Kultura Panggop Si Minatoy (Norman Daipan)

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  • UPDATE: Norman Daipan died on 16 January 2021. A whole library of oral traditions or folklore has gone to the grave with him. Only our memories of him and the life lessons we learned from him remain. There’s not quite a culture bearer and entertainer like him in the tribe, so he will be sorely missed.

  • Credits: Valuable infobits about ulitog Norman are from manong ROMY TANGBAWAN (who also corrected some factual inaccuracies in this write-up) and amonakon DOLLY DAO-AYAN-PULTZ.

The Comedic Culture Bearer

“I am 99 years old!” uncle Norman said matter-of-factly, drawing giggles from all of us.

He was talking directly to Dr. Lawrence “Laurie” A. Reid who, along with his helper Mylene Balaguer and our common friend Dr. Carmen Domingo-Kirk, came with me to Vanaw for a three-day visit.

Of course, uncle Norman didn’t know he was speaking to the top scholar on Philippine Austronesian linguistics. But I’m sure that even if he knew, he would still be his normal, jovial self, seeing the meeting as yet another chance to warmly welcome a kakka-ili ‘outsider’ and to brush up on his English.

Uncle Norman was actually turning 73 that year (2019), having been born on 14 September 1946. He often jokes about being older — or younger — than he actually is, especially among foreigners. A leaf music player, he can also clown around with his favorite musical instrument, a shaddock (pomelo) leaf. He lives with his wife Kapunay (Lilia Bagsao of Guina-ang, Pasil) and five children (three girls, two boys) in a small house close to the river.

The next day, we attended the wake of one of our relatives, Clayton Bittanga (03 July 1937 – 28 July 2019), a retired employee of Brent International School Baguio. As to be expected, uncle Norman was there to entertain us, especially Laurie whom he mistook for Laurence Wilson (author of Skyland of the Philippines). When Laurie started speaking in the Khina-ang language, uncle Norman responded in his “Normanesque” version of Kankana-ey complete with a flurry of hand gestures, nods, and eyebrow flashes. Part of the exchange went like this:

Norman: …Dakayu ay susunud mi ay Isteyt… [laughter in the background]… inmali kayus na

Laurie: Wen, inmali kamis na.

Norman: …ehehKordiryeraKoldirrya… [giggles among the crowd]… ay partin di Kalingaentero ad Abra.

Someone from his audience: Ehehey [more giggles]

He was funny like that, especially after a gulp of gin and water, sometimes speaking in earnest but at the same time flippantly mangling language and thought. The rest of us, the inimitable linguist included, were game, delighting in a moment of levity during a period of mourning.

The wake also saw uncle Norman in all seriousness as a culture bearer, a chanter. In similar occasions, he would also serve as a mintinador (probably a corruption of ‘maintain’), a moderator of sorts whose main task is to assign speakers or chanters at a particular order.

Uncle Norman’s comical veneer and simple life betray his seriousness and the complexity of his knowledge about our kultura (v. mankultura) — a term our old folks appropriated, in this case, to specifically refer to our indigenous rituals or the performance thereof. Among the more knowledgeable elders of our tribe, he has played a prominent part in the conduct of such community activities. He also had a taste of government politics as a one-term pasaju konsesal (Sp. pasado ‘past’ and concejal ‘councilor’).

Like most people in my village, he is an embodiment of hospitality. He always has a ready smile for everyone. Whenever we meet, he would smile and extend his hand, saying, “Amonakon !” ‘nephew’ (his mother was my paternal grandfather’s sister — see family tree below.)

The Recording: Death Rituals

The video recording below was taken on 25 January 2017, a Sunday morning, at the Dao-ayan residence in Balbalasang. My first cousin Paul Saboy Dao-ayan, who is also seen in the video, has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Vanaw language and documentation project and has always made their house available for my quarters, study, and workplace.

As shown by the background noise and movements in the recording, the interview was made during a typical day in the village. It was also done around the jalipong ‘hearth’ which, for me, is a symbol of the Kalinga traditional way of life. Uncle Norman describes in this informal lecture the Vanaw people’s death-related traditional practices which commences with the pakoy ‘shout’ or vogga ‘announcement,’ a verbal notification of the death of a community member, and ends with the waksi, a cleansing ritual. Incidentally started and ended by church bell rings in the background, his narration details a major aspect of our death rituals which, like many of our other indigenous practices, are performed alongside Christian traditions.

Postscript: Death of a Culture Bearer

I was hoping to see uncle Norman again if and when I go home this summer. But he passed away on 16 January 2021. I wept for him not only because he is one of the uncles in my father’s village I hold dear, but also because he takes with him to the grave an entire body of oral traditions. Sure, other elders in my tribe could preside over our rituals and chant what he performed in many festive or mournful occasions, but he was a class unto his own. He had such a unique charm that at his passing, he had left behind a hole in the soul of the village.

Now, he who had sung death chants is now being addressed in dirges and eulogies by his fellow elders. He who had presided over rituals for the dead is now the subject of these rituals.

While the thought of him leaving us fond memories makes me glad, the fact that I will never see him again gives me pain.

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