Cordillera towns perform ‘quarantine’ ritual vs COVID-19

BAGUIO CITY — A disappearing ritual practiced by the indigenous peoples (IPs) in the Cordilleras originally done to promote communal rest, may yet help the mountain towns parry off the dreaded COVID-19 disease.

The practice is called by various names, but it essentially involves a form of quarantine.

The people of Mountain Province collectively practice “tengao” or “teer.” It is a community rest period lasting for a day or more depending on what village elders advise. During this period, no one can enter or leave the village.

“Tengao” begins with an indigenous ritual performed by the village “manakem” or elders at the “dap-ay” or “ato” (house of elders and tribal leaders for policy-making and rituals). This is followed by a team of “village criers” going around the village announcing the start of “tengao.” They then place “pudong” or knotted leaves of a plant, usually tiger grass, at the entrance and exit points of the community to signify that the village is in quarantine.

The municipal government of Sabangan town in Mountain Province, closed the town’s entry and exit points from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm with no exemptions on March 22, 2020, for the observance of the indigenous ritual led by the town elders.

Tadian town began its “tengao” yesterday, March 27 at 6:00 am, lasting until the next morning 6:00 am, while that of Barlig town, which calls the practice as “tungao,” starts March 28, also lasting until the following day.

If for whatever reason, a person accidentally enters a village under “tengao,” he cannot leave until the “tengao” is over. A Mt. Province resident attests that all locals strictly follow the rules of “tengao” out of strong respect for their culture. This practice may yet save these towns in the Cordilleras from the widespread infection of COVID-19.