Fear factor & inayan

By Penelope A. Domogo, MD

“Just like other indigenous societies, our indigenous Igorot life is replete with values and practices that harness this fear factor. “Inayan” is one such precious Igorot value and practice that has kept our indigenous villages in harmony with each other and with nature. “

We are on lockdown, globally. It took an invisible thing to control the world- covid-19. But, actually, what controlled us and what is controlling us is FEAR.
Fear is an emotion, a powerful one, meant for our survival. In general, it is a feeling of threat to our lives, to our health or to our comfort or to our beauty or to our happiness. Look how well anti-aging products sell (like creams and hair dyes) and how people, especially women, go to so much effort and spend so much money just to look forever young and beautiful. Some men also do this thing although they won’t admit it publicly. (Peace, man.) These people are afraid of getting old or looking old – this fear has an English term, “gerascophobia”. However, between getting old and getting covid-19, of course, fear for your life would prevail. So better forego the hair dye this month and avoid the parlor. Besides, they are closed.
Fear is what drives people to action or inaction. We fear most what we cannot control. Fight? or flight? or freeze? With covid-19, what can we do? We can’t strike with a bolo or shoot with a gun an invisible enemy that can be lurking in the air or in your clothes. We cannot even take flight because it can be anywhere- you can’t say you immigrate to the US because it is there also. How about Timbuktu? You are not sure. Besides there are no more planes flying. So the best thing is to stay home. Home is still where you are secure, hopefully. We fight covid-19 by retreating, literally, just like the turtle. I guess it’s been a long time that we have been out gallivanting, as a society, trampling on forests, diving into the deep seas (I hope diving sites are also locked down), and dumping our wastes everywhere we go. Tama na, sobra na kayo! Lockdown! Tengao! Ubaya! (“Ubaya” is the Kankanaey term for lockdown while “tengao” or “te-er” is the Bontok term.). Mother Earth needs to breathe.
As mentioned earlier, fear is part of a survival kit from above. Survival and peace and order. Peace and order are necessary for survival. Our wise ancestors recognized this gift. So early in our childhood, we are taught to fear some things that are crucial to our survival. I remember when we were very young, we feared the anito in the dark. It must have been a common fear because I don’t remember my parents pounding on my head that lesson. Or perhaps it was common sense. Anyway, before darkness set in, we were home. If we were farther away from home like in Payeo, we would run home so we won’t be caught in darkness in Embang, a non-inhabited place at that time which had a creek with clear running waters, and known to have “anito”. So our parents were spared the trouble of looking for us, unlike today when parents have to look into computer shops to locate their children because we branded the “anito” as superstitious and so now, NO FEAR ang kids. So, dear reader, the anito is not a superstitious belief. It is a survival mechanism. Fear factor.
When we went with our parents to Banao, a place were the iBesao tilled camote fields, we were allowed to roam (as we were too small to handle the “kaykay”) the Pilao and W mountains to pick alumani (superlicious blackberries) but we were warned not to venture far away “tay wada boso”. “Boso” was the term for “headhunter”. In our childhood minds, our image of the boso is a man with a “balaka”, this is a traditional Igorot headwear. So this fear kept us within a certain distance (within sight of our um-a actually) and our parents were assured we would not be lost so they could concentrate on tilling the uma. My parents or older siblings didn’t warn me, a child, being taken by a “boso” (kasi wala naman talaga) but nevertheless, the warning and just the thought of being taken by a “boso” controlled our movements. Fear factor.
Just like other indigenous societies, our indigenous Igorot life is replete with values and practices that harness this fear factor. “Inayan” is one such precious Igorot value and practice that has kept our indigenous villages in harmony with each other and with nature. “Inayan nan men-am-ames ya mang-eyey as sabon asnan balaan di danum tay awet matdok.” (Don’t bathe or bring soap to the water source or else it will dry up.) This is not superstition. It is a rule crafted by the wisdom of our ancestors meant for our survival. Clean water is survival, if you didn’t know. “Inayan” is also “beware” in English. “Inayan di adi mang-ikkan asnan ibagan nan amam-a.” This refers to the rituals being prescribed by the elders of the “dap-ay” or “ato” (indigenous Igorot government). These were rituals in preparation for planting rice, before harvest, thanksgiving after harvest, before and after building a house, after birth of a child, during weddings, deaths. In fact, there were rituals for all the vital events in Igorot life, which in the past was simple. Aside from celebratory activities like “gangsa”, these rituals called for time to fast (on the part of the celebrant or leader), time for long prayers and also quiet time or “ubaya” (Kankanaey) or “tengao/ te-er” (Bontok) for the celebrant and community, depending on the ritual. So our traditions have persisted up to now because of the fear factor. But now, we see the rationale and value of these traditions so common sense dictates we continue these rituals. Again, these are not superstitious beliefs, they are mechanisms for survival, peace and order.
