Redeeming the lost meat-A A +A
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
“SON of the mumbaki (native priest), why don’t you ask your father to sell some of the meat so that you can pay your tuition fee?”
These words are more than forty years old yet they still resonate youthfully in the minds of a man advancing in age. They were told to him when as a high school student, he has to step into the principal’s office for his promissory note. The speaker was a missionary priest, who came into this hinterland, and established a high school to complement the numerous elementary schools around the barrios and supplement the few public high schools. The student knew that there was a lot of meat at home from his father mumbaki’s share in the agricultural rituals he performed for households and the community. But the meat was not for sale. It was better placed in a jar and stored beneath the banana roots to attain maximum deliciousness for eventual consumption. He just absorbed the words though knowing that it was the only way to delay at least for a little time the payment of his tuition fees. The neighborhood was speaking well of education and he should attempt every means to attain it.
That high school was successful in providing the needed secondary education and for a time college education to the local folk and at the same time proclaiming the so-called light from the Gospel. Schools of this kind, both Catholics and other Christian denomination, have also multiplied. By the early eighties, it was now apparent that together with torrent evangelization, there was an educational system that had significant success in convincing the people that all baki and beliefs in the gods to whom it is offered are outright evil. The mumbaki’s role in the community has been almost erased. Nobody realized that even the good rituals for agriculture – ceremonies that attached people to their land - are not so much practiced. The meat was never sold but effectively, it was lost.
From then on, the memory of the mumbaki was never pleasant. In the mid-nineties, a movie entitled Mumbaki came out. This kind of media should have been a very good venue to ventilate a culture but it worsened the situation. The native priest was depicted as warrior, the barbaric and evil kind. It failed to describe who exactly is a mumbaki. There was no mention of the different kinds, especially that class which takes care of the agricultural services – the one who relentlessly prays and observes fasting for good harvests that had fed generations. The mumbaki and the beliefs he espouses were by no means remembered rightly.
I suppose that the same situation happened to the indigenous beliefs in other parts of the Cordillera. There was a cultural landscape overwhelmed by an educational system that mostly condemns native beliefs as utterly evil. And there is a media that is often times unhelpful either. Particularly in the case of the agricultural baki, its extinction detached the land from the people leaving the earth lifeless.
Farms and forests are regarded plainly as means for food and other economic gains. The situation leaves the question, how does it differ to being barbaric and savage when current belief systems allows the denudation of mountains, too much pollution of farms with pesticides and killing of rivers.
Perhaps, reforms should start from where it was destroyed. Schools and churches have to bring back the attachment of the Cordillerans to their lands. The people through the educational system and the churches should start to touch daily the earth to breath into it life. Gongs being beaten in schools and allowed in church services are seemingly good starts. But it should not just be for the show or just the formation of a good habit but rather an inner infusion of a belief system into people that land is life just like what native priests have done. The churches should baptize traditions that promote life. In this way, people are able seek and redeem the meat that has been sold or lost. People can do this to regain a real distinct identity without really forfeiting the Christianity that has been embraced.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 05, 2012.