Wednesday, March 21, 2018
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Museo Kordilyera mounts exhibit on ‘highland, high-class feasting’

/ 05:00 AM March 12, 2018

Arranged marriage in the Cordilleras. PHOTOS BY EDGAR ALLAN M. SEMBRANO

Political and cultural dynamics of traditional societies in the Cordilleras are the focus of an exhibit at Museo Kordilyera of the University of the Philippines Baguio.

“Feasts of Merit,” which recently opened and will run for a year, analyzes the relationship between social status, wealth and feasting in various ethnolinguistic groups in the Cordillera.

Museum director Analyn Salvador-Amores said: “the feasts were conducted primarily to establish and affirm their social status or social prestige [which] explains why ‘feasts of merit’ are also sometimes called prestige feasts. ”


Bulol guardian figures on display at Museo Kordilyera

Amores, an Oxford-trained social anthropologist, said the exhibit would be a good introduction to Cordilleran culture. It serves “as a platform for the discussion of important issues related to the interpretation of culture and transformations that are rapidly changing the cultural landscape of the Cordillera,” she explained.


In the province of Ifugao, the high class called Kadangyan perform “hangan di kinadangyan” prestige rites aimed at sharing resources with the lower classes.

Amores noted Ifugao feasts of merit were done as a responsibility of the Ifugao elites for the good of the community and for the appeasement of deities and their departed ancestors.

The feasts practiced in the Ifugao towns of Asipulo, Kiangan, Lagawe, Hingyon and Hungduan are marked by rituals, chants of ritual epics, material sacrifices (food), dances and gong playing.


In the Bontoc culture of the Mountain Province, a feast of merit called “chono” is performed by married couples who must be descendants of the Bontoc upper-class called Kachangyan.

According to anthropologist June Prill-Brett, the chono is composed of graded feasts: the wedding celebration, the butchering of pigs for consumption of the community and guests, and the elevation to a higher level of the status of the Kachangyan.


She explained feasts of merit are done by the Bontoc Kachangyan for fertility.

She said these are performed for long-married couples to finally have a child. They are also held to pray for “fertility” of the community’s crops and animals.


Among the Ibaloi ethnic group of Benguet, the Babaknang upper-class would share their blessings with the rest of the community in a feast of merit called “peshit. ”

Scholar B.P. Tapang Jr. noted that peshit, a series of feasts with three to five-year intervals usually lasting from 15 to 30 days, are sponsored by the affluent class “to gain and maintain prestige.”

Root crops, rice, wine and meat are usually served during the feasts, explained Tapang.

It is also in the peshit, the scholar explained, that the Ibaloi obtain their protein since, traditionally, they have only taro and sweet potato (later substituted by rice) in their meals. –CONTRIBUTED

“Feasts of Merit” runs until February 2019 at Museo Kordilyera on UP Drive, Governor Pack Road, Baguio City. Call 09562807065.

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TAGS: Bontoc, Cordilleras, feasts of merit, ibaloi, Ifugao, museo kordilyera, traditional societies, University of the Philippines Baguio
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