Imbayah, Banaue’s ‘Inuman na!’ and so much more

Filipino culture is by nature, colorful. From small gatherings and occasions like local barangay fiestas to the full-on, humongous, and production-value festivals the many of our provinces hold, there is the undeniable and irrefutable stamp of Filipino creativity and ingenuity.

But when you think about it, many of our local festivals that have been part of our culture for decades stem from our Catholic heritage and our Spanish colonization that lasted for more than 300 years.

This is where the Imbayah Festival in Banaue, Ifugao sets itself apart.

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Imbayah is a festival that celebrates local Ifugao cultural traditions, such as the thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. It’s also interesting to note that the name of the festival itself is derived from the Ifugao word for rice wine, bayah. Perhaps our penchant for calling out “Inuman na!” during special occasions has far deeper cultural roots than we realize.

Traditionally though, Imbayah was about the rising of status in the community and the more affluent members of society hosted the celebrations in their respective homes. In recent years though, it has been more of a celebration and means to remember Ifugao culture in general — while it has still a lot of ways to go in terms of tourist spectators, especially compared to the larger celebrations in other provinces, more and more people have braved the twisting mountain roads to catch a glimpse of this truly unique festival. In fact, Imbayah used to be held only once every three years, but has become very successful that it is now a yearly occurrence.

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Contingents from Banaue’s 18 different villages converge in the town proper, terraces, bringing with them their own tribal symbols. They dance, they compete in ethnic games, not so much as performances or shows for visitors — although visitors are most welcome — but as more of a remembrance of where they came from and what makes them unique as a people. In fact, a number of the competitive sports played in the ethnic games were used to settle disputes between tribes.

Another popular event of the festival is the wooden scooter race, where participants zip down the mountain roads from of one of the highest viewpoints of the rice terraces down to the Banaue town proper. These scooters have no motors whatsoever, with the racers relying on their deft maneuvering and the craftsmanship of their bikes to get ahead.

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There are also several opportunities to further appreciate mountain culture — there are organized treks through the famed rice terraces themselves that visitors can take, or for the more adventurous, a trek to the village of Batad where even more majestic rice terraces await, and below them, the raging but beautiful Tappiya waterfalls.

It may lack the pomp and splendor of other festivals, but there is something profound about the Imbayah; it’s more than the top-load traveling, or the unique food (ants and kamote, anyone?), the strapping fellows in tribal g-strings, or even the ingenuity and persistence behind the beautiful rice terraces. It’s something pure, something largely untouched by our colonial history, something inherently and uniquely Filipino.

Scooter03 Scooter02 Getting there: You may opt for a side trip to Baguio City first and then catch a bus to Banaue, or take a bus straight from Manila to Banaue. This year’s festival is on April 18-22.

*This post was originally published in the April 2016 issue of the Filipino-Japanese Journal. 

Six things my daughter taught me

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Amy turned six months recently, and while I particularly don’t like — entirely for personal and illogical reasons — the number six, I recognize how big a milestone this is for my daughter, my wife and myself. There are bound to be other, more significant milestones ahead, I know, but one at a time, if you please, thank you.

So indulge me, if you will, my least avid fan, as I list down the six things my daughter taught me, in no particular order:

Patience

I’m sure there are a myriad of ways people develop and learn patience, but there are few things that put patience to a test that are like trying to calm a fussy baby. You can’t talk to her, reason with her, plead with her, or even coerce her to stop. You wait, find — more like stumble upon — a solution, and when she acts up again, discover that your earlier method does not work anymore, and you go through the cycle all over again. Rinse, repeat.

Perseverance

Related, but not exactly the same. But you will discover what you truly are capable of, physically, emotionally and mentally, when you go to work with hardly a wink because baby was up all night. You have to carry her, and while babies don’t weigh very much at first, your muscles will be screaming thirty, forty minutes later or later, however long it takes to be able to put that little bundle of joy down without her waking up and having you carry her for another thirty, forty minutes. You change diapers, clean up messes, wash clothes, and do other chores, especially if you haven’t managed to get a yaya yet, which we also experienced first-hand. Kung nabibili lang talaga ang tulog.

Understanding

Like I said, babies cannot be reasoned or pleaded with nor coerced — what exactly do you do with that? More often than not I realize that I’ve been expecting my child to act like an older kid, at least, when really, crying and smiling are basically the only ways she knows how to express herself. Right now we’ve gotten to laughing, but the jist of it is that her needs are still the same basic, primal needs she had when she was born.

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Acceptance

Especially before your child is born, before you even know if it’s a he or a she — a lot of things go through your mind. Normal? Healthy? Boy? Girl? So many variables up in the air, so many possibilities, and so many things could go wrong. There was no choice but for me to come to grips with the fact that while there were a lot of things I could do help my wife take care of our unborn child, there were a lot more things that were out of my/our hands.

Even after Amy was born healthy, and while my wife’s delivery, while naturally stressful with a few kinks and scares in-between, was largely uneventful, I still realized that so much was still unknown, so much was still out of my hands.

Love

I think there is nothing in the world like the love a parent feels for his or her child. Sure, the world romanticizes it all the same, but it’s a kind of feeling no one but parents can relate to, I think, a profound and deep love no words can properly or fully describe.

But not only did having my daughter teach me to love her, but it taught me to love her mother more as well. To see the sacrifice (and pain!) mothers have to go through to bring a child into the world, and the herculean effort they put into child rearing, how can I not love my wife more?

Faith and Grace

Technically these are two things, but I’ll weasel my way out of this by simply saying that they are two peas in a pod, so to speak.

We didn’t really enjoy the New Year’s holiday very much. Amy caught a really bad cold, and one night she just wouldn’t stop crying. We tried EVERYTHING. Two hours she cried incessantly, vomiting several times. We decided to rush her to the hospital. All the while, we were silently praying that everything would be OK. A few minutes into the car ride, Amy quieted down and finally agreed to be fed. When we got to the ER, she woke up, and seemed fine. The pediatrician took a look at her and said that we had nothing to worry about – Amy was just severely congested and we could go home. No medicine needed.

Faith isn’t about instant gratification. It’s not even trusting that everything will be okay. It’s simply the knowledge that a greater power holds everything in His hands, and allowing yourself to be led to wherever you’re meant to go. And grace is when everything works out, when the peace settles into you and you realize that things could just as well have gotten worse for whatever reason — but they didn’t.

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It’s not that I didn’t know how to do or feel all these things before Amy came along — it’s just that having a child puts things into perspective and introduces an entirely new dimension to these things. Children are life-changing, but you only realize the enormity of it once it happens. And while other people may have different feelings on having children, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Goodbyes are hard

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Like I always say, life has a way of always getting in the way.

“And at times the fact of (his) absence will hit you like a blow to the chest, and you will weep. But this will happen less and less as time goes on. (He) is dead. You are alive. So live.” – Morpheus to Orpheus, Brief Lives

Thanks for everything, Papa.


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