Ancient practice of keeping time lives
By Vicente Sapguian
The Manila Times, October 12, 2003

BESAO, Mountain Province—An ancient practice of keeping time still dictates the annual rice farming cycle of a village here. The solar-based stone calendar found here also served to catalyze community and family unity for centuries.

Scores of people, including this correspondents and other mediamen, trooped to Barangay Gueday here, September 30, to see for themselves how the stone calendar works.

The stone calendar has vertical, diagonal and horizontal line markings. This stone is to be the first to be struck by the sun’s ray escaping from a fissure on the mountain above, before the sun fully shows itself up in this particular morning.

As the sun arose at about 6:30 a.m. from the top of the mountain overhead, a greenish sunbeam escaped from the cleft between two rocks at the mountain ridge. The sunbeam from the fissure shot down to the Gueday village “dap-ay,” where villagers and visitors crowded, waiting to witness the yearly phenomenal occurrence.

A “dap-ay” is a public place with sleeping quarters for males. Outside the sleeping quarters is a stone-paved court with seats and a bonfire space at the center. This is where public affairs, such as the legislation of tribal laws, hearing of cases, education of the young, etc., are conducted.

This indigenous system of determining the time of the year when the sun’s beam strikes directly at a particular stone calendar at the “dap-ay,” signals a special day that starts a new rice farming year for the village.

Village elder Belga Pascual, 84, said that the Agawa community of Besao has ingrained this practice since time immemorial and made it a village holiday. The villagers made it a point to celebrate the occasion by exchanging “linnapet,” a kind of a rice cake, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked by boiling.

The villagers went from house to house exchanging the “linnapet” with their neighbors and to clan members who settled in other villages.

Ester and Pasiwat Lasekan claimed that it was David Ganaden, who was by then a village official in the early 1900s, who suggested that whenever the ray of the sun, coming from the fissure in the overhead mountain, strikes the particular stone calendar in the Gueday “dap-ay,” the date is September 30, in the universal Gregorian calendar.

For the succeeding two years, the village elders confirmed the near-accuracy of Ganaden’s observation and so declared September 30 of every year as the village holiday to celebrate “Linnapet Day.”

It was also made the appropriate time to start the village rituals for the yearly rice farming cycle even without confirming from the position of the sun against the fissure in the mountain to the stone calendar in the Gueday “dap-ay,” said the Lasekan couple.

The Agawa Foundation Inc. donated P5,000 for the celebration of this year’s “Linnapet Day.”

Observing that the stone calendar and “dap-ay” where it had been positioned for centuries is deteriorating, Vice Mayor Harry Baliaga of Besao urged the foundation to preserve the stone calendar for the coming generations.

[Back to News on Rice]