Performing sharay-at for a bountiful harvest

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“Dew drops in the fields, morning sunshine everywhere…” goes the song that plays on my head as I pass along the rice paddies that previous weekend. But suddenly, the music stopped and I began to touch palay leaves stoop on my path. The birds sang a sweet melody and the butterflies flew ahead of me as I continued walking. Turning around, I noticed an old man building a smoke, raised his head, and began inserting flowers along the rice paddies. What does that mean? I asked myself.

Certain practices are done to seek food and prosperity from the unseen beings. In Sadanga Mountain Province, Isadanga performs Sharay-at believing that Kabunian is the god of harvest.

Sharay-at, otherwise called ap-apoy, is a tradition done to achieve a bountiful yield. It is a ritual offered to Kabunian to protect the palay plants from pests and plant eaters like rats, snakes, and birds as well as from strong winds, storms, and hailstorms.

According to Fabion Dagupen, an elder of Belwang Sadanga, practicing sharay-at will prevent dagun (a local term for food scarcity) to the community.

A blessed tour in the green fields

When the planting season is over and the plants have fully matured, community elders will declare sharay-at. One prominent male elder is tasked to make an over-all sacrifice for the community. The elder, will butcher a chicken in his rice field. He goes to the next rice field and built a smoke and pray. The ritual should be done in all his rice fields before offering the cooked chicken inthe papat-tay (a sacrificial place). Again, he will start a fire to heat the chicken. While the ritual is performed, the elder will utter a kapya (prayer) asking Kabunian to bless the harvest ofthe villagers.

Accordingly, his return to the community signifies the opening of sharay-at where every household will do the same practice in their respective rice fields. He would bring to himself a bundle of pudong (a long stick like a bamboo plant with slender, bladed leaves) and will have it stand in front of their house. Belwang elders believe that pudong serves as a protection from bad luck or failure of yield.

Meanwhile, the father of a family conducts the tradition. If he is not capable, other members can perform it, especially the males. The representative of one household will go in their rice field and butcher a chicken but meat of a pig or deer can be a substitute if the latter is not available. When the prayer is done, he will then eat. Apo Livayan, another Belwang elder, said it is a means of partaking with Kabunian as a form of sacred fellowship.

Meanwhile, the mangapoy (the ones doing the ritual) will set the feathers, wild flowers, and tapey near the dalikan before he leaves the field. Dalikan is an indigenous stove for cooking food composed of three stones arranged in a triangular set-up. After the ritual, he will continue doing it in other rice fields. Apo Livayan also said that rice fields hired from other farm owners should also be conducted with the said ritual. When the elder returns home, he will get two pieces of pudong to display at the door of their house which means they already performed sharayat. Accordingly, Kabunian will visit door to door and grant prosperity for those with pudong at their doors.

Yield without sharay-at

On the other hand, possible consequences could be encountered if sharay-at is not practiced. Apo Livayan said, “Umakit na apit. Naraka ay maang-gay na makan ha kandilo et Kaman adi maka-abot na pagey ha pinag-eerag. Isunga rumako ta ha kanen ay pangsedsed-an ha kasi ani.” (There would be less harvest. The rice on the pot is quickly consumed and the stored grains in the rice granary may not reach the planting reason that you have to buy grains while waiting for another harvest season) She elaborated that less harvest is manifested when rice fields are attacked by rice eaters, when palay stalks are short and when bundles of harvested grains is light.

Dagun, according to Dagupen, may strike the community if the ritual is ignored. “Isunga rumako na ipugaw ha kinavan nu dagun tay kurang na naani, adi mapno na agamang na tapina” (That is why people buy rice supplies from the National Food Authority or NFA since the harvest is not adequate that rice granaries are not full) he emphasized.

Moreover,Apo Dagupen mentioned that Isadanga people are industrious. They spent most of their time working in the field, yet they harvest less, nowadays. He added that one reason why people gain less yield maybe affected by how culture is treated. “Na ugali Kaman na sharay-at asa ket adi unay importante. Adu na sus-uro ay mangvaliw ha ikaan ay insamar asa ay modero et. Esa di ay rason isunga akit na apit ya Kaman hiya met lang na pumubre-an,” (Culture like sharay-at is not so much valued in the modern days. Many teachings affected how we used to manage our fields that led to the loss of our practices that is why we experience scarcity or even poverty) he explained.

Indeed, traditions passed from our forefathers serve as guide for the present and even to the next generations of how they survived during the early days. Treasuring the essence of our culture would also mean valuing how our forefathers lived their life and shaped their traditions for our good.

#Ethnic Reporting

Rose Dagupen D.

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