Itogon holds ritual for guidance as residents told to evacuate

ITOGON, Benguet — The municipal government of Itogon performed on Sunday the “pamakan,” an indigenous ritual calling on the ancestors for guidance, as its order for pre-emptive and forced evacuation in areas declared as danger zones in this mountainous town began on Saturday evening.

Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan said the two pigs used in the ritual were donated by the Business Administration and Accountancy of the University of Baguio.

“The liver and the bile showed positive signs that the ancestors are hearing our request,” the mayor said in the Ilocano dialect.

Locals practice rituals like asking ancestors’ help for specific occasions and events.

Palangdan said the ritual on Sunday was the second cultural practice observed in town after the onslaught of Typhoon “Ompong.”

As of 3 p.m. on Sunday, recorded deaths due to “Ompong” were at 95 for the entire Cordillera region, of which 75 were from Benguet province. Majority or 70 of the casualties were from Itogon town, where a massive landslide occurred near a mining site in Barangay Ucab at the height of the typhoon.

He said the first ritual was done when four unidentified bodies were interred at an undisclosed temporary burial site. These were the remains of locals who died in a massive landslide in Barangay Ucab at the height of the typhoon.

“We butchered two pigs bought by the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and the Itogon municipality,” he said.

During Sunday’s ritual, Barangay Ucab Chairman Kennedy Waclin said: “Ang sakuna, hindi mo makontrol, pero pwedeng humingi ng tulong sa mga gods at ancestors na tulungan tayo. Approve sila na tutulungan yung mga rescuers at pangangalagaan sila [rescuers] para hindi madagdagan ang casulaties (You cannot control a calamity, but we can ask the gods and our ancestors to help us. They agree to guide and take care of our rescuers so they won’t add up to the casualties).”

Waclin prayed in the ritual for the gods’ and ancestors’ guidance for the rescuers’ safety, that they would be able to find all the missing people or retrieve the bodies. He also prayed that no more calamities would devastate Itogon and that the town’s officials would be guided to make the right decision for the good of the town and its residents.

After the ritual, the public shared the food, which was blessed through prayer, which is still part of the culture, for the physical strength of the people who ate the food.

Pre-emptive evacuation

Palangdan said Itogon policemen, barangay captains, and councilors of different villages of this town have been knocking on doors to inform the residents about the latest typhoon (Paeng) which entered the Philippine Area of responsibility today (Sunday) which again is expected to affect Northern Luzon.

Forced evacuation was first implemented in barangays Ucab and Luneta, both declared danger zones by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

The areas were virtually “no man’s land” as early as Saturday evening, when the pre-emptive evacuation began.

Senior Supt. Lyndon Mencio, Benguet Police Provincial Director, said about 60 personnel of the provincial police office had been sent to Itogon to implement the forced evacuation as early as 5 a.m. on Sunday.

He said this was to augment the 40 police personnel of Itogon.

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional director Janet Armas and Philippine Information Agency Cordillera regional director Helen Tibaldo had both declared the pre-emptive, forced evacuation in the danger zones, as ordered by Political Adviser Secretary Francis Tolentino.

The measure was declared and relayed to all provincial and municipal government units in Benguet on Saturday morning.

Pre-positioning, delivery of supplies

Armas said about 19,000 food packs are currently at the warehouse of the DSWD in Cordillera (DSWD-CAR). These are for “pre-positioning” in case “Paeng” affects the Cordillera.

“The mayors have agreed to pick up their supplies,” she said. For the isolated towns, the supplies will be airlifted by the Philippine Air Force, she added.

These supplies, she explained, are aside from the supplies for relief goods already being distributed to the families affected by “Ompong.”

Call for compliance

Meanwhile, all Itogon leaders, from the mayor to the police chief to the DSWD directors, appealed for the public’s compliance with the evacuation orders.

“We have learned our lesson from Ompong. Those who did not comply died. Please know, this is for our good and it would be best that we follow,” Palangdan stressed. (