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The Ifugao Baki and Mumbaki

ONE thing that can be considered patently Cordilleran, particularly of the Ifugaos, is the baki.

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The Baki and Mumbaki in the Ifugao province. | John K. Chua
The Baki and Mumbaki in the Ifugao province. John K. Chua

ONE thing that can be considered patently Cordilleran, particularly of the Ifugaos, is the baki. Baki is the Ifugao system of rites and prayer imploring favour from deities. By and large, there are three worlds proximate to luta (earth) where deities are believed to be inhabiting.

Ifugao Baki and Mumbaki | John K. Chua
Ifugao Baki and Mumbaki John K. Chua

One is Dalom which is described as a habitation underneath earth where the god Yogyog is. Another place is Daya believed to be where the sun sets. And the third is Kabunyan where a supreme being, referred to as Ma'nongan dwells. (Yes, Kabunyan is a place in the Ifugao belief, while Kabunyan in other Cordilleran ethnic groups refers to a god.) Ma'nongan comes froms the root word "onong" which means "give" or "confer" thus the word Maonongan (which can be understood as worthy of being given/conferred of service, prace, offering) which later evolved into Ma'nongan (other dialects would have it as Maknongan).

Ifugao Baki and Mumbaki | John K. Chua
Ifugao Baki and Mumbaki John K. Chua

It is performed by a mumbaki or a group of mumbakis. A mumbaki is male who has learned how to do the ceremonies. There are no formal schools for baki. A youngster can learn his baki by simply listening to the prayers being recited during the occasions when they are performed, then fortifying hisknacks from the tutorials of a seasoned mumbaki. His validation of being a mumbaki happens when he is called to join other mumbakis to perform the rites and prayers.

The occasion in which the baki is done is called a honga. A honga is usually a public occasion although the people do not have participation, say responses like in a mass, in the recital of the baki. At best, the involvement of the public are on the slicing of the animal offered in the baki, the cooking, and eventually, the partaking of pahing (take-home meat) and/or food.

There are two kinds of honga - hongan di matagu (honga for the living) and hongan di page (honga for the rice). Hongan di tagu is for the welfare of an individual, especially the sick or the elderly. There are categories of hongan di tagu depending on the social status of the person for whom the honga is celebrated. The highest is the dinupdup which requires several pigs and often, a carabao. The least is one called "pamaag dah baki" (they just recite their baki) which does not require a lot of animal offering. Hongan di page on the other hand, is performed for the success of the stages of the agricultural cycle. The celebration is a must for the owner of the designated puntonakan. A puntonakan is a rice field that leads every stage of agricultural cycle. No other field would plant seed bed if the puntonakan has no seedbed yet. The same is true with the boge (planting) and botok (harvest). The performance of hongan di page for the puntonakan is as good as performance for the whole village. However, it will not prohibit others from performing it for their own rice fields especially the larger ones.

A mumbaki knows both hongan di matagu and hongan di page but the performance of one prohibits him from performing the other until such time that his ngilin (also called pangigimoh, similar to fasting and abstinence) is over. Mumbakis are obliged to comply with sacrifices such as the ngilin after they have performed a baki as it is believed that the favour asked for in the baki wouldn't come true. There may not be formal penalties for mumbaki who violates their sacrifices but it is enough that he would no longer be invited by others for his baki. It is believed that the mumbaki who breaches his work will no longer be heard by the deities.

Ifugao Baki and Mumbaki | John K. Chua
Ifugao Baki and Mumbaki John K. Chua

The baki is a testament of a people's advancement of ways of thinking even before being flooded by foreign frames of mind. This is the case, I believe, in other Cordilleran ethnic groups. Thus it can be said that Cordillerans indeed have that originality and strong sense of progressing his/her own person and the community and in general the betterment of humanity. It is not be about reviving the baki or anything that has been considered in present times as paganistic but to inspire the Cordilleran identity.

Written by Richard Kinnud.


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