By Regie Wacas
Joining an IEC (Information Education Campaign) caravan of the local government unit of Balbalan with Mayor Sonny Mangaoang, brought me to Barangay Ab-abaan, a landlocked Barangay just adjacent to the municipality of Pinukpuk. The nearest jump off point in going there is via Limos in Pinukpuk.
There are other routes but ascending from Limos is gradual compared to the more steep routes on the other side. But some locals have encourage me to try the more challenging routes because according to them, the path is dotted with beautiful waterfalls which I found to be abound in Balbalan. Certainly that’s a good hint for an upcoming documentation project on the town’s beautiful spots, people, culture, and worth emulating local governance practices which the LGU is venturing into. I bode the suggestion will surely bring me back to that sky land Barangay via the suggested route.
Taking the Limos route in the company of the mayor, the Municipal Social Welfare and development officer- which I’ve found out to be a native air wizard, the Municipal Planning and development coordinator and some LGU employees took as almost three hours wading through the mud on the trail. Someone suggested me to use a rubber boots which I readily followed and it did solve my worry slipping on the trail- of course I’ve been used to such trail conditions because Tanudan has a lot more of it but I just couldn’t fret on doing some comical gymnastic balance on wet clay with quite an overweight figure, so the advise has served me well.
Some of the LGU’s “men of action” (that’s how DILG Provincial Director Francisco Gamatero describes them) went ahead of us which includes the municipal agriculturist and the ever youthful local civil registrar. Every office is represented in the IEC caravan and that practically validates Director Gamatero’s adjective on the Balbalan LGU employees. What with the hands on leadership the mayor is exhibiting, which is inspiringly towing the personnel into whatever activity the LGU is undertaking. Of course the primary reason why the mayor is obliging his presence getting imbedded into the IEC caravan is that, he owes the people every bit of explanation and presentation on the different programs the LGU is undertaking to uplift their status.
From earlier accounts of the LGU employees who have been into the early itineraries of this activity it’s quite physically tormenting going up to the barangays but the ordeals usually are mended with the festive atmosphere that is being brought by the conduct of the civil mass weddings.
Even I have more interest on the mass wedding after I was informed a priest will also be there to validate for the church. Balbalan people by history are always in high spirits in social celebrations and in the Ab-abaan mass wedding, it was indeed a typical show on how they really put their heart into such occasions. But in my observation, it might even be gauged as more than the usual considering the attendance of nursing mothers who have stayed with us till morning the following day and maybe trying to deduce the meaning of their beloved barangay’s name with their babies lugged on their backs.
It was getting dark when we arrived at Ab-abaan but our worn out energies were recharged with the warm reception we received from the villagers. We came upon a mass about to be started by Father JB Mubeke, A missionary from Zaire, Congo who is into his second year as parish priest in Allagiya, Pinukpuk. Being notified of our arrival Father JB told us that he’ll just go on with the introductory part of the Eucharistic celebration and whenever the mayor is ready, he’ll just give way for the mayor’s solemnization after which he shall validate it in the church rites. There were eighth couples ready to tie the knot that evening. Without letting father JB wait for so long Mayor Mangaoang just washed his shoes camouflaged by the mud and joined the priest at the altar vividly in sweat soaked polo. The solemnization went on upon the arrangement of the good priest and after the mass the native action peaked.
While on the sidelines watching the celebration going on and snapping a few shots from my camera, I ask Fr. JB if he could recall one occasion in his priestly life having been a party to weddings solemnized simultaneously in the civil and church rites. His answer was none. I raise the same curiosity with the mayor and still the answer was in the negative. Even my memory can’t recall of the same occasion to have happened at least in Kalinga. The rarity of Ab-abaan mass weddings being done in civil and church ceremonies put historical ingredient on its occurrence and that’s now were the point of interest lies in writing about it despite the many other issues that could be tackled on this column.
Much has been said about “only in Kalinga” stories”. The potteries of Dalupa, the loom weaving of Lubuagan, sleeping beauty of Tinglayan, the pinikpikan festival of Rizal. Now, like its neighbor barangay of Poswoy made known for its sweet “Poswoy Olen” Barangay Ab-abaan will now put in the map and be added to the long list as host to that historic mass wedding. And what about another rare show of sportsmanship during the last Barangay Elections where the losers carried on their backs the victors of that election and made a round of the school plaza. If that’s not historic then it’s still a proud of the “InabAba-abaan”.