UPDATED May 29, 2014 – Isinai men danced to the beat of gongs and bamboos as their priest prayed over the native pig that would be slaughtered for the celebration.
Once slain with a spear to the heart, the pig’s belly would be slit to reveal its liver.
The Isinai people believe that a fairly large liver means good luck for the feast. If the liver is deemed too small, the men would kill another pig and perform the ritual all over again until the council of Isinai elders are satisfied.
The ethnic tribe forms one of the 12 indigenous people groups in Nueva Vizcaya. Representatives of the groups gathered on May 21 to 24 in a province-wide festival showcasing their rich culture.
The ritual was among those performed during the 6th Grand Ammungan Festival. Ammungan, which roughly translates to “gathering” in the local dialect, is the province’s way of drumming up attention among local travelers.
Without any beaches to sell, the landlocked province’s small tourism economy depends on waterfalls, caves, upland farms, and recently the unique culture of its ethnic peoples.
The Grand Ammungan Festival is a yearly gathering of ethnic tribes in Nueva Vizcaya where they demonstrate costumes, dances, songs, and rituals. Some of the highlights of the festival this year included the street festival dance competition, agri-trade fair, and grand float competition.
Governor Ruth Padilla sees the festival as a way to preserve the groups’ traditions.
DOT Regional Director Blessida Diwa says each of the 15 municipalities of the province carries the traditions of at least one of the 12 ethnic groups. “Through regular cultural activities like the Ammungan Festival and establishment of the local museum, the priceless and timeless legacy of the Novo Vizcayanon’s ancestors do not get lost in the maze of modernization,” she says.
The Tourism Promotions Board says the festival is an “exciting prelude to the many festivities lined up for ‘Visit Philippines 2015’. “In this way, we can effectively uplift interest towards and institutionalize preservation of the legacies of their ethnic ancestors,” says Domingo Ramon Enerio III, the Tourism Promotions Board’s chief operating officer.
The DOT is promoting Nueva Vizcaya for adventure and agri-tourism. Among the recipients of the DOT-DPWH convergence program is the road to Capisaan Cave, which is closed as of press time while experts develop its tourism master plan.
Nueva Vizcaya is at least six hours away by land transport from Metro Manila.
Report by Czarina Geronimo and Paolo Abellanosa