HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 8 no. 1 (2008)

Understanding Ancestor Reverence in the Benguet Tradition

Leonila L. Taray

Discipline: Social Science, Religion, Cultural Studies



This paper problematizes the logocentrism of a Christian stance that has not made itself an effective dialogue partner with the indigenous people of Benguet as regards the latter's religious beliefs and practices. Introducing experience (i.e., the writer's experience as a Benguet Kankanaey Christian) as a lens/starting point towards a Christian understanding of ancestor reverence in the Benguet tradition, this study posits that Christian theology must go beyond stereotyping indigenous beliefs and practices as "pagan," "superstitious," "exotic," "backward," and "static." The writer instead proposes that a shift in the understanding of ancestor reverence is possible if a truly Christian dialogue is taken seriously as a way of paying attention to the voices and rituals from the mountains. A dialogical stance needs to cultivate a keen sense of awareness of and the capacity to listen to the pressing issues and concerns of the Benguet people that are often articulated in their prayers to their ancestors. Attentive listening may lead to a deeper understanding of the significance of ancestors to a people, as they attempt to reconstruct their cultural history and to promote and preserve their dignity and cultural identity as a distinct community in a world that is becoming globalized but fragmented. Furthermore, a theology of dialogue may become possible if it moves from doctrinal and ecclesiastical constrictions to a more open, empowering, and committed partnership in the dialogue of life. Only then can we speak of a Christianity that can find a home in the tradition and culture of the other.