Ever since I saw the local movie Mumbaki that was shown in 1996 I was interested in seeing personally how their rituals are done. After 15 years (April 25, 2011), I finally get to see one personally, learn directly from the Ifugaos what they are and I even got to shake the hand of a Mumbaki.
What is Imbayah?
Imabayah is their festivities for the coming harvest and the ritual was to start the festivities and ask the spirits to bless the harvest as well as the festivities. This also is an attraction for tourist to know what the Ifugao culture is all about, but more than that this is a reminder to their new generation that this has been part of their culture.
The Mumbaki Language
When the Mumbaki’s started talking I got curious and asked the locals near me what they were saying, surprisingly they said they also did not understand. They told me that there is a Mumbaki’s Language or what they call the language of the spirits that only the Mumbaki could learn.
What does it take to be a Mumbaki?
Being a Mumbaki is actually by choice, if one wants to be a Mumbaki then you should approach a Mumbaki and be close to them and when the time is right, tell them that you want to learn the language of the spirits.
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I curiously asked what if an outsider/tourist would want to be a Mumbaki? It was also allowed, if and only if the Mumbaki’s would allow you to join them.
The Chicken is the first one to be sacrificed of all the three animals. They would first kill the chicken then, burn it’s feather by using a fire fuelled by dried rice stalks then open the chicken and check it’s apdo (bile). The bigger the bile the happier the spirits. If the Mumbaki’s find the chicken’s bile to be small they would then pick another chicken and check if it is big enough.
Among all the sacrifices the pigs is the most eventful. They would dance around the pigs, pour rice wine on each one of them and dance with a spear.
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When the Mumbakis’ danced with a spear they would stop in front of the pig and with one swoop they would tap the side of the pig where the heart is located and point it in front. This is their way of saying that this pig’s for the spirit.
A Mumbaki with his robe tied to his waist is a symbol of a female Mumbaki. Yes, there are female Mumbakis and since there is a drastic fall in the population of the Mumbakis they had to do this since it is also a part of the ritual.
On one part of the ritual the Mumbaki’s will be dancing with a chicken around the tied pigs. Then the Mumbaki will stop on the largets pig and lay the chicken. If the chicken stands then they will redo this again and again until the chicken does not stand on the pigs. According to one of the locals, if the chicken does not stand then that is the time where they have a strong connection to the spirits. Then they will kill the pigs for sacrifice to the spirits.
The Kalabaw is the last one to be sacrificed. I will not tell you how it was killed but it was enough to make everyones faces even the locals faces gloomy. Sorry, I could not describe nor post pictures when they killed the Kalabaw here.
After the sacrifices have been killed, they will be cooked for everyone to eat. When I say everyone, I mean everyone including tourists. FREE FOOD!!!
Unfortunately, we have to hurry to our bus to go back to Manila and we missed a lot of the festivals. They still have a lot in store in the including the teaching of their famous dance and wooden bike race that will pass through the different viewing deck of the Banaue Rice Terraces.
The Banaue Imabayah is celebrated every after 3 years. I have to wait for 3 years more to experience the whole festival but I am sure it would be worth waiting.