HISTORY AND CULTURAL LIFE
HISTORY AND CULTURAL LIFE OF THE TOWN OF CONCEPCION
( PART I )
Concepcion is a municipal district with a population of about two thousand. This township lies just at the base of the highest peak of the Ilocos ranges. It is composed of eleven barrios. The town is rather insignificant and, in fact, there are many people of Ilocos Sur who do not know that there is such a town by the name of Concepcion. Except for the historical Tirad Pass, Concepcion claims no importance.
There is no written record of the town's origin and development. The few facts known about this town have been handed down from generation to generation but were never put into writing. Hence, there are no exact dates and names of important figures that can be mentioned for the Spanish period.
About the middle of the 16th century, some people from Besao, Mt. Province went to settle in Pag-an, a plateau right at the base of the highest peak of the Ilocos ranges. These people who lived in Pag-an increased slowly. They were bitter enemies of the lowlanders, so they always stayed in Pag-an so that they could always overlook the trails below and could see if their enemies were coming.
When there were so many of them in Pag-an and they could not raise enough mountain rice, camote and vegetables, some of them moved to Matbo, a little valley some kilometers below Pag-an. Some went to Am-amasan, another little plateau south of Pag-an.
Some groups of people from Besao came also at about the close of the 16th century, so that at the beginning of the 17th century, there were already several places that were inhabited by at least a hundred people or more. Each was independent of the other and, at the same time, they had some tribal wars.
During that time, the Spaniards did not yet care to extend their powers over these uncivilized people. Probably because there were no roads going to these places and besides, these people were of no economic importance. Among the most important places which were inhabited by independent tribes were Pag-an, Sarsar, Amamasan, Lingey, Calang, Paspasaki, Ab-aban, and Gongonnot.
As years rolled by, the people of these places increased and scattered themselves in the different places where they could make rice farms. These people had also gradually developed friendships with the lowlanders and had been trading with them.
When the Spaniards were able to conquer the Igorots of Lepanto, they established their headquarters in Kayan. Kayan was made the seat of the government of the sub-province of Lepanto. The Spaniards wanted to develop the copper mines of Lepanto, so they extended their power over all the other places. The sub-province of Lepanto was expanded westward, including all the tribes that were on the western side of the Ilocos ranges. Although the people loved their freedom, they could not resist being ruled because the Spanish soldiers had guns and the people had only spears and bows and arrows for weapons. So, the different tribes were added to Lepanto with the seat of government in Kayan.
As a sign that they were subjugated, the people were required to pay tributes. To facilitate the collection of tributes, a gobernadorcillo was appointed in each tribe. This [gobernadorcillo] was given the power to collect the tribute and to transmit orders from the Spanish commander.
There was a Spanish commander in charge of the garrison in Kayan who wanted to make himself popular. When he appointed the new gobernadorcillo of Led-ag (the present site of Concepcion), he presented him a cane of the best wood available in the locality. The top part of the cane was covered with silver and on it was inscribed his family name, La Concepcion. He then ordered that heretofore, the place should be called Con-
cepcion. Not long after, a missionary priest was sent to Concepcion and [he] established a missionary outpost. He officially christened the place Concepcion, adopting the Immaculada Concepcion as its patron saint. By this time, the people of the original tribe who settled in Pag-an had moved to Led-ag, and Led-ag was already the most prosperous among the different places that were incorporated in the sub-province of Lepanto.
About the middle of the 17th century, the places incorporated which were east of the Ilocos ranges were separated from the government at Kayan. A headquarters was established in Day-agan (now San Emilio). The gobernadorcillos of Concepcion and the neighboring barrios were all under the rule of the Spanish commander at Dey-agan.
THE GREAT EXODUS
It was about the middle of the 17th century that the trail from Baugen to Angaki was opened. The commander of the garrison in Dey-agan recruited men from the different barrios to work on the road and cut timber in the forest for making barracks and other public buildings which they wanted to construct. This commander by the name [of] Angwas was very cruel. The people protested when they were repeatedly called to work because they were not paid. Angwas punished those who did not comply with his orders. He whipped those who were not able to report for duty although they had some good reasons for their absence.
When the people were really tired of the compulsory free labor, many of them decided to move to some other place where Angwas could not call them to work. The people of the barrios of Col-Ang, Gongonnot, Paspasaki, Ab-ahen and Amongao packed up their things and migrated southward. Not a single person was left in each of these barrios. Some of them went to Santol, La Union, Pugo, La Union and the different eastern towns of La Union; and the others went as far south as Sison, Pangasinan.
