BAGO ORIGINS – The Tale of Two Sapo

Bago Origins

By: Ferdinand Ammang Anno

Union Theological Seminary,  July 2014

The Bagos are a people whose traditional homeland is the long strip of land  traversing the Ilocos Sur and La Union Highlands in the central-to southwestern fringes of the Cordillera mountain range. This homeland included Southeastern Ilocos Sur, some four highland municipalities in La Union and several hill villages in the municipality of Sison, Pangasinan. These are the territories where the Methodist, the Evangelical United Brethren and Episcopalian missionaries worked and established churches from the turn of the 20th century. The Bagos in its second diaspora also established communities in Kalinga, Apayao, Mindoro, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Aurora and Mindoro provinces. A significant population of Bagos were also part of the mass of Ilocanos who migrated into Mindanao from the 50s.

This essay raises for the first time the possibility of some convergences in peoples’ mytho-narratives of ‘beginnings’  that  may  reinforce  neotribe  suggestions  in  the  prayers  of  a  significant  section  of  the Kankanaey-Y-golot population.

Whenever the people of Sagada pray the dangtey and pisang, and celebrate the beginnings of their dap-ay, may they remember not Doday and Dinaongan of Angaki.

In addition to the Tiguey of Apo Sawatei, another story is worth considering in our efforts to bring to light via oral tradition or ancient rites the origins of the Bago nation: the dangtey and pisang prayers. The dangtey and pisang prayers, as transcribed by Fred Eggan and R.F. Bartonii and as further studied by William Henry Scott, are primary sources in the reconstruction of the story of the founding of Sagada. What is remote to the ethnographic imagination or interest of Eggan, Barton, and Scott: that the legend of Biag or the Sagada story intersects with if not generative of the Bago story is the very thesis of this proposal. This short essay, thus, pursues the tiguey tract of the Bago story within a new narratological framework: the Biag saga and the founding of one of the ancient seats of Kankanaey civilization; it seeks to reinforce the foundation of one of the neo-tribe theories on the emergence and formation of a new ethnic community in and around the Angaki region that has relationship with the settlement patterns, economic activities, and tribal wars among Ygollotes in the Central Cordillera Region.

Dangtey and Pisang

Storytellers narrate that sometime in the middle of the 17th century the Biag family, one of the ten families living in Mabika or Bika, an ancient settlement in eastern Abra, left for the Ilocos coast to trade their bika (bamboo). The Biag family include Biag, Dina-ongan, Doday and Galay. Other accounts say that from Mabika the family resettled in Candon because they were afraid of headhunting parties that raid their mountain colonies in regular frequency.iii

While in Candon,   a campaign was conducted to baptize and give people Christian names. Doday, Dina-ongan and Biag refused but Galay consented and converted to Christianity. Having been Christianized, Galay also was wedded to a member of the Abaya clan, said to be largest and most prominent clan of Candon and are known descendants of the founders of Tetep-an settlement in Western Bontoc.  Unable to stay longer because of the constant pressure of Christianization, the siblings decided to move back to the mountains.

Leaving Candon and their sister Galay, the brothers Doday, Dina-ongan and Biag settled for a while in Sagsagada, a ‘legendary site’ located between the coast and Tirad Pass near ‘Sapowan’ – that praying place where Lumauig was believed to have made his descent from heaven.

After ‘a year and a half’ in Sagsagada, the siblings left and migrated eastward into the hillside of Angaki – in a ridge by the Abra River. This settlement  by the ridge was known as sanctuary for Igorots who  are  fleeing  from tribal  wars.  It  was  known  as  Dalikan  because Lumawig was believed to have stopped in the site to cook his first meal after reaching the earth – and where a spring, according to the story, welled abundantly from the ground.

The siblings stayed in the region, specifically in Gadagad and Mannoti (Bayang) in Angaki. According to the prayers, the siblings ‘lived off squash’ which grew and matured extraordinarily all in a month-time.

