The Tale of A Dying Magic


Do you know of a medicine that heals a bad phenomenon such as frequent death? Do you know of a potion that grants agricultural prosperity in the community? There is one. It’s neither or both a medicine and/or a potion. In Buguias, Benguet, they call it pakde.

Sarah W. Og-oget, a graduate of Benguet State University under Bachelor of Science in Development Communication batch 2015 conducted a study on pakde, a dying practice in Bangao, Buguias, Benguet. This research showed how pakde as a practice on agricultural purposes twisted on a practice for preventing frequent death. Facing the reality that this rituals is just one of those that are fading nowadays, revisiting these practices is only way to address the demand of our culture to live again.

Pakde as defined by Sacla in 1997 is a community ritual performed by a family or a group of families living in a contiguous area. It is ritual performed only when the need arises. The elders require this after the occurrence of successive death in the community with the belief that death-causing spirits are deterred from causing more deaths. According to Baucas in 2003, it was one of the most important rituals among Kankana-ey’s from Benguet and Mountain Province.

The dichotomy of the practice

Baucas said that pakde is performed when agriculture is unproductive. Added with this is the story of Domingo Mayangao, a manbunong or native priests cited in the study. According to him, pakde started sometime in 1930’s when their ancestors experienced famine. The rice plants were unable to produce grains and their root crops were dried. Because of this, their elders thought of performing pakde, begging for Kabunian to provide them food to eat and bless their crops in order to produce yield. They butchered pigs as an offering together with rice wines or tapuey. Along with this, they uttered prayer to Kabunian for one night.

After a month of performing pakde, the crops produced a bountiful harvest.

How pakde started as a practice of preventing frequent death was alike with what happened to their agriculture making them conduct the ritual. There was a time when the community encountered successive deaths. Three of their community leaders and native priests died successively for one month. Their elders then were told to perform the ritual believing that it will eliminate bad luck and prevent it from coming. After performing it, death in the community was minimized.

In performing the ritual, both the manbunongs and the rest of community people should be present. Without one of them, it cannot be performed. It is through their unity that this practice will be executed successfully.

While the participation is necessary, the venue of the ritual is vital. They perform this in a place they call Pakedlan. This is a place where there is a wooden post they call it sipsipitan purposely for hanging the jaw of the pig offered. Along with this, is a pair of posts wrapped by red leaves for the ears of the offered pig should be placed. These posts must be in two sides of the community; at the west where the sun rises and at the east where it sets.

Offerings require animals and drinks as a sacrifice. This includes pig and/or chicken, tapuey or rice wine, and togi or sweet potato.

Pakde includes two stages- the after death and during the ritual.

After death

After the burial of the dead, the manbunong consults the community to perform the ritual. Along with this, the community contributes an amount to buy pigs and other materials to be used. As long as the contribution is enough, the manbunong sets the exact schedule for the ritual. Before performing the ritual, the family of the dead is required to stay at home.

This stage of the practice signifies that the ritual were planned and scheduled properly with the participation of the community.

During the ritual

The ritual cannot be started without the assurance that all the members of the community is intheir homes.

Starting, the manbunong cuts the ear of the pig assigning two elders to put it in the sipsipitan. This signifies that the community is performing the practice therefore warning people from the outside villages not to enter. After this, elders make a barricade using any grasses to the entrance and exit of the community to assure that there will be no disturbance of the ritual.

The elders now gather in the pakedlan. The manbunong tells the rules of the ritual. These rules include no talking, no standing, no farting, no drinking, and no sleeping while the prayer is on-going. After it, they now butcher the pig. If the bile is good, they continue but if not, another pig is to be offered. The manbunong utters a prayer as a welcome to good luck in the community.

After the prayer, community has fellowship while waiting for the meats of the pig to be cooked. After cooking, the manbunong once again utters a prayer calling the presence of their dead ancestors to bless the food. Then, they now distribute the meat equally to the community. Equal meat distribution signifies equal distribution of blessings. Before the people go home, the manbunong reminds them to take care not to fall the meats so that they will not do the ritual all over again.

At home, the representatives who joined the ritual share the food with the rest of the family to eat.

In the next morning after the Pakde was performed, three assigned community elders will inspect the pakedlan and sipsipitan to see if there are any alterations in the position. They report to the manbunong. The manbunong interprets if there are any changes that were present in the said places. If any, every family in the community should also have a separate celebration most especially if there are observed bad omen during the ritual.

Although Pakde became a significant practice in Bangao, Buguias, there are challenges that were encountered becoming a factor why this ritual is dying nowadays. As cited in the study, the factors are as follows.

This includes the death of the native priests resulting to the extinction of the practice causing lesser opportunity to pass the ritual to younger generation. Another is the emerging of several spiritual beliefs. This means the criticism of the cultural practice as a work of devil therefore causing the rest of the manbunong to convert into modern beliefs. Lastly is the lack of interest of other community people. This practice was challenged by modernization.

All rituals of the Igorots have its own importance. For Pakde, it helps in agricultural prosperity, maintaining peace and order, preventing death, etc. But all of them carry one importance in general. Sharon Faith Maliones, a resident of Buguias said,”Yung kultura and bumubuo sa amin” (Culture is what unites us). Pakde is just one the rituals that proves that unity among community people is important to survive any form of famine and bad phenomenon. //Denden Pagatpatan


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