October 23, 2012

Kalinga - Part III - Burials

In this Part III of my Kalinga series I share with you a bit about the burial customs of these mountain people, the Butbut. Followers of my blog know I like to participate in the meme Taphophile Tragics when I can.

Yesterday I introduced beautiful Whang Od - the last tattoo artist - and showed the grave she had built for herself (last photo). I wasn't able to find out whether it was usual for tribal elders to prepare for their own deaths, but I suspect that it is as rare for the Butbut as for anyone else.

Yet she is not alone in her village in placing her grave close to home. 

 Kalinga, Buscalan, 2012

Walking around Buscalan a few weeks ago it was impossible to miss the graves placed right next to family houses. The dirt lanes between the raised wooden houses were narrow, yet I felt compelled to walk around the bare concrete structures flat on the ground.

I found it curious that although most in the village spoke only their native tongue, the wording on the headstones were in English. Also, although most of the Kalinga tribal groups are historically animist, the crosses on these graves indicate to me that Christianity is making inroads into their traditional belief systems.

For die-hard taphophiles, I include this rather lengthy quote about burial customs of the Kalinga. This comes from a fascinating paper published online by Aubrey Pagal.
The pakoy (death announcement) is done to announce that somebody has died in the community. It calls for the gathering of the clan to discuss things to be done during the wake. Close kin and neighbors are informed. It also signals people to will reset whatever celebration they had planned earlier to show sympathy and respect for the grieving family. It manifests the value of concern toward the bereaved family. The pakoy prods people to gather to build the bawi (shelter for visitors), helping build a community spirit of cooperation and assistance.

A number of carabaos (water buffalo) and pigs are slaughtered, and are offered to Kabunyan, the supreme deity, and to dead ancestors. Coffins are made of quality mature pine or mahogany, without any metal or nails holding it together. If a wealthy person dies, each of the children butchers one carabao for the people gathered. The uncooked meat will be distributed to close relatives. Among Cordillerans, the extent of meat distribution is dictated by certain considerations. Those who are given the meat are immediate relatives, the abalayans (in-laws) and those who help build the bawi. People continue to follow this tradition, regardless of whether they are good or bad, useful or useless. The individual who goes against tradition often finds himself the object of severe criticism. Distribution of ilang (uncooked meat) lets the recipients know of the hosts' deep appreciation of their relatives' gesture of help and their attendance in the gatherings.

During the wake nearby relatives and neighbors perform the mankayakeg, butchering pigs or piglets or chickens for people from nearby barangay (village) who come to condole with the bereaved family and honor the dead man during the wake as a social obligation. Kachame is the practice of accompanying the grieving family during the night of the funeral to boost the morale of the bereaved. The practice insures kinship ties. 

During death, as sign of concern and cooperation among kin and friends, assistance in the form of financial aid helps preserve these ties.

Achang is the mutual aid system where close kin, up to third cousins, and friends are morally obliged to help one another financially and share their goods. Donations depend on the capacity of individuals or families.

During the day of the funeral, utong will be provided for the people gathered. Most families observe three to five days of wake, depending upon the socioeconomic status or the traditional wake practices. This practice proves family ties and family social status wherein the number of pigs and carabaos butchered is indicative of wealth, more property for the family, and cooperation among the individuals concerned.

And also at the day of the funeral, bulong is donated by relatives to help feed the people who come. This fosters cooperative participation among relatives by consanguinity and affinity. The utong, the immediate post-burial slaughtering of animals, is performed to help the dead achieve well-deserved rest. The butchering of animals in utong results in the peace of mind and contentment of the donors, who are assured that each of the offspring has satisfactorily fulfilled the departed's final request.

In every neighboring house, when the corpse is buried, pechus is observed in order to prevent the entry of the dead ancestor's spirit. This ensures health among family members. Singising is also performed to help the bereaved family overcome grief and spare them from being disturbed by bad roaming spirits.

Seven to nine days after the burial, songot, or the practice of putting glutinous cakes on the tomb of the dead, is observed in to ensure the dead spirit does not return home and cause sickness to family members.

Specific burial grounds are chosen along farmsteads or within residential compounds, according to the will of the deceased. Often, it is a place that was meaningful during the departed's lifetime.

Stay tuned for Part IV!


Genie said...

What a wonderful history lesson for me. I loved every bit of it. The thing that touches me the most is that here loved ones are buried at their homes. To me, that is the way it should be instead of all of the hoopla we have to go thru here to bury a loved one. Thanks heavens for cremation. At least that way we have a bit of control. I, too, find it so interesting that the writings are in English and accompanied by the Christian cross. Thanks to turning me onto the other blog. I go in every cemetery I find no matter where I am. The ones in France were my favorites. I am going to start following the blog. hugs, genie

Wayne (Woody), whatever said...

This is fascinating, I can't wait for more!

tapirgal said...

I also noticed the English and was surprised. Did you ever get an explanation?

Beautiful photos, as usual.

Kay L. Davies said...

I wondered how I had managed to miss your posts, Francisca, and am pleased I read far enough back to find out you are going through changes but are well and happy.
I have been fighting a chest infection for many weeks, so have been writing seldom, and commenting in a hit and miss fashion, so I'm glad I found your Kalinga series. Whang Od is an amazing woman, isn't she? And she's still so beautiful.
I will try to keep a sharp eye out for your blog when it appears on my list page.
Luv, K

Cezar and Léia said...

Bonjour dear Francisca!
First of all congratulations for the Kalinga séries, you prepared wonderful articles here in your blog.Very interesting to learn about the tecnique and the Tattoo Artist.
Amazing place there and your got beautiful pictures!

Katrin Klink said...

Thanks for your pictures and stories! What a blessing to visit such places and people!

EG CameraGirl said...

I feel like I dropped right into the middle of this and need to go back to part I here.

I'm fascinated by the sense of community that death can create, which seems to be common to most - maybe all - cultures.

Nicola Carpenter said...

How wonderfully bizarre and fascinsating.

Beneath Thy Feet

VioletSky said...

What a stunningly beautiful and isolated area these people live in. And yet - English has still managed to overtake!!
It is so good to see you back with such informative posts and interesting tales.

Kalantikan said...

I also missed these series so reading them backwards. It is also very informative for me. But some traditions are common to people living in far barangays here, like the killing of animals to feed the visitors. During my grandfather's wake, was in high school then, 9pigs are killed from day 1 to day 4 when another big prayer is done. Formal prayers are daily during the wake, 4th day, 9th day and 40th day. Pork is easy and cheaper to prepare than buying other food for the visitors.

Regarding the English literacy: it is not uncommon to see those in the Cordilleras to speak more of English than Tagalog because the Americans stayed there longer than maybe Tagalog teachers. That's why places in Baguio have Wright Park, Burnham Park, Camp John Hay, etc. I just forgot the name of the American hiway there.

About graves near houses, i also saw graves near their houses in islands within the Mekong River in Saigon. But I didn't see big tombs, only children's.

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