Those who did not want to leave their homes in the other
barrios had to endure the cruelties of Commander Angwas until the road was finished. These people who were left increased and occupied the little plateau and little valleys among the hills. Some people from the lowlands also migrated to these places. During the latter part of the 17th century, Concepcion was made a municipal district and up to date, it is still a municipal district.
Since the establishment of the municipal district of Concepcion, the presidencia had been in Concepcion. Sometime after the Filpino-American War, the presidencia, convent, church, and school were burned by a prisoner. This prisoner set fire to the presidencia because he wanted to escape. The church, convent, and school were [also] burned.
The people could not make another presidencia at once, so they made the soldiers' headquarters in Mabatano, which was already vacated, as the presidencia. In latter years, the presidencia was transferred to Ananaac. But the name of the municipal district is still Concepcion.
Throughout the period of [the] American regime, the municipal district of Concepcion made considerable progress. The trails connecting it with other towns such as Bauguen, Sigay, San Emilio, and Angaki were improved. The bulk of trade with the lowlands increased. Public schools were built and now, lowlanders migrated to Concepcion. Although the infiltration of progress was quite slow, there were tangible proofs that these people were beginning to assimilate the rudiments of civilization. This manifested in their costume, dwellings or abodes, the use of better farm implements, and the varied products which the people produced.
Until about the end of the 17th century or just even as late as the establishment of American rule, the Tinguian women wore the tapis with a simple kimono and beads wound around their heads and arms with long necklaces of beads with either the short-sleeved camisa or none at all.
Nowadays, the people dress as the lowlanders do, except [a] few old men and women in the remote barrios who still take pride
in dressing as their forefathers did and for economy's sake, too. The houses are now well-ventilated. Many people have built substantial homes out of the best lumber from the forest and roofed with galvanized iron sheets.
DESTRUCTION DURING THE JAPANESE TIME
Like most of the towns in the lowlands, Concepcion was also badly affected by World War II.
One week after the fall of Vigan, the remnants of the soldiers who defended the province banded themselves [together] and organized a guerrilla outfit under the leadership of an American officer by the name of James Walter Cushing. He made the publi school building in Ana-anaac his headquarters. The outfit, although few in number, was able to check lawlessness in the hinterlands and, at the same time, kept up the morale of the people, for there was no more government that would control the actions of the people.
In March 1942, the Japanese forces stationed at Candon marched to Concepcion and tried to capture the guerrilla outfit of Major Cushing, but they were not successful. However, the Japanese burned the schoolhouse which was used as headquarters and the houses around the school building. Since then, the guerrillas had no permanent headquarters.
The Japanese made the school in Concepcion their garrison. During their stay in Concepcion, many people whom they suspected of espionage were sent to their doom. Likewise, the guerrillas also liquidated those whom they suspected were in connivance with the Japanese. As a result, many lives were lost without any just cause.
When the Japanese left Concepcion, the guerrillas burned the garrison and houses in Concepcion.
When liberation came, the people had to build their houses. They were only simple and not strong because they used only bamboo and cogon. Besides, the people had no time yet to cut timber from the forests because they had to devote most of their time planting their crops. Most of the people were still recovering from the diseases that attacked them during their
stay in their evacuation camps. However, in spite of the fact that the ravages of war brought on their faces, they were very grateful that they survived and tried their best to rehabilitate their own town.
After five years, the people of Concepcion have recovered from the destruction brought about by the war. They then began building better homes. Every year, good homes are now being built in all barrios of Concepcion. In spite of the fact that the prices of building materials have risen because of the import control [policy], some people have managed to earn and save enough money to put up good houses.
The schools which were burned during the Japanese time have been rebuilt with funds provided by the War Damage Commission of the United States.
TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS, AND PRACTICES
DOMESTIC LIFE. The domestic life of the Tinguians is not different from other tribes. There are only a few facts [probably meant "facets"] where their domestic life differs from those more civilized tribes and these points of differences can be attributed to their religion. It would, therefore, be better to include those that are religious practices under the heading "religion."
SOCIAL LIFE. In general, the social maturity of the people is much lower than those of the lowlands. Except the few religious festivals which they have, they have no social activities. The women of Concepcion never seem to be worried about their delivery. They don't make any preparations before delivery as the other women do. In most cases, there is not even a midwife to attend to a woman who delivers. They have very simple and primitive ways of taking care of a baby just born.
