A symbol, an artifact, and an identifier. Through the years the Bahag, a loin cloth commonly used during the precolonial era, evolved from a simple item to cover one’s middle part to a medium of artistic expression and to be so much more than what it is today. An item that captures a culture’s essence, a symbol of unity for a community, a symbol of one’s ethnicity, and a symbol of Pride.
This is particularly so for the Ethnolinguistic Groups of the Cordillera where people are rooted in beliefs, customs and traditions passed down by their predecessors. A symbol of pride weaved in the very being of every cordilleran. But for a generation who grew up clinging to oral traditions, artifacts, and historical archives there is so much more to know about our culture.
This creates a dissonance in our consciousness on what is right and wrong. The wearing of the Bahag or G string, for example, sparked unjust outrage because of the notion of the right or proper way of wearing it. As we glorify the Bahag as part of our material culture, we create boundaries and rules with respect to what we know based on what our elders taught us. We tend to view the sacredness of the “proper way” of wearing it, as the ‘Only way” of wearing it, it closed our minds from possibilities, and it made us ignorant of a certain aspect that we, as culture bearers should have a perfect understanding of.
Digging deeper, based on archives, historical photos, and statements, the Bahag is open to the wearer on how they wear it. We are more accustomed to the common way, “the proper way” as we’ve seen from how our elders wear it, but there are various ways of how our ancestors did, based on practicality; when working in fields, crossing rivers, this also includes an indication of their artistic expression.
In this regard, we should open our minds to the fact that our culture is still evolving, while we put importance on the teachings of our predecessors, ultimately, it’s us, the present generation who are in charge of where our culture will take us. Thus it is the responsibility of every culture bearer to dig deeper from the superficial, to not create boundaries to our already limited knowledge, to open our sensibilities, especially to matters that clash with our notion of what is proper, and finally to take these matters as means to further educate ourselves and other people.
A difference in our views and values concerning our cultural sensitivities does not remove our drive to protect and promote what is important to us, our culture, and our identity. We have to pursue a continuous path of learning and re-evaluation of our knowledge of our culture. We also have to shift our focus to address real and bigger issues faced by our Indigenous Communities, and for these issues to be heard, all platforms at our disposal matter.
Matago-tago Tako Am-in! Agbiag ti Cordillera!
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