By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
During a recent conversation with my favorite friend Rev. Luis Aoas, he elaborated on an earlier observation that the concept of forgiveness is missing in the Kalinga culture. Let’s listen to him:
“There are no equivalent in the Kalinga dialect for ‘I forgive you.’ or ‘Please forgive me.’ What we have are the words ‘bay-amon’ or ‘pasensiya’ which are grafted from the Ilocano dialect and culture. By it, we mean you just let the matter go. It is different from forgiveness because when one forgives, he does not record the wrong but when one merely says ‘bay-amon,’ he records although at this time, he does not ask the wrongdoer to make amends. A repetition may not receive the same treatment. In forgiveness, one does not point to the other person that his act is already a repetition. Forgiveness springs from love of fellowmen. I am talking from the viewpoint of Christianity whereby people are equipped with the power to forgive since they were first forgiven. Pasensiya does not come from goodwill.
Another reason I say there is no forgiveness in the Kalinga culture is because in all my three decades of negotiating amicable settlements, I have not seen the offenders and the victims appearing. This makes the act of forgiveness impossible because forgiveness is personal. The person wronged is the one who forgives and the person who did the wrong is the one who asks for forgiveness. The absence of the offender and the victim in amicable settlements is linked up with the principle of Kalinga culture of ‘the sin of one, is the sin of all.’”
At this point, I interject that since that is the set-up, then why talk about forgiveness? It is out of place. He replies: “Even if the sin of one is the sin of all, there is still need to ask for forgiveness. If you have killed a man, you should feel sorry for what you have done and, in the event you are forgiven, shoulder the expense which will not then be treated as indemnity. To me, a person controlled by God forgives even if the offender does not ask for forgiveness. The understanding is in Christianity, one who harbors hatred even if he does not act on it, is like a candle which is burning itself out.”
My question how could there be peace in Kalinga when the concept of forgiving is missing, triggers the following exchange:
Rev. Aoas: “Peace is still possible because there is the law to serve as a curb against the commission of evil which is part of human nature.”
Me: “But there is no law in Kalinga.”
Rev. Aoas: “Don’t say that. You are too sweeping. Try to go out on the street now and stone the houses you pass by and the police will apprehend you.”
Me: “I will be apprehended because I am a Bago. If I belonged to a kawitan tribe like yours, I will not be apprehended.”
Rev. Aoas: “There you go again. Kontrabida ka a talaga. There is still hope in Kalinga. Everybody is talking about peace and the effect is the understanding of people is slowly being raised to the level wherein they can be civilized. There are perceptible changes. Gone are the days when the mere shedding of blood will spark wars, wars that would last for years. Now, if there are wars, they are stopped quickly. This is in fairness to what’s happening. May be the changes are not as fast as they should be but there is still something going on which is good.”
When I asked him if it’s possible that a kawitan tribe confesses that its member killed a person and asks for forgiveness for the act, he said that when that happens, it will be a breakthrough whether or not it will be accepted adding that if it happens, the subject kawitan tribe should be willing to surrender the culprit and take the consequences because confession which is just words is nothing. He agreed with me though that habitual murderers are not likely to confess and ask for forgiveness but that it is usual for first time offenders to feel remorse although if they are Kalingas, they may not actually ask for forgiveness from those they harmed.
He concluded that the root of the unforgiving culture is as follows: “Among Kalingas, harm done to a relative is taken as an insult to the honor of the clan or of the tribe and the only way to restore the diminished honor is to revenge.”
I then said that in that case, the word forgiveness will continue to be missing in the Kalinga dialect and culture for three more generations to which he retorted that at least we have started talking about it. According to him, it is like a seed being planted and sprouting in due time.