After the baby is born, they cut the umbilical cord with a split wild bamboo (caña boho). They put the placenta in a little pot and bury it under the house. In earlier times, they used to hang this on the branches of big trees. The baby is wrapped in rags. In some cases, babies have no clothes.
The mother is not confined to bed at all. After delivery, she performs her daily household chores. This primitive practice is one of the factors responsible for the high death rate, especially infant mortality.
BAPTISM: When a child is born, parents never bother themselves about selecting a name for their child. They just name the child any name they ccan think of. However, there are now some of them who bring their children to the church to be christened. Among the young people, we seldom find names which are not Christian names. But the names of their fathers, mothers, and especially the older set may sound very funny. You may hear such names as Calig-ong, Copaya, Baticlong, Digmay, Danglap, Passod, Omaoeng, etc.
COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE: Among the Tinguians, courtship is still an affair which does not belong to the young people alone. Their parents play an important role. In some cases, parents arrange the marriage of a boy and girl without their own knowledge. The parents make the arrangement when their children are still in their early teens. When their children are of marriageable age, then they perform the traditional marriage ceremonies. Some young people nowadays court each other but then, the moment their parents gain knowledge of it, they interfere and arrange the marriage without giving the young people their right to select the right time to get married or what will be done during their marriage.
When a man wants to marry a young woman, he goes every night to the house where the girl sleeps. It is a practice among the Tinguians that grown-up children do not sleep in their houses. The big girls sleep in a house which may be occupied by a small family or a house [that] might have been vacated. The boys sleep in the abong, a low structure where the old men perform their religious ceremonies and also assemble during their spare hours to discuss topics of the hour. It is in these sleeping houses where most of the courtships are done.
After the boy has won the love of the girl of his dreams, he tells his parents about it. The parents then go to the parents of the girl to make arrangements.
There is something very unique in the marriage among the Tinguians. This is the trial or probationary period. This period is the time the boy and girl as well as the parents of both parties observe each other if he [or she] will make a good husband or wife. Of course, the boy and girl are not yet allowed to get together in spite of the fact that they live in the same house.
The parents decided on the date when the boy begins his probationary period. This is based on the position of the moon. [The] Probationary period usually begins during the third or fourth night after the moon.
The boy goes to the forest and cuts dry wood for fuel. He selects the best kind of wood for fuel. He scrapes off the bark and cuts them equally. No stick should be longer or shorter than the others. They should all be of the same length. Them, he ties them into a bundle. He carries the bundle of wood to the house of the girl. In putting down his bundle of wood, he should be very careful not to drop the load and make noise. If he does, it is a sign that he is ill-mannered [and] the marriage will not be continued. From this time, he stays in the house of the girl for two or three days. He helps his father-in-law in his work. If the parents of the girl are satisfied with his conduct, they tell him so and send him home. Then, the girl's term begins.
The girl goes to the house of the boy. She carries water, pounds rice and helps her mother-in-law in all her household work. If she proves to be a good girl, the boy's parents tell her so and send the girl home.
After the probationary period, the parents then make the arrangements for the final marriage. In the early days, the boy and girl did not need to go to the Justice of the Peace or the priest for the marriage solemnization. They lived together
and they were husband and wife. However, nowadays, they always have the marriage ceremony either by the priest or the pastor or the Justice of the Peace.
DEATH AND BURIAL: In the old days, these people did not have any fixed cemetery. They just buried their dead anywhere. If a baby died, he or she was buried under the house. A man or woman who died was just buried anywhere outside his [or her] yard. The old men considered leaders of the barrio were put in hollowed logs and [these were] closed tightly. These solid coffins were not buried. These were put in caves in the mountainsides. This practice is not tolerated by the government anymore. Besides, there are now cemeteries where people bury their dead.
If a many or woman dies, the corpse is made to sit on a chair and the chair is placed against the wall usually tied to the post at the end of the house opposite the door. A visitor may take for granted that the one sitting on the chair is not a dead man because he has his pipe and freshly rolled tobacco stuck in his big handerchief which is wound around the head.
The members of the family, relatives and friends sit in the house, and even in the yard if the house is not big. A rope is tied to the ceiling and hangs just in front of the dead. The one who pays his last respects to the dead clings to the rope and stands in front of the dead as he or she says whatever he wants to say as a compliment to the dead or his family. The mourners take turns in paying their compliments. Oftentimes, mourners bring out controversial topics concerning their domestic affairs such as the proper way of entertaining their guests, questions of relationships and even about the right parties to inherit whatever is left behind by the dead. In cases like these, the old men and women turn their mourning into a sort of formal debate. Of course, it is carried [on] in their native dialect with the customary air or melody.
