June 2, 2023

THOUGH AT TIMES – or many times, the Ibalois of Itogon are referred to, in general, as: Ikulos i.e. together with the Ibalois of Kabayan and Bokod; or Ivadoi, together with those in La Trinidad, Atok, Sablan, Tuba, Tublay, and part of Kapangan, they’d rather sometimes refer to themselves as Kait ta Ilespag (lit. “fellow Southernstream dweller”); or, simply Ilespag (lit. “Southerner”); or even Kulos or Kulos ni shanum (lit. “[living] by the riverbanks”, i.e. of the Agno River).
AND FUNNY TO some of them and others, these special or ‘distinguishing’ references come out during conversations, or occasional storytelling, or even formal or ‘serious’ narrations. But
OUTSIDER OR NOT, you’ll agree that indeed, these Itogon Ibalois of the Kulos have many practices, beliefs, traditional codes (of behaviour), etc., peculiar only to them.
ONE OF THESE is the Man iisding. Literally, and in general, this could be seen as funny – or maybe: not even a ‘safe-behaviour’.
BUT ITS APPLICATION specific among the Ilespag or Itogonians is different. I went through this – some rare times, as a child (meaning before-school age) and let me relate:
IN A CAÑAO – or feast, big and/or small, after all the rituals, offerings, and butcherings of the sacrificial animals, you and I know, they slice some parts of these – into chunks like the size of an adult’s clenched fist.. bigger or smaller, and these chunks of meat are given raw to the people – the number of chunks depending upon how many members are there in the household.
EVEN THOSE WHO didn’t come to the Feast or Cañao shall receive their ‘share’. This raw-meat share is called Apag or Afag.
IF THE FEAST is a big one, or not so many people came to attend, and from the boiled or cooked parts of the meat, there are extra – asobda, chunks unconsumed, the hosts or officiators, give and/or distribute – still to those who came to attend or participate. This in-addition sharing is called Watwat or Gwatgwat. “So, the Afag is different from the Watwat?” You may ask, and our answer is a definite Yes!
ALL HOUSEHOLDS WITHIN the Kaapagan areas/communities are (sort-of) ‘entitled’ to be given the Afag, but only those who attended may receive a Watwat, in addition Note:
[SOME OBSERVERS, IN or out of the culture, liken the Watwat to our Contemporary English term of ‘token’. Maybe so. But sometimes, however, others tend to mistake/interchange reference of the Watwat with the Afag – which is much like an ‘entitlement’ and is there/or required and/or expected’, unlike the ‘token’ Watwat].
NOW, TO MY childhood experience of Man iisding before we get mixed-up ourselves with the term-and-applicationn differences and idiosyncracies, from one settlement area to another.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE I can easily remember: small-slicing time – penadtad, by the men with big knives or ‘bolos’ around the Afay or reedplant ritual mat.
EVERYBODY IS WATCHING.. minutes more, and it is almost finished. Some of the men were already putting back their knives inside the sheaths. Children one, two, or three were at the back of some of the men-slicers, and were already given three or four of those small slices or tinadtad, and were now chewing.
TWO MEN – ONE after the other, were motioning me to come near them. The old women were saying to me: go! they’re calling you (since I was looking at my back trying to see if there was somebody – or a child there. There was none. So, to the two men I went near. And they gave me some of those tinadtads they were holding! Whoa!
WHEN I WENT home and told my mother the story, she said: “that’s right. Don’t just stay at the back of the Menadtad (the man doing the small meat slices).. unless they call you. The children you saw there were the daughters or sons of the Menadtads. They call that Man iisding. Since you have no more father (he died when I was three or so. GRhs, God Rests his soul), better avoid being in a Man iisding. If my brothers – or your other uncles tell you to come, you may. But always: only when they say Kala! (Come!), oh?” ‘Yes, my mother, owen Nanang’, I replied.
I DID ONCE (or twice?) more the Man iisding I can’t exactly remember who were the kind Menadtads, who motioned “Come!” to me; most likely relatives, as my mother counseled.. but so solemn, they’re all now part of my childhood memories! Ayo, Ayo, Ino!