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It is an undeniable fact that the Igorots are one of the many Philippine indigenous people that are rich in traditions that existed even before the colonial times. And one of it is their traditional way of preserving a meat, which still exist today.
Etag is the general term used by the Igorots about their meat that was preserved in a traditional way. To make an etag, the pork meat is salted and cured for at east 5 days, after which it is smoked for several weeks or air-dried under the sun.
Smoking an etag is usually done by hanging the meat over and close to the dalikan, and the meat should be smoked for at least 30 minutes a day, for a week. A smoked etag has a dark reddish-brown color because of the stain caused by the smoke.
While on the other hand, sun-dried etag was done by skewering the cured meat and hanging it on a stretched rope of clotheslines. A sun-dried etag is also lighter in color.
An etag may also be prepared using both process. That is by smoking the cured meat then sun-drying for the next few weeks or months.
For some people, etag may not look appealing because it has a foul odor and most often has maggots after several weeks of smoking or sun-drying. Probably because of its exposure to flies. As it undergo the aging process, etag is also often covered with thin layer of milky-white molds. The molds are rinsed of and etag is safe and ready to cook.
This process of preservation was also similar on the Igorot's process of mummification which I mentioned in this article.
Here's a video where we can see an etag. I'm so glad it is in English because I really want to share things about the Igorots, and I am proud that I am one of them.
The Etag Festival
Since 2012, Sagada town in My. Province celebrates Etag Festival. It was conceived to showcase the Sagada culture, to boost the livelihood of the local community, and to promote eco-tourism.
This festival highlighted the cultures and traditions of the Isagada (people from Sagada). This also features Sagada delicacies that uses etag as the main ingredient. Cultural performances that features the different traditions of the Isagada including lifestyle, farming practices, courtship, and marriage were also presented during this festival. And indigenous games and talent showdown are also part of the highlights.
Writing this article made me miss my childhood, when I used to spend my summer vacation at Bontoc, Mt. Province. For those who do not know, my mom is an FBI (Full-blooded Igorot. Haha). In Guina-ang, a barangay in Bontoc, you can really see that the cultures and traditions of the Igorots are alive. When you walk around the neighborhood, you can see an etag hanging outside their house. You can also see pig pens around. Pig pens made of large stones, and not hollow blocks and cement. Tombs are also everywhere because the residents bury their loved ones just near their houses. Just like my grandfather, his tomb was just a few meters away from the house. I also remembered reading a "US Veteran" written on one of the tombs there, and the little me thought it was a Veterinarian. Haha. We also take a bath in what we call ubbog (spring). It is also where people wash their laundries and get drinking water as well. When taking a bath there, you are overlooking green rice terraces, like the one in Banaue. The waters from the ubbog also flows directly to the rice fields. Most people also take a bath there with only their undies on. No malice at all. No awkwardness. That's why when you take a bath there with a shirt or shorts on, they'll know that you are from the lowland. Haha. Almost everyone there also know each other, especially the elders. The life there is so simple yet you can see that the people are happy. How I wish I can go back there someday.
Here is a video and some photos that I found on facebook that somehow shows what Guina-ang is and the culture of the Ibontocs. I would really love it if you could check these out.