RELIGION AND SUPERSTITIONS:
Although the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church had been established for a long time, the greater bulk of the population still belongs to the pagan religion. Since paganism is a form of worship that is intertwined with superstitions, they should be discussed simultaneously with religion. Each one cannot be divorced from the other. Paganism is a worship about the spirits of the dead, hence it is full of many superstitious beliefs. In addition to the spirits of their dead ancestors, they also worship spirits who are considered to be powerful and can help them attain their wishes and desires. The chief spirit they worship is Kabunian. Lumawig is also another powerful god whom they always implore to help them.
The pagans have no church. Every year, just before harvest time, they have BIGNAS. This is a sort of religious festival. This is celebrated as a token of thanks to the spirits for giving them good and plentiful harvests.
This festival begins at dawn and lasts until midnight of the next day. It features offerings of pigs and chickens to the spirits; dances and songs. The offerings take place in the morning. The old men go to the sacred hill and pray, calling all the spirits and invoke them to partake of the food they have prepared. On the sacred hill, they kill the pigs and chickens and drink the wine. But they don't cook the pigs and chickens there. After their prayers, they bring them to the abong. They are cooked in the abong and the old men have their breakfast there. After breakfast, the merrymaking begins.
The people have different kinds of dances. Their musical instruments are the gongs which they beat with a very rapid tempo. The dances last until sunset. In the evening, the people go back to the abong. They sing different kinds of songs. They stay there until midnight or, sometimes, until dawn of the next day.
After the harvest season, they celebrate what they call their days of rest and prayer. This usually last from three days to one week, depending upon the opinion of the old man whom they suppose is in constant communion with gods. During this period of rest and prayer, the people do not go out to work. The men stay in the abong. The women assemble in any place where they pass the time away talking. It is also during this period that they have the family offerings. If a family offers a chicken as a sacrifice to the anitos, it is called MANGMANG. If a family offers a pig, it is called SINGA. The chicken or pig offered is not scalded. It is burned. The belief is that the anitos do not like scalded pigs and chickens because they don't smell the burning feather or hair.
If a pig is sacrificed, the pig is allowed to bleed; but if it is a chicken, it is not allowed to bleed. The old man kills the chicken by beating it with a stick as he says his prayer calling the anitos to come and partake of the food and be very kind to the occupants of the house.
Here is what the man who makes the offering says:
This is called the SIP-OC. This is what the woman says:
AHE! san-en si (Docadoc) ay Apo na. Cumatamac sinan baeyo ta minanapac as inuto yay maid? Kistongas baoet san isang ay Apoc ta waday pangnememan yo ta ummaycayo as minegmegan yo ta iyayagyo ken dakami ay apppyo.
This is what the spirit says in English:
I am his grandfather (Docadoc or any name). I came to the house to look for something to eat but I can't find any. So, I made one of you sick so that you will think of us and give us some food.
The old people will then offer a pig. They call some of their neighbors to share [in] the occasion. After the pig is butchered, the meat is displayed on a little platform outside the house. The old man prays and calls the anitos to come and partake of the food. After this, the cook the food and eat it.
The natives of Concepcion do not have any written literature. They are also devoid of humor. They have no legends, myths or fairy tales.
WITCHCRAFT: According to the natives, there are men gifted by the spirits with the power to make one sick or die if they wanted. This practice is called the AYAK. If somebody steals something and the owner of the lost article calls on the supernatural man, this man can make the stealer sick or make him die.
THE JURY SYSTEM: It is probably among this tribe only where we can find the local jury. The local jury is composed of old men of the barrio and decides petty criminal cases and, sometimes, little disputes about ownerships of properties, unless such cases involve greater amounts.
the crime. Grave cases are always brought to the court. Although this practice is being discouraged by the court, somehow it helps to control the actions of men who might be tempted to commit crimes. In fact, Concepcion is known to be one of the most peaceful towns. No people here ever quarrel. There are no cases of robbery. The town has only one policeman and is not even overworked. The truth is he does not even stay in the municipal building or patrol around because it is not needed. He goes to work every day on his farm just as any ordinary farmer does.
(SGD.) JUANITA GACULA