The ‘Abellings’ and the vanishing ‘Paduyduy’

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Monday, May 12, 2014


SAN JOSE, Tarlac -- Little is known about the Abelling Tribe (spelled also as Aberling or Abellen) except that it is a tribal group found mostly in the hinterlands of Tarlac Province.

It is believed that the Abellings are also descendants of the most popularly known Aeta Tribes like the Mag-indi, Magan-tsi, Ambala and Mariveleño. Their physical features are slightly bigger than the popularly known size of the aborigines. Their hair is not so kinky unlike those of the Magan-tsi Tribe. Others dubbed them as "aeta mestizos". The Abellings stay also together in communities scattered all over the highlands of Bamban, Capas, San Jose, Mayantoc and Tarlac City.

Although there is no specific number of how many the Abellings are in Tarlac, they co-exist peacefully together with the other Aeta groups in Tarlac. They are a peace-loving people who live in the mountains. They live by hunting "baboy-ramo" (wild boar), deer, fish and other wild animals. Some of them plant vegetables and rice as additional food. They also make charcoal from woods to sell. They harvest "gabi" and other root crops as their staple food when rice is not available. To augment their cash deficiency they harvest banana leaves and "puso ng saging" to sell in the lowlands or exchange it for a few kilos of rice.

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Recently, the Abelling Tribe of Sitio San Pedro, Iba, San Jose, Tarlac conducted the “Paduyduy” ritual to thank God for a bountiful harvest and at the same time, to choose the next "Änito" of the tribe. Seven sitios of the Abellings participated in the ritual where the Anito serves as the spiritual guide (priest), prophet and healer of the people.

Mang Totoy at the age of 68 years old, the present Anito, wants to retire and pass on the baton to the next one whom the "spirits" will select as the next Anito. All the aspirants will be carefully selected by the Council of Elders. Then they will call for the Paduyduy ritual that may last for three to seven days. The house of the Anito is deemed sacred. Only the sick and seeking counsel can get inside the house adorned with 100 pieces each of different foods the Abellings love to eat, like sweet camote, meat and many more.

The Abellings belief is that the visiting spirits will feast on this food hanging inside the house of the Anito. The Anito candidates will adorn themselves with costumes of soldiers or high ranking officers of the army while the ladies will wear traditional Filipina clothes with red "bandana" or "belo" on their head. They will tirelessly dance and dance while drums and guitars keep on beating until they begin to be caught up in a trance. Dancing in trance will last for three days and three nights without stopping.

Outside of the house of the Anito are two fattened native pigs. The Anito in the person of Mang Totoy will pick one of the pigs to be brought up to him so that he can suck the fresh blood from it. The other Anito candidates have the right to refuse to suck fresh blood from the first pig and opt for the second pig. The two year old fattened pig weighing more than 200 kilos placed in a newly built bamboo cage will determine who the next Anito is. The Anito candidates will dance around the cage five times while chanting endlessly as form of worship to the chosen pig. Six selected males will carry on their shoulder the large pig and parade it five times around the house of the Anito before they will lay it down.

The different food prepared for the spirits will be given to the Anito candidates and whose hand the pig will eat from will be declared as the next Anito. After the pig is killed, the Anito candidates will take turns in sucking the fresh blood from the body of the pig. The pig will be beheaded and placed in the middle, inside part of the house of the Anito.

The Abellings will dance around it as form of thanksgiving. The other parts of the pig will be distributed to the people so that they can feast on it.

Jaime Castañeda, the Abelling chieftain, laments that this tradition of the Aeta is already vanishing. He said the younger generations are ashamed to join the Aeta rituals.

"Most of them refused to wear ‘Bahag,’ the traditional Aeta clothing," Castañeda said. And for Mang Totoy, the Paduyduy ritual must go on for the sake of the next Abelling generations. He said he is afraid this may be the last Paduyduy ritual the people may witness.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on May 13, 2014.

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