The Cultural Component of the Ullalim Festival

Culture. The very fabric that weaves every aspect in the life of a community. Songs, dances, livelihood practices, belief systems, values, creative forces expressed in crafts. Yet these things are but a manifestation of the identity of a people fighting hard to maintain their identity. Culture is a way of life – if not life itself.

            Time and time again, the province of Kalinga has emphasized the beauty and uniqueness of its unblemished culture through the annually celebrated Ullalim Festival. Began in 1995, the festival has matured into a celebration looked forward to by the populace, and visited by a growing number of tourists – Filipinos and foreigners alike.

            This year, as it was in previous festivities, the Ullalim Cultural Festival will have the following elements: the cultural and float parade; the cultural presentations; the indigenous games and cook fest; the street dancing; and the indigenous choral competition.

            The festivities will become a rendezvous of the distinct festivals celebrated in the different municipalities, including the city of Tabuk: Unoy Festival for Tinglayan; Pinikpikan Festival for Rizal; Manchachatong Festival for Balbalan; Salip festival for Pasil; Amung Chi  Bochong for Lubu7agan; and the Matagoan Festival for Tabuk.

            Local Government Units, headed by their mayors, are expected to participate – what with the “No Mayor, No Award Policy” in place. Garbed in their native attires, the participants must showcase, through their floats, the priority commodities that their towns are promoting.      The business sector, as well as other government offices and organized tribes are enjoined to join the parade.

            Winners would be judged as to the adherence of their float’s theme to the One-Town-One-Product scheme, the number of participants, attire, and the sounds generated by their accompanying band using indigenous instruments.

            The parade will be made livelier by the street dancing that would ensue – open only to colleges and secondary schools, with one entry per school. As in the LGU representation, the “No Head of School, No Incentive” Policy applies. Limited between 30 to 50 participants, the street dancers may choose for their performance any ethnic grouping found in the Philippines, and they are restricted to using indigenous musical instruments.

            Considerations for the street dancing competition shall depend on the costumes; number of delegation; orderliness; significance of the performance; choreography and performance; time; sounds; ethnicity.

            As for showcasing the musicality of the Kalinga people, an indigenous choral competition shall be conducted – a first time for the festival. Open to chorales from colleges and secondary schools with 10 to 15 members, the competition shall only welcome Salidummay songs.

            The message of the song, the melody, ethynicity, stage presentation, originality and audience impact are the main considerations for the judging.

            But the Kalinga culture is not steeped in song and dance alone. For the Kalingas, the performing arts are as important as the culinary arts – hence the holding of a cookfest. Participants, who must attend orientations and prior to the contest, will be given 30-40 minutes for both preparation and cooking. As the cookfest must capture the indigenous way of meal preparation, banga, paok and binarsig must be used, along with genuinely Kalinga ingredients and recipes.

            Palatability/taste; healthy nutrients; presentation; and ethnicity will comprise the criteria for the cookfest.

            And finally, to display the playful spirit of the Kalinga people, the indigenous games shall be played: Tuk-tukkuy  (individual pot-balancing, for women only); Whut-hut-ut  (tug of war, 6 players/set); A-mack (wrestling); Sanggor  (arm wrestling); Torse (middle finger wrestling); Lappi-it  (hand wrestling); Bitbit-nag   (thigh slapping. men only); Pakuy            (longest shout)  ; Binungur eating; Kadang-kadang; Botbo-tak ni banga; Dinne-ot  (firewood cutting); Todtoddak  (fun run); and Bayu.

            These activities further lend legitimacy to the Kalinga culture which has somehow managed to escape the harsh influence that it could have evolved into, courtesy of hundreds of years this country’s being under foreign rulers. Whether onstage, or on the dining table, or in the playing field – the Kalinga culture remains intact, unique, un-tarnished.