Golgol: A living tradition of the Ilocanos

Golgol offering of pinadis and gawwed (photo by Melinda Ramiscal Claro)

Golgol – this cleansing ceremony is considered a living tradition of the Ilocanos that has survived in modern times, a tawid (inheritance from our forefathers and transferred from generation to generation). This ceremony is often done under the situations described below and performed in different ways depending on the situation.

After the burial of departed loved ones

Golgol is customarily done in the morning after the burial of a departed loved one. The immediate family members gather together in a nearby river or seaside to perform the ritual. A bundle of arutang (rice stalk), sugarcane vinegar, gawwed (betel nut), and small rolled Virginia tobacco called pinadis are prepared for the ceremony. The family members burn the arutang after which the manglualo (prayer warrior) performs the ceremony by pouring the water with vinegar over the head of each family member. The gawwed and the pinadis will then be offered during the ritual.

The ceremony is done in a shallow part of the river. The family members are instructed to remove their clothes and to throw them into the river, allowing the current to carry away their clothes.

Afterwards, each of the family members must pick up pebbles to carry home. On their way home, they should not glance back from where they came. They must also use a different route from the one they took going to the river or seaside.

Upon reaching home, the family members must throw the pebbles above the roof of their house so that the ghost of the departed loved ones will not haunt them. It is believed that the ritual of golgol helps to drive away the spirit of a dead relative and to bring the dead straight to heaven.

The act of cleansing also symbolizes the washing away of grief and bad luck that death may bring to the family.

When the sintas or the line from the navel down is not complete

The golgol is also performed when a little boy is deemed unruly or wily, or in Ilocano term “nakalokloko.” To break the spell, the family will bring this little boy to a traditional healer or “mangngagas” for the ritual.

A pair of karurayan (white chicken with yellow feet), arutang, gawwed and pinadis are the elements of the golgol in this situation.

The ritual is also performed at a nearby river or seaside. The boy is advised to wear old clothes because this will be thrown and carried away by the river.

Testimonies of Ilocanos who underwent this kind of ritual attest that their son became obedient. This living tradition of golgol is still practiced by Ilocanos in Northern Luzon in this modern time even amidst the influx of modern technologies.

When a person is believed to be afflicted with black magic or in Ilocano term “nagamudan”

The author undergoing golgol (photo by the author)
The author undergoing golgol (photo by the author)

When a person is diagnosed by a quack doctor that she/he is cursed by a manggagamod (witch with black magic), golgol is recommended.

Some quack doctors demand that the ritual be performed in the river, but some also do the cleansing in the house of the person.

Quack doctors have different demands for the elements of the ritual, but they agree on the following common elements: the karurayan, gawwed and pinadis are always required and must be prepared before the ritual.

They have also different ways to cure the person. Some of the quack doctors that I interfaced recently said that they need to pray in in the altar where they placed the atang (offerings).

This ritual indicates the removal of the bad spirit sent by the manggagamod to the body of the person once it is cleansed through the golgol. Eventually, the afflicted person will be cured, and the curse will be broken.