the Wangal Athletic Grounds, eventually shifting or ‘branchifying’ as a Benguet Provincial affaire, Baguio City leaders, professionals, and citizens were already ready for the founding of the Baguio Flower Festival (now, very established and officially announces its implementing arm as the BFFF or Baguio Flower Festival Foundation).

The ‘Splinter’ (to some at least) triggered as well the ‘Branchifying’ syndrome in the ‘Sub-regional’ or Provincial Levels of the CAR; so that, now: we have the Gotad ad Ifugao of Ifugao Province, the Lang-ay of Mt. Province, etc., - independent and/or ‘distinct’ from the Adivai of Benguet Province. So, all these ‘branchified’ from the Grand Cañao, which we see no more? Do we convince ourselves of the ‘metamorphosis’?

Twigifying. Without shifting Line, we proceed to analyze the socio-cultural Impacts of those earlier, wider “Shifts”.. and it appears there’s no stopping these from sprouting about!

In Benguet Province, after the Adivai had been held at an all-municipality ‘level’, Kabayan – traditionally identified as the ‘Seat of Ibaloi Culture’ – launched its own ‘branchifying’ municipal version dubbed as: the Bendian Festival; even with two major ‘Emphases’: the Mt. Pulag Climb and the [now] nationally-renowned “Bendian’ Dance.

Further, in La Trinidad itself where the ‘provincial’ Adivai is yearly-celebrated, the citizens now, with or through their officials, have a yearly (as well) Strawberry Festival which, undeniably, is a municipally-initiated (though not intended) affaire.

If we further the observations still to a ‘Sub-branch’ or ‘Twigifying’ level, we could see Barangay Tinongdan of Itogon; likewise in Pride of two main ‘Attractions’: the Mt. Ugu Climb and the Peshit in Ikulos – included in their festival which they call: the Ikulos Festival, celebrated usually February, or the first week of March.

Still further, an historical evidence of this Festival “Branchifying’ or ‘Twigifying’ was the Kintoman Festival, 2-3 years ago, participated in by the DATIP (Dalupirip, Tinongdan, Poblacion) barangays of Itogon municipality.

In Ifugao, we too can cite cases of socio-cultural ‘Shifts’ via the Festival “Branchifying’; witness: the Gotad ad Kiangan, the Kulpi ad Asipulo, the Tungoh ad Hungduan and the Banawe Imbayah. Kiangan, Asipulo, Hungduan, and Banawe, are four municipalities of Ifugao whose present Capital is Lagawe – the traditional seat of the provincial ‘Gotad’ or ritual-festival, and so forth. It won’t be long and we shall be seeing as well the per municipio, even per barangay, Festivals – truly unique in their own from original, throughout the whole Cordillera Administrative Region or CAR, in the years, decades (?) to come!

Concluding Remarks

Again, the Question lingers: are these factual Events and upheavals reflective of the CAR’s intended development ‘Goals’ gone detour(s), but nevertheless achieved; or, are they the precipitates of ‘failed attempts’ of Integration into the mainstream, but have found themselves in proper auto-retrospect?

But any which way, as long as the achievement of Success is realized and the Welfare of the Governed is secured, why must we linger for and about the Means?

The government’s success for the overwhelming acceptance and use of Filipino or Tagalog is truly laudable and unprecedented; but we could hardly shower the same praises for the security and political efforts. The integration into the AFP of former CPLA regulars is yet ‘to be fully’ realized (or, has it already been? Don’t search here..but the Media hasn’t said so yet, at least). As of Present time, the CAR bodies – the CEB, the CBA, and the CRA, are rendered ‘inactive’, due to ‘Budgetary Concerns’.

The current venue or arena to test the ‘outcomes’ of government goals and objectives in the CAR is the socio-cultural front; posited in this discussion as largely-reflected in the ever-growing Festivals – Branchifying and Twigifying – in both contrast and parallelisms: from the used-to-be region-encompassing Grand Cañao of earlier Scores and Decades, to the Contemporary local or sub-local versions.

But further and finally – as CAR citizens all: self-engaging in Awareness of these ever-flourishing Festival-versions, we realize at length: that from the first-thought goals of Integration into the mainstream’, Oneness of language, and Unity of the Spirit of Nationhood, we have come to recover along the arduous way our Identity origos, respective! Have, we, not?

Writer’s After-scripts: ‘Branchifying’ and ‘Twigifying’ may bear parallel – but not same – denotative derivations of ‘branching out’, ‘fructifying’, and similar ones; but the connotative import of those festival-versions being ‘brainstormed, planned, designed, implemented’, etc., by the ‘agentive’ sectors of Society, necessitates these terms’ strict and implicative Use and Application in this discussion. Also, I am indebted to Prof. Dr. Joe Alangwawi, for the data-details on Ifugao.
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