Binangi: A past reconstructed
By: Felomina Lisweg- Daskeo
Long before our ancestors heard of nails and concrete, they were able to construct sturdy houses that could withstand the strongest typhoons with whatever available materials that they could find in the forest, like sticks, lumber, cogon grass and vines. These houses were called “binangi”, others call it gina-on, binatang, or inatep. Such were the houses that dotted our mountainsides as found by the Spanish conquistadores. However, only a few of these houses have withstood the ravages of time and the elements, and the remaining ones are already in an advanced state of deterioration.
As part of the celebration of the annual “Ayyoweng di Lambak ed Tadian” then, the municipal government decided to construct a binangi “as a way of valuing our past,” according to Tadian Mayor Anthony Wooden. Indeed, it is but a fitting tribute to a people who have endured and maintained their cultural identity through decades of colonial rule. It is saddening to note though that this so-called cultural identity is already getting frayed and as the years pass by, the ties that bind us to our past are getting cut one thread at a time.
We cannot transcend time and go back to the past; we can only reminisce, listen to our elders’ glorious stories, and learn to understand where we came from so that we will not get lost in the present and be able to stay focused in the future. The reconstruction then of the binangi – which was done as close to the original as possible- is more than just a simple replication for nostalgia’s sake, but was meant to educate our generation about this simple structure that embodies a lot of the values and character that defined who we are as Igorots particularly of Western Mountain Province.
In the next few years, the binangi at the Tadian municipal grounds might be the last that this generation will see, but it was constructed with the objective that the remaining binangis around the municipality will be preserved if the children will come to understand the indigenous knowledge, systems and practices underlying the building of one. It was only when I took part in the construction of Tadian’s binangi last February 25 that I fully came to understand what the saying “It takes a village to educate a child” means.
Building a house in olden times is a collective effort, so it also takes a village to put up a house. Since everybody in the community is involved, the house and its inhabitants also become the community’s responsibility. You cannot steal from what you own, thus houses were not locked, yet nobody complains of robbery or theft. Materials came from what is available in the forest, so environmental sustainability is emphasized. Nature will provide for our needs, in turn, we also need to protect it. Each becomes his/ her neighbor’s keeper, thus, even the upbringing of the children is not the sole responsibility of the parents.
These are but some of the lessons that we teachers- duty- bearers of Indigenous People’s Education- can impart to our children. As the Mayor said, it was put up for educational purposes, and to preserve the knowledge about building a binangi since the keepers of the knowledge are about to kick the dust. It is a noble effort to bridge some of the broken intergenerational ties caused by our “miseducation”. By bridging these gaps, we might again be able revive the spirit of the tribe to guide us as we dig deeper to stay rooted in our cultural identity and still be able to meet head on the challenges of globalization.
It takes a village to build a house. Representatives from the different barangays of Tadian and other line agencies came together for the “sukgot” or the roofing of the binangi. Photo by Felomina Daskeo