Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Busy, busy...

First off, I have to let everyone who reads this know that I became an AUNT!!! My sister, Charley, and brother-in-law, Aaron, had their first baby on April 29, 2006. A healthy baby boy, 7 pounds, 6 ounces and 21 inches long. His name is Collin Jude and he is a little cutie!!! Congratulations Charley and Aaron!!!

So, the past 3 weeks have been so incredibly busy. I know it's been so long since I've updated this thing. I've been able to attend quite a few cultural celebrations since I last put in an entry. Since I've been away so long, this is going to be a pretty lengthy entry...but it will be captivating through its entirety.

Kanyao-Malico, Santa Fe, Nueva Viscaya-April 21, 2006
I had often heard about these Kanyao events, but never understood what they were talking about. Basically a Kanyao is a celebration for the community. The host of the event has to save up for many months as 15-20 or more pigs are slaughtered for the "party". In addition to the pigs, cows and carabao and horses are also killed. This particular Kanyao was a three day affair. I traveled with my host mom, some of her family, and Rachel, my PCV friend. We attended the opening "ceremony" I guess you would call it.

All of the local community members were dressed in their native in g-strings and women in their tapis. The elders were in charge of the sacrifice of 3 pigs, a huge male, a medium female and a sickly looking baby. It took several men to drag in the piggy family and get them tied down in the center of the sacrificial area.

They danced, chanted and played the native gongs. The climax came when a slit near the front leg was cut on all of the pigs. Then another man came in with his long wooden stake and started pulverizing the heart. It was brutal and hard to watch, but at the same time I couldn't take my eyes off of what was happening. I've heard many pig squeals since coming to this country, but this was unlike anything I've heard!

We all then sat through several speeches, songs, and prayers before the feast was served. A very unforgettable event!

Ifugao Wedding-Mayoyao, Ifugao-April 22, 2006
We then traveled from Nueva Viscaya to Mayoyao, Ifugao, a place situated in the beautiful rice terraces. I was told that we would be attending a native wedding. Rachel and I figured it would be at the local church in the main town of the municipality. We got into a van and were driven to a house and we were told that we would have to go down. So we followed everyone else. We went down a few steps and got to a clearing where a school was situated...whew, we're here! Not exactly. We had to keep going, and going, and going. It ended up taking us about 30 minutes to go down the mountain and through the terraced rice fields to a house set up with a million plastic tarps.

Rachel and I sat on makeshift benches during the wedding. All through the wedding, men and women were chewing their Moma (a tobacco like habit that people in this area of the Philippines has), and spitting out red, slimey liquid. Another funny thing is that there were little kids selling ice candy (frozen juice) and we bought a couple and ate them during the ceremony. I was amazed at some of the things that I have become accustomed to. Never would we have done anything like that at a wedding in the States.

After the ceremony, the sponsors asked Rachel and I to sit at the main table with them. We had a front row view of the dancing, singing and gong playing. If this sounds a lot like the Kanyao or any other event I've been to, you're right. Anyway, after all of the native dancing, the "modern" dancing began. Of course we were asked to dance right away. Everyone got a kick out of how tall I was compared to the men I was dancing with.

So the dancing was fun for about the first 5 minutes, but then we kept getting asked and asked and asked. But holding drunk, old men up and keeping them from falling over is great only so long. Pretty soon we were begging my host brother and his cousin to find a place where we could go to and not have to dance. We found this halo-halo stand near to the wedding, but far enough away we could hide.

We then decided to head back up the mountain. It took us at least an hour to get up that steep flight of stairs. Along the way, we stopped to talk to some of the locals. It was really fun to use my language and have conversations just in Ilokano. Even if it was only 5 minutes!

Final Vows Ceremony-Tuding, Itogan, Benguet-May 2, 2006
About a month ago, a nun got in contact with me. She was helping in the landslide relief effort down in Southern Leyte. A Peace Corps friend of mine was working with her and gave her my contact info. Anyway, she invited me to a celebration mass for some of the sisters in her convent. The mass was really neat in that they used several different languages used here in the Cordilleras.

After the mass, there was a dinner and of course, dancing and gongs. It was especially fun to see the nuns dressed in their habits and nun garb dancing the native dances! I got to meet a lot of interesting people and hope to keep in touch with this convent.

I do have photos from Mayoyao up so if you want to check them out, go here.