“Inayan” also means “Don’t do to others what you don’t want others do to you.” Example, “Inayan nan mang-am-amis is ib-a.” (Beware of oppressing others.). I would say it is an Igorot version of the Ten Commandments. The law of “inayan” carries with it the law of “karma”. It’s a universal law or phenomenon. It is intertwined with the law of the gestation. The law of gestation says it takes time for something to manifest. Just like it takes 9 months for a baby in the womb to grow before it is born. Now we have problems because we only believe what we see instantly like covid-19, we believe it because we see people getting sick in so short a time. So with covid-19, our leaders have taken drastic action because of fear and we obey because of fear. I just watched the video “Wuhan” and I am impressed at the draconian measures by China to control the epidemic, the most crucial one which is “lockdown”. I recommend this video.
So now we obey the rule to stay home and limit social activities because our fear of covid-19 is great. We fear for our lives. Because of our fear, we clutch at things that are material- parang nalulunod, we will clutch at any thing that our hands can get hold of. These material things give us assurance. So we don’t only stay home and pray but we wear masks, we apply alcohol, we take vitamin C, we apply essential oils. (God, did you send covid-19 so that we remember to talk to you?) If the factory says there is a vaccine for covid-19, I am sure we will cling to it like it’s our savior. What if another disease comes around, will we see vaccines as the solution? Beware, fear of disease is also used to market products like vaccines. Fear of covid-19 has become our guide to behavior. Fear factor.
We need to handle our fears well so that it works for our good, otherwise, it could also lead to destruction, not immediately but in the future. There is also a law of the universe- the law of cause and effect. For every action, even a seemingly harmless one like vaccination, there is a reaction. Think about this as it applies to your individual actions. I am digressing again.
To handle our fears, I am adapting (with some variations) what Amy Morin, LCSW, published online on Verywellmind.com, “How to cope with anxiety about Covid-19”:
1. Read news from reliable sources but take breaks. “Avoid media outlets that build hype and dwell on things that can’t be controlled… Set limits of your media consumption… Turning into media stories about how fast an illness is spreading or how many people are getting sick, will increase your anxiety. While it is helpful to stay informed, it’s important you don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with anxiety-provoking news all day.”
2. Take care of yourself because you can control this – like washing hands, social distancing and don’t forget, eating well, meaning eat a plant-heavy diet and minimize processed foods especially sweets, get plenty of sleep and be physically active. At home, we can still do lampaso, yoga, washing, playing with kids.
3. “Avoid herd mentality. Be aware that many people take action that doesn’t help.” Just because people are rushing to the grocery, will you go also? What do you really really need? Now is the time to start living with less.
What happens then when the covid-19 season is over? Because surely, it will pass. God loves us, I am sure he did not send covid-19. And he is with us through all these times. He gave us laws to abide by. One law of the universe is the law of vibration – meaning everything is in motion. Situations change. When? We don’t know. Our fear will soon be gone, too. Fear is an emotion and it comes and goes. With our fear gone, will we go back to our “wicked ways”? Our fear should not be of covid-19 but of what caused it to manifest and why. Frankenstein for real. If we, that is you and me, don’t address the issue now, there will be other monsters rearing their heads in the future. Let us not blame the wild (which we are prone to do), nor China, nor the Chinese. Let us not point a finger. Inayan. Remember, if you point one finger to somebody, four fingers point to you.***
“Who are they who fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose.” Psalm 25:11

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