May 24, 2024

Church bells are sacred. The sacredness springs from its function in the church and in the community. Being a public use and a public signal, the ringing of bells is indicative of warning, urgent attention, call, time, and above all, prayer.
In Bontoc, Mountain Province alone, the Sta. Rita Church bells have been useful for centuries and until now.
The original bells were brought by the CICM missionaries when churches were built.
The ringing of bells with particular counts and speed have a meaning – like warning bell for structural fires and emergencies, first bell and calling bell and bell to start the Holy Eucharist, or any church activities consecration bell, Angelus bell.
“Unyas” is a bell ringing that announces that somebody died or to be buried. However, it is sad that the Sta. Rita Church does not observe it anymore. “Domdomingo” announces that it is Sunday. Angelus bells indicate that is time for prayer at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.
When Angelus bells are rung, people even in public places stop or pause to pray. It was such a beautiful gesture of spirituality. People are brought to prayerful silence.
When bells are rung in a very unusual way like fast ringing, it meant emergency like fire or accidents or earthquake. People are brought to attention.
The ringing of bells is a big help in the church and communities. This is one of the reasons why I was never in favor of the public siren installed at the provincial plaza that eventually became a public nuisance. Worse, it disoriented the mindset of people on warnings and emergencies.
Schools and government offices make use of bells too to indicate time.
Bells are not rung anytime. They are sacred and hence, they are respected. Bells are an important element of our faith.
On the other hand, are gongs sacred?
I must reiterate utmost respect in the use of the gong. The gong is an important element of our culture. It is still considered a sacred item among indigenous peoples even in this contemporary world and digital culture.
Gong beating signals rites and rituals with corresponding values and beliefs. It tells about feelings too, may it be festive, grief, or anguish.
Gong beating can manifest one’s way of feeling, way of talking, and celebrating.
The gong is still considered a sacred instrument in the contemporary world. Being sacred, the gong solicits and imposes respect and a rule.
Nevertheless, it has been an observation that gong beating has become a public disturbance or nuisance especially when performers practice and prepare for a particular festival.
It is a contemporary development to see the youth and children being immersed in gong beatings coupled with dances. Our generation today learns from encounter and experience.
The sad part is, gong beating has become ordinary. Worse, gong beating became a public nuisance and public disturbance.
Before the expected provincial and municipal festivals to include the schools, serious preparations and practices are conducted.
In Bontoc, the provincial plaza became a center for practicing. It is good that they gather and practice. Practices, however, are taking place almost every night and for long hours.
Some performers make fun of the gongs along the way, disturbing the night and the people resting.
Maybe, education on gongs and gong beating is not sufficient for the youth today to understand the values and value of cultural items.
The bigger irony is that some couples and families in Bontoc are deprived of the gong beating and dancing due to cultural rules and yet other people are freely beating the gongs and dancing everywhere, even misusing them.
I recall mentioning several times and finally writing Provincial Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Thomas Tawagen regarding the issue and its impact to inform the provincial government on the danger of desecrating and vandalizing the gong; the devaluation of the gong; and the possibility of disrespecting the gong and making it an ordinary item of this generation.
The bell and gong beating must be given serious examination and study by the elders, government, and the church.
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