December 7, 2023

Growing up, my curiosity always pushed me to ask questions. Most of the time, I was left at home with my father. What I loved about him was whenever I have questions, he would always have the answer or at least try to give an answer when he had little to no knowledge on some of the things I was asking about.
Raised in an Ibaloy household, I have learned so much of our traditions through my father. And though he took us to live near the city, he never failed to let us learn and be appreciative of our culture. My father may have died eight years ago, but there is so much he left me that when I look at these things, I would always smile and think about how I came to know about it because of him.
I remember when I was eight years old; it was the time my grandfather died. It was the last day of the funeral and all of the family members were asked to stay in front of the manbonong. Young as I was, I could not understand what we were doing. I saw the manbonong pick up some reed, that with sharp-edged leaves. He dipped it in the water and waved it over us. I almost freaked out when I felt the cool water sprinkled over my face and my shirt. I looked up to see my father. He smiled and gently tapped my head. I wanted to ask him that instant why were we doing that but I decided I had to keep my question until we’re home.
Two days after my grandfather’s funeral, I asked my father my question about the sprinkling. He told me that we call it siling/aremag and explained that it is done during the last ceremony of funeral rites. I then learned that what the manbonong used in the rites was called sapsap and that it has many uses in the Ibaloy culture.
Father said that the green leaves are used as butchering mats or apay during ceremonies. It is also used as porong on community assets like the forest or water sources or as protection for the grains. Aside from that, it is also used for when a woman is having difficulty during childbirth and as a protection after delivery. The mature leaves are also used as peded or roofing materials for traditional homes.
From then, I started to look at things differently, amazed at how nature is vital to our culture, how interconnected we are. And so back then, whenever I and my father go to the garden and pass by the many sapsap on our way, I look at these tall reeds with sharp-edged leaves and think of how important they are to us, to me.
Recently, I got to visit my province’s eco farm and was lucky enough to take a tour around. During the tour, I was able to spot some sapsap growing around the area. I looked up to the sky and smiled.