A Look at the History and Lifestyle of the Mennonites of Belize

The small Central American country of Belize has a population of around 250,000 people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds; of this population around 10,000 of its permanent residents are Mennonites whose ancestors originated from Europe. The Mennonites mostly live in small often isolated communities most of which shun modern lifestyles preferring not to use electricity or machinery in their self supporting farming methods.

As well as the traditionalist Mennonites who speak a guttural form of German within their community there are around 2,000 Belizeans of Mestizo and Creole origins that have converted to this faith. The Belizean Mennonites are the most conservative and traditional of all the Mennonites to be found across Central America.

The religious values and traditions of this dedicated group of people have had to avoid several forms of persecution throughout history as they sought peaceful methods to continue with the beliefs and values they have maintained throughout their existence. The Mennonites began in 16th century in what is now the Netherlands, they moved on to Prussia to avoid having to pay taxes they deemed unnecessary as they worked hard to maintain a religious and self supporting lifestyle while taking nothing from which the taxes would provide them with.

They remained in Eastern Europe until the 1870’s when the ruling government at that time insisted on the Mennonites being conscripted into the military, being devout pacifists they moved once again to protect their strong beliefs. They next settled in parts of Canada’s isolated regions of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta until after the conclusion of the First World War in 1918. Amid a feeling of anti-German sentiment the government of Canada insisted on English being taught in all its schools in a period of post war patriotism, further to this the Canadian government was considering introducing conscription to include the Mennonites, a reversal of its earlier policy.

On leaving Canada they headed south to Mexico, they settled in the undeveloped highlands region, a harsh barren landscape until then unsettled. All was ok until the 1950’s when the Mexican government insisted on the groups entering into the social security program, once again against their wishes it was time to move on. They first Mennonites arrived in what was then British Honduras in 1958, around 3,500 of them and for the first time they found a country that was happy to accommodate them. Even today Belize is largely under populated, the new arrivals were industrious and knowledgeable farmers and for the first time Belizeans could buy home grown produce including eggs and poultry that until then had always been imported.

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They have now been settled in Belize for over fifty years and although many of the communities use horse drawn power to operate the ploughs and saw mills or water power from rivers to run light machinery the traditional groups will not use electricity or motor vehicles, choosing instead to travel on horse drawn covered wagons along dirt roads between their communities.

In 2009 I was last in Belize and have seen firsthand the farming methods employed within this faith, the furniture makers that will as a community make a secure wooden house or sell and construct one for their near neighbours of any religion or belief.

In contrast to the traditional Mennonites is a community of so called modern Mennonites in the small town of Spanish Lookout, Belize that has modernized its community to provide services not just locally but nationally. It is a community of almost 1,800 that while traditional costume is mostly worn and religious beliefs are strictly maintained they operate stores, light industry and Belize’s only oil field currently in production.

Spanish Lookout is located to the north of the Western Highway a few miles to the east of San Ignacio. Several roads take you to the settlement that resembles a 1950’s style small town in rural USA. One route to enter the town is via a hand operated ferry to cross the Belize River, one of only two in use in the country. It can carry several cars or one truck and takes around ten minutes to slowly cross the river. On occasion long lines of vehicles can be seen with drivers waiting patiently to cross.

Spanish Lookout is one of Belize’s more modern centers with technology evident across the community. It specializes in providing auto parts, with a chain of auto stores across Belize all Mennonite owned and operated. It is the provider of most of the country’s chicken and the only commercial dairy within the country. The two extremes of the Mennonite communities can be a point of conflict for some traditionalists to accept but those that do shun modern lifestyles seem content and happy that they are living in an ideal location and not likely to be moved on from here.

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Senakulo: Traditional Dramatization of the Passion of Jesus Christ

The senakulo is a traditional Filipino dramatization of the life and times of Jesus Christ. Done in singing (pasyon) and recitation, it is presented in the public squares in many towns, in houses and streets during the season of Lent.

SENAKULO: TRADITIONAL DRAMATIZATION OF THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

The senakulo is a traditional Filipino dramatization of the life and times of Jesus Christ. Done in singing (pasyon) and recitation, it is presented in the public squares in many towns, in houses and streets during the season of Lent.

