Ifugao’s Momon: Sharing the institution of love to family, community-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Thursday, February 21, 2013
ACCORDING to some people, the most delicious meat in Ifugao is the momon. It is cooked without any add-ons except some salt but together with its broth, it is said to surely satiate every tongue. In the local idiom, the folk would say “liklikdona di bagang” (it will circle through the neck).
The momon is the process of betrothal in the Ifugao tradition. This would probably explain why it is considered as ‘most delicious’; it encompasses the institution of love. In the town of Hingyon, the rite primarily involves the bequest of an animal offering from a lover to his lady, or to be more accurate, to her family and community circle. It usually happens after a period of courtship although there are instances when a man can initiate the momon even without actually wooing the lady. It starts with the honag, a process by which an emissary (referred to as mun-gawi and usually an experienced man in family life) is sent by a lover to the woman’s parents/parties to make known the intention to tender the momon. If the proposal is accepted, then a day is set for the occasion. It is that instance when a man simply instruct a honag that rejection are often experienced.
In olden times, the social status of the woman determines the elegance of the momon. For the nawotwot (poor), a duck would be enough. For those of higher status, a pig is fitting. In Ifugao animal husbandry, the sizes of pigs range from in-inlum (youngest), hinbonglayan, maonom, mabinohlan, mawalo, and maoppatan (largest). The ideal scale for the momon is the maonom but many would settle for the mabinohlan, and the maoppatan is labelled as mahangaan (considered as beyond what is required) but still a few would go for it. Typically, the animal is butchered at the home of the man’s family and properly processed with its internal organs removed. The practical reason for this is for those who took part in the butchering and witnessing would have something to partake for dish after the main bulk is sent. When possible, the meat would be packed inside a hukup (a woven container from bamboo and rattan materials) together with moma (areca nuts) and hapid (betel leaves). If the meat is too bulky, then the hukup, moma and hapid will have to be carried separately.
It is the responsibility of the mun-gawi to bring the momon to the lady’s place. This cannot be delegated. Strictly speaking, the mun-gawi should be the one to carry the hukup but he can call on companions to help him especially if some distance is involved. Also, if the place of the man is too far to where the momon should be brought, say it involves a travel of more than half day, the animal may not be butchered.
Upon reaching the destination, the mun-gawi will present the hukup to the lady’s family. Usually, this occasion is witnessed by neighbours and immediate family circle. The animal offering will then have to be processed according to tradition. One of the lapa (front limb) of the pig will go to the nun-gawi (past tense form of mun-gawi). It would look now as if it were the compensation for the effort. The two hukpit (hind limbs) are set aside for the bolwa, a system of sharing the meat to closest of kin which also serve as the ‘announcement’ that a momon has been tendered. The rest of the meat will be processed for cooking for everyone present to partake except for the nun-gawi who is expected to have bade good bye from the festivity.
From then on, the one who sent and his lady are pronounced nuntubi (engaged). Inside the lady’s home, it is symbolized by hanging the hukup just above the door. The man is however prohibited from seeing his lady in the immediately following days or until after he estimates that all of the meat has already been consumed as he is not allowed to partake of his bequest already brought to the lady’s home. This period of engagement is a time for observation that may or may not lead to the perfection of marriage. Relatives of each party can give their objection before any marriage rite that would pronounce the lovers as himbale (direct translation: of one house). If for any valid reason there is an objection, the nun-gawi will be called upon to preside the dissolution of the engagement.
The practice of momon is different from town to town. The essence though is the same: the announcement of the proposed union of two souls, or to be more lyrical, the sharing of the institution of love to family and community.
It is one of the cultural practices that passed the test of time even with the growth of Christianity/foreign religions and even with the progression of intermarriages with non-Ifugaos. I wonder though how long would the momon continue to taste as the most delicious meat.A witticism said that in present society, when a woman is said to be getting married, what is often asked is, “Buntis ba?”
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 21, 2013.