Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Concept of “Inayan” Among the Igorots

If you’ve lived in proximity with Igorots for a considerable amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard them use the word “inayan” a good number of times. After all, “inayan” is one of the most used words in a Kankana-ey speaker’s vocabulary. I’m writing this article at around 10:00 in the evening. Looking back to the day that just passed, I can easily recall saying “inayan” at least three times. That’s for this day alone.

My alarm clock didn’t sound off at 5:30 am so I ended up waking up at 7:30 am which was two hours late. I exclaimed “ay inayan” as I forced myself out of bed. There was a long line at the government office where I went to process an ID. That got another “ay inayan” comment from me. Standing beside a pedestrian lane in Session Road, I said “inayan” as a few hard-headed pedestrians crossed the street with the red light still on.

I think I’ve made my point. We Igorots use the word “inayan” all the time. But what exactly is it? What does it mean? Does it merit a deeper understanding? Should you even care?

Defining the word can be quite tricky. There are at least two definitions based on how the word is used. The first one is it’s usage as an expression. But if it’s used as an expression, the word “ay” comes before the word “inayan”. An Igorot would say “ay inayan” to express a wide range of emotions like frustration, disappointment, and disgust. These feelings of frustration, disappointment, and disgust are either directed toward yourself or toward another person. The three instances of usage I’ve mentioned earlier are good examples of this first definition.

The expression “ay inayan” has close cousins in the Ilocano and Tagalog languages. They are not exactly the same but they are pointing at the same direction or the same meaning. The best I can come up with are the following expressions:

Ano ba yan.” (Tagalog)
Anya metten.” Or “Anya met.” (Ilocano)

Like when you see people crossing the street with the red light still on, you say to yourself “Ay inayan.” You say “Ano ba yan” or “Anya metten” if you’re a lowlander. In other words, “ay inayan” is often an expression of moral criticism. In using it, you are dishing out a hammer of moral judgement.

Comedic versions of the expression have also entered the local lexicon in recent times. A perfect example is the supposedly funny expression “ay inayan ito” as popularized by the animated web video series Lampitok. The protagonist in the videos uses the expression on every chance he gets. This series is the brainchild of a guy who is – from what I’ve heard – from the town of Buguias in Benguet. As we all know, Buguias is Kankana-ey country.

The second definition of the word “inayan” is its role as a value system within Igorot families and communities. I feel hesitant to use the term “value system” here but it’s what I can come up with, for now. Anyway, in a value system, there should be a way for people to separate the good deeds from the bad deeds. Within Igorot communities, this is where the “inayan” concept enters the picture. “Inayan” is basically a blanket term that refers to all deeds that are considered bad, evil, taboo, and unethical.

Adi ka men-ak-akew tay inayan.
Don’t steal because it’s bad. [English translation]

Adi yo popoowan nan bilig ta inayan ken Kabunian.
Stop burning mountains lest you receive the wrath of god (Kabunian). [English translation]

Inayan di bumalbala ay umey men-ubla no madama nan begnas.
It’s taboo to go and work in the fields during a “begnas”. [English translation]

A begnas is a village ritual within Igorot communities that is considered sacred. Think of it as a thanksgiving ritual wherein the Igorots give thanks to the gods and request for luck and better harvests.

Photo by Daniel Ted C. Feliciano

Deeds that are outside the borders of the “inayan” blanket are generally acceptable behaviour. Of course, there will be exceptions depending on the specifics of the deed and the circumstances. And let’s not forget to take into account the fact that all value systems change and evolve. The “inayan” value system isn’t exempt from these changes. Deeds that are considered “inayan” a couple of decades ago may be acceptable behavior today.

From an early age, Igorot kids are taught what’s good or bad through the “inayan” value system. Grandparents, parents, and older siblings serve as moral teachers to the young ones. In the village or community as a whole, the elders serve this role. They decide on what constitutes acceptable behavior and what’s not.

But again, things are changing. This value system is going through modifications not only in the ways bad is differentiated from good but in the ways these values are passed down to the younger generation. We are already witnesses to the breakdown of Igorot communities as village-centered. We are now more family-centered than village-centered. Proof to this is the consistent disappearance of “dap-ays” and the decreasing observance of village-based rituals and practices.

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