The Senakulo (from the Spanish cenaculo) is a Lenten play that depicts events from the Old and New Testaments related to the life, sufferings, and death of Christ.

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Pasyon

The senakulo is traditionally performed on a proscenium-type stage with painted cloth or paper backdrops that are called telon. It takes at least eight nights - from Palm Sunday to Eastern Sunday - to present the play. Christ is presented traditionally as meek and humble, submitting lamb-like to his fate in obedience to authority.

In urban areas, there are developed versions of the senakulo that run for only one or two hours. They may be presented in different types of locale: on the traditional stage, on the streets, in a chapel, or out in the open. Comedy, courtship, and special effects may be incorporated. Furthermore, modern senakulos tend to focus not on Christ’s submissiveness, but on his reason and resolve in courageously standing up for the unfortunate against their oppressors, suggesting how current problems may be resolved.

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Street senakulos is another form of penance where the people are walking with the procession. People near the church wait eagerly to witness the reenactment. Locals act as Roman soldiers with their menacingly painted masks and armors, pounding on doors to search for Jesus. Most anticipated among the episodes are the judgment of Jesus, the Crucifixion and His Seven Last Words. Spectators may range from devotees to the merely curious or tourist alike. For some, it is the time to reflect on the life of Jesus, while others take it as a chance to spend time with family and friends.

The routine of the reenactment has not changed, but its presentation is infused with a fresh flavor to reach the modern-world absorbed consciousness of the new generation.

Senakulo in Manila is an occasion that is filled with processions in every Philippine town. The Senakulo signifies the Holy Week and is kept with great piety and pageantry.

During the Manila Senakulo one can see rituals that are derived from Christ's suffering, passion and death. During this time one can see the locals enacting the similar way the Christ was crucifixed and processions leading with one carrying the cross and culminating in nailing that is enacted to affiliate with Christ.

These interesting reenactments are the passion processions that draws large crowd that tries to identify the sufferings of Christ 2000 years ago. The reenactment is done through narrative recitation or role-playing. Everyone in the neighborhood is waiting for the procession to pass by. The street Senakulo of Manila is another form of penance where the people are walking with the procession.

In other words the Manila's Senakulo is the century’s old passion play. It is now faster paced, lively and richer in music. The procession and enactment is interesting to see as the endeavor is to know what happened in the past and keeping it contemporary.

The Holy Week is an awaited holiday in Manila as it is packed with lot of activities that are held in churches and town plaza. The foreign and the local tourists can witness the Senakulo in Manila that is held in March/ April. The tourists would find the Senakulo in Manila has been absorbed into the local culture and is practiced with great warmth and intensity.

One example is the authentic Senakulo in Marinduque. Senakulo is one of the highlights of Moriones Festival during the Lenten season. Starting from the cast, venue, stage, props, and other equipment were combined perfectly. It is like you are there witnessing the events that are happening in the present time. The realistic Senakulo of Marinduque pioneered way back in 1977. Since then, it has been passed from generation to generation and has been very consistent on making the dramatic presentation of Senakulo more astounding. Furthermore, most of the participants say that this is their way to show their abstinence before and during the Lenten season.

Note: On the whole, Senakulo is one of the MUST SEE during your holy week stay here in the Philippines. But recently the church is discouraging penitence-crucifixion just for tourism sake.

Reference:

http://festivalsinthephilippines.com/moriones-senakulo

http://estancabigas.com/faith/senakulo/

http://pakitamo.angelcities.com/senakulo.html

http://www.asiarooms.com/en/travel-guide/philippines/manila/manila-festivals-&-events/senakulo.html

http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Senakulo

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Facts About the Igorots of the Philippines

The terms Igorots and Cordilleras are used to collectively refer to a number of tribal groups including the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Apayao/Isneg, Kalinga, and Kankana-eys. The Igorots reside in the mountainous north and central Luzon areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

The terms Igorots and Cordilleras are used to collectively refer to a number of tribal groups including the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Apayao/Isneg, Kalinga, and Kankana-eys. The Igorots reside in the mountainous north and central Luzon areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The CAR covers 18,294 sq. km and includes the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Apayao.

