Etag Festival

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The joint celebration of Sagada Etag Festival and Feast of Presentation and Purification is the most anticipated annual event in the community. For one, it is a special period with an organized set of festivity highlighted with series of liturgical rites, cultural presentations, art exhibits, food displays, trade fair, sports competitions, music and literary contests, among others. Diverse concerns, yearning and interests persist - traders selling their goods, parents busy shopping for household items, athletes playing in the field and hard courts, artists exhibiting their works of art, children craving for food on display, tourists and common folks enjoying the experience, etc. Overall, the celebration manifests a cultural life where people from all walks of life come together and be involved in the whole thing fuelled by a sense of belongingness and camaraderie.

The current celebration derives its character from the Sagada Town Fiesta, one of the great traditions introduced by the Episcopal Church and the first generation of Sagada Igorots who embraced the Christian faith. According to Church records, the fiesta was originally held every 8th of December, the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, based on the Church calendar. It was rescheduled to February 2, the Feast of Presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple, supposedly to escape the rainy and chilly days of December and to encourage broader participation from the masses.

In 2011, the Local Government Unit incorporated the Sagada Etag Festival with the traditional fiesta. The purpose is to give proper distinction to the rich cultural heritage of the Sagada Igorot and provide a freehand to set its own course parallel to the sphere and norms of the Church-driven feast. Hence, from a Church-inspired beginning, the celebration now reflects a blending of two peaceful co-existing socio-cultural structures – the Church and the dap-ay.

The etag was chosen as the core expression of the festival because it is considered as omnipresent in the Sagada culture’s cycle of life. Kapon Gomgom-o, in his article featured in the 2011 Souvenir Program of the 1st Sagada Etag Festival, describes etag as:

 

“ . . . a smoked pork which is rooted in Sagada’s cultural history. In the old days, the people would hunt wild boars or raise pigs that are then slaughtered as sacrifice to Kabunian (or Supreme Being) and the ancestral spirits. The meat is then sliced into “bingit” (meat slabs) and distributed to the elders. Back home, the elders would salt the “bingit” and hang it above the hearth. It would remain there for weeks of curing by smoking, giving it a dark, brownish color. The resulting product is the “etag”. During special occasions, the elders would bring the “etag” to the host family for inclusion in the menu. It is usually cooked with “pinikpikan”, a traditional chicken soup dish. It is also offered as gifts to parents during “gobbaw” or conduct of baptism ritual for a newly-born child and to newlyweds.”

 

The cultural description of the etag is further elaborated by the locals who continuously share their own thoughts either through the print media or the internet. One of the noteworthy portrayals was sent to the Mayor’s Office in 2013 (kudos to the anonymous author) and hereby presented:

 

“This festival entails a lot of things. Cultural transcendence being one of the most important. The culture the I-Sagada represents is one of character and a sense of oneness and of their aspirations. It provides an idea of who they are and what they stand for. It is a culture which transcends even to their ballads and dances – a way of life. Despite the immense adjustments and trends modernization reverberates to the town’s ethnic sensibility, devoting oneself to the traditional way of life has never been a drawback to the people residing in this beautiful and magnificent tourist town. Beliefs, practices, and traditions of manufacturing etag or smoked mountain ham is as important as preserving every dap-ay, every sacred place of worship, and respecting every belief, practice and tradition of Sagada. It is our legacy. One to be passed down from generation to generation to celebrate our identity as a people – our identity as humanity. This is one of the reasons the Etag Festival was conceptualized. Aside from its known aim to promote tourism, the Etag Festival is also a celebration and a call to preserve and sustain whatever culture our forefathers have handed down to us. Aside from these, this festival goes beyond boundaries. It’s a festival for everyone -- the rich and poor, the old and young, the traditional and contemporary, the foreign and local visitors, the excited and bored, the happy and sad, the smitten and broken-hearted. It’s a festival that encompasses everything – indigenous and modern games or sports, ethnic and modern dances and songs, simple and challenging activities, day and night affairs.”

 

The Sagada Etag Festival continues to progress in accordance to its pre-determined objectives and goals. The working committees adopted various themes that inculcate solidarity into the minds of the I-sagada and strengthen the ties that bind the government, the Church and the community.

 

 

The Sagada Etag Festival is becoming more colorful every year with the setting up of agricultural booths where local products and novelty items particularly “etag” and Arabica coffee are displayed at the fore. These provide a new cultural experience to the guests, dignitaries, tourists and the general public who wish to partake of the sumptuous menu of pinikpikan and coffee – the traditional signature of Sagada hospitality and respect.

About Sagada

Sagada, a small town in the Mountain Province of Northern Luzon in the Philippines is famous for its beautiful caves, hanging coffins, as well as the serene mountains. It is an 8-hour drive from Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines and one jeepney-ride from Bontoc. Local and foreign tourists who travel, Sagada offers a unique holiday experience.

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