Monday, August 10, 2009

Bontoc elders go 'ghostbusters'

The following is the leading story of this week's local newspaper, Mountain Province Exponent:

"Who are you gonna call?"


But they surely came not with high-tech equipment but with prayers and rituals to drive the spirits away.

Elders from the four central barangays of Bontoc performed a "mang-mang" whole day of Friday to start the last rites in the community's effort to rid the Mountain Province General Comprehensive High School (MPGCHS) of what is believed to be unwanted spirits that has plagued the school since July 29.

Amidst a raging storm, old folks from barangays Bontoc Ili, Samoki, Caluttit and Poblacion came to the school and participated in the native rites meant to ward off the spirits. It involved the butchering of a pig with designated "shamans" directed to certain places to perform prayers and come back for further ceremonies.

A "tengao" by the different "ato" in Bontoc will follow on Friday, August 8 to be concluded by the last rite of butchering a chicken at the school grounds Sunday.

It will be recalled that in five separate days, starting July 29, some students in 105 recorded cases fell into various forms of "spirit possession," ranging from fainting spells to hysterical fits.

This led the community to allow the performance of native rites, purposely to exorcise the school premises off the influence of what are believed as unwanted spirits.

In the late afternoon of July 30, the elders carried out the changtey at the school quadrangle. A chicken was butchered and the bile was interpreted as ekeb (good luck). The chicken meat with etag (salted meat) was cooked.

While the food was being cooked, lakay Posot spewed from his mouth tapey (rice wine) on the branches of tikem, an indigenous tree, that were laid on the ground before these were hung at the center of the municipal quadrangle and two entrances of the school compound.

Some elders from Bontoc Ili and Samoki went back to their respective ato to perform the same ritual.

This was followed by drinking of rice wine, basi (sugar cane) and san miguel gin while reminiscing stories which were related to the previous incident and finalizing their plans for the succeeding ritual the following day.

Before the folks left for home at about 7:30 in the evening after partaking of the food, the unconsumed wine was placed properly near the ritual site and the firewood left after the cooking was put in the ember of the cooking until it turns to ashes.

At about 6:00 to 7:00 in the morning of the second day the elders met and shared together at the school main gate if everything was in order or any untoward event had happened after the first ritual. Since everything was fine the next ritual, the pa-ang, was performed.

During the pa-ang, the head bones of pigs were suspended in the two entrances of the school compound simultaneous with the burning (chenet) of bones of animals. This ritual is believed to drive away bad spirits.

The same ritual was simultaneously done in all the entrances of the villages of Samoki and Bontoc Ili where they have atos. Barangays Caluttit and Poblacion did only the chenet.

According to Councilor Alexander Fakat who is among the respected elders, the interpretation of the butchered pig last Friday starting the last rites went well and that it is on this note that the situation will normalize immediately thereafter.


Degay, Francis and Agueda Ambasing. "Bontoc elders go 'ghostbusters'." Mountain Province Exponent 9 Aug. 2009:Vol.5 No. 19.

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