History and Culture
Unusual Igorot Rituals For All Souls Day!
Choose Philippines | Oct 14, 2019
Story by Nathaline Daniel
Panag-aapoy pictures by Kiko Villalba
Daw-es pictures by BFP Cordillera
Panag-aapoy is a Kankana-ey term meaning “to light a fire.” The term also refers to a festival of lights long been practiced by the residents of Sagada, Mt. Province.
A melding of Igorot culture and Anglican Christianity beliefs, this unique tradition started during the early 1900s when the first Anglican Priest, Rev. John Staunton, presided the first Christian Funeral in Sagada. On the eve of November 1st each year, before sunset, folks visit the graves of their dearly departed and use a piece of flammable pinewood called saleng instead of candles pay tribute to a life that has passed. This unusual ritual has also been adopted in other parts of Mt. Province like Besao and Bontoc.
According to an offspring from the Applai Tribe of Sagada, Kurt Alalag, the purpose of panag-aapoy is to light the path of their deceased relatives and to guide them into their peaceful eternal rest. “Originally kandila sana, pero syempre nung time ng mga ancestors ko, walang kandila kaya yung saleng na lang kasi yun ang marami sa amin noon," Kurt says, "Sa time din kasi na ‘yon, doon kayo makukumpleto at may reunion (Originally, we used candles. However, during my ancestors’ time, they didn’t have candles, they only used saleng. This is also the time (panag-aapoy) that the family is reunited)."
During the season of souls and hallows, Igorots also perform the daw-es, a soul-cleansing ritual for the living and the dead. It is also practiced during unexpected deaths, accidents, or misfortunes. For this, a dog is butchered and offered to Kabunyan, an indigenous god. Elders believe that dogs are strong and their relationship with humans is immense. A native priest called mambunong renders a prayer summoning Kabunyan and other gods, who can help them dispel evil spirits or anything that may harm the members of the family.
“Pag may hindi mangyaring maganda, ginagawa ang daw-es, para hindi maulit, kinakatay dito ang manok pero kapag mas mabigat ang mga nangyari doon talaga kumakatay ng aso," Kurt relates, "Aso rin ang kinakatay kasi sabi ng mga lolo ko, binabantayan din daw kahit sa kabilang buhay (When misfortune happens, daw-es is performed so that it won’t happen again. Chickens were butchered. Dogs are butchered during the worst incidents. My grandfathers believe that dogs remain on guard even in the afterlife).
Daw-es started even before the Americans came, with different versions of the ritual depending on the province. When Marmay Tumil-ang, a resident from Besao, Mt. Province had her worst years of relationship with her husband and conspicuous things were already happening for almost a year, her clan decided to do daw-es. “Three years ago sa marriage ko, sobrang gulo so my family decided to do daw-es para mayroon akong way na magfoward sa mga masasamang nangyari," Marmay shares, "So far, effective naman sa akin yung daw-es kasi naayos yung relasyon tapos naging focused ako, nagkabusiness” (Three years ago, my marriage was a disaster. My family decided to do daw-es so that I could move on from my past bad experiences. So far, daw-es is effective for me. My relationship (with my husband) was fixed and I became focused. I even put up a business.)"
Once the daw-es is done for you, you are prohibited to eat the cooked dog meat offered during the indigenous ceremony. The elders are the only ones allowed to feast. Children as well are not allowed to partake of the food because this is a bad omen, as they are considered weak and fragile. The person or family, who asked for it (daw-es), is also not allowed to roam around and has to rest. This stage is called mantengaw in Kankana-ey or man inana in Ibaloi.
“Nung nagdaw-es ako, hindi talaga ako kumain. Kailangan mong igalang yun. Ganun siya kabigat kasi may gagawin doon na parang tatawagin lahat ng ancestors mo. Hihingi ng tulong ganon," Marmay adds, "Napakaganda nga ng wisdom nito eh dahil iclecleanse ka talaga.” (When I underwent daw-es. I didn’t really eat. You have to respect the gravity of the ritual. There’s a part where all your ancestors are summoned to ask for help. This will really cleanse you).