By: Glo A. Tuazon
It was one glorious afternoon in February when people started pouring into the park square of the Rose Garden of Burnham Park in similarly glorious spirits. The sun was up and the skies were blue. The microphones started echoing the recorded sounds of the Cordilleras before the blast of voice announced the opening of the program in exactly 3 minutes.
The walkway was lined with numerous fresh made totem poles and on one end near the lake was the monkey bridge constructed of bamboos. Directly on the opposite end is the stage with the dignitaries abloom in Cordilleran garbs and colors. In a wink the 6 horsemen representing the 6 provinces of the Cordillera Region paraded to deliver the colors where the antique jars containing the tapuey were waiting for the City Mayor’s “uggayam” (chant) to pray over the overall wellness of the people and the week long event that was to transpire.
The activity that was dubbed the IPITIK FESTIVAL was coined from the native term “ipitik”, like a toast of blessing usually done before sharing the bounty to everybody. A ritual that celebrates the culture and traditions of the people that are the denizens of the whole Cordilleras. A ritual that celebrates the old ways even in these modern times, a looking back into what moulded the very character of these lands and its people.
The IPITIK 2011 celebration was a project spearheaded by the Philippine International Arts Festival (led by Ferdinand John Balanag) but involving a lot of people and organizations of diverse specialization. Mostly though they were composed of artists and cultural-oriented groups that has the passion to push on with the back-breaking project. Divided in 2 main categories of Arts and Culture, the week long event was further divided into segments.
Celebrating the skills of the local tapuey brewers, a competition was set and the event came up with jars and jars of assortments. All entries were to be brewed out of the glutinous rice of the contestants choice, and fermented in a span of 15 to 27 days to qualify. Almost a couple dozen of brewers participated and later on shared their brews to the well wishers and the curious alike. Tapuey has always been part of the native culture, consumed as an ordinary beverage or used during rituals and rites of passages.
The PINIKPIKAN COOK-OFF was another main attraction, befitting a dinner to celebrate the opening of the big event. It targeted to give a taste of the native delicacy to about 2000 people and exceeding it to a number far more than expected. The cuisine is of chicken, traditionally burned of the feathers, chopped and boiled. Co-presented by the Cordilleran Global Network (an organization aimed at promoting and preserving the culture and tradition of the region), the big aim was accomplished.
As in past stagings, the On the Spot Woodcarving competition was done. This time totem poles were created from the 12 feet logs provided them. The task was not easy but the carvers worked on it a few days and did the finishing touches earlier that day. Lined up along the walkway they were a gorgeous addition to the streetlights and flower boxes of the Rose Garden.
On the other side of the division is the Axis Art Project led by Kawayan de Guia. The dome created out of used clothings collected over time from Baguio youths were sewn and assembled together over a sturdy bamboo frame. This served to house the Baguio Art Map and became the venue for most of the numerous art workshops, performances and the exhibit for the duration of the PIAF 2011.
The Petcha Bridge that used to be called the Tocucan Bridge was installed by a group led by artist Rene Aquitania. It symbolizes the coming together of 2 neighboring tribes that used to be separated by a water divide and separated also by culture. The bridge is constructed of wood (or bamboo) bend over and anchored by large rock on either base. This task is not easy thus needing the cooperation and unity of the people. In history similar bridges were constructed way back in Tocucan for that purpose, hence the original name Tocucan bridge.
Other installations and crafts and arts dot the entire area of the Rose Garden that people are awed and amazed at the creativity of the seemingly very simple people they usually just meet around the city streets and corners. Different other venues presented exhibits, music performances, workshops, film shows and so much more than one can accomplish in just a week.