Our Hizzoner’s Oggayam Way


Last week, a group – elders, middle-aged and the young with a bent for music –  from Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 1 collared, finally, this fool of a pen bleeder and demanded he inks something about music, not any music, but indigenous music, on pains of his ears being lopped off by other Daily Laborer groups out hunting for him.

By all means.  The said group’s wish needs granting. Daily Laborer got to thinking how many CAR and Region 1 people have taken a liking to country music, never mind if some fumble through the verses, perfectly out of key.

Country music, you say? Aah! A musical genre with roots in indigenous folk music, a term used today to describe many styles and subgenres and quite literally the music of Daily Laborer working class.

Daily Laborer got to thinking, too, that guaranteed, God is from the working class since, God, too, loves country music and, being a cowboy at heart, gave CAR and Region 1 their own distinct indigenous melodies to match their wide open spaces and smooth the wrinkles of the population’s soul.

Melodies or spirit songs like, for Region 1, the Pamulinawen, Manang Biday, Naranniag a Bulan, Sagudday or Lung- aw lyrics and, for CAR, the Salidummay, Dakami a Tingguian, Owwawi, Sowi-i or Chua-ay, Hud-hud, Oggayam, if only to name a few.

Wait a minute. Talk about Oggayam. Others spell it Uggayam. Its spelling matter less. What matters more this time around is why it’s being sang and, to be candid about it, had stood the test of time.

One only has to contemplate the mysterious transcendence at the heart of oggayam, this most spiritually resonant of art.

Clearly, oggayam is a different chime in an articulate form that fuses to relinquish a distinct entity.

You don’t believe? Dang it, you’re just like Ah Kong, who’s music-deaf. Best we take a lesson from our own mayor, Manong Mauricio Domogan.  What say, you, eh?

Listening to Manong Mauricio’s expressive oggayam –  we have, not of course Domogan’s artistically original experience which is quite beyond us, for one Daily Laborer experience is different from another Daily Laborer –  is an experience of its kind of which our nature is capable to understand, a better and complete experience than in fact we ever had before when we never listened to oggayam.

When the inexpressible has to be expressed, Manong Mauricio lays down his pen, scratches his forehead, puts on his signature scowl for a moment, smiles a mysterious smile only his beautiful wife, Rebecca, can understand, then harkens his oggayam from his bosom to come out bubbling, incessantly harping on the fact of its own deep perfection for the public to hear and become part of.

When we hear Manong Mauricio rendering   the oggayam, we hear with silence, but a silence that breathes with soft breathing, with an inexorable gentleness across warm living bodies gathered on any such important occasion, when the oggayam is sorely needed.

How Manong Mauricio does it is beyond Ah’s demented mind. Usually, Manong Mauricio starts (Manong, correct Ah if he’s wrong – like he’d always been, anyway) like this: “Ayeee gayamen-n-n-n-n; Dey gayamen-n-n-n-n; Ay oggayam ke-e-e-e-t; Di gayamen…”

In many instances, listening keenly to our mayor, he begins by invoking the message, “Adto ta y-y-y-e-e-e-e (We’re all gathered here because of us). Thereon, he delivers his message, uniquely.

Manong Mauricio does it in a fine interweaving of melody, now pulsing in, now pulsing out, in almost solid clots of harmonious sound, pouring itself, like   falling and rising trajectories of time.

What makes Ah green with envy is: Manong Mauricio’s oggayam is a declamatory song with a decorative speech and embossed with a melodious ambit or scope.

When hearing Mauricio in his way of the oggayam, one has to accede one is in another mode of being, like good essence equivalent to right character, or, if you may want to put it, like good wine properly distilled, refined, aged and when taken in, sooths the thirsty of throats.

Always, Manong Mauricio’s singsong rests on a principle: For anybody who has that much in common with another fellow-man or fellow-woman, will have things common for a friend.

And, op kors, op kors, city councilors   Atty. Faustino Olowan, Atty. Peter Fianza, and known Human Rights atty. Joe Molintas –   steadfast men for goodness and right, may well be right in musing that in hearing oggayam, there is, there sometimes seem to be, an irrefutable gladness lying at the heart of things, a mysterious gladness, because, in closing our ears not to hear this indigenous music, there probably is something wrong in us in living out life.

Darn right! But on another thought, any attempt to reproduce the musical oggayam statements of Manong Mauricio “in our own words,” Ah sees it as being doomed to failure. One cannot isolate the originality of a piece of music lent by the singer and call it our own. For in that originality is a truth inseparable from its partner.

Best, then is learn our indigenous songs’ musical beauty-truth (oggayam, etc.) and construct our own wordings that suits time’s passage.

That’s what happens to lie at the heart of the problem that the group who collared Ah recently, debated on and wants solved.

This is the short end of it that the group is calling out: Is anybody out there man enough, woman enough, half-man, half-woman enough, or animal-enough, to take up the cudgels and sing an oggayam when Manong Mauricio isn’t available due to other pressing official functions?

For those who can sing oggayam, come forward and be known. But don’t go practice your oggayam in the shower. For all we know, your showering-singing can lure you to dancing. And dancing can cause your slipping. And slipping will lead city or provincial paramedics to you while you are stark naked. All because of practicing oggayam under the showers.

If you prefer singing oggayam outside the shower, be ever mindful of your family members and neighbors, who would prefer hearing the dogs howl, rather than listening to you harrumphing like a fiend gone mad, because you think you possess the loveliest of voice.

And for those not coming forward to be known?  Tsk-tsk!  Heck, you ain’t a coward –  like Ah, are you? Big trouble with belting out oggayam is that many want to sing it, but just like Ah, we croak like frogs.

Stands to reason the group salivates chopping Ah’s ears all along. In challenges in culture transmission today, many Cordilleran indigenous knowledge systems seem at risk of becoming extinct.

When merely knee-high to a laughing camote plant, Ah heard oggayam sung by the late Monroe Taclawan, then a teacher at Easter School, Baguio City. Back then, Ah thought Taclawan was mumbling some mumbo-jumbo, or concocting magic to that effect.

Ah was of course grossly mistaken, for Taclawan, who sang those times invoked oggayam as a conviction to wholesome living guide.

Oggyam’s musical characteristic is that it’s usually sang on a seven-tone scale by a solo performer on a neumatic-syllabic mode. Meaning, the singer can sing two to four notes for one syllable them switches to syllabic, whereby one syllable has one note.

In practice however, oggayam can be sang on a musical setting wherein the solo performer does two to seven notes per syllable.

A study conducted in the late 80s and early 90s by Anatalia Magkachi Saboy of Bontoc, Mountain Province and former Department of Education and Culture (DECs) Supervisor, noted that unity, cooperation and friendship prop up oggayam’s development characteristics.