BY JAILA SAGPA-EY AND JS TABANGCURA
Posted by Bulatlat
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet ?The early people of Benguet actually used ethnic blankets woven by the Ilocanos of Tagudin and Bangar, Ilocos Province. Contrary to the present generation’s notion that ethnic blankets are only used for death-related rituals and ceremonies, the early Benguets used blankets daily. These blankets have different names and kinds depending on their owners’s status, age and gender.
This was revealed through a baseline study by Erlinda Alupias, Betty Gayao, Dalen Meldoz and Jaila Sagpa-ey titled “Improving the Textile Industry in Benguet.”
The study shows that the lifestyle of the Benguet people since the early 1960s was influenced by traders and migrants from the lowlands who had more access to different kinds of blankets, clothes and other fabrics.
However, the original designs and figures have been lost in the memory of old folks and even the Ilocano weavers because the knowledge was passed on orally until it became a part of the culture of the Benguet Ibalois and Kankana-eys. This process is locally termed as tinmaru-tarun. Since only the rich could afford the woven products from the Ilocanos embroidered with different designs, the blankets became associated to their status, hence the status blankets.
Benguet status blankets and clothing have a common combination of red, black or dark blue and white or dirty white. The designs are figures of “x” and the eyelet design may represent a shield, a man, and a snake. Genuine blankets can be determined by the arrangement of the design like the snake sign being placed after the man.
In the case of the salibobo/sadipopo or bedbed, a headband used by rich old men or community leaders, the design corresponds with the status blanket. Most often, the status level is determined by the number of eyelet designs. If there are nine or 13 or 15 eyelet designs, this is the corresponding number of animals to be butchered or have been butchered in a cañao.
Blankets worn only by those who already performed certain steps of ca ñao are called alahdang/alechang, pinagpagan, dilli/shengdi and kuabaw/sarong. Blankets worn by the poor with simple designs are called bayaong/kolebaw and bandala/safey. Blankets like manta and mabli were used years later.
Status blankets can be inherited or acquired. There are areas in Benguet where people are particular in using ethnic blankets that should be identical to what his/her ancestors used. In other areas, the prestige of using status blankets may be attained after performing levels of ca ñao.
Historically, Benguet people wore g-strings made out of tree barks. When g-strings made from woven cloth was introduced, those who can afford discarded their tree bark g-strings.
In areas near Metro Baguio like Atok, it was in the late 1940s that kuba was seldom worn. In Kibungan, old men from the outskirt barangays stopped using kuba in the late 1980s. In Kabayan, men stopped using toto/kubal in the 1970s.
There are no meanings attributed to the colors of the kuba. Generally, the kuba worn by a man should be the kuba design worn by his forefathers. The kankana-eys have several kinds of g-string: the baa, binoltong, pillac, pinangsas and sinulaman. For the Ibaloi men they have the pinangsas, padasan and donas.
The wrap around skirt worn by women is called devit or etten and the matching blouse is called sa-dey, kambal and sambra. The designs are combinations of bangkoro and kambayashu, combination of black, red and white stripes.
At present, people who still practice the old traditions prefer ethnic clothes made from pure cotton. The clothes should also be loose because they believe that clothing that will be worn by their dead relative must decompose with the corpse. Clothing with synthetic materials takes longer to decompose. Because of this, it is believed that the spirit of the dead would cause trouble for the living relatives.