Colayo’s Old Folks
And their Indigenous Calendar
by Alejandro L. Orpilla, Sison A. Paut, Flor Tommonggao
The rustic village stirrings have but begun. The cacophony from a rooster crow,
the cackle of hens, the mongrel bark, the chirping birds, noises from household chores,
and the raging debate of the cool wind with the forest pines blend in elation as nature,
once again, orchestrates a symphony from the dissonance.
eside the indigenous houses sprawl the payew-- the terraced fields. This early morning, their verdant surface bedecked anew with sparkles as youthful rays of the sun begin to touch, and gently caress, the dews upon the leaves of unoy rice. We behold in awe, as what lay before us defines the substance of a prism, akin to a rainbow --- that something which hones the essence of oneness despite diversity.
The houses are now rendered eclectic. While galvanized iron sheets take the stead of erstwhile cogon roofs and exterior wall cover, their largely-pinewood body are traditional --- posts to allow for an elevated floor where from the ground a stairway leads up a balcony which precedes the main door. The kitchen, too, has become eclectic. The western dining table and chairs has all but replaced the indigenous way of partaking of a household meal. It was once customary that a depressed rectangular area on the kitchen floor served as the “kitchen table” and the adjacent area around it became the chairs. Dining was then made as if one were sitting on a low wooden bench.
Cooking, though, is still done the traditional way. Firewood for fuel and three stones, or is it small boulders, carefully spaced apart, to firmly hold the bottom of a pot or pan, upon earthen material inacorner of the kitchen serve well the functions of a stove. Above it are wooden racks where, on days where the sun is scarce, the unoy rice bundles for eventual manual pounding on wooden mortar and pestle are dried by the cooking heat below. Or when wild pig and deer meat become available, they are hung there with the help of the racks for prolonging shelf life.
What makes these indigenous houses more remarkable is the presence of a balcony in all of them. Constructed in a location where it greets the morning sun, it provides a haven of respite from the severe cold the night before. Where today, in one of them, we see an elderly lady crouched upon a low wooden bench basking in the glow of new morning light, thus giving justice and good reason for its orientation and for its being.
Soon, we become part of the motley group huddled below the stairs of the elderly lady’s house. Also catching the sun’s warmth but, more so, to engage the old folks of Colayo in spirited discussion.
Our notes remind us, in brief reverie, that Colayo is a remote settlement straddling a 15,312 hectare area way up in the boondocks of Pasil Municipality in Kalinga Province, the Philippines. Endowed with thick pine forests, her cool climate is enviable. The mountain village was first discovered ideal for human settlement in 1924. But it was only in 1928 when the idaw or timeliness was at hand. The original settlers, from the Tulgao sub-tribe of the Kalinga who were enticed by the area’s water abundance, came in a group of 19 couples, namely: Kitongan and Gulac; Tawao and Andayao; Bayawok and Banaya; Yag-ao and Angnaw; Batangay and Alingay; Pingi and Tuwid; Taya-an and Gannaw; Sibayan and Agnaw; Manganip and Abungos; Ya-o and Abaya; Guisoben and Chigay; Amdok and Bawas; Lagasi and Labago; Ayot and Alangbay; Sumlot and Ganayo; Guyang and Gayot; Chengar and Binggayan; Lagataw and Baludon; and, Ganagan and Samon.
But back to where we were, from the balcony we now hear the mellowed, cracking voice of Littunay, she the daughter of Guisoben and Chigay, in animated talk. The delicate lines of wisdom adorn her aged face, yet her recollection still is untarnished by senility. Time and again, intermittent clarifications in clearer tone are proffered by Ajaak, she the daughter of Tawao and Anchajaw. Albeit a bit younger, her discourse is scholarly. A sprinkling of reinforcing thoughts, too, emanate from the motley group below. And what follows is what Colayo’s old folks had to say.
The Colayo indigenous people define their calendar year based on traditional seasons for agriculture. A practice inherited from their forebears since time immemorial. This calendar is based on the moon’s movement and, thus, its phases. Just like in ancient times where days are counted from new moon to another new moon. And where the type of crops planted is directly influenced by observing the moon’s movement. This calendar is dictated by the cycle of two indigenous crops --- unoy rice and beans as can be culled from the matrix.
This cycle has sustained the agricultural production of Colayo indigenous people as far as they can remember. They reason that this is because such system has oneness with the spirits and, thus, nature.
Science, though, has a way of explaining this practice. It is known as moon or lunar gardening which bases the right time for planting on the moon’s gravitational effect on the flow of moisture in soil and plants. Science avers, in such instances, that the moon influences ocean tides, groundwater tables, and fluid movements in plants and with each passing makes continental land masses rise in elevation.
Thus, this indigenous practice makes Colayo’s forebears today’s unheralded scientists. For theirs are successful experiments well-written, not with pen on paper, but upon the terraced fields where, as we conclude our discussion, the aging rays of the morning sun still touch, and gently caress, the verdant leaves of unoy rice.
From where we squat, we also are afforded a farther view of the dense existence of unoy rice that makes the payew beam in golden pride. Truly, Kabunian, the Almighty God, continues to bless the indigenous farming ways of Colayo.
Mother Nature sits by, grinning in unsullied contentment.//