24 April 2011

Aytas celebrate ‘Apu Buk-Kot’ festival in Freeport forest (feature)

Far from the busy highways and factories of this free port, inside the thick forest where flora and fauna still exist almost undisturbed, is an open space considered sacred to all Ayta people of Central Luzon.

Every Holy Week, different Ayta tribes from Central Luzon gather at this sacred land which the Aytas believe to be where their most holy ancestor Apu Buk-Kot turned himself into spirit and joined his creator in Heaven.

The place is inside the Boton Forest Area at the back side of the Subic Technology Park, more than two kilometers from ArgonautHighway in the Subic Bay Freeport.

This Holy Week, about 20 Ayta families left their homes in the foothills of Bataan and Olongapo City to visit this place in Boton forest to pay respect to their ancestors, especially Apu Buk-Kot, the holy one.

Bonifacio Florentino, former tribal chieftain of the Pastolan Ayta tribe in this free port and member of the festival organizing committee, said that Aytas celebrate Apu Buk-Kot’s spiritual journey to connect them with the past.

“Ginaganap namin ito tuwing Mahal na Araw bilang pag-alaala kay Apu Buk-Kot, na hindi namatay kundi naglahong parang bula sa lugar na ito. Kaya sa ganitong panahon din siya nagpaparamdam sa amin,” Florentino said.

He added that through this festival, young Aytas and the lowlanders who married Aytas were taught about the origin, culture, practices and traditions of the Ayta.

In the opening ceremony, Florentino urged young tribal members to continue this kind of gathering, stressing that Apu Buk-Kot wanted to see members of the Ayta tribes happily bonding together and sharing food, as well as preserving their rich culture and history.

Joy Reyes, cluster head of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in Central Luzon, said that as part of the three-day festival, Ayta elders also teach new members of the tribe and children aged four and above, how to live in the forest with only a bolo for making shelter and gathering food.

She said the children must know how to catch shrimps and crabs in the creek using their bare hands, and identify edible root crops and fruits, as well as sources of water.

They are also taught how to pray in the native dialect, and dance the way their fathers and mothers did.

Reyes added that on May 2 and 3, the festival will move on to Limay, Bataan where the Aytas will be trained in planting, nurturing and harvesting various crops. A tribal wedding ceremony will also be held for those who wish to get married during the festival.

“We hope that the coming generations will continue practicing our rich culture and tradition, and pass them on to their children so that the Ayta heritage will continue to exist through the years,” Reyes also said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Ayta elder Bonifacio Florentino shares with youngsters the beliefs and practices of the Ayta tribe at the Subic Bay Freeport