By: Glo Abaeo Tuazon
Baguio City. After the torrential rains late last year comes the drought. The phenomenon called El Nino is hitting the highlands severely, affecting agriculture in a most devastating capacity. The crops of corn, tobacco and rice are wilting and going to waste for lack of water. In the Cordillera alone it is estimated that about 8,000 hectares or more of farmlands are affected and the people are afraid it might even worsen if the rains will not come soon.
The El Nino has been a problem since last year even with the periodic onslaught of the typhoons. This phenomenon is defined as the abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the Eastern Tropical pacific, which in turn is one part of what is called Southern Oscillation. This phenomenon is a see-sawing pattern of the surface air pressure reversing between the eastern and the Western tropical Pacific that when one is on high the other end is on low. The phenomenon was dubbed El Nino which in English is translated as “The Child”, to mean “The Child Christ”. This is for the reason that more often than not the occurrence of this phenomenon often falls during the celebration of the birth of Christ.
So with the ENSO now also comes the effect in other parts of the world to include the Philippines. The Mt. Province, Bontoc in particular has became arid these days, the fields sustained by a very weak trickle of irrigation water and the crops are suffering. The farmers are getting fidgety by the day hoping the weather changes and with luck bring in the rains. In March last year the municipality of Bontoc planned a rain dance activityin Talubin to counter the weather and pray for rain but luckily the rains came before they were able to perform it. It was the Manerwap in Bontoc Ili that pushed through with Mr. Luciano Kanongkong and the other tribal elders leading.This year the thought of doing it lingers again and the idea is becoming more and more inviting. The ritual called “Manerwap” in Bontoc has been going on for generations. This is a ritual-full activity done to invoke the gods and induce precipitation as also to cleanse the evil of the lands. The village elders gather and start with a rite of sacrificing a chicken and wine in the “ato”, with a lot of “sabusab” and prayers to the gods. When this is done, the village people gather and parade to the “fawi”, an elevation where rain usually starts. In Bontoc they often do it on a hill above the Kadchog Terraces or the highland place in Talubin. The parading is accompanied by the thud-thudding sounds of the wooden “kalasag” (shield) and some gongs. They reach the place and the participants again start the ritual until they are ready to come down the mountain. This ritual is not without pains as it requires intense hiking and fasting. When the people choose the Talubin area, the hike is much longer and intense as the place is farther than that along Kadchog. In both cases however the fasting is both observed and that the participants are only allowed water intakes. The reason why only the physically able and strong (mostly the “babaros”, young able lads) are urged to join the hike to the hills. At about dawn these lads after doing some prayers are met by the womenfolks to bring them provisions of food. And they all go back to the village to feast and continue the rituals. Throughout the vigil time with the circle of elders doing their sacred chanting, the gongs would be continuously beating for the whole duration of the required days. And accordingly, the feast is also a village effort where every household contributes to the success of the event, whether in cash or kind for the food that they and some visitors are to consume.
The ex Human Resource Management officer of Bontoc, Mt. Province, Mr.Luciano Kanongkong being one of the elders in the area often participate in these said rituals. In most cases throughout the activity durations, he said the rains does come as he observed even during childhood. It comes right after the ritual itself or it may take longer after a few days or a week. Nobody really does have an explanation as to why the rain does come but it does, whether by full exertion of faith or there really are ‘gods’ out there listening to the pleas of the people. One thing the people will agree to these days is the fact that the Real God is up there and that He always looks upon the plight of his wards.
In the meantime Bontoc is contemplating the idea of a Manerwap, with the gathering of elders in the Ato the decision will be made. But then again the dry fields await…