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The Franciscan Youths (YOUFRA) of Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor: Feeling triumphant after giving their share to the community. Tree planting and clean up activities are one of the regular activities of these youth to help mitigate the adverse effects of climate change following their weekly formation at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor. (pia-siquijor/Rizalie Anding Calibo)
Central Visayas Region

PIA Press Release
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Feature: Ube rituals

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, January 24 (PIA) -- If you ever wonder what an empty coconut shell hoisted on a stick on all corners of an ubi patch is doing, count yourself one of the many people baffled by such a scene.

But if you ask the ritual experts, they will tell you the eyes of the coconut shell, like crude parabolic antennas, keep watch over your patch and protects it from anyone intent on spoiling your good harvest.

Funny? Don't ever show that to an ubi farmer, lest he be insulted.

They would do it as an envious neighbor may bury in the ubi patch half a coconut or a fiddle crab and it’s all it takes to lose an entire harvest, beliefs here state.

Rituals and strange beliefs surrounding the ubi lend to it an enormous vacuum, which ascribe to the yam variety the mystical foreboding most Boholanos connect to this ethno-religious crop.

Revered to the point of bordering the sacred, ubis in Bohol are kissed, cajoled and given its due respect in makeshift altars befitting the sacred as the rootcrop has accordingly fed generations when droughts destroy rice and corn harvests.

Coming in the form of kinampay, baligonhon, kabus-ok, iniling, binanag and 9 other local names with hardly any huge difference for each other, ubi still ranks among the major things that unite Boholanos.

Once, two militaimen were locked on to the death in a fight in Mindanao not even the threat of their commanding officer untangled the two, but when an elder, out of frustration rolled an ubi near them, both stopped, picked the ubi and kissed it, a common tale told.

You plant ubi facing the sun always, says Ricardo Guiritan, a master teacher at Panglao Central Elementary School and town ubi-production coordinator.

He offers no explanation to that, but Boholanos gathered around him listening as he details the strange rituals involving the crop prudently refrain from probing. Here, probing about the irrational reverence to the crop is still considered rude.

Ubi, or the yam species which is commonly identified by its purple variety called kinampay and baligonhon is scientifically named dioscorea alata, Guiritan said specifically putting the stress in the 'dios' perhaps to reinforce his thesis that the root-crop is indeed a gift from the gods.

In the hinterlands of Bohol, it’s common to hear stories of only naked women endowed with the biggest frontal bumpers performing the “palihi,” the ceremonial planting of the first ubi 'sitt' (seedling) in a moonlit night.

Stories bare that certain incantation is recited as the first 'sitt' is fed into the waiting mound (hutok), intoned to make sure that the crop grows as big as the woman’s breast and crack like it is down there.

Palihi, also entails putting up the antidote (sumpa) for a rotten harvest.

It includes an assemblage of a broken earthen pot, bendita sa lukay (palms blessed on Palm Sunday), pitogo leaves and remnants of lit candles from the local church. These are placed in the middle of the field where ubi is planted.

Asked why, nobody can rightfully satisfy one's curiousity.

It's like emptying the whole ocean into a hole in a sandy beach, somebody said in allegory of Saint Augustine seeking to fathom the msytery of the trinity.

But, did i tell you, Saint Augustine is the patron keeper of Pangalo, where the most ubis in Bohol are accordingly grown!

Rituals, perhaps a healthy marriage between pagan offering practices to Christian thanksgiving occupy the ubi farmers hierarchy of priorities here.

Non-adherence to these preset beliefs could spell the difference between a weighty harvest or a poorly filled bamboo basket (bukag).

You do not put ubi harvests in a sack, or carried on top of your head, says Guiritan, who has been holding demonstration classes for ubi all over Bohol.

Reverence to this wonder crop ubi allows parents to do outrageous things too, he said.

When a child drops an ube he is carrying, he receives a spanking, the ubi gets a kiss.

“You lose nothing if you follow them,” Guiritan said attempting to convince a small group of people mildly amused while listening to him recount the rituals associated with planting and transporting the ubi.

Guiritan, who has been planting the 13 species of ubi in his patch at home shared that kinampay and baligonhon command a good price and are more than worth the six months of wait for the money to start coming in.

Funny you would say.

But, for Boholanos taught never to poke fun at the yam which shares the name of God and a heart for leaves, a speck of wisdom rests in better toeing the line and believing rather than being sorry. (mbcn/rahc/PIA-Bohol)

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