SHIVA NEN BALONG “PIP-PIP” Balong “Pip-Pip” There was a time in the history of Kabayan when there was no easy road to progress for the poor. People who were respected and honored were those who could host a big, big feast called the pechit. This feast was reserved for the privileged few, stable enough to afford the butchering of many, many pigs. Guests were also restricted to those who could reciprocate the bat-bat or meat share allocated by the celebrant. During pechits, it was easy to recognize the baknang or rich and the abiteg or poor. The rich were active participants, lavishly entertained and given select cuts of bat-bat while the poor counted for nothing in ceremonies and received skin, bones and broth for their bat-bat. This prejudice continued unabated until a certain man named Balong happened on the scene. Balong was born in Imbose of poor parents. He had a sister who shared his hardships as both their parents died early. They lived in a small hut not far from the homes of the “royal” rich of Imbose who were wont to host a lot of pechit at close intervals. Being poor, and orphans at that, Balong and his sister were often taunted and mocked publicly. Balong would condescend and gratefully receive his share if skin, bones and broth. At times, the rich played a cruel joke on Balong by rubbing the fat of the meat around his mouth as proof that he had eaten ahead of the rest and thus Deprive him of his share of the feast, already meager. Balong hated attending these pechits but continued to do so only to be able to share his sister with whatever little he could. Since they could not eat the bones, Balong piled them in a pig pen and thereafter decided that he would attend more of these feasts. One day, a neighbor of theirs invited Balong to a pechit. He turned down the invitation, expressing his hurt feelings and informing his neighbor that he would much rather fish in the river, his catch more satisfying than the meager share he would get from the rich. Knowing he was not worthy of celebrating with the rich, he thanked his visitor nonetheless for the invitation and with his net, a hook, and a piece of bamboo disappeared into the bushes. He reached the river in a state of depression. Not able to find peace with himself, he sat down to ponder on the painful treatment he had received from the rich. He then turned around to scan a likely fishing spot in the river when he suddenly noticed a glittering object not far from where he stood. With suspicious exhilaration, he jumped in and swam toward the object. It was a piece of pure gold. This he knew for sure form having to carry the gold of other people to be traded in Pangasinan. He picked up the object, took it home and kept his discovery to himself. From then on, he took to staying home and fishing for their meals. While in his small field one day, Balong learned that a neighbor was leaving for Pangasinan with some other to buy salt. He then volunteered to go along as a salt carrier. Balong had decided to take along with him his gold piece to trade in the lowlands. He carefully concealed this in his pasiking. Starting off the next day, the group benighted in Ambekdew. The following day, one member of the group noticed that Balong’s pasiking contained something and he tried to snatch the back pack while Balong tried his best not to release it. More curious because of Balong’s reaction, the others grabbed his back pack and were surprised to find a black stone inside. They held the stone before Balong and taunted him with it. For to balong the stone was pure gold but in the eyes of his tormentors the same stone was nothing but a black stone called moging. He agreed among them to throw it into the deep river. As one of them approached the other who was holding stone, as if by itself the same splashed into the water. Balong said not a word but simply stood looking from his companions into the river where the stone disappeared. Deeply hurt, he sat down while his companions continued on their way. Balong was mad with frustration but was equally determined to recover his lost fortune. He went down the rocky riverside and stood on a rock from where he could overlook the spot his stone was thrown into. He realized that it was impossible for him to swim the deep and swift river. Feeling low, he consoled himself with the admonition that he was self-reliant fellow and would find a way to retrieve his treasure. Looking around again, he noticed an object moving toward the riverside. Overjoyed, he ran toward the object which was the same stone thrown into the river. He put the gold piece into his pasiking and proceeded to Pangasinan. Upon reaching Pangasinan, Balong searched in vain for his companions. He proceeded to the house of the richest man of the town where he was welcomed, being familiar to the rich man as one who frequently came to trade for salt. He then presented his gold piece to an astonished man who realized that he was looking at a very precious metal. Excited, he offered an exchange deal to Balong. First, he proposed that Balong would get all the silver necessary to outshine the stone but even completely covered with silver the brightness of the stone outshone the silver pile. The rich man then added a big bronze pot, pal joc, to no avail. Determined to make the trade, the rich man proposed that in exchange of the stone, Balong would take home with him different kinds of animals. Wide-eyed, Balong made a gesture of acceptance while silently reflecting on the turn of events in his life. Before he could say a word, Balong realized the difficulties he would encounter in bringing home these animals. He expressed his fears of a long and dangerous journey home was reluctant to accept the offer of the rich man. The rich man, understanding Balong’s hesitance, handed him a whistle called “pip-pip”. He explained how this was used and when to use it. Remembering the numerous hardships he had for his lot from birth, Balong knew he could rely on his determination and perseverance to get his animals back to Imbose. With great pleasure, he accepted the offer of the rich man, thanked him for his pip-pip and bid him goodbye. Blowing his whistle, he was frightened to come face-to-face with animals the likes of which he had never seen before. Then remembering the rich man’s instructions, he gathered his courage and led the animals on without further incidents. Balong encountered no difficulties with the number of animals he brought from Pangasinan to Imbose. Sighting his village, Balong was reminded that he was a poor man and could not just appear in town with a herd of animals. He then decided to group his animals on a hill not very far from Imbose and inform his neighbors of his good fortune first. Bringing along his pip-pip, he happily arrived and proceeded to recount his adventure to his neighbors. Not believing, they taunted Balong and called him a liar. To prove his word, a slave of Kagaw proudly offered to climb the hill. He had not even reached the top when he came running back to inform the residents of Imbose of the frightful noise and varying sized of different animals he saw a-debeng or gathered together. From that time on, Balong earned the respect and difference of his former tormentors. To this day, Kabayan remembers during times when “era ka mambibinaga”, Balong Pip-Pip as a shining example of the triumph of self-reliance and perseverance, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. His life marks the beginning of the gradual awakening of the rich people to their abusive and tyrannical rule over the people of Kabayan. To this day, the name “Balong Pip-Pip” remains with the people of Kabayan and the hill on which he gathered his animals, above tinongcol, is called A-debang. Singularly touching, the foregoing tale best illustrates the evolving social life in Kabayan. Subsequent similar attempts to improve their lot resulted in celebration of the pechit also by the poor people of Kabayan. It is to Kagew that the story of how the baknang observed the difference of how the same feast is celebrated is attributed. It is said that the first pechit at Kagew was a much livelier one since everyone took part in both the preparations and feasting. Observed by the baknang, they realized their folly in excluding the abiteg and thereafter allowed intermarriages between both classes. And still, remembered original ancestors of “lead” families in Kabayan today continued to settle the area and inter-marry with earlier residents to extend settlements to as far as Dutab. Among these were Gadati and Sañgao.