Mt. Province
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"Kaet", "Agik"
by Liza Agoot

The family that eats together, stays together.

No matter how one describes the relationship that exists in a Cordilleran kin, there is one meaning that is expressed by the Ibalois: Sajay e pamiljak, insemmek koy pamiljak (This is my family, I love my family).

How does one define family? Different books define it as primarily a biological link or a social construction. It can also be a combination of both.

"Family" has become a fluid term which reflects a sweeping change in society – from the rigid structure of the nuclear family to a more diverse and inclusive circle of people. In this revision of their classic work in family therapy issues and techniques, the authors propose a new and more comprehensive way to think about human development and the life cycle by widening the perspective of family therapy to include diversity of family forms and lifestyles, as well as cultural diversity. Their expanded view of family includes the impact and issues at multiple levels of the human system that includes the individual, family households, the extended family, the community, the cultural group, and the larger society. Some issues with expanded focus include race, class, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, spirituality, politics, work, time, community, values, and belief systems.

While the law and many authors describe the family as a blood relation, Cordillerans consider family not just as the basic unit of society, but a relationship existing between and among its members from the first degree including the expanded members,who are considered part of the circle. In the region, the relative of the spouse of a cousin, or the aunt of the sister in-law of the cousin of a cousin remains to be a relative and a member of the "family."

The family of the Igorot kailians is composed of anybody who can trace himself within the family tree or who hails from one community as with another. The Cordillera family is thus considered as a clan.

The Cordillerans’ family-oriented culture is a good practice that continues to thrive up to the present. This is expressed in different ways and is alive with zest among Cordillerans.

Rose Wanason Presley said that she and her group members were able to form an organization not just as a social group but primarily to assist each other especially in times of difficulty. Presley is a member of the Maducayan tribe of Natonin who now resides in the United States. She is also the president of the North America Maducayan Indigenous Peoples Inc., an organization of Maducayans living in the US, Canada, and other places outside Maducayan.

She added their organization is not only concerned of the welfare of their kailians, but also that of their katribu, kabagyan, and the community where they come from.

She said they make it a point to regularly connect with each of their members by holding reunions hosted by the different chapters in the US. This gives them the chance to see relatives and kailians, an opportunity to talk about different topics, and renew ties, aside from discussing plans for the next reunion.

Aside from meeting abroad, Presley said they make it a point to come home for the big Maducayan reunion in their hometown every four years.

"This is a special event for us. We prepare for this financially so that we can come home to our families and be with our townmates."

"Once every four years, we connect with our relatives and meet with new members of the community. We normally bring our families from abroad." In her case, Presley, who is married to an American, brings her husband and their children Ronny and Mary Grace to Natonin for the reunion.

She had to explain to her husband why she religiously attends the reunion. Being a Filipino, more so a Cordilleran, a family is very important and there is a need to reconnect with them. For members especially from outside the country, the reunion is a very special occasion which they all want to attend. "We really prepare for it. We must prepare for our fare, the pasalubong, and for the food during the reunion."

The preparation does not happen in just a day or two.

"Those from overseas pay their own ticket and the locals provide the accommodation. The expenses for food and other necessities are shared by the overseas attendees and the locals. Transportation is provided by Maducayans."

Aside from preparing for the merrymaking, those coming from overseas also raise funds for various projects to help their fellow Maducayans. They donate anything that would be beneficial to their kailians like books and classrooms. As a group, they also give scholarships. There are also those who give as individuals, whose beneficiaries are their relatives who want to study and improve their lives.

"Our projects include providing school supplies for all school children, giving bookshelves to high school and elementary school libraries, and providing textbooks and other reading materials. We also raise money for other projects as per recommendations of the local or church organizations. One of our future projects is the provision of college tuition grants to deserving graduating high school students from Maducayan.

Maducayan is a far-flung barrio of Natonin, which receives little or no government aid or dole-outs. There are no roads between sitios and it is about two hours hike to the nearest road in Barangay Saliok, she said.

The Philippine Reunion (PHR) started in 2007. The second PHR was held in April 2011. "All of us are encouraged to attend every reunion. Like I said, everyone is related by blood and it’s always great to meet people we’ve known since birth," she said. "My spouse is from Texas and he is easy to get along with. The spouses of Maducayans appreciate our culture and some make the trip to the mountains."

