February 27, 2024

Honestly, I’m somewhat restless with the fact that I never witnessed the Dongba Ni Kavajo (Ibaloy for horse racing) during the Adivay. This year is special because I had the opportunity to finally watch the excitement. On top of that, rodeo games were to be officially presented to fellow Benguet locals and visitors for the first time in accompaniment with the customary horse races.
The “Benguet Rodeo and Dongba Ni Kavajo” was held at Wangal, La Trinidad on Nov. 16 and 17. While watching with the cheering crowd, I was reminded of an animated movie titled “Spirit” where an American Indian tried to bond with a mustang (wild horse) in pursuit of his dream of riding it someday.
That man attempted to put a halter and saddle on the mustang just days after saving it from a harsh living environment. Of course, the mustang was still far from giving the man a ride. He took the time to know the horse and let the horse be familiarized with him and his community’s way of life.
Eventually, trust was established between the man and the mustang. Only he can ride that horse. And I can’t help but think that similar scenarios like these may have occurred when our ancestors first encountered horses in the Cordillera.
And so when one is mindful enough while watching Benguet Rodeo and Dongba ni Kavajo, a rider who knows his horse usually performs better and achieves greater results compared to a contestant who is practically strangers with his horse. This just shows that horses are analogous to us humans in having distinguished states of mind that can be influenced by others and by the environment.
This is why animal welfare is such an important aspect when working and living with animals in line with their intended purposes. With a horse, one may better relate to it when one tries to ride one. Take courage and experience being on higher ground while mounted on such an astonishing creature.
While many were having adrenaline rush watching horses do what they do best during the kavajo event, I was daydreaming. As the galloping sounds of the running horses rode the cool wind, the green mountains viewed from the vicinity were seemingly asking for my attention – telling my heart that there are Igorots in bahag, some on horseback, still patrolling our ancestral land as we celebrate Benguet Day. Man-adivay ketjo!