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January 06, 2011


Even among the Ilocano sophisticates, there persists a belief in the existence of kaibaan or ansisit—tiny unseen spirits that proliferate among trees, rocks, and abandoned places, and who, if befriended, could cook in earthen pots an endless supply of rice, and exercise such other mythical powers. However, when these are inadvertently harmed, even innocuously, through a thoughtless act as when passing through their habitat without permission, they can cause rashes, boils (kurad), and other irksome maladies.

When this happens, a mangangatang—one who celebrates the atang appeasement ritual—is called upon to cure the illness caused by the kaibaan. The manner by which this is done differs from case to case, depending on what kind of kaibaan is involved.

The simplest of the rituals consists of an offering of grated coconut meat mixed with oil, around that are pieces of coconut husks and shells, placed in the middle of a winnowing tray. At about 6 p.m., the mangangatang (or mangngagas­, “healer”) brings the tray to the place where the kaibaan is thought to live, and who then invites the spirits to partake of the offering, asking them to relieve the patient of the illness. If, after a few days, nothing happens, the reason could be that a higher order of spirits is involved, which means another kind ofatang is needed.

The second attempt at appeasement is more involved. The offering is much the same, with the addition of a glass of water. However, these items must be obtained by the mangangatang from different houses in the community, without the owners knowing the purpose for which these are asked of them. More stringent requirement is that only the mangangatang can touch them. The violation of this requirement will result in a grievous effect on the patient, which may even result in death.

When nothing still happens, then it means that the highest order of kaibaan is involved. The offering becomes more elaborate and includes rice cakes, glass of water, oil from a coconut with reddish-brown husk, three pieces of rolled tobacco leaves (dinubla), betel-nut chew and perhaps fruit. An important component is meat from chicken that has been sacrificed on a small altar outside the house of the patient. The mangangatang sees to it that no blood is shed on the altar and that the altar is cleaned before the final offering is made. After this third atang, the patient is certain to be cured.

Read more in Pinagmulan.