Sagada’s Dap-ay. They have these “Palay” altar in the middle. It was a sign for the farmers to stop the harvest for a given time and they are not allowed in the ricefields since the “Anito’s” are the ones doing the harvest at that time.
People of Sagada still practices their old traditions and rituals. A walk through their native village of Demang, you’ll sure to pass by a number of Dap-Ay’s. Dap-ay, also called Ato by different tribes is a low-roofed, windowless structure with a small door. In front is a circular structure where improvised stone stools surround the edges and a hearth at the center where they burn fire. This is a sacred place for them as this is where the council of elders makes major decisions regarding socio-political issues, religious rites, settle disputes and where young boys are passed the lessons about disciplines, customs, traditions and taboos.
Speaking of Taboo, women aren’t allowed to go inside the Dap-ay for some reasons. I wasn’t also allowed to take a photo of this ongoing Dap-ay for harvest. They were asking for “Wine” for every shot taken (Ok That was a bit suspicious). which eventually I didn’t give them as I don’t have any at that time.
Preparing a Pinikpikan chicken. Blowtorching the chicken after it has been beaten up to death. Had to cover up her face since they really didn’t want their pictures taken doing this. Have to go really far and use my cams maximum zoom to take this shot.
Another interesting thing in Sagada are their food. A tasty meal I heard is the Pinikpikan Chicken, which have a unique way of preparing. It’s actually a ceremonial dish where they patted (more of like beat) the chicken until the blood clots and die. Then they burn (torch) off the feathers after. Animal rights may scream “Torture” on this preparation, but we must understand that this is an old ritual. Originally, before the chicken is broiled or cooked, they slice it open and the blood would reveal a “Reading” which every villagers share.
And if you ever chance upon the place and wonder what an “Etag for sale” is, it’s the Igorot variety of smoked ham. In Sagada, they hang these salted pork and smoke them for a few hours everyday, and age them for at least 2 weeks. Doesn’t matter if maggots started infesting them. Several of my companions managed to sample an Etag soup and said it was delicious. Maybe if I ever go back, I may try to sample these two dishes. For the Pinikpikan Chicken, you have to request them a day before.
Walking in Demang, you’ll find signs regarding Penalty on Dumping Garbage. But what’s that orange thing down there?
Well another amusing thing I noticed here in Sagada is they still give importance to “Bartered Goods” more than money. Check out their penalty fees for violating dumping garbage rules in Sagada. On first offense, they pay Php 300.00, on 2nd offense they pay Php 500.00 on third they have to give a “Lab-obo” which turns out to be a pig. On another sign, we saw that the penalty for the 3rd offense was a “5=4×4“. Now that was a puzzling bit of equation. We just figured that one out when we were eating at this resto in Bontoc on our way home and saw the the “4×4” under the “Hard Drinks” menu.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.