Editor's Note: Published on Page A15 of the January 18, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
JACKSON Bayang, a 36-year-old native of Sagada, Mt. Province, has been eating dog meat for as long as he can remember.
While the issue of butchering dogs for food has remained contentious, Bayang said eating dog meat should not be such a sensitive topic; neither should it be judged by those who do not know the culture in the Cordillera.
“It comes natural, like eating pork or chicken. It is part of our culture and there is no way this can be stopped,” he said.
Former Mayor Thomas Killip of Sagada, Mt. Province, said that while American missionaries transformed local practices when they introduced Christianity to the Cordillera natives, rituals and traditional practices, like dog meat eating, have persisted.
“It may be that the American missionaries did not try to discourage or prohibit dog meat eating because they knew that it was part of our culture, diet and luxury,” said Killip.
Rev. Moreno Tuguinay, former parish priest of Sagada, said rituals involving
dogs were practiced by his ancestors who were involved in tribal wars.
“Those who came back from the war had to be cleansed in a ritual called the daw-es. A dog had to be sacrificed to cleanse [a warrior] because he was presumed to be dirty after killing [an enemy],” said Tuguinay.
Accounts of Benguet’s Kankanaey and Ibaloi peoples also had dogs as ritual animals when tribal war was rampant in parts of the mountain region.
Former Vice Gov. Wasing Sacla, in his 1987 book “Treasury of Beliefs and Home Rituals,” said the dog was the sacrificial animal in a healing ritual called the tomo.
The Kankanaey of northwest Benguet practice the tomo in connection with tribal wars, Sacla said. The ritual is performed to prevent the spirits of those killed in battle from haunting the survivors, he said.
“Since blood was spilled, the tomo was performed to cleanse or purify those who participated directly or indirectly [in the battle]. For the tomo, the ritual animal is the dog on the belief that it barks and, therefore, can drive away the haunting spirits,” he said.
Five men are chosen to participate in the ritual. They carry bolos and spears and wear woven bamboo headgear decorated with feathers.
The manbunong (or mambunong, a native priest) first instructs the men to go on a headhunting expedition to simulate a battle. They find an imaginary enemy in the form of a fern tree. The leader thrusts his spear into the trunk while the rest cut down the branches.
‘The enemy’s head!’
As they slice off the bud, the men shout, “Na-aka!” (We got you!), followed by “Ooooy! Ooooy!” The leader pierces the fern with his spear, shouting, “Nay di toktok di ka-ibaw tako! (Here is the head of the enemy!)”
The manbunong then asks the warriors, “Sino sa? (Whose head is that?).” The warriors respond: “Toktok di buso (The head of our enemy).”
The tribal priest asks the men to lay their weapons on the ground and the sacrificial dog near the weapons. After the prayers, the warriors slit the dog’s throat and its blood is gathered in a bowl. The animal is then singed, slaughtered and sliced into pieces for cooking.
While the meat is being cooked, the manbunong chants the agsangey (ritual prayer) and performs a ritual dance.
The Ibaloi, who live in the southeast part of the province, call the practice temmo.
In the temmo, Sacla said, the dog’s bile is “read” for omens. If the reading is good, it is believed that the spirit has been appeased and will never haunt a person again.
The patay (skin) of the legs and the altey (liver) are roasted for another offering to the spirits. The rest of the meat is cooked in a vat.
The blood is poured into a cleaned intestine to make the pinuneg (blood sausage).
Once everything is cooked, the meat is presented to the spirits. The warriors and other community members then partake of the food.
After the feast, the manbunong and the warriors sing the angba (ritual song) and beat metal pieces to a rhythm similar to that heard when war is forthcoming.
“Taboo is observed after performing the temmo. The material offerings are then placed in a corner where no man or animals may step on them,” Sacla wrote.
“The manbunong and the warrior characters in the ritual are not allowed to sleep with their wives for the night. They have to sleep somewhere else.”
In Mt. Province, the daw-es is performed to cleanse a person who had committed a crime.
“If somebody is sentenced, imprisoned and released, he is not allowed to enter the community until they offer a dog in the dap-ay (a place where Cordillera elders meet to settle disputes or discuss community issues).
“The daw-es is part of the cleansing of the person who is presumed to be dirty because of (what) he has done,” Tuguinay said.
Jaime Dogao, an elder from Barangay Ankileng in Sagada, said the person who is the subject of a daw-es is not allowed to eat the dog meat offered in the ritual. Other community members are not allowed to eat the sacrificial animal, but they can partake of dog meat that is not used in the ritual.
Only elders who perform the daw-es eat the offering, said Gov. Maximo Dalog. The ritual loses its effect if others eat it, he said.
Dogao said people would usually volunteer their dogs for the ritual, and it was only in recent years that sacrificial dogs were bought.
Dogs are not raised commercially in the region, he said. Most of the dogs are bought from local residents for P1,000 per animal.
Tuguinay said dog meat eating was also practiced in the Cordillera because the natives believed that the meat could warm up the body, especially during the cold season.
Dr. Charles Cheng, a local historian, said the Chinese who helped build the Kennon Road in the early 1900s introduced different ways of preparing dog meat dishes.
The Chinese, he said, taught the locals how to prepare adobong aso and a special dog soup cooked with spices and medicinal herbs brought from China.
In The Know
What the law says
REPUBLIC Act No. 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 criminalizes the sale of dog meat, even though it provides a way out for many Cordillera communities that use dogs as ritual offerings. Section 6 allows the slaughter of dogs “when it is done as part of the religious rituals of an established religion or sect or a ritual required by tribal or ethnic custom of indigenous cultural communities.”