One of the things that may set Kalingas apart from other people is the multa. It is the practice of exacting one’s pound of flesh from incidents where the blood of a Kalinga is drawn (or even if not drawn), a Kalinga is aggrieved. Never mind if the incident is not intentional or accident for so long as blood has been drawn, the multa must be paid. Multa is also imposed in cases when a man impregnates a Kalinga woman but does not intend to marry her and things like that.
With the failure of the government to regulate the practice, multa is a dreaded word among the immigrants and the mild Kalinga tribes. The practice drives a wedge between them and the tribes that exact multa on the other hand. It is a well known fact that most multa demands are unreasonable and the process in enforcing it attended by intimidation.
Recently, I had a chance to hear the thoughts of Bansen Bangibang, one of the few Kalingas who does not mince words when it comes to the bad practices and excesses of his fellow Kalingas, on the matter. According to Bansen, a member of the Taloktok tribe, among Kalingas, it does not matter who starts something. It has no bearing. You punch me and no blood is shed. I then retaliate and blood is drawn. I must pay the multa.
He continues: The moment blood is shed, the Kalinga has reason to exact the multa. That’s because the wound must be masonga. In English, songa is the payment of the blood money so that the problem is prevented from getting any worse. Even just a little blood is reason to demand the multa. It all depends on the relative fierceness of the tribe or family of the victim in relation to the tribe or family of the one who caused the injury. If the tribe or family of the latter is easily intimidated, the victim tribe raises the demand sky high just in case the other party will give in. It’s like a bluff. Not all Kalingas kill but then there is no way of determining who is bluffing and who is not so the safe thing to do is to give in.
The facts on who started the incident will only have a bearing when the person who drew blood belongs to a kawitan or warlike tribe in which case they could enforce their rights but if they belong to the upa or non-warlike tribes, they might as well come across so as not to make things worse.
When I asked what’s so significant about the drawing of blood that the multa must be imposed at all costs, Bansen could not explain. He only said the shedding of blood is a serious matter among Kalingas. “Blood is important because it is life but I do not know the actual reason,” Bansen admitted.
According to Bansen, the expression “maysa a tedted, maysa a nuang” is an exaggeration but that the principle is “basta nagdara, mamulta.” And that’s even if the cause of the bleeding was unintended or accidental.
Going back to the songa, Bansen said that according to the belief of Kalingas, the killing and butchering of an animal the simplest of which is a chicken makes the wound heal easier and will not make it swell. As for the demand in cash, Bansen explained that it is to cover hospital expenses and related losses and also to appease the victim.
Bansen said that ever since he could remember, Kalingas already practiced the multa but that in recent years, its hold on them has loosened a bit because of the advent of Christianity. When I asked him about church people who impose the multa, Bansen said that they are just pretending to be Christians but are not real Christians because Christians are supposed to be forgiving. He related that there are times during amicable settlement negotiations when he rebuked so-called Christian families for demanding the multa but that the latter would reason that if they do not demand the multa, their stature in the community would suffer because among Kalingas, the demand is tied up with one’s prestige. If you do not demand much, then you are apt to be ignored and look down on.
Bansen relates that one time when his second boy was in grade three at the Bulanao South Elementary School, he and an immigrant boy were throwing stones at the fruits of a mango tree. One of the stones thrown by the immigrant boy as it was coming down hit Bansen’s son injuring him in the forehead. The bleeding was profuse. The knowledge that the injured boy was a Kalinga rattled the teacher of the two boys and even the principal because, according to Bansen, in incidents like this among Kalingas, teachers are dragged in. The teachers were only calmed when he went to the hospital where the boy was taken and informed the immigrant boy to get a chicken for him and the injured boy to butcher and eat together in a house in front of the school the following day. He did not even ask the family of the immigrant boy to pay the hospital bill. According to Bansen, he asked for the chicken with the intent of preventing his tribesmates from taking advantage of the situation.
Bansen said that among warlike Kalinga tribes, unfortunate incidents like what happened to his boy is an opportunity to “make their lives better.” But he quickly adds that there are also Kalingas who have learned to forgive like he did.
The trouble is, they are very rare.