May 20, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on April 15, 2018.)

I ought to be ashamed of myself.
Practically all my cousins and other relatives speak fluent Ibaloy, but I only have a smattering of the dialect.
Rather disgraceful for someone whose forebears, together with the great Mateo Cariño, are listed in the history books as pioneers of Baguio.
Migrating from Atok to Baguio, my lolo Quidno and Mateo soon married into Baguio royalty. My lola Kensha Bajateng, Quidno’s wife, was a sister of Wakat Suello and Alumno Kidit, while Mateo tied the knot with heiress Bayosa Ortega.
Later on, both the Cariño and Carantes clans were bequeathed vast tracts of land by the Spanish rulers.

Mateo Cariño cut an imposing figure astride a white horse, only too willing to mix it up whoever cared to debate with him – on any subject. Fiercely protective of the Mateo landholdings, Mateo went all the way to the United States Supreme Court to argue his case against the American authorities trying to grab his land.

My lolo Quidno, on the other hand, preferred moving along the shadows, drinking and gambling even with scum, making sorties to Manila whenever a big race was being held at the San Lorenzo racetrack.
Quidno also gave away properties to friends and neighbors as a favor to them, like the Caguioas and the Dulays.
In sum, Mateo had foresight, while Quidno lived for the day, and let tomorrow take care of itself.

Except for my astute uncle Busa, all of Quidno’s sons inherited his traits, treading his happy go lucky life.
At least his daughters married well – my auntie Cotning wedded Lampaso, Diaz, half owner of La Trinidad valley; my auntie Agumey married a Pilante of Loakan, himself a landowner; my auntie Nenita married rich Walshy Camdas, and my auntie Rosalind married a forest ranger who was a University of the Philippines graduate.
But all that is water under the bridge.
Today’s crop of Caranteses are either still living the good life, or pretending to live the good life.

According to Igorot folklore, Ibaloys are basically shy, (shy ma-ngo), naïve (native without the T), and lack certain social graces.
He is also quiet when sober, rowdy when drunk, perhaps his own way of catching attention to himself.
Yet, it is a source of amazement to me when an Ibaloy – man or woman – dances the tayao, they do so with ease and grace – bouncing, prancing and twirling, like they have wings on their feet and spring in their legs. My cousin, Pura Suello Suanding Molintas, is a delight to watch when she does the tayao.

In my younger years, I once pleaded with my dad to teach me the dialect and how to dance the tayao. His excuse was that my mom was more keen about teaching me Spanish and learning how to play the piano, and he didn’t want to invade into her turf.
But here’s what you should do, he added. This summer, go to Itogon, Benguet and stay with your uncle Cio (Carantes-Fianza).
In Itogon, everybody speaks Ibaloy, not Iloko, not even Pangalatok. So, you will learn fast enough. Your uncle Cio is mayor of the municipality, and he throws cañaos every now and then. Watch the dancers very carefully, and follow their lead.

April came, and with my cousin Pilo in tow, we hied off to Itogon.
We didn’t last a week. What my dad failed to tell me was that Itogon is an oven in the summer, and sleep was impossible.
No aircons in those days, and in cool Baguio, no hardware store was selling electric fans.

Anyway, I was in Loakan last week, attending a three-day cañao hosted by the Dalislis family, in memory of their dearly departed.
Seeing all the animals being brought in, I kidded my sister Alice that should there be a demise in our family, no cows will be slaughtered, no pigs will be butchered, only “galletas” (hard biscuit) will be served to people who will come to pay their last respects – downed with weak tea or juice. Oh, one other thing I noticed, two young Ibaloy girls were banging the ganza or gongs and rather expertly.
Sticking out from the back pockets of their jeans were shiny, black cellphones (the expensive kind).
Who was it that said East is East, and West is West, and never shall the twain meet?
Well, not in good old Loakan. In Loakan, Igorot traditions jibe with modern ways and technology. No more gin, only Double Black scotch. Me? Tapuey is my drink.

But even more painful is my two sons confronting me why they can’t speak Ibaloy and dance the tayao.
Do you know how embarrassing it is, they chime, to carry an old pioneer Ibaloy surname, and not being able to speak the dialect and dance the tayao?
Itogon is no longer an option, my hospitable uncle Cio having passed to the great beyond, so I need to go and see fellow columnist, Morr Pungayan, professor and Ibaloy historian. Too late for me, but not for my kids.
Hopefully, Morr will be able to do for my two boys what my dad didn’t do for me.
How about it prof? As a favor to one who has lost track of his Ibaloy heritage.