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Why we run for our culture

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Why we run for our culture
Text and Photo By Dr. Rebekka Volmer

Election period makes many politicians run for Congress or even senator and other local posts.  However, in Anda, Pangasinan humans run for their culture and that is clearly manifested during the 15th Binungey Festival which was organized last week of April 2019.

Binungey is a mixture of malagkit (sticky rice), gata (coconut milk extract) and steamed in bamboo. It is also known as Bamboo Rice Cake and because of its long preparing time, it was formerly only prepared for special occasions like fiestas.

Part of the festivity was the fun run “color Anda”. The runners were donating a fee of 500 PHP and were receiving a colorful bag, goggles and a t-shirt to add color to Anda. During the 4 km run, the participants were bombarded with fluorescent powder and in the after party, neon light was making them gloom in various colors. The run was a fund-raising activity to sponsor the town fiesta of Anda.

Fundraising is often to create awareness of diseases, pollution or problems in societies. However, in Anda people committing to their culture. Most of them were working the whole day out in the summer heat of the dry season, but still willing to sacrifice some energy and money to make fiesta happening.

Fiestas are the summary of culture. They give us a glimpse of our rich cultural heritage and at the same time connect us to our families and loved ones. They include food, decoration, dance and music – all the expressions of being human.

From a purely biological point of view, cultural traditions are a waste of energy. After our stomachs are filled it would be the best to lay down and sleep like a dog. Putting work and material into decoration, musical instruments and wasting energy by dancing is not directly fulfilling our basic biological needs. It is purely human behavior – we sacrifice and experience fulfillment.

Even you can train an animal to work, they only do it because of the fear of a weep or the aim to get food – but the concept of work will never voluntarily waste energy. The dancing circus bear is one of the best examples – making the animal “dance” is putting it through a cruel procedure of a heated plate making the bear lifting the feat in a way that looks like dancing. It has nothing to do with the fun we experience.

However, scarification can get to its peak and becomes uncomfortable and painful. People are scarifying parts of their body – as for example the circumcision having religious meaning. As the peak, we can find Abraham scarifying his son to God. Although cruel, child scarification a cultural universal – it can be found in cultures all over the world.

But why is scarification human? As many archaic things, we often act out the conception before we understand what our actions mean. Scarification is not only a ritual act to please a deity – it connects us to the spirits. It is something humans constantly do every day – we scarify our time and energy to give up something we value in the present so we can build a future we value. Work is thus an act of scarification. If we work only because of fear from our boss or because of the desire of money, we only act on the level of the rat following the basic system of fear and reward. Employees often end up in depression and burn-outs, or abuse drugs and alcohol, if their work has lost its meaning and spirit.

Although the sacrifices participants of the fun run are more symbolic than painful, and definitely were fun, they, however, making the fiesta possible. It proofed that culture is a fun way of scarification and it gives us meaning – it makes us human.

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