Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kalanguya Obbo.... One Aspect of our Culture

The Kalanguyans occupy mostly the mountain ranges of Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Benguet, Pangasinan and other parts of the country..

Basically, the Kalanguyans are shy people, probably because they live in the mountains. Furthermore, lowlanders (used to) look down on them (not so much these days perhaps:)). Their knowledge of being a minority gives them low self-esteem. Because of this, they have the tendency to withdraw from people. Sometimes even out of responsibility a person shies away even if s/he is capable of it. He thinks that there are better people than his tribe or group.

Obbo is a Kalanguya term, which would be understood in English as "a way of helping one another." It can function as a noun and verb by attaching affixes like man-obbo, which could mean "the one hosting the day," or "to have the activity," pan-obboan to mean "place where the activity or work is to happen."

The kaingin system is the primary kind of activity in which Obbo is practiced. Our forefathers have practiced Obbo as a lifestyle in the community. According to my source, Kalanguyans come mainly from Tinoc, Ifugao, our mountainous neighboring province on the north side. Our ancestors spread out earlier than the break of World War II, of which Philippines was much affected. My grand grandparents were the first inhabitants in the place where we are now.

In the early days, there were only a number of families living in most of the places. My grandparents' place was no exception to the small population. The space is very wide. Anyone can work on a particular place without necessary having a paper that shows that the lot he is tilling is his. These days, each person is issued a declaration paper that bears his name (not necessary a Certificate of Title, but it can be given to him soon after, depending on what the government decides) of the portion of the lot he tills. My source says that in the very early days when there were just a number of people and a couple was few, they used to work on their own. As time progressed, they observed that it took them longer to work on cleaning a certain area when they were just two. Thus, the earliest people began experimenting by joining their forces to work on a certain area. Each one would bring his own 'balon' or meal. In addition, a host can expect participants to come just to help without expecting anything in return. In those early days, the host does not have to worry about preparing food. Sometimes, participants verbally make this clear by telling the host that they just came to help. The host then is sure that he is free from the obligation of working for that person. It is his choice whether he will go to work in the future schedule of the person who came to work for him that day.
When they discovered that they could finish work earlier, they joined forces, which allowed them meet the target time without being late for planting, and the practice of obbo continued. The tradition "bring your own food" was still practiced during that time. As years went by and the population increased, they realized that the kaingin system is not enough to provide them with food, and they explored other possibilities. In the early '50s they started making rice terraces.
In the course of time, however, Obbo, which use to be the "bring your own food" system by all participants, has evolved. In the early '70s, the host began to prepare food for all. In addition, each participating person then expected to be paid back with work. Because of the growing population in which every parent needs to feed his/her family, the participants become more concerned with how they can take care of their growing number of families. What triggered the system of Obbo to change was the demand of increased needs that needed to be met, including mainly food and the need of sending children to school. The opening of the elementary school gave them an opportunity to learn, but at the same time required them to work harder to be able to finance the material needs of their children going to school. The old tradition of conducting Obbo that is mainly characterized by helping one another evolved. What used to be a "bring your own baon," the practice of mainly helping without expecting in return, is no longer the same because the host these days is responsible for preparing the food and snacks for all the participants, and must pay back by working for all those who came to work for him that day. Because of the opening of the road connecting our place to the town, jeepneys could come to our place. In late 80's when the road began to be paved well, vegetable gardening became a favorite endeavor for most of the people in the community because of the accessibility and quicker transportation of harvested vegetables. Until this time, gardening has remained popular where Obbo is practiced. Because kaingin and rice fields are limited to palay, gardening is preferred by most of the people. Any kind of vegetable can be planted. Now, rice fields became supplementary income for families.

This is how Obbo operates. A host would set a date that he likes so that people who want to can join. Because it is not always announced, it could have already started days before someone knew it. Anyone can come without inquiring whether he could join or not. No screening is done. Being too young is what can disqualify participant. On the said date, the host prepares lunch for everyone who comes. At times, the food prepared is special depending on the status of the host. Dressing a chicken is quite normal. A host butchering a pig pn such occasions sends a message of being well-off. In past times, canned goods looked more appealing (but not now) and special because few people could go to the lowlands buy ready made food. These foods symbolize status because going to the town market takes money and skills in communication.

The number of people who came to work for the host would be the corresponding days the host is expected to work. Each person sets his schedule on the day he thinks his place to work is ready. If nineteen people come on his scheduled working day, he owes every one of them a day of work and must look forward to working nineteen days as scheduled by the different participants. In case he is not available on somebody's schedule, he can send a proxy, either a brother or somebody he might have talked with. He may have paid his proxy. The original member, though, is preferred, especially if he is the person who has the skill fit for the work. As an example, not all are skilled in forming and shaping good rice paddies. It takes the expert and the experienced one to do it. Oftentimes, the one who committed himself to the group is best sought and not the proxy he would send.

