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Rituals and Practices

Kapayvanuvanua: Fishing Ritual



Kapayvanuvanua (literally meaning “the making of the port”) refers to the “ceremonial and ritual opening of a fishing port to obtain the favor of the spirit-dwellers of the sea.” It signifies the start of the fishing season.
The ritual stemmed from the belief that some superior beings own and control the sea and its riches, among which are the fish, both the perennial ones and the seasonal. Man may obtain special benefits from the sea only if the unseen powers in the sea give their permission. What the fishermen sacrifice is the sadiew (price, cost) of the fishing port and the fish on the bay and beyond it.

Buying the right to use the seaport

The community of fishermen assemble on the beach, and in their midst is a shaman, an elderly man who is acknowledged by the community as the true possessor of the proper knowledge of the ritual prayers as well as the ancient ceremonial steps and procedures believed acceptable to the gods.

The ritual proper begins when the sacrificial pig is stabbed in the neck and a small amount of blood is drawn for the libation of the sea.  This is done by bringing the pig, well tied up to prevent its escape, close to the part of the shore where the water meets the stones or sand.

(The belief is that if the pig is killed far from the water and blood of the sacrificial animal falls to the ground on the part of the beach, the sea would rise and become turbulent  until its waves  reach the place where the blood spilled. And the turbulence would not stop until the blood has been cleansed.)

Once the blood is drawn and placed in a coconut shell dipper, the shaman holds it along with a piece of makanyas (copper) and pours the blood and drops the copper into the sea at the same time pronouncing softly the ritual prayers which invoke the god’s favor to give the fishermen abundant catch during the season and to keep safe for sailing so that there would be no sea accidents.  This done, the pig, which by now has already died, is singed  to remove the hair.

(The shaman refers to the copper as vuhawan nu anitu (gold of the anitu or sea spirits) an aqua colored bead called mutin is also offered along with the copper and blood.)

The shaman leaves the singeing and eventual roasting of the whole pig is left to the assisting fishermen.

When the roasting is over, the entire sacrificial animal is carried to a higher ground where it is laid down and then carefully opened. When the internal organs have been removed, they are laid on large leaves to keep them from getting dirtied.

Then the shaman inspects the liver and the lungs and to read the signs or omens in them.

  • If the whitish spots of the lungs are scattered thinly over the entire lungs, the arayu (dorado) would come early and stay all summer.  But they would be plenty and the fishermen ought to expect a lean catch.
  • If the spots are many and all over, the arayu would come early and stay all summer. And they would be plenty and the fishermen ought to expect plenty of catch.
  • If the spots are many up to the middle of the lungs only, the arayu would be early in coming and plenty, but the fishing season would be brief.
  • If the bile embedded in the liver is symmetrically balanced, there would be calm seas and sailing would be smooth and without danger to life.
  • If the bile is tilted to one side, and very wet, it is an omen presaging rough seas and the possibility of fishermen capsizing during the season.

When the rituals are all over,  and the fisherfolk have eaten their lunch, they assemble and hold an election to appoint a leading fisherman from among them to become the mandinaw nu vanua (literally, “the one who launches the port” but actually means “the fisherman who is given the privilege of being the first  to formally go out to sea and inaugurate the fishing season.”).  The assembly also sets the date the mandinaw nu vanuwa is supposed to go out to fish for the first time. The appointed fisherman is given the option to decide. Once this date is decided, the date for the holding of the second ceremony, the kapangdeng is set. This is ordinarily within the week of the kapayvanuvanua unless bad weather and unfavorable omens necessitate a much later date.

Source: Hornedo, FH., Taming the Wind, UST Publishing House 2000, pp 110 – 111


Building A House


    1. It starts with choosing which day is specified in the Pilaton as good day to start the project.
    2. Coins are buried in the first hole during laying of foundation. Fresh animal blood is allowed to be dripped in the same place.
    3. Ivatan doors never face the north where the strong winds usually originate.
    4. On the day set to roof the house, relatives, neighbours and friends usually come to help. Those who cannot perform actual construction work normally offer akhad (anything that can be served or cooked as food) or tudung (drinks, usually wine).


    1. Mayprisinta – Time where the groom-to-be personally visits the family of his partner alone and formally informs them about his desire to marry their daughter.
    2. Manukud su  Chirin – The groom-to-be selects a spokesperson who will head to the partner’s family to confirm the young man’s intention. He will note the family’s reply. The date of the Kayun is set afterwards.
    3. Kayun – Occasion where parents of couples who want to get married meet. In this meeting, the marriage plans are confirmed and details on wedding day are planned.
    4. Kapaychakuvut – This is the wedding day. The entire community is involved. The old practice of kapanayay still prevails. Selected men and women in the community serve as manayay whose principal duty is getting people to dance the fundanggo. After every dance, the guest heads to the table where the newly-wedded couple are seated to offer their gift, usually cash. In return, the couple offers a glass of native wine to the guest.


    1. Kapayretiru – Celebration of the sixtieth birthday. It starts with the celebrant attending mass. Since the entire community is expected to show up, it means a huge preparation that extends months or even years earlier. Usually, it coincides with somebody retiring from government service. This is also called Kapayserbadu, especially in Itbayat island.
    2. Kapamakan – This native custom of sharing is still seen today. When somebody slaughters an animal, every relative and neighbour is given a share to partake. Fishermen with huge catch would do the same. Usually, the children are asked to bring the shared food.
    3. Kapaypilatun – Practice of referring to the Ivatan reference to zodiac signs and dates to serve as guide on how to proceed with the more important life activities
    4. Kapanuyutuyun – Practice of sending messages, usually spoken, through a carefully selected messenger.
    5. Kapachianyitu – Still prevailing practice of acknowledging the presence of spirits especially when heading to the farms. Children are made to wear a local vine (called rayi) whose scent is said to repulse spirits. When taking a meal in the field, the spirits are invited to partake. A small portion is set aside for them. When moving in unfamiliar spots, there’s always a spoken warning to the unseen spirits that you are coming.

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