July 23, 2024

An estimated 20,000 individuals joined the revelry during the 122nd Benguet Foundation Day on Nov. 23 at the Benguet Sports Center in Wangal, La Trinidad.   
The last time the event’s highlight, also marked by the month-long Adivay Festival, was this vibrant was in 2019, as people from the 13 towns of the province joined the festivity. Then the pandemic halted the in-person celebrations for two years.
At the BCS field, a circular corral was filled with pigs where participants from the 13 towns caught their own swine during the depap (pig catching). While young and old watched them with their camera phones, each representative wrestled with the pigs and bounded them for the owik (butchering).
Prior to the owik, the participants lined up their catch to allow officials led by Gov. Melchor Diclas, Vice Gov. Ericson Felipe, Rep. Eric Yap, and Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong who partnered with Tuba Mayor Clarita Sal-ongan to perform first the tayaw as part of the thanksgiving ritual.
What followed was the simultaneous owik, where each mayor of the 13 towns struck the wooden stick to the heart of the pig; the final squeal the animal makes, signals that the thanksgiving ce-lebration started for the whole day.
The pigs were then brought to the respective booths of the 13 towns and the provincial government to be cooked and served the watwat style – a boiled slab of pork served without any seasoning along with rice and pansit. 
More than 50 pigs plus two cattle were among those butchered, as provided by the provincial and municipal local governments and from the personal funds of Diclas and Yap.
Diclas said the annual celebration showcased the trait of the Benguet people which is generosity, as reflected on the big helping of watwat and food served during lunch time.  
“It’s one of the traits we have, which is sharing to others; where all people must eat during a cañao. That’s our culture of helping one another, and that no one should be left behind.No one should go hungry,” Diclas said.
The morning crowd was estimated at 20,000 during the main celebration on Nov. 23, while the evening crowd was at 10,000 according to the Benguet Police Provincial Office. 
Felipe echoed this, recalling the culture of aduyon, the Ibaloy term for the bayanihan spirit of helping one another.
He said when he was young, when one farmer harvests, all the neighbors would help him without expecting nothing, since it’s a built-in character in the community to help. He said this is the same trait showed by each town during the month-long celebration of the Adivay Festival.   
Felipe said the founding anniversary also showed the unity of the people, especially with the officials, who continue to uphold the tradition of solidarity despite the differences in their political groups. 
For hist part, Yap likened his first Adivay experience to getting married.
“Para akong ikinakasal.  Iyong emotions mo na nakikita mo ang mga kababayan mo. Masaya ako na makita sila galing pa sa malayo, at malaking bagay iyon at talaga namang nakakataba ng puso makita ang ganito kalaking festival sa ating probinsiya,” Yap said.
The revelry continued until the evening, with the battle of the bands following the simple morning program at the gymnasium, while people flocked to the raffle prizes and the agri-trade fair site.   
Every reveler, whether from the 13 towns of Benguet, ambulant vendors or guests from neighboring provinces, enjoyed the main celebration, with watwat as a take home, as well as the various activities of the month-long celebration themed, “A people’s festival of culture, nature, and the future”. – Ofelia C. Empian