Night with a Mumbaki Shaman
Some experiences open pathways in your heart and mind that are seldom talked about. One of mine took place in a tiny Filipino village. Batad is a tiny village in Northern Luzon in the Philippines. There is only way in, starting with a Jeepney to Banaue, the bigger town.
It is full so we ride on top.
From there a tricycle is hired to bump up the mountain on a road blown into a cliff with TNT.
When the trike can’t make it any further we trek to a saddle.
At that peak there’s a small shack with a steep narrow trail descending behind it out of sight, through thick green foliage. Here we meet Bennie from the village who led us safely down the mountain.
The majority of the trail is too steep for a dirt path, especially one that is often muddy. Thousands of stone stairs lead to the village at the bottom of the valley. Some are a few feet wide, while others are pegs. Some are taller than my knees, while others are a inches tall. We lose track of time, concentrating on our balance. Our packs threaten to tip us forward down the mountain.
I explain to Bennie my desires of learning traditional healing. He introduces us to his uncle Ramon, who quickly becomes excited by our inquires. He is close friends and neighbors to a Mumbaki, a shaman priest of the native Ifugao tribe. That night we are invited to witness a ceremony involving chickens, prayer and singing. We are invited into a traditional house on stilts that has been in Roman’s family for more than four generations. He, himself was born there. It is made of wood, bamboo and fibers from local plants.
The Mumbaki has an open air, though unable to communicate with us. Roman translates the ceremony into English, with the help of a couple neighbors. The Mumbaki crouches, and offers a prayer of gratitude for the rice harvest, and blesses it to make those who eat it healthy and full. He includes their ancestors in blessing the clan, and prayed about spirits of elements, and nature.
The hut fills with hot smoke as the Mumbaki’s prayer shifts from the directions to lightening. It’s been over an hour since I’ve heard him draw breath. My legs cramp painfully, and smoke tears my eyes. It’s been hours since we’ve moved. His voice dances with a fluid consistency, rhythmically piercing through my discomfort. I later learn this took over six hours.
Chickens are sacrificed as in the Law of Moses. It’s the first time I’ve seen something die. While the chicken cooks we take a break. Animal sacrifice is presently a common tradition in most parts of the world, or has been in the past. There is no judgement for the way the warship, only gratitude that we have a different belief system. In Christianity it’s felt that a physical sacrifice is the old law, and the higher way, the new law is to present to God a personal sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit.
We crouch to reenter the hut and are invited to eat with the Mumbaki and other members of their clan. The space is cramped and we squat elbow to elbow. We eat chicken, a soup broth made from the water the chicken was cooked in and local rice. They do not waste any of the sacred animals, a clear sign of respect. I am startled when those around me start crunching on the bones and talons. Scott followed suit by taking a confident bite off the leg bone he is eating.
Tired and happy we walk up to our lodging, led by fireflies.
Wholeness through hearing 2,000 year old prayers.
Love, “Whole Hannah” – inner i art