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Adivay: preserving Igorot culture in the diaspora

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Adivay: preserving Igorot culture in the diaspora
Following Aben's lead, the group dances in a circle to the rhythms of the gangsa players; the participants' bodies move down and up, and their hands sway upwards and downwards, symbolising the planting, growth, and harvesting of palay grains. (Photo credit: LVQ)

By Lui Queano

The trip from Scarborough to Cambridge’s Valens Conservation Park took about an hour and a half. However, because it was a Sunday on July 2 immediately following Canada Day and there was no traffic, the drive was quick and easy. Arriving at the park, indigenous Cordillerans had already gathered for the second and final day of the Adivay event organized by Kabenguetan in support of other Igorot communities in Toronto.

It was a lovely scene, with indigenous people all dressed up in bright colors and smiling at one another. On a beautiful Sunday morning, children and young teenagers are proudly dressed in their woven Igorot dresses. Small tent stores sold shirts, traditional dresses, and costumes, among other things. There’s a deep sound of gangsa being played, which sets the tone for what’s to come, as well as the smell of foodies in the air and cheers from noisily happy teenagers practising volleyball on the ground.

It was truly a scene of celebration for the 13th Benguet municipalities, who travelled from as far away as the coast of the United States to Vancouver and Ontario contingents. Even though it rained all day, nobody was prevented from having fun, sharing their joys and excitement, and proudly displaying their culture and music.

There was no Adivay last year, according to Kabenguetan President and event organiser Gretchen Mangahas. But this year’s 9th Adivay celebration was a success, and it will be repeated next year. Adivay is an Ibaloi term that means “coming together.” Its mission is to re-discover Benguet’s rich history, culture, arts, trades, and industries. It was intended to bring the 13 municipalities of Benguet together to share their cultural beliefs and practices, as well as to highlight the products of each town. Adivay in Canada honours the unity and resilience of Igorots with roots in Benguet, including Ibaloi, Kankanay, Kalanguya, and other indigenous representations.

The first Adivay festival was held in the Philippines from February 25 to March 6, 2005, to complement the Panagbenga Festival (Flower Festival) in the city of Baguio. Adivay was established as an annual celebration of the Province of Benguet.

The program began with a community dance led by BIBAK President and Cultural Advisor Johnson Aben, who also choreographed the dance, which formed a circle following the parade of all 13th Benguet municipalities. The circle dance featured 12 dance positions that mirrored how these tribes farm, from planting palay to harvesting grains. As everyone follows Aben, who led the circle dancing to the tune of the gangsa players, the community members who attended dance bring their bodies down and up, their hands swaying up the heavens and down the earth, as if palay grains were planted, grew, and were harvested for the community to feast on. The footsteps blended with the gangsa rhythm, bringing the entire community dance ensemble together.

The Consul General took part in a community dance led by Kabenguetan leader Gretchen Mangahas, as well as other tribe leaders and community members, including invited guests. As they all sang in unison, “Adivay, Woooooh!” the circle filled almost the entire diameter of the conservation park.

The Consul General in Toronto Angelica Escalona joined Kabenguetan leader Gretchen Mangahas and other tribal
elders, locals, and special guests for a community dance. (Photp credit: LVQ)

Following the dance, the community flocked to the program, where a young three-year-old Igorot girl from the Buguias tribe was overjoyed to receive her prize for being the best-dressed attendee. Later in the program, the oldest, who was in her 80s, and the youngest, who was a three-month-old baby, were also recognized and awarded.

There were also speakers who reminded the audience of the context in which Adivay is being celebrated. The most prominent tribe elder, Lorenzo Payaket, delivered a speech in which he thanked everyone for continuing the legacy of Adivay and its impact on future generations that the celebration creates for Canada’s igorot community.

Toronto Consul General Angelica Escalona presented BIBAK President Johnson Aben (top) and Gretchen Mangahas
(bottom) with an award of recognition. (Photo by Lui Queano)

The event was described by the Toronto Consul General as an expression of the “unity in diversity” required to preserve the culture and traditions of the Cordillera people, particularly in light of the multicultural nature of Canadian society. She praised the Kabenguetan for championing the cause of preserving the Igorot culture in the diaspora. Following the consul general’s speech, Kabenguetan received an award of recognition from the consul general, which was presented to Kabenguetan President Gretchen Mangahas.

Other recipients included an American Adivay group, a flautist, tribal chiefs and organisations, among others. Alfredo Tomas, President of the Ifugao-Kalinga, was also mentioned for his group’s support and dedication to the event. Additionally, BIBAK President Johnson Aben was recognized for his commitment to preserving the indigenous community’s cultural landscape.

The twelve positions of the circle dance mirrored the agricultural practises of these tribes, from planting rice to
harvesting grains. As everyone follows Aben, who led the circle dancing to the gangsa players’ music, the community
members who attended the dance bring their bodies down and up, their hands swaying up the heavens and down the
earth, as if palay grains were planted, grew, and were harvested for the community’s feast. (Photo by LVQ)
The Adivay 2023 was attended by members of the Benguet-13 Association in the United States. (Photo credit: LVQ)
Indigenous girl from the Buguias tribe was overjoyed to receive her prize for being the best-dressed attendee. (Photo by LVQ)
The most prominent tribe elder, Lorenzo Payaket, gave a speech in which he reminded the audience of the context in
which Adivay is being celebrated and thanked everyone for continuing the legacy of Adivay and the traditional impact
it has on future generations for Canada’s Igorot community. (Photo by LVQ)
Igorot from Bontoc province and current chair of Bayan Canada Wilma Delo poses with Ifugao-Kalinga president Alfredo Tomas. Images courtesy of LVQ.
Waynes Manalang and Leanne Lacap of Radyo Migrante enjoying Adivay 2023 in Cambridge Valens Conservation Park,
Cambridge, Ontario. (Photo by LVQ)
Gangsa players at Adivay 2023. (Photo by LVQ)
The Toronto Consul General Aneglica Escalona described the event as a manifestation of the “unity in diversity”
necessary to preserve the culture and traditions of the Cordillera people, given the multicultural nature of Canadian
society. (Photo by Lui Queano)
The Maple and Backyard bands performed western and local Igorot-sounding music and entertained the community
throughout the duration of the program event. (Image captured by LVQ)

Proud Igorot musicians from the Backyard and Maple bands performed throughout the entire program. As these sounds evoke memories of their native Cordillera lands and mountains, their music brought an almost nostalgic feeling to the community. Elders and youth were observed singing along with the band.

In the midst of a community celebration, where the rains are a blessing, the community continues the joy and laughter, and the bonds of community grow and last longer than ever as they proudly proclaim, “Adivay, Wohoooh!”.###