By: Joel Fagsao
As we celebrate the Cultural and Lang-ay Festival on April 25, 2015, there is a need to reflect on the richness of our culture-more importantly to focus on the values that have been passed from generation to generation. First, is discernment- or knowing what is right and wrong- we call it 'lawa' or 'inayan.' Inayan directed us to always do what is right, it kept us from doing things to the detriment or disadvantage/inconvenience for others. As an illustration, all of a sudden we became so conscious of our boundaries so that we build fences or used our own house wall to mark our land boundary at the expense of our neighbours. This has resulted into narrow paths-into our villages making it difficult even for our coffins to pass. We have declared lands, built our own houses on land even when the whole community knows that we do not own the land. We have planted bananas or trees on vacant lands and if no one complaints we declare it as our own while we know fully well that we do not own the land. Communal forests or land are declared by our brothers or sisters just because they know the process...the educated are the first violators of community ordinances, take the municipal ordinance on garbage segregation- the Green Police of Bontoc- women tasked to ensure waste segregation among the residents- they say, the professionals among us are the first violators of waste segregation to the point that they would chastise the "green police" when they are reminded of the violation.
Second is our respect for our women- how many cases of child abuse, wife abuse, remain unreported- worse we resort to 'amicable settlement- using our usual practice of settling disputes-for when did the crime committed on our women become a part of an amicable settlement? These things were unheard of in the time of our great grandparents. In our culture, the woman's breast was a giver of life (breastfeeding) and the woman's vagina is sacred so that if a woman were to disrobe in front of an oncoming enemy from another tribe-she could virtually stop the "war." Our women would disrobe as a sign of protest-done during the plan to dam the Chico River during the Marcos era. Power, greed, material possessions have blinded us, led us to forget our values. Alas, there is still time to change. It shall start right within us first. Only then when we strike the gong that we will feel that the blood that runs in our veins comes from a people who came into their own even before the influences of the outside world came into their midst.