Rewritten and Recomposed By: Arsenia Addon
Tourism Operations Officers – Bauko
Begnas is an Igorot word that refers to Thanksgiving or offering ritual. It is a public celebration that involves feasting, drinking and dancing held at the “at-ato” (village tribal hall) usually done for the purpose of asking for blessings from the almighty and/or as a cleansing ritual due to unfortunate event affecting the whole community.
During a people’s day in 2006, the assembly discussed and adopted the shifting of the municipal town fiesta to Begnas di Bauko. In March 2007, the first Begnas di Bauko was celebrated in lieu of the annual municipal fiesta. The Begnas was institutionalized in 2013 through Municipal Ordinance No. 030-A. This festival carried the goal of promoting the identity, heritage, customs and traditions of the indigenous people of Bauko and to promote solidarity among the 22 barangays of Bauko.
The Begnas festivity traces its origin back to the times when “mangayaw” (headhunting) was still practice by the people of Bauko. It is celebrated after a triumphant “pangayaw”(headhunting) with the human heads as trophies from the war. The trophies are staked on the ground of the “ato” (tribal hall) and the communal celebration is consummated. The warriors being the heroes narrate their victories to draw lessons from or added story on the defence of territory..
The “pangayaw” was done to defend their homeland from pillaging neighbouring villages. This is in recognition that villages before the coming of the colonizers were micro nation states. They made their own laws. They live independently and freely from the other villages, and recognized and considered other villages as co-equals who have their own homelands too. The times when they go to war (Pangayaw) was primarily for the defence of their homeland. With the village tribal wars, they have come up with pacts and recognized their boundaries and common grounds with neighbouring villages to hunt and gather forest products. With this law, the villagers could freely roam trade and socialize with other villagers.
The defence of the homeland was taken as sacred duty of the villagers and is the highest customary law of the village. This is in view of the fact that the villagers look at their homeland as their source of livelihood, the source of their life and not a commodity that could be sold and gone. They recognize that they are a part of their homeland. The loss of their homeland would also spell their death as people. Thus in consonance with this view, the people and homeland exist on symbiotic dependence, their culture and customary laws were developed and woven around the conservation and nurturing of their homeland where spring fort their food, their pharmacy, shelter and their basic needs to survival.
The Begnas festivity is composed of sub rituals that involve cleansing rite after having come from pangayaw, after calamities or disaster that aims to cleanse the village. It also serves as communal psycho-social processing which help villagers come to term with their experiences especially in time of pestilence and disasters. It also involves a closure to sufferings experienced by the community in the past and paves the way of hope for a better year, better lives. It also involves a thanksgiving rite which highlights the festivity’s whole affair. It is when all prayers and bounty are offered to Kabunyan (God) for all graces enjoyed and good fortunes received by the village and villagers.
With the fast changing socio-political, economic and cultural situation in Bauko, wherein the role of the ato(council of elders) as center of the political leadership in the village has been relinquished to that of a mere geo-political sub division of the ili(village) now called barangay. BEGNAS IS STILL ONE OF THOSE BEING PERFORMED AS PART OF OUR CULTURAL PRACTICES. The reason for its performance has also changed, it become more of a token festivity, the form and substance transformed to highlight the merry making activities. It has become a showcase of the indigenous attire with their different remodelled designs. Alas the way to commercialize and commodity the sacred ritual has been paved.
The relationship with the homeland changed; the land is now considered commodity. The commodification of our land opened the gates for the privatization of communal lands by unscrupulous individuals through declaring it as their own. THE ANCHOR OF OUR INDIGENOUSITY IS FALLING APART. If this practice continues the dangers lurks that someday, we will just be another barangay, another people stripped off of our identity with all our wealth and cultural heritage gone.
The premium value that prioritizes common good is now loosened, it is being eroded and the individual good is coming to be the rule…..
Hence the celebrations of Begnas in the municipal level, every year, to reconnect and strengthen the cultural tie that binds the villagers in wider scale to include village mates that resided in other places outside the municipality or across the seas. It is also celebrated to promote the identity, heritage , customs and tradition of the people of Bauko and to strengthen the solidarity of the now 22 barangays.
The Begnas di Bauko is a compendium of activities like cultural dance competition, street dancing, indigenous games, eco-industrial and farm tours to communities. Cultural exposures and adventures to cultural and heritage sites are part of the celebration.