Kenta: A Ritual for an Infant’s Prosperity


DUMALAGA. Many of the rituals conducted in Cordillera such as the kenta of Bauko, Mountain Province is usually accompanied by butchering of sacrificial animals like chicken.  This one year old hen (above) that signifies a good future for the baby will be butchered in observance of kenta.//MABLitilit

A child’s cry awakens the community in the middle of their peaceful sleep. Smiles, tears of joy, and happiness are seen on everyone’s faces inside the delivery room. In the dap-o (fire place) the elders gladly plan their activity on the next morning and every one of them volunteered their selves to bring the necessities for their activity.

If today, a baby shower is done before the child birth, elders have also their Kenta after the child’s birth.

In the undergraduate study of Sylvia B. Cawayan , a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Development Communication of Benguet State University titled, “Continuing the Life of Kenta: a Documentary of a Traditional Practice of Bagnen, Bauko Mountain Province” , it was highlighted that kenta as a ritual has three processes namely kanibag, kenta, and kasawa.

First process

From the day of the birth of the infant, the parents were prohibited from work such as cutting trees, building stone walls, going to wake, carrying a dead person, and even travelling .  It was believed that doing these may cause the child sickness and even death.

Kanibag is purposely done to stop the maternal bleeding of the mother. The ritual is performed during the day of birth by the elders, parents, and the new born. If the child was born at night, the ritual will be performed on the next morning and if the delivery was at the hospital, it will be done on the day the mother and the infant gets home.

During the ritual, a match-sized etag will be cooked which will serve as an offering to Kabunian (supreme being) and the luwalo (prayer) will be uttered usually by the grandparents.

After the prayer, the elders will bury the infant’s placenta in front of the family’s house for they believe that by burying the child’s placenta, he will become shy and fearful in the future.

Then the baby will be bathed with cold water accordingly, so that the baby’s bravery and resistance to cold will be built.

On the other hand, after the day of the delivery, the mother is required to take a bath three times a day for at least five days to maintain her cleanliness.

Second process

 After the kanibag, kenta or gobgobbaw will be done after three days from birth for the infant’s good health and future and he will grow up in an ideal way. The ritual also serves as the proper introduction of the baby to the relatives and friends of the family as well as to the community.

A sinsingi (five months old chicken) will be butchered by the elders from 8:00-10:00 o’clock in the morning and cook it with etag. The butchering of the singsingi during the rising of the sun represents the good growth for the child.

When the food is cooked, a bowl of cooked rice and etag, uncooked rice, and rice wine are displayed in front of the elder who will do the luwalo (prayer).

MORE THAN A DELICACY. Pinikpikan mixed with etag is one of the delicacies in the Cordillera that serves as a cultural identity of the Igorots during occasions. //

Third Process

Lastly, kasawa or dukpos is performed after eleven days of the child birth which is usually when the child’s navel chord falls off.

Also, the ritual is performed during 8:00-10:00 o’clock in the morning and a dumalaga (one year-old chicken) is butchered and cooked with etag. The dumalaga signifies a good future for the baby.

Patrick Dawey, a 75 year-old native of Bagnen, Bauko, said that the prayers for the three rituals vary from each other.

“Pagans and Christians pray to the same God. The only difference is that Christians term their prayers as luwalo which are just the shortened verses of the sapo (prayer of the Pagans),” added Dawey.

After the kasawa, the parents of the child are no longer prohibited to do the things that they were not allowed to do upon the day of the child birth.


Values Reflected in the Ritual

 According to Marcos Kimmakim, one of Cawayan’s key informant in her study shared that some values are observable while most are implicit and a person can only realize it if he joins in the actual performance.

Unity is the main value reflected in the practice of kenta according to Onelia Calapyaw, another key informant stated that the ritual creates a feeling of oneness among the relatives and friends of the family of the newborn.

Moreover, generosity is another value observed. The relatives and friends who visit the infant brought gifts to the newly born and these gifts were never asked for. The quantity or quality of the gifts depended on how many or how much the giver willingly shares.

Hospitality is also viewed in the practice of kenta because during the first weeks of the baby, his family is always busy entertaining visitors. One of Cawayan’s respondents said that though sometimes the family feels tired in entertaining their visitors, their kindness, generosity and friendliness will never fade.

Another value that is seen is responsibility. Kimmakim explained that it is the responsibility of the elders, adult relatives and friends to give advice on good parenting during the practice of kenta especially for the parents who just had their first baby.

Moreover, Dawey claimed that the duty was passed by their ancestors and it is the time for them to administer the ritual.

How about you, would you allow those practices to die in your hands?

Kenta is not merely a ritual. Various values can be learned from it and it is our duty to preserve the knowledge that our forefathers left on us even though we are in so-called computer age.// Margaret Anne B. Litilit






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