The parable of the Igorot pork (barrel)-A A +A
Monday, September 2, 2013
HOW I discovered that I was the only Igorot in my fourth year high school class was amusing. Our Religion teacher, the lovely Mrs. Sta. Ana, asked us "What do you call the meat which is distributed during the kanyaw feast?"
The class atmosphere was subjugated by Somnus, I thought. There was total silence and we, 26 teenagers, were looking at each other for someone to speak out or raise his hand. I felt my blushing Ibaloy cheeks and my roasted ears and I hoped someone would beat me to raising my bashful hand. Mrs. Sta. Ana saw my half-raised arms and called me.
I just blurted, "Watwat, ‘cher (teacher)." There, the monopoly of knowledge due to my proud ethnicity.
But I love watwat, just boiled soft pork (usually) meat. Its fresh sweet taste is just a delight. Take your place on the parallel columns of plates neatly arranged on the ground. The bakobak (layers of the banana trunk used as plates) are cool. Your rice is ready. The bland meat soup is shared. The salt and sili are glistening in between the plates. Then eagerly wait for your watwat. Your silopin should be ready for your leftover watwat which will be a nice mix (sagpaw) to the pising (taro stalks and leaves) at home.
We were reminded again of watwat during the nationwide Million People March last week. At the Rose Garden, Kidlat Tahimik came with his bulols and woodcarvings. He arranged the bulols to enclose a woodcarving of a man holding a pig. Then he shouted “No to pork! Pork should be only used in our kanyaws as offering to Kabunyan.”
We agree. If only pork is distributed the Igorot way, perhaps the pork barrel wouldn’t be a mess.
From selecting the people who will be in charge of the animal to the distribution of the pork watwat in the kanyaw, some rules are followed. Ama Wasing Sacla in his book “Treasury of Beliefs and Home Rituals of Benguet” elucidates that “The reason for selecting the men to do the slaughtering and slicing the pig or any ritual animal is based on the belief that if men of questionable character are assigned the tasks, they might bring misfortunes to the celebrating family.” Now, we are feeling how men of disputable reputation who handle the pork bring misfortunes to the Filipino family (and fortune to them or some magician families who turn pigs into milking cows).
Ama Wasing adds, “People known for their honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, good knowledge of the ritual ethics and good experience are tasked by the elders in the slicing and in the distribution of meat during feast. This holds true also in the distribution of the share in the take home meat.”
The country needs leaders who are honest, trustworthy, and with integrity. They manage the government’s coffers and pork. Ah, if only we, voters, are as wise as our elders in choosing our leaders.
As fairness is its tenet, our watwat system also ensures that everyone gets to be benefitted with the pork. That everyone is fed. Our watwat does not only demonstrate equality; it promotes equity. “During the feasts, the internal organs, the lean meat, bony meat and tough meat are sorted and segregated to facilitate fair and just distribution according to the age of the recipients.” How cool is that?
Also, members of the community who are not able to attend are not left out! They receive boki which is the raw pork/meat. Ama Lee Ballard writes, “There is careful counting of raw meat (boki), and the number of pieces given a family corresponds to the number of members in the family, whether or not they are in attendance at the feast.” The Igorot pork is about genuine caring and concern for the community.
It’s nice to watch how the cooks boil the pork watwat in the hot water in the dangking (large vat). I wonder how crooks of pork barrel scamper now that they’re in hot water. The shakilan (the three stones supporting the vat during cooking), to me, represents the powers that will handle those in hot water. Perhaps the three rocks are the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary branches. They can be scalded too. But the whole community is watching and is anticipating the watwat of truth to be spread on the apay (the mat of runo reeds where the meat is cut) for all to see.
And Napoles as state’s witness? Maybe state’s weakness. Tell that to the kanyaw kids who race to get the pig’s ikol (tail) as toy or the pig’s birong (bladder) as balloon. They’ll find it a barrel of fun.
The indigenous quote “No wara’y asok, wara’y watwat” expresses it perfectly. If there is smoke, there is pork. This time it’s a burning pork barrel scam.
***Thanks much to all those who greeted me on my birthday. God bless us all always!
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 03, 2013.