The Igorot form two subgroups: the largest group lives in the south, central, and western areas, and is very adept at rice-terrace farming; the other group lives in the east and north. The Igorots formerly practiced headhunting.

The Igorots are an ethnic people of the Philippines, clustered in the Cordillera region of Luzon. It is true that they are famous for rice-terrace farming but saying that some of them have been known to be cannibals in the past is an exaggeration which only downgrades them.

"Igorot" is the modern term to describe the indigenous people of the Cordillera Mountains located in the northern part of the Philippine island of Luzon. When first "discovered" by the Spaniards in the 16th century, they were called "Ygolotes" - later to be re-spelled "Igorrotes." The Spaniards used other names to describe Igorots based on where in the Cordilleras they were found.

As one can infer, Igorots are a highland race, and are well-adapted to life in raised altitudes. To assure themselves a steady supply of crop, they have even devised a way to carved terraces at the sides of mountain, which they plant with various grains. The Igorot people are categorized into six different ethno-linguistic groups: Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isneg (or Apayao), Kalinga, and Kankana-ey.

Bontoc. The Bontoc thrive on the bank of the Chico River. Famous as headhunters in the past, they have since turned their backs from the practice of head hunting. At present, a huge majority of the Bontoc have embraced Christianity. They have seamlessly transitioned into a peaceful, agricultural people.

Ibaloi. The Ibaloi too are an agrarian society. Mostly found in Southern Benguet, there are about 93,000 of them all over the Philippines. Their language is from the Austronesian family of languages.

Ifugao. The Ifugao, on the other hand, are known for their epics and their stories, such as the hudhud and the alim. Like the Bontoc Igorots, Ifugao people were headhunters in the past. Ifugao people have a total of four different dialects, and are sometimes called Amganad, Kiangan, or Mayoyao. The word Ifugao means "from the hill."

Isneg or Apayao. The Isneg or Apayao can be found living near the banks of the Apayao River. Originally slash-and-burn farmers, they have since begun to practice more sustainable forms of farming. The Isneg are also known as good fishers, and have a penchant for coffee.

Kalinga. The Kalinga tribes are perhaps the most diplomatic of all the Igorot. They put great importance on kinship and social ties, and are heralded for the peace pacts that have allowed their tribes to become strong. They are also known as the most heavily adorned of all the Igorot people.

Kankana-ey. Finally, the Kankana-ey are one of the few tribes who still practice a way of living more common in the old days, although is fast disappearing as well. In the Kankana-ey, young men and women are divided by gender and then ushered into separate dormitories. Entry into a dormitory signifies a young person's readiness to enter the stages of courtship. Courtships are carried out in the ebgan, or the "girl house."

Although Igorots are "geographically" Filipino, there are numerous things that give them their own unique identity, which has led to many debates on whether Igorots are Filipinos. Examples of their uniqueness are:

Language: Igorots speak their own languages (Ibontok, Ibaloy, Kankanaey, Isneg, Kalinga, Tuwali, etc.)

  • Government: Igorots of the Cordilleras have their own autonomous government made possible by former Philippine President Corazon Aquino.
  • Food: Igorot food is considered indigenous with little influence from other countries.
  • Clothing: Traditional clothing for men & women are clearly distinct and bears no Spanish influence. Surprisingly, it bears a strong resemblance to that of American Indians.
  • Culture & Colonization: Above all, Igorots were not conquered by Spain. For more than three centuries, their ability to keep from being colonized by Spaniards allowed their culture to stay preserved to this day. Spain's King Philip ("Philip"pines) was never able to force his name onto them.
  • Statement of Significance: Their rice terraces in the Cordillera Mountains, which are more than 2,000 years old, are evidence of their high level of knowledge of structural and hydraulic engineering. The rice terraces are the only monuments in the Philippines that show no evidence of having been influenced by any colonial cultures. For this reason, the rice terraces have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

References:

http://www.wisegeek.com/who-are-the-igorot.htm

http://www.rexcrisanto.com/ik-cause/who-are-igorots

http://answers.encyclopedia.com/question/practices-igorot-people-known-90032.html

http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/topic,463af2212,469f2ec42,469f3ac2c,0.html

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The Philippines - Superstitions and Beliefs

Philippine beliefs and superstition have grown in number throughout the various regions and provinces in the country. These beliefs have come from the different saying and superstitions of our ancestors that aim to prevent danger from happening or to make a person refrain from doing something in particular. These beliefs are part of our culture, for one derives their beliefs from the influences of what their customs, traditions and culture have dictated to explain certain phenomena or to put a scare in people.