The schedule may be talked over by those who joined the group. Kaingin (cleaning a portion of a land to have it planted with rice or camote and other vegetables), forming rice paddies, or tilling land are the nature of the work. Men usually do the mentioned kind of work instead of weeding or cutting grass. These days, since most of the places may have been tilled, men who sometimes classify weeding the plants as a job for women also work by weeding or cleaning the vegetable garden. Generally though, the women usually take the after-care of weeding of rice fields and rice paddies. They weed as the need arises. They have their own group too. In this kind of endeavor, the women's group have less number of participants compared to men's group where members could reach as many as 60 or more specially when work is at its peak. In some cases, a group can also be as small as 10 persons or even less. In contrast, the most number of women would be at most, twenty. Obbo is primarily men's business and identity.

Qualified participants may be anyone except that he must not be too young to handle the work. Young as fourteen could participate especially when his work is good. There is no such law in the community that prohibits that a thirteen-year-old person could not work for as long as he can handle the work well. I remember my playmate that joined in this kind of activity as early as twelve. That time, I was older by three but his training in their family has made him able to handle work better than any of his age. He likes working than going to school.
Participants are not encouraged to bring along any of their kids for some reasons like: a) The host would have to prepare more food; b) A kid may demand attention that would steal minutes or hour intended for working. In inevitable cases where a participating individual has no one to watch over his kid/s at home, he can bring with him (not too young but about two or three years old who can manage, able to play alone or can play with other kids) and leave at the place where the host is preparing food. This is the problem when many of the participants bring a kid with him because it is an additional responsibility for the host watching over them aside from taking care of his kids. The host is not paid for taking care of the participant's kid. Seldom in a case, where a participating person brings along a "bantay" literally means "watcher" or semantically a "helper" to look after his kid.

The span of work is usually whole day, 'at least' from eight in the morning to five o'clock in the afternoon with one hour lunch break between twelve to one o'clock. The word 'at least' implies not being late for more than thirty minutes. A few minutes may be fine since the Kalanguya people are not so much particular minutes or seconds when this 'obbo' happens. There is no actual record for every person what time he arrived. For as long as one arrives, his name is listed. Late for a couple of minutes may be quite not bad but must not at least exceed to fifteen minutes. People in the village would just measure time by saying morning and afternoon without being too particular on where the long hand of the clock lands. A person may however still join even when the 'sun is high' (our way of saying late). One may join even if he is late for either of these reasons: have a valid reason, or have just "swallowed his shame". "Swallowed his shame" is a term designated to him who knows he is late on the scheduled day of work but still decides to join without any valid reason to tell the host. In such schedule as obbo, everyone is expected to arrive on time because it is a schedule every participating individual has set his mind into. When a person is late, it communicates laziness, incompetence or lack of time management, giving a negative implication to the host. The host may not vocally say any comment but Kalanguyans, being generally not expressive do not confront. In some occasions though, if the host knows the person quite well, he could say, "You are too early!" which of course is an irony because it is the opposite of what actually happened. Kalanguyans are not use to confronting people. Indirect way of rebuking by saying the opposite is often the modest way of correcting without a sign of creating a gap or hurting the person.

In most of the obbo, Kalangoyans prefer food not with so much ingredients used by lowlanders. Common ingredients put in boiled meat is salt, some ginger and onions or garlic in it. The influence of technology as seen on television and heard on radios seem to convince people that spices added on food as "monosodium glutamate" is a must for a good taste which is definitely not true.

Occassions where Obbo is being exercised:
a) Olok - Olok is a term designated to a butchered pig. It includes the idea of people who wants to buy. The person who does the olok chooses what mode of payment is required. If it is a days work, it must not be paid in cash but by coming to the obbo of the one who sold the meat of the pig, goat or any animal butchered. If the person who wants to get portion of the meat and could not come for a scheduled work, he could not get one even if he has money to pay for the meat.
b) Pahan ni Kiyew- Moving of wood from one place to another
c) Hiphip ni payew - Weeding of rice field
d) Ameg ni Abong - Building a house
e)Tanem ni Payew/Bangkag - Planting rice or kaingin
f) Hokley - Tilling of land
g)Gabot ni Galden - Weeding of vegetable garden

g)Ani/Gapah - Harvest time. It usually happens in harvesting palay although it also happens during harvest of vegetables.
g)Dang-eh- this is done when someone wants to start or build a house. Putting the foundation is most important. People who come just to work and do whatever they can accomplish the whole day without expecting wage. They are only served free snacks and lunch. Butchering of pig is a common tradition when a host wants to build a house and wants people to come and work for him free.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I think mountain people have similar concepts of helping each other. Our term for it is 'og-ogfo'. It is a good practice that should be retained.