She said among the projects they intend to pursue is a small reunion either in Las Vegas or Los Angeles this year preferably at a national park camp grounds where they can beat the gongs and dance the tadok.

"A family reunion strengthens ties and fosters a keen spirit of togetherness. Our community has grown so much with many marriages outside the tribe. This is a tribe where marriages were arranged in childhood. The Maducayan tribe is a unique group that has adhered to its culture and traditions with deep respect, and we hope to keep it this way for many more generations," Presley said.

Atty. George Dumawing, whose lineage is a mixture of I-kalinga and Mountain Province, said he grew up with deep respect to the concept of family or kailian. "For a Kalingan, the family is very closely knit and will protect each member at all cost."

During hard times, the presence of family members is mandatory. In times of death of a member, the family is expected to share something like rice, animals, and sugar for the needs of the immediate members of the bereaved family. "It is not demanded, but it is expected," he said.

Aside from deaths, family members are also expected to be present when there are announcement of marriages. "Marriages in Kalinga are mostly arranged. When these marriages are made public, there are festivities and it is an obligation to be present because we are a family."

A relative, according to Dumawing, is someone who traces his roots to a common ancestor. The degree of relationship does not matter.

Because of the close knit relationship, an agi who is hurt by another leads to tribal war. "This is because Kalingas protect their family and their tribemates and they would not allow that any member is offended."

He related the bloodiest and longest tribal war that occurred to the Kalingans was when a member of one tribe was accidentally shot by a member of another tribe. Retaliation from the tribe members of the victim went on for years. "Kalingas protect their relatives. On a bigger scale, they protect their tribe."

The Kalingan’s concept of being family-oriented is "protect your kin whether he is right or wrong." To the I-Kalingas, it is "Kabagyan ket kabagyan."

Aside from deaths and wedding, the protection and preservation of the family is another opportunity to show relationship. In explaining the concept of family, Esther Nalliw-Licnachan of Mayoyao, Ifugao, says this is especially exhibited when there are deaths.

"Aside from the immediate family watching over the body of their dead and attending to the wake, it can also be brought to the house of a niece where the wake can also be done."

They call the system hangcher, wherein the corpse is transferred from the house of the dead’s immediate family member to a relative’s house where the body is laid below the house. Hangcher can only be done or availed of by a relative, particularly a niece.

The fuar, she said, is another practice where siblings of the deceased cannot partake of the meat of the butchered pig. Only the non-relatives can eat the meat. "It is taboo to partake of the meat when you are a family member."

To the Mayoyaos, death is only one of the instances where family relationship is shown.

During weddings where there are festivities, a family member who traces roots within the genealogy has to be present.

Family ties are also very relevant and vivid in politics when members are expected to support a candidate who is a relative in terms of logistics, campaign effort, and votes.

Licnachan said, "Pinamilyaan ket clan, expanded," and even some of those now residing abroad are expected to practice the same by constantly communicating and adopting relatives and clan members who go to their country for a visit.

Dr. Leo Samonte of the Benguet State University whose family hails from Bauko said, "Kadakami, saan kami nga mabuteng ken ma-problemaan lal-lalo nu ada minatay ta adda dagiti kapamilya."

Family members, he said, do not just come and visit to give respect to the dead, but also share in the finances by donating goods needed in the wake.

"When my father died in the 2006, relatives from as far as Mindanao came over to pay their last respects. They also gave money for the pig that was butchered during the wake."

This month, a relative from Mindanao died. "We have to go and pay our last respects. While transportation would be costly and although we can just send the money for practical reasons, we did not. We had to show up because presence is very important to family members especially in times of grief."

Marcelle, whose sister’s brother-in-law died abroad said, "Na-problemaan da piman ti kwarta ta madi met nga mai-cremate ta madi iti ugali isu nga inyawid da iti bagi na. Dakkel iti nagastos naiutangan da pay ngem gapu ta adu kakailian ken kakabagyan, nai-raise da met lang diay kwarta ta nabayadan iti nagastos nga nangibyahe iti bagi na."

BIBAK, or the Baguio, Ifugao, Benguet, Abra, and Kalinga Apayao is a widely known group as it is not just about living up the native culture, but also about pinamilyaan, kailyan, surviving the ties even when outside of the Cordillera.
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