Echoes from the North

Posted On August 7, 2010

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By Bryan B. Garcia

The book “Song of the Ifugao” is Trisha’s life story. (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta)

No one is “too young” to make a difference in the world. Just look at Trisha Kitong, who at 10 years old, is already almost single-handedly preserving the Ifugao tradition of chanting hudhud. Trisha currently holds the record for the most number of chants in the Philippines.

As she chanted the first word in the poem, the crowd could only watch in wonder at how such a commanding voice could come from such a small package. Her voice filled the room, holding her audience captive with a serenade, so deeply-rooted in her cultural ancestry. Trisha Mae Kitong may just be 10 years old but she carries with every note of her songs, centuries of culture and tradition.

Trisha is a munhaw-e, the lead in a group of chanters called munhu’dhud. They sing songs that speak of the beauty and valor of legendary Ifugao heroes like Aliguyon, Bugan and Pumbakhayon. The songs are part of the hudhud, a collection of epic narratives preserved for the practice of this oral tradition in Ifugao. Found along the mountainous region of the Cordilleras, the Ifugao province is a serene haven isolated from the bustles of city life. It is in this serenity where Trisha’s voice echoes across rugged terrains, river valleys, and thick forests.

Coming from three generations of chanters, Trisha inherited her love for this tradition from her mother and grandmother. She was taught early on. “Nung baby pa ako yung lola ko ang nagturo sa akin ng hudhud,” Trisha shares.

With the guidance of her teacher, Mrs. Kimayong, Trisha practiced and learned the true value of the hudhud. “Nung hindi ko pa alam kung gaano kahalaga ung hudhud, tinanong ko kung bakit mahalaga ang [hudhud] sa atin. Kinder pa ako nun, ang sabi ni madam, pag grade four ka na, tsaka ko maiintindihan,” Trisha recalls.

And as if on cue, in 2009, Trisha was cited by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for chanting the hudhud 58 times from June 2008 to June 2009. This accomplishment gave Trisha the distinction of having rendered the most number of recorded chants for a munhaw-e in the whole of Ifugao.

Trisha knows that the preservation of her people’s culture lies in her continuous practice of this dying art form. It does not just exhibit the traditions of her native Ifugao but also the spirit of the whole country. “Mahalaga ang hudhud para makita nila na talagang Pilipinong-pilipino talaga kami. Kasi pag kinalimutan yung hudhud, wala na,” Trisha says.

Helping out

But she does not let these accomplishments get into her head. Trisha is very diligent in doing her household chores. In fact, she prefers it over playing. “Hilig ko magtrabaho, maglaba at maghugas ng plato at baso. Kasi sabi ni daddy wag sobra sobrang maglalaro para hindi mapagod,” Trisha shares. Perhaps this is also because she wants to help out at home while her mother works in Hong Kong. She even takes care of her sister Trixie Ann and her dad, Edward.

Helping people seems to be in her blood because Trisha dreams of becoming a doctor someday. That dream does not seem to be too far-fetched since she excels in her studies. She is a consistent First Honor in her class.

In a time when heroes are very hard to come by, it is surprising to find so much dedication in such a small package. Trisha’s visions of preserving her ancestry and her love for the country, expressed through her songs, give hope that we can someday define who Filipinos really are.

Trisha’s story and the stories of three other kid achievers are told in four inspiring books. The Batang Bayani book series is a venture of the Museo Pambata and KUTING (Kwentista ng mga Tsikiting).


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