SUPERSTITIONS AND BELIEFS OF THE PHILIPPINES

As I read the early tabloid this morning, the front page read, “This is the punishment of God to us.” According to a survey, many believe that disasters are the wrath of God and a form of punishment to man.

Many Filipinos believed about the wrath of God as punishment for the sins of man in the form of natural disasters (typhoons, floods, landslides, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions).

According to the survey of Pulse Asia;

• 21% of people at the right age believed about natural disasters are ways of God’s punishment

• 14% states that these are part of a natural process while,

• 2% do not know the reasons of these calamities

But a deceased of 23% of people are blaming God on these mayhems during the past two years.

One “sizeable majority” (63% as of last month, increased from 54% of July, 2008) who believed that the reasons of these disasters are due to man’s abuse and exploitative attitudes towards nature. A result from July 1 to July 11 interviews of 1,200 people showed an increase on numbers who are concerned and troubled by climate change. 66% agreed of climate change in their place for the past three years. In the survey last year, only 11% tells that there was minimum change on the climate, 23% has no answer and 58% recounted that there was a great change in the climate.

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Philippine beliefs and superstition have grown in number throughout the various regions and provinces in the country. These beliefs have come from the different saying and superstitions of our ancestors that aim to prevent danger from happening or to make a person refrain from doing something in particular. These beliefs are part of our culture, for one derives their beliefs from the influences of what their customs, traditions and culture have dictated to explain certain phenomena or to put a scare in people. Some are practiced primarily because Filipinos believe that there is nothing to lose if they will comply with these beliefs.

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Superstitions on Health

• Sleeping after taking a bath during daytime or at night will result in blindness.

• A menstruating woman should not eat sweets lest blood flow stop and cause illness or death.

• Let a dog lick your wounds, and the wounds will be healed.

• Sleeping with wet hair makes one crazy or blind.

• When one is wounded during high tide, much blood will ooze out.

• After circumcision, a boy should not step on a mortar or pestle; otherwise, his organ will grow as big as these.

• When one is sick with smallpox, he must be given all the things he wishes; otherwise he will die.

• The successive birth of four children of the same sex is believed to endanger the life of the parent of the same sex.

• Children are advised not to bite banana leaves, as this is believed to cause tooth decay.

• One should not eat mollusks when he has wounds, otherwise, his wounds will grow big.

• A sick person is always believed to grow worse when the moon is full. If the patient does not recover before one lunar month has elapsed and the moon once more assumes this phase, the case is considered hopeless.

• Taking a bath at night will cause anemia or low blood pressure.

• Taking a bath on New Year’s Day and/or Good Friday will cause one to get sick.

• If the family is eating and a member arrives, he is not permitted to join the others in the meal, for if this rule is violated and a member of the household becomes ill, the others may become ill too.

• Menstruating girls should not eat papaya to avoid whitish blood, nor liver or blood, as they will cause a strong flow.

• Asthma can be cured by putting a cat near the throat and the chest and at the same time reciting a prayer.

• Sore eyes can be cured by washing the eyes with the first urine early in the morning.

• A child who plays with fallen unripe coconuts will suffer body swelling.

• Parents who despise ugly children will bear an ugly child.

• Parents who despise or laugh at twins will have twins.

Superstitions on Body Marks and Shape

• A person with a mole on his foot is a born adventurer.

• A person with a mole on his face will be successful in business.

• A person with a mole on the center of her nose will be rich but unhappy.

• A person with a mole close to his eye is attractive to the opposite sex.

• A mole on the hand signifies wealth or thievery.

• A mole on one’s back is a sign of laziness.

• A person with big ