Issue of March 26, 2017
Mt. Province

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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The revived Ikulos Dongba and the Makniba

WE REFER IN particular to the Dongba (Horseracing sport, Ibaloi-style) among the Ikulos – especially the populations of barangays Tinongdan, Dalupirip, and Poblacion, all in the municipality of Itogon, Benguet.

SAID POPULATIONS ARE descendants of the traditional Malongbas – horse breeders, riders, and plain horsemen who came to compete in the pan-Ibaloi Dongbas c. 1930s – and before, at Burnham Park, as well as the great Ikulos racing grounds – or Dongbaans, of: pre-war Debköw (now Northern Binga, Itogon); Ambokdöw (Ambuklao, Bokod); Ashaway (now Adaoay, Kabayan); and Dalupirip, Itogon.

AVID MALONGBAS INDEED the Ikulosand Ehnontog Ibalois were, that: in War and in Peace, they held the distinction of the truly ‘diehard horsemen amongst all the mountain tribes’ of Northern Luzon.

ELDER-INFORMANT ALFONSO L. Fianza says “even while the War (WWII) raged on, there were Dongbas in Debköw and Dalupirip”. (Personal Interview, Itogon Poblacion, c. 2004).

AND THIS WAS even strengthened by one of his nephews – the late Trazon S. Fianza who concurred:

“YES, THERE WERE Dongbas – here in Balingway (now Poblacion) mismo. Lolo Caesario (Alfonso’s father) in fact had 16 (?) racehorses which his cowhands pastured in the fields and mountains.

“BUT HIS BROTHER Mariano had about the same number..or more (?).. I was one of the youngest boys who cared for the horses. Sometimes, we even brought them horses of lolo Mariano to compete at Burnham (Park)..

“WE USED TO take the Virac (Itogon) trail..when lolo Mariano died and I was already grown up, my duties with the older cowhelps doubled… because the logical heir of the Dongba tradition in Balingway passed on to my father (Laurencio)’s hands. Personal Interview, c. 2005, Geweng, Tinongdan, Itogon Benguet). Thus

THE ‘NATURAL’ ATTACHMENTS of the aforecited populations continued – but perhaps ‘decreasingly’, to President Ramon Magsaysay’s time (n.b.he dined with the kinglet Fianza in Dalupirip; he was escorted in, from: Twinriver by horsemen, etc., the Oral Historians say), to the turbulent years of pre-Martial Law, during Martial Law itself, and even after; until:

IN 1982, the last two Dongbas were held: 1) in Dalupirip – that was a March (?).. and the ‘fading’ reasons: a) there were not as much racehorses to compete; (b) only a few nearby localities came with their horses e.g. the Daklan (Bokod) Malongba contingent did not come; and

2) IN BINGA, ITOGON – June 1982 but also: ‘not as grand as it used to be’, during the time of Kapitan Morihei..because only the riders of Banao (Ambuklao) and Pitican (Tinongdan) came to compete with the I-Binga horseriders (sons or descendants of pre-and post-WWII Debköw Malongbas).

MALONGBA TONG-AG OF the Adonot and Daklan delegation offered two of his racehorses to be matched, but the men of Pitican and Binga both declined saying Tong-ag’s Makabayo (rider and breeder) father, Mesdag, was ‘their close relative’ and they deemed it awkward, nai egwel, to accept Tong-ag’s offer.

AFTER 1982, there were no more Dongbas or horseraces in Dalupirip, as well as in Binga (vice the 1960 dam-inundated Debköw Dongbaan). And how about in Balingway or Poblacion.

PRINCELY FAMILY SCION Alfonso L. Fianza estimates “~must have stopped in 1935 or preference of the Dalupirip grounds”, Ibid. His late cousin – AmaAntino F. Carantes, corroborates this info, and adds, “but the Dongbas in Dalupirip and Debköw continued even just after the Liberation (1945-early 1946).”

BOTH DONGBA TESTIMONIES of Fianza and Carantes are fortified by Today’s Balingway Informant, Engr. Lons T. Cornel, who says: “that’s known here and in the barrios (Dalupirip and Tinongdan). I used to hear those same versions from my uncles Sendo (Rosendo) and Carpio – even from lolo Alvaro and other Dalakais of Itogon”. Personal Interview, Binga, Itogon, March 20, 2016.

SO, THE HORSERACE tradition was “lost” for 69 years in Balingway or Poblacion, and “lost almost” as well for 22 years (1982-2004) in Dalupirip and in Binga (Tinongdan), but

IN 2004, MAKNIBA (Maksil ni Ibaloi) Elders W.S. Woolery, Mauchi Sanggoi, Q. Simon Jr., Obag Calado, Erin Balbines, etc., brought some Pacdal and LT horses to Tinongdan – then, to Dalupirip – then, to Poblacion; discussed, argued, and co-reminisced with the officials and Dongba aficionados thereat, and presto:

THE IKULOS DONGBA got revived! It is still a much-alive, revived(!) practice – i.e. in Dalupirip and in Tinongdan. Said Dongba is now one of the ‘main events’ during their Barangay Fiestas, respective. Although it ceased to be (again!) in Poblacion in 2006 (?). But so,

PEOPLE WONDER: ARE the Makniba Elders’ names – ever read or cited, during the Opening (or Closing) rites of each revived, Horseracing or Dongba match thereabouts?

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