If there is one thing that I wish could be restored to the place of my childhood -- aside from the sylvan hills, the fish-rich river, and the Eagle Swing Orchestra and St. Vincent Orchestra playing martial music around the main roads of Dupax days before Christmas to wake up people to go to the misa de gallo (dawn mass) at the centuries-old Roman Catholic church -- it was the way Halloween was celebrated in the barrio that cradled my formative years.
Halloween was of course an English term we learned in grade school. And it referred to the two-day event -- that is, Nov. 1 or All Saints Day and Nov. 2 or All Souls Day -- that we preferred to call "kararua" in both Ilocano and Isinay.
The Tagalog, Ilocano or even Isinay call it Undas now.
And, yes, Virginia... it is no longer observed the way it used to be.
When I was a boy, the observance of Kararua took several days, a large part of which was, admittedly, not spent in the cemetery. Where I lived, its celebration went to such an extent that, instead of grieving for "the faithful departed," we faced no rebuke whenever we greeted friends and relatives we would meet in the narrow village lanes a sort of "Happy All Souls' Day" with the Ilocano "Kararuayo, apo!"
I am connecting the dots of the past now, and I find that much of the kararua season's merriment and festivities during my boyhood revolved around or were mostly caused by native rice delicacies, particularly tupig -- a popular almost foot-long or sangadangan (isang dangkal in Tagalog) Northern Philippines delicacy made of pounded glutinous rice mixed with brown sugar, creamy coconut milk, and young coconut meat, then roasted along with its banana leaf wrapper on top of flattened tin sheets heated by wood charcoal.
There was of course more to Kararua than the tupig. Consider, for instance, the following composite kararua recollections:
- It was a time that we kids of Sitio I-iyo then looked forward to with the eagerness that kids of today await the coming of Santa Claus.
- It was a time when the whole village went abuzz with the womenfolk pounding, winnowing and sieving glutinous rice.
- It was a time when men climbed coconuts and brought down the mature ones to be grated for their creamy milk.
- It was a time when the neighborhood became redolent with banana leaves roasting on flat tin sheets and when every kitchen had some native cakes being cooked.
- It was a time when we kids stopped going outdoors and stayed home so we would be the first to taste the tupig, baduya, linapet, pinais, and busi that made the season more exciting than Christmas.
- It was a time when households would better think twice of not handing over a couple or so of tupig or linapet when someone would come on your door or rather ladder, otherwise you would wake up in the morning and see one of your chickens is missing or your bamboo ladder is nowhere to be found.
The reason Kararua is not so exciting now in I-iyo is that the people there have become too many. In this particular case, the pro-life advocates (or rather the anti-Reproductive Health Bill people) would probably have to think twice.
It would have been no problem if a sizeable part of the number grow diket rice or have their own cassava plants to make into linapet.
But you could just imagine how many would come ogle at you as you waited for the delicacy to be cooked.
(NOTE: Sorry, this piece is still a stub... I'll enrich it very soon.)