The sound for feasting: Awakening Panagbenga's identity

THE sound of the "gangsa" [gongs] which reverberates during the flower festival defines the identity of the mountains in celebration.

University of Baguio School of Music professor Benny Sokkong said the traditional instrument defines the entire festival, without the gangsa the celebration would not be complete.

"How will we represent our culture without gongs?" "Big events from Cordillera covering all occasions from the family, community, to the local areas uses the musical instrument."

Sokkong is part of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Committee on Music, an educator, cultural performer and native of Sukiap, Kalinga advocating for the continued performances in dance and in music using traditional instruments.

The gongs serve as a social symbol and functions for cultural purposes during important feasts like the canao, tayaw and dono and are considered symbols representing unity.

University of Philippines-Baguio Cordillera Studies Center Director Leah Abayao said the gong helps us view the image the Cordilleras.

“We use the gangsa for several purposes and that is an important sound that should be heard, utilized during celebrations, rituals, feast, prayers, butchering of animals and drinking of "tapey" [rice wine].”

Provinces in the Cordillera use gongs in festivals like the “Imbayah”, “Gotad” and “Tongoh” of Ifugao, the "Adivay" and "Bendian" of Benguet, the “Ullalim” of Kalinga, and the “Lang-ay” of Mountain Province, Kawayan in Abra and Apayao’s Say-am in celebration of the highland way of life.

Gongs played during the annual flower festival portray the identity of Indigenous People as original settlers of the mountain city.

Benguet Indigenous People Mandatory Representative [IPMR] Sario Copas said the absence of gongs in the Panagbenga would make the celebration just like any other festival in the country.

"Without gongs in Panagbenga, we are just ordinary group. That is why the gongs must be maintained. We are to be identified such with beat and sounds of the gongs that signals the group of that tribe."

Copas said the number of gongs played for various groups is rooted in the genealogy in the province of Benguet ringing true for the Calanguya, Ibaloi, Kankana-ey including the Carao and Lowak with ancestors marking the way of performance and the number of in struments played.

In the municipality of Mankayan, the preservation of traditional gong making continues with craftsmen from barangay Bedbed trademarked to have quality brass gongs assured to have authenticity of sound.

A complete gangsa set is comprised of seven pieces with craftsmen spending weeks to form the gongs which reach the provinces of Bontoc, Benguet and Sadanga in Mt. Province, and Tabuk in Kalinga.

Elders of Mankayan say the craft was developed when the Chinese arrived bringing with them various metal crafts.

"The truth being our ancestors stayed in China down to Vietnam, Cambodia, down to northern Philippines for many centuries so the gongs are with them," Copas explained.

Copas said the next generation must be educated in traditional making and play of the musical instrument.

Sokkong stressed the preservation of tradition lies in the next generation.

"For us who are the remaining elders, we continue to preserve the traditional music thru workshop, performing the music instrument to other countries, we still have our tradition which is successful," added Sokkong.
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