Cultural harmony, the Kalanguya way

The street-dancing competition

Many of the Northern Luzon tribal cultures are worth immersing into.

One such cultural heritage, that of the Kalanguyas, is showcased in Santa Fe’s (Nueva Vizcaya) Kalanguya Festival. Santa Fe, the gateway to the Cagayan Valley region, hosted the 20th edition of this festival, which is held in conjunction with the town’s fiesta.

Started in 1996, the festival aims to conserve, preserve and protect the almost-forgotten but rich Kalanguya cultural heritage, especially to the younger generation. Slowly, the Kalanguyas (about 70 percent of the town’s 14,500 population) are being recognized as a component for society’s progress, and a feeling of brotherhood now exists between the Kalanguyas and the lowlanders, thus dissolving lowlander discrimination and the prevailing differences between these two peoples. The festival also brought enormous progress and development in the town and its people’s lives.

Joining a media group, consisting of two other print-media representatives and three staff from the Department of Tourism, we all left Manila by 7:15 a.m. and the 216.85-kilometer trip took all of six hours, including a stopover for lunch at San Jose City (Nueva Ecija). We arrived at the town by 1:30 p.m., and were warmly welcomed by Mayor Liwayway C. Caramat and Municipal Tourism Promotion and Development Officer Ma. Theresa Farrah C. Dugay.

As the grand parade, the highlight of the festival, was still scheduled for the next day, we still had time to explore Imugan Waterfalls, one of the town’s natural attractions. The 30-minute hike traversed mildly graded dirt trail, passing a hanging bridge, boulder-strewn streams and, along the trail, wild orchids clinging to trees, giant ferns and stems of tiger grass used in the manufacture of the popular walis tambo, or soft broom, another town product. Also along the way, we passed numerous orchards of sayote, all sprouting on vines clinging to a moderately spaced mesh of GI wire and supported on poles along the steep slope of the mountain side.

Back at the town proper, we were checked in at cottages within the 2,200-hectare Santa Fe Forest Park, a reforestation project with Benguet pine and West Indian mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni). The grand parade was to also start here and contingent members were billeted in the multi-purpose hall. Our dinners and breakfasts were at the roadside Mrs. Gaddi’s Restaurant, with its good selection of hearty provincial fare, steaks, sandwiches and strong coffee.

The next day, after breakfast, we observed the parade of 16 floats (each representing a barangay) along the National Highway as it wound its way to the town proper. Each float had on board its barangay’s beauty candidate, wearing a Kalanguya costume. At the town proper, the street-dancing competition with ground demonstration was held, showcasing the Kalanguya’s costumes, dance and musical instruments.  Each of the three contingents presented a story line regarding a particular Kalanguya practice.

We also observed the padit, a grand canao (socio-religious celebration) ritual featuring the butchering of pigs, native chickens and two carabaos. These were then boiled and served to all attendees. Tapey (native wine) was also served to guests, while the bah-liw was chanted by tribal elders. Later, officials, guests and barangay officials danced the tayaw, to the beat of gongs. Indigenous sports such as bultong (wrestling), tug-of-war, bamboo-pole climbing, wood chopping, gayang (spear throwing), hanggol (arm wrestling) and dapapnikillum (pig catching), plus tapey drinking and group chanting of the bah-liw were also featured.

Within the festival venue were 16 booths selling jams and jellies made from guava, santol, bignay or wild berries; farm produce such as camote, gabi, vegetables, yakun, sayote, etc.; and Ifugao handicrafts such as rattan baskets, woodcarvings, tiger grass soft brooms, and exotic and beautiful handwoven fabrics used as tapis by women and g-strings by the men.

On our way back to Manila, we made a short stopover at Balete Pass (formerly Dalton Pass), located 915 meters (3,000 ft.) above sea level. The highest point in this pass has a 12-foot-high Japanese shrine and monument that recalls the “Battle of the Skies” fought in 1945 between the pursuing 25th US Army and Filipino guerrillas, led by Gen. James Dalton II (after whom the pass was named), and the rear guard of the Japanese Army retreating to the river mouth to the north. Seven thousand Japanese soldiers, as well as General Dalton were, killed in the battle. At its viewpoint, we had a good view into the headlands of both the Cagayan River and the Pampanga Valleys.