"The Importance of tobacco in the Culture of Mt. Province and the Indigenous way of planting tobacco"
Rose Malekchan
DZWT 540 Radyo totoo     

Tobacco has a great role in the cultures and traditions of Mt. Province. If tobacco smoking is considered a vice to some, this is “not true” to the old folks of Mt. Province where in until now they continuously practice what their ancestors have taught them.

         According to Lakay Tammed Pakyo, 83 years old, one of the elders in Barangay Tucocan, Bontoc Mt. Province, the Tobacco is a sacred partner of an indigenous wine called Fayash (wine produced from sugar cane) which is being used during weddings, wakes, rituals in the “Ato” or Dap-ay located in the barangay.

                                    Voice clip “during the wake of a dead person in the community, there should be a tobacco which will be distributed to the people specially to the old folks. Tobacco is so much important because it was given by our God as a partner of the Fayash during special occasions like wedding.”

       Now that the price of commercial tobacco is so expensive, Lakay Tammed said that planting your own tobacco is still the best.

                          Voice clip “If you have your own tobacco, you can give or share to your friends and relatives and will create more closer relationship. But sad to say that today’s generation prefers to smoke cigarette (he means the processed tobacco) and the indigenous way of smoking tobacco (the use of pipe or rolled out pieces of newspapers is now vanishing. It is now only used during special occasions and rituals in the community.”

       Meanwhile, Lakay Tammed is planting tobacco for several decades and according to him, like the pagey (rice, which is the main product of Mt. Province), tobacco is like a baby which should be given much care and attention. There should be a proper cleaning or removal of weeds and at least visit the plantation 3 to 4 times in a week. He also added that don’t expect for a good harvest if you did not properly cared of the plant. He is harvesting tobacco leaves 3 times in a year.

       Lakay Tammed also shared his own indigenous way of planting tobacco. First, he let some of his plants to produced seeds. Before it totally dries (before the seedpods open), he will cut the half of the plant without touching or getting the seeds. In this process, you should be very much careful. Second, he will hang the plant with the seeds (patiwarik) above the seed bed about 2-3 feet above the soil. When the wind blows, the seeds will naturally fall in the ground and when the rain comes, the seeds will grow on its own. After a few weeks, when it grows into seedlings like a petchay (as he describe), he will transplant them to a new plot.


   Voice clip “after I transplanted the seedlings, I will take good care of the plant, remove the weeds and check if there are worms under the leaves, or else these worms will eat the whole plant.”

       When the plants produced enough leaves (about a 1 or 1.5 meter in height) , he will cut the shoots to prevent them from producing flowers. He also removes the new leaves (small branches) between the leaves and the stalks leaving only the original leaves.        This way according to him, his plant will maintain its nice aroma and good taste (mas matapang ang lasa) that is according to his own standards.

     Lakay Tammed added for how many decades of planting tobacco, he found out that the taste of tobacco differs depending on the type of soil and the temperature of the area. In Barangay Tucocan, there are area which has a warm (near the Chico River) and cold temperature (upper part towards Barangay Maligcong, Bontoc).

      The worst experience of Lakay Tammed was in the first quarter of this year 2013. He is so worried because only few seedlings grew from his seed bed and he suspects that the cause is due to the weather. He observes that the climate really changed.

                             Voice clip “I plant every year but the problem I encountered this year was, there were few seedlings on my seed bed, maybe because there’s no enough rain during the month of January until March. In the past years, at least it rains 3 to 4 times in a month in our area. So I suspect that the cause is the climate.”

  But still he did not lost hope and continued planting because as stressed out that aside from economic purposes, planting he is planting his own tobacco because he knows that it is safe or free from pesticide residue and has a distinct taste and aroma than the commercial one.

                              Voice clip “It is no good to buy commercially sold tobacco today because the taste and aroma is not like before. The original and best tobacco from the Province of Abra which we used to buy during our younger years is very much different today. It’s not good in quality when we speak of taste and aroma, but in its physical appearance maybe yes because there are no holes (caused by worms/ pests). Maybe my produced has holes but I’m very much confident that it is safe because I did not used any synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”

      As we end our conversation/ interview, Lakay Tammed lights his organic tobacco using 2-in-1 lighter with flashlight which he ask from yours truly.