BEFORE we had our much awaited meal, I pointed to my friend the table before us - on top of which are several tin cups and plastic cups. For each cup a different drink, adding up to seven kinds of drinks: gin and tapey, pork and beef soup, coke and water, and coffee. We had these to ease our hunger plus a plateful of ava and dokto which, amongst the drinks, served as our pulutan. It was rather early to be drunk.

Hours had passed since lunch time and we had arrived hours before that. But we had to wait. The butchering of pigs seemed endless for each had to be killed one after the other. Once the pig had been laid on its deathbed made of banana leaves and grass, one of the elders says the prayers. Then, the dance begins.

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Women and men, wearing a blanket on their shoulders dance around the pig, including the gong players. Aside are two men playing the solibao and two others who offered drinks to the dancers - one holding a pitcher of tapey while the other a bottle of gin. Each of the dancers had to drink after a dance's round (which is more than one round around the pig). The elder who had said the prayers earlier speaks to each of the dancers, one pair at a time (or round). It is after the last pair had been spoken to and a few more rounds of dance that the pig is ready to be butchered.

The men were very skilled that the pig had died shortly after one cry. Even the burning and slicing of the pig was done very skillfully - how long the pig had to be burned to get rid of its hair and how deep the bolo had to be dug into the pig that its insides weren't disfigured. It was the same for the other pigs that followed. I was amazed at the elder who never tired of saying the prayers before and after a pig had been butchered and who never ran out of words of wisdom to relate to the dancers - an advice or a blessing. I was a receiver of these words myself when I joined in one round of dance. A round of dance means a round too, of tapey, if not gin. I went through three rounds of both, since most of the visitors have already left after eating and not many people were there to watch me anyway. But though I had danced and drank more than once, I only had one serving of the elder's words, which my companions translated to mean goodluck and more blessings to come to my life. I needed that, remarked one of them having known of my misfortunes lately.

Night came and we had to go back home to Taba-ao, a 30-minute ride from Longboy. This wasn't my first time to witness a cañao but to be part of one was my first. More importantly, meeting new friends and having to dance and drink tapey with them makes this a truly unique experience. We took this home with us - plus a plastic bag of meat enough to feed us for a week. And we're happy.