After some ‘two years’ in the region, the siblings Biag, Doday and Dina-ongan decided to split up. Doday went   downstream –southward and ‘made his living by pasture and plow,’ Dina- ongan went up to Abra to Kayan among the Ma-eng, and Biag went up to the Cordillera Central in Agawa to establish the ili of Sagada (The Agawa people tells how a group of people from Sangilo (i.e., San Emilio, Ilocos Sur) left that place because of tribal warfare, and settled in Sodsodowegiv).

Two-in-One; One-in-Two? The Quest for A Common Ground

This story converges at some significant points with the tiguey of Apo Sawate. These significant points include (1) a clan’s (Biag) descent into the Ilocos coastal towns from Bika/Mabika and ascent toward Mountain Province via Angaki; (2) Angaki as a sanctuary for peoples and communities running away from tribal wars and headhunting raids by busols; (3) the ancient settlements in Angaki and the region around Tirad Pass; and (4) the northward and southward movements of ygollotes (i.e, northward migration into the Abra region and southward movement into the late Spanish era Lepanto-Amburayan sub-province).

In view of the above, several questions are of interest: is Apo Sawate’s tiguey set within the narrative of the dangtey and pisang: the story of Biag, Doday, Dina-ongan and Galay; or is the tiguey narrative independent but is somehow corroborated by the latter; or is the dangtey and pisang corroborative of the ‘history’ of the tiguey – and that the tiguey somehow supplies sub- stories and continuity to the former? Though both are said and sung in Kankanaey there is not a ritual event that juxtapose the two sapo narratives together. The contemporary ritual leaders and chroniclers of Sagada has not surfaced any connection between the two and may be dismissive of any racial affinity with the hilltribes at the central western base of their mountain homeland. Many Bago chroniclers on the other may be affirmative and assertive of their Aplae- Kankanaey  roots  but  have  so  far  been  silent  on  the  possible  suggestions  of  some  racial continuity or affinity with the latter.

The Naming of Bago Ancestors?

If the dangtey and pisang is reviewed in the light of the Bago quest for its ancestry the Biag narrative can name Doday and Dina-ongan, and even Biag himself, as the ancestors of the Bago nation. This will supply names and personalities to the unnamed Angaki Bago in Apo Sawate’s tiguey. The Biag ancestry is equally plausible if the siblings’ split-up, according to the dangtey, happens later in [either geographic or ethnographic] Nagtablaan. A reconciliation of the two sapo narratives requires that Biag and his brother’s sojourn in the area around Angaki and Tirad may be  prolonged  to  allow  for  intermarriages  with  the  region’s  inhabitants  and  prolonged settlement to allow for the formation of the Angaki Bago. Following the ‘3.5 years’ literally would not tally with the reality of Bago cultural and linguistic homogenityv. A reconciled version of the stories may also suggest that the split up and subsequent diaspora of the siblings may have taken place after a prolonged period of staying together – and this would still stand up even if Biag, earlier in Angaki, has left for higher grounds to establish dap-ays and new settlements that include the present day municipality of Sagada -as the dangtey and pisang narrate.

It would be interesting to ask the question who the descendants of Doday and Dina-ongan are in the present-day? This, possibly, can be another basis for one of the two neo-tribe theories on the origins of the Bago tribe. Dina-ongan ‘went up to Ma-eng’, that is, he settled with and among Maengs – which may explain the predominance of Bagos in San Emilio, Banayoyo, Lidlidda, and Quirino area. Doday went down south and may explain the  Bago settlements in the Lepanto-Amburayan region all the way up to the north eastern tip of the Cordillera mountain  range  in  Labayug.  The  fact  that  these  communities  are  not  wholly  Itneg,  or kankanaey, or Ibaloi, and are only geopolitically Ilocanovi points to the fact of a period of national formation in a geographically confined area. Apo Sawate’s tiguey suggest that this formative period took place, generally, in Angaki as corroborated by the geography of dangtey and pisang.

A Tale of Bago Sintatako Hospitality?

Apo Sawate’s tiguey and the dangtey and pisang can also be two separate stories with the one predating the other.

I will start with the tiguey as predating the dangtey.

