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Ambasing, Sagada and Her Anatomy

Ambasing, in the south central part of Sagada, Mountain Province, is a collection of tiny villages belonging to the Applai tribe of the Cordilleras. It homes Sagada’s main tourist destination Sumaguing Cave, as well as Lumiang Burial Cave, Kapay-aw Rice Terraces, and Sugong Hanging Coffins.

(Photo Courtesy of Joseph Gayyad)

Digdig, the Old Villager's Home

In the old days, Ambasing’s main village was located at the foot of Mt. Ampacao in Digdig.  One day, a side of the mountain eroded burying tens of tribesmen and their home. This tragedy drove Igorots living in Ambasing to build there houses in areas meters away from the foot of the mountain.

When I was a child, Digdig was completely a farm land. No house cannot be located there. A known landmark, a huge avocado tree grows there. At the foot of the tree, there are ruins of a house which belonged to my grandfather's cousin Paulina Lizardo. Thus, we call the area "Ken-Paulina" which means "belongs to Paulina".

Nowadays, the once original village is getting back to life. Around five houses were built there in the past 10 years and it seems Digdig will no longer be a lonely farmland. My uncle Joseph "Bakolong" Baniaga even put up a poultry farm there.

The School in Kaw-a

"Ambasing uskilaan id Kaw-a" means "Ambasing (Elementary School) the school in Kaw-a" is part of the lyrics of our school hymn we sing every graduation ceremony.

For kids who do know little about their history, Kaw-a may be a stranger to them. Truthfully, Kaw-a is no longer popular. It was once known as the place where you could locate the bus terminal. It is where you could see the store of my distant relative Bernard "Gang-ol" who was once a mayor of the town. Until these days, the store is the biggest in the locality selling groceries and hardware materials.

My great grandfather and Sagada's second mayor Leon Lizardo donated a big portion of his lot in Kaw-a to give way to the building of the school there. As promised, his relatives will be given priority when applying for a position in the school. However, this American system is no longer applicable nowadays and the benefit we have is to hear that our forefather helped in building the school.

Ambasing Elementary School tried its luck to expand to secondary education. My cousin Sheryl "Langsa" Ligos- Tugayan was among the students who took their first year high school level in Ambasing. However, the expansion did not succeed. 

Currently, the school in Kaw-a is being supported by ABS-CBN Foundation. It was once under GMA Kapuso Foundation. ABS-CBN donated a computer laboratory to the school, which I hope to be utilized by students there (I graduated there and I know how terrible their administration is). 

My Family Roots, My History

My mother grew up in Tagungtungaw (although they once stayed in La Trinidad). Together with her siblings, she stayed at my great grandfather’s house in Kaw-a. The house was one of the first two houses in the locality to get galvanized iron roofing. 

Dolores Baniaga, my great grandmother, was from Dagdag (another village in Sagada). I know little about her history. My grandfather and former Sagada mayor Pablo Lizardo Sr.originated in Ambasing.

We boarded in a house down our great grandpa's house. The house was called "Ken-Boklongan" which means "belongs to Boklongan". We stayed in that house until I was seven. Our own house was erected in Mapun-ay near Patok, Baksayan and Pukungan sitios.

The Great Bitin 

Bitin, also known as Tebaang and Great Bitin, is an isolated village in the lower part of Mt. Ampacao. Bitin is being dominated (was once a family compound-like village) by one family line.

The Wassits, our family friends, make Bitin the most exciting village in Ambasing. When we were younger, we visit them to pick guavas and wild fruits that they grow in their backyard. 

Around five years ago, people from Ambasing protested against a German boarder in Bitin. My folks were accusing this German of owning all water supplies to the main village. Evidently, some trees were cut in the compound where he was living causing many controversies.

Stories have it that people in the compound (with the German's employees from other parts  of Sagada) smoke marijuana. And that his wives and kids stay inside the house. Even the owner of the house (the house is called Ken-Laey) cannot evict her boarder.

In the 2007 Elections, this issue was thrown to a candidate who was accused of backing this pain in the ass foreigner. In a political rally, this candidate defended himself saying "adi yu gamin maawatan" means "because you do not understand". The candidate unfortunately lost and the German was totally ousted from Great Bitin.

Other Villages

Like Bitin, Namsung is also being dominated by one blood line. Almost all people there are related biologically and they are united (especially during elections).

Rumors have it that Namsung is preparing its course to become an independent barangay. I never heard of any separatist individual there. The idea is stupid. Being united as a family is totally different from being united as a political unit.

Legleg lies along the Ambasing- Demang boundary. Residents there can choose which barangay they will join. My grandmother's younger brother Patricio "Lakay Obonan" Baniaga is among the people there who are confused whether they belong to Ambasing or Demang. He ran for public office in both areas!

In the far east, Gagab-an is the Las Vegas of Sagada. Karaoke bars are located there and night-shift cops love going to the place at night for their surveillance. Gagab-an is prone to troubles. Whenever there is a trouble there, it is caused by barbaric people from Suyo, Ankileng and Payag-ew collectively known as "i-nagwab" which means "people from the lowland Sagada".

Ulnos Di I-Ambasing

For 16 years, I stayed in Ambasing. I relocated to Baguio City to get a degree in Communication, and in Education. Every holiday, I go home to be with my big family (which is still getting bigger).

Every time I go home, I always see major improvements brought by the very strong tourism supporting hundreds of families in Sagada.

On December 15, 2012, people from Ambasing who are staying here in Baguio had a simple get together. I met my relatives and folks during the gathering in Burnham Park. It followed a potluck system, so we brought a kilo of tomatoes, ten red eggs, three bags of rice and a 1.75 liters soda drink. 

It was simple and perfect! 

“Sino nan ka-anak ken sik-a?” which means "whose child are you?" was the question of new faces during the social gathering. Obviously, these people relocated to Baguio before I was born. I had to repeat that Lourdes Lizardo is my mom. One even noticed the white hairs growing on my head.

There was Dennis Binguit who was convincing the folks to buy his Waynasdi CD! There was Esther “Galingging” Lizardo- Tarrobal who discussed with me about the very horrible assassination inSagada! The Sagada Kankanaey accent was too thick among us. People from other place would recognize the mixing of Mountain Province Kankanaey and American English in our voices!

Naati-atiw nan egay inmali! See you again lovely folks from Ambasing! Check these pictures!

Christian is a Marketing Communications practitioner in Quezon City. He is an Igorot from Sagada, Mountain Province. To get in touch with him, please shoot an email to christianaligonow@gmail.com.


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