When the joke’s on us

>> Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ramon Dacawi

With admirable courage and humility, comedienne Candy Pangilinan came one  Monday afternoon in June, 2009 to seek forgiveness before the city council. Moved by the purity of her intention, the members of the local legislature individually accepted the apology and went on to collectively rescind a resolution that had declared her a persona non grata.
 Coming to session ready, councilor Richard Carino revealed that, over the years,  the city council  had bestowed the “unacceptable person” tag and status to five people.
Only Candy, he noted, came and pleaded forgiveness for a faux pax that, the comedienne  stressed,  was never intended to hurt.
In an attempt to draw laughter during a show at SM-Baguio, Candy uttered “Tao po ako, hindi Igorot”. Immediately and days after, she drew condemnation from all over for that careless remark. Her manager qualified the correct line was  supposed to have been “Tao ako, hindi Igorot statue”.
Candy’s impropriety was the latest in a series of slurs that, sooner or later, will be uttered again - out of sheer ignorance about who we are. Not by her, for she learned her lesson, but by others who still believe Igorots are ignorant, have tails and whose ancestors lived on  tree tops.   
Councilor Nick Aliping  suggested a “daw-es”, a traditional Igorot cleansing ritual to exorcise bad spirits that might have triggered the remark that hurt, and to strengthen the peace, friendship and harmony triggered by Candy’s atonement, her appeal for understanding and her wish to understand.
Aliping, one of six councilors who identified themselves to candy as Igorots, was into a  ribbing, estimating  the ritual might require at least a pair of cows or carabaos, plus 128 sacrificial pigs to each of the city’s 128 barangays.
He suggested Rep. Mauricio Domogan may consider sponsoring the animal sacrifice.The huge crowd gathered at the session hall were figuring out the costs when Aliping advised Candy to consult a “mambunong”, a native priest who might deem even only a chicken would do.
To brush off misconceptions about misrepresentation, Domogan said he was not “lawyering”: for Candy. When he heard the slur, the solon immediately demanded public apology. Candy later called in his office to say she would publicly apologize. .
Hearing her apologize, lawyer George Dumawing, a native of Kalinga and past president of the Baguio-Benguet Integrated Bar of the Philippines , assured he would withdraw a suit his fellow lawyers asked him to file on their behalf against the comedienne.   
On Candy’s wish to do more than apologize for her error, Dumawing advised her to tell her colleagues in showbiz to stop depicting Igorots in a bad light in their films, television shows, performances and utterances.
All’s well that ends well. Well, at least until fellow aging Igorot newsman Greg Taguiba of Bontoc, Mt. Province shared me a text message he got from another Igorot. Greg swore he had the sneaky suspicion the message originated from my cellphone.
“It said Igorots are immune from swine flu because Igorots (as deduced from Candy’s remark), are not humans,” Greg said.
“That’s illogical and dangerous to believe,” I replied, “ as the virus developed in and affected swine first.”
“Ipakat mo manen ti Ifugao logic mo a,” Greg remarked, grinning ear-to-ear. .
That’s it. Aside from logic, we Igorots do have a sense of humor which makes us human, too. We love jokes, even at our own expense, provided they’re timely and cracked during the appropriate occasion.  Igorots can forgive and cope with a bad one -and  their anger - by having it mutate to a more palatable or  two-way version.
Ask Ike Picpican, the Igorot anthropology student and professor who did an honest-to-goodness research on the Kabayan mummies. He was curator of the St. Louis University Museum when I last met him.
Ike told me of a juxtaposition quite different from Candy’s. He had the occasion to turn the tables when a rowdy group of students on a field trip here broke the quiet of the museum with derisive laughter.   
Approaching them, Ike heard more laughter when one wondered aloud, “Siguro ang lalaki ng bunganga ng mga Igorot, ano?.”
They were looking at a glass-encased set of old wooden ladles carved like over-sized spoons.  
“Bakit, wala ba kayong nakitang ganyan sa bayan n’yo?,” Ike asked with innocent curiosity, pointing to the artifacts.
“Wala, sir.”
“Wala bang ganyan sa museum n’yo?”
“Wala kaming museum, sir.”

“Ang ibig n’yong sabihin hindi gumamit ng kutsara ang mga ninuno n’yo?,” he asked and left them to their now more quiet  thoughts. (e-mail:ecowalkmondax@yahoo.com for comments).


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