By Grazielle Mae A. Sales, PGIN-CMO
Townsfolk in Paoay successfully celebrated this year’s Tumba Festival as almost 8,000 visitors trooped to this town to participate in the celebration despite being delayed for a day after unexpected tropical storm ‘Vinta’ pounded Ilocos Norte at Halloween night.
‘Tumba’ which is originally celebrated every first day of November is a unique centuries-old cultural tradition among the residents of Paoay. It highlights their distinct way of honoring the spirits of the dead.
Rescheduled in November 2, the installation of 10 ‘tumba’ huts was completed before twilight just as visitors started to gather around the heritage area of the town. Each hut represents a cluster of barangays usually composed of 3.
“We had prepared for this event for two days. Fortunately, the ‘kubo’ (hut) just slightly leaned unlike the other districts that had theirs flooded and destroyed by the typhoon’s strong wind,” said Malou Pascua, a ‘kagawad’ (councilor) of Barangay Nagbacalan, Paoay and a devoted participant of Tumba.
Inside each hut is a ‘tumba’, a catafalque laden with offerings for the dead that usually include cigars, betel nuts, ‘basi’ (rice wine) and ‘atang’, an offering of indigenous Ilocano snacks to be served to visitors.
Images of religious icons are also enshrined with flowers and candles surrounding them.
Some of the participating teams also included some women mourning at mock burial grounds, groups of children playing local games like ‘sungka’, singing rondallas, and a group of men grilling goat’s head as attractions.
Leading the ‘tumba’ are the old folks of the town, particularly old women who dress up in their ‘baro’t saya’ or the traditional Filipino blouse and skirt ensemble. Some of them had shown off their versions of Ilocano delicacies like ‘baduya’ (battered and crisp sticky rice) and ‘tupig’ (glutinous rice grilled over a charcoal fire) while others chanted prayers inside the ‘tumba’ huts.
“I don’t really know how this event started. I just know that we have to preserve this tradition and listen to what the elders say because they are the ones who really know what it means by ‘tumba’,” Pascua said.
A centuries-old tradition, ‘tumba’ is said to be a form of atonement for the spirits of the dead which are believed to be trapped in the purgatory. Recently, it was turned into a competition when the municipality of Paoay saw its potential in tourism and how various communities converge for the event.
Governor Imee Marcos visited each ‘tumba’ hut and joined the visitors in trying out the freshly-served delicacies.
It was reported that the Parada Iloca-locana (Ghost Parade) which was held along Laoag downtown was almost halted due to the downpour brought by Typhoon Vinta when it struck the province in the afternoon of October 31.
The typhoon’s powerful winds caused damages to several houses, buildings and crops in the province.
“Still many came here [Paoay] to celebrate the festival with us…After all, the important thing is that we remember our deceased loved ones,” Governor Marcos said.
Championing the Tumba fest’s competition is District 2 which is composed of Barangays Salbang, San Agustin and Surgi. Runner-ups are District 8 (Barangays Nagbacalan, Suba and Mumulaan) and District 5 (Nangguyudan, Pasil and Sungadan).
The Tumba was celebrated with the opening of the Paoay House of Horror, a convent ruin transformed into a haunted house.
Both activities are currently adapted as highlights of the provincial Halloween event of Ilocos Norte called the Semana ti Ar-Aria (Ghost Week) which ran from October 23 to November 3, 2013.#