Dangtey talks about Angaki as a traditional sanctuary for Ygollotes fleeing wars. One reason that may have prompted the Biag brothers to stay in the Angaki area is the presence of these settlements established earlier and inhabited by people from either the same ethnic stock as the Biag siblings or from a network of inter-ethnic relations in the Central Cordillera (Abra- Mountain Province-Lepanto-Amburayan) region – at the nexus of which is a new national formation leading to the emergence of the Bago nation.

Following this narrative the southward and northward movements of Doday and Dinaongan were not necessarily trailblazing into frontiers but actually following the pattern of [post- Nagtablaan] spatial movements of the Bago people.

In this case, the dangtey’s account of the siblings, specifically those of Doday and Dina-ongan, is corroborative of the history behind Apo Sawate’s tiguey. Following the dating of dangtey history, the Bago settlement could have taken place generations before 1650.

A Tale of Family Reunion?

Reversing the chronology is equally interesting. If the dangtey history predates that of the tiguey, the Bago past is not only one of fleeing wars and headhunting sprees by busols – but more importantly, on the part of Biag descendants, a retracing of the trails of the tribal patriarchs.

From around the dap-ays established by Biag (‘Sagada, Tadian, Bangnen, Bontoc’), bands of Kankanaeys   descended into Angaki   and lived with the inhabitants there. These Angaki inhabitants may be a mixture of ethnic groupings that would primarily include blood relatives of the new arrivals who may probably have either remained there even as the core of the Biag siblings dispersed generations earlier or that some of Dina-ongan’s descendants may have returned there as typical of mountain settlers during that period. This may explain why the tiguey talks about the place as ka-Itnegan of the Maeng stock on the basis of the tale of Dina- ongan. On the basis of this narrative the Angaki Bago is the reunion of Biag’s and Dina-ongan’s descendants.

And if we are to skip some of the tiguey’s accounts *cognizant of the narratological creativity and ornamentations of oral tradition] the Angaki Bago from Biag and Dina-ongan were to rejoin their relatives of the Doday lineage in the foothills. This can be reconciled with the Nagtablaan Bago of the tiguey legend. The first diaspora after the gabbo in Nagtablaan was a movement to reunite with relatives from the Doday and Dina-ongan lineages – a pattern of reunion and movements so common to Bago communities and clans of the present day. The post- Nagtablaan bago are thus not clueless in their migration but were simply reinforcing their relatives’ push to expand and establish the boundaries of the Bago homeland.

Everytime the people of Sagada pray and sing the dangtey and pisang may they remember not the sons and daughters and descendants of Doday and Dinaongan …

And what about Galay [of the Biag siblings] and the Abay-as [of Tetep-an] of Candon, Ilocos Sur?  Ayee Kabunian!



i See Ferdinand Anno, Of Sintatako, Begnas, and Papatayan; The Bago Igorot and the New World, UTS-UGAT Journal, March 2014, pp.

ii As re-worked by William Henry Scott. The dangtey and pisang prayers as studied by WH Scott were recorded earlier by Fred Eggan and R.F. Barton in or before 1940. See W.H. Scott’s The Legend of Biag: An Igorot Culture Hero: Unpublished Collection of Ritual texts (Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1940)

iii See History. Sagada, Mountain Province.,_Mountain_Province, modified 15 january 2014-02-06; also Rev. Manuel Walley, (unpublished, undated, and uncompleted paper for his Master of Education Program at the Osias Educationl Foundation). Rev. Walley was the first and the only who put into writing his transcription of the Tiguey in original Kankanaey.

iv History. Sagada, Mountain Province, Ibid.

v Noted here are the many ways in which oral historians use numbers to mean a long period of time. Examples include the biblical ‘seven (7) days’ for the whole creation process; or the ‘forty (40) days and forty nights/years’ that really meant long days or long period of time as in the ancient great flood, the exodus story and the temptation of Jesus in the Judaeo-Christian sacred texts.

vi Noted is the 1920s protest resolution of the Sudipen, Santol and San Gabriel settlements of the Lepanto – Amburayan Sub-Province against their proposed incorporation into a province named after the American Governor General (Harrison) who championed Filipinization and integration. See History. Municipality of Santol.

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