Elders fear Kabuyao curse

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Mountain gods may be angry.

If fears of elder folk at Mount Santo Tomas ring true, a curse may befall the family of ancestors believed to be buried inside the caves in Tuba and believed to be affected by the construction project of Baguio Representative Nicasio Aliping.

Provincial Board Member Blas Dalus said verbal complaints by Tuba elders reaching his office reveal a possible desecration of the burial grounds of both Ibaloi and Kankanaey folk.

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Last week, criminal charges for violations of the Philippine Forestry Code now face Aliping's infrastructure projects at the mountain after being found operating without permits.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the road construction under the Aliping-claimed property is within an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) and is without an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

But if fears of elders are confirmed, Aliping may have also violated cultural laws.

Dalus said there is no written complaint yet by elders but Jose Kani, 70-year-old elder from Tuba town, is agitated over speculation burial sites in the mountain have been desecrated. If so, appeasement rituals may have to be administered to appease the spirits, elders say.

Dalus said it is by tradition that if and when burial grounds are desecrated, rituals must be performed to prevent sickness which may befall family members of the displaced spirits.

Dalus said a cañao ritual must be done, offering animals to the gods to appease them and to protect the living family members. However, the ritual can be costly, depending on what animal to slaughter.

Based on the book "Ibaloi," published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) written by Roselyn Fianza White, for the Ibaloi folk, sickness and misfortune may be inflicted by unseen spirits who may have been offended or ignored or may be seeking for material comfort on their earthly resting place.

White's book reveals, whenever a person feels "man-aatong" (feverish), "mansakit" (ill) or "ensahit y pohel to" (pain in the bones), a mansibok, mambunong or manchiba (native priest) is summoned to identify the cause of the sickness.

Presently, Dalus said there have been no reports of sickness within the community, but fears are lingering among the elders of the community.

For the Kankaneys, based on the book written by Cony Dangpa – Sungbagan, also published by the NCCA, the belief is spirits guard the mountains, trees, rocks as well as water systems. Cutting of trees and gathering of their fruits cannot be done without asking for permission from guardian spirits.

Sungbagan accounts anyone who destroys or makes fun of the different natural resources guarded by the spirits will be punished with either death or sickness.

These punishments may only be removed by the performance of rituals by the "mambunong" as prescribed by the "mansip-ok," a gifted individual who can read the causes of sickness caused by the spirts.

However, in an interview with Poblacion Tuba village chief Oliver Paus, there seems to be no damage to the caves in question.

Paus said he just arrived from an ocular of the caves Friday afternoon and said initial inspection visually shows no damages.

Paus said his report and documentation will be forwarded to the office of the provincial office of Tourism.

The caves are located with the Amilayan and Bisong areas in Tuba town near the contested area where Aliping is constructing.

But Paus stressed any activity within the vicinity of the caves must be consulted to the community and the administration of proper rituals must apply.

Paus said there is no estimate of how many are buried in the caves, but confirmed they are legitimate burial sites with bones of local ancestors inside.

The cave has no official name and has apparently been ordered closed by Tuba Mayor Florencio Bentrez in the past to avoid tourists and the curious to invade the scared resting place.

The DENR said an investigation is also ongoing on their end and if Indigenous peoples are concerned, the National Commission Indigenous Peoples must also conduct their own probe.

Sun.Star Baguio tried to get the statement of Aliping but as of press time there is still no official statement on the issues.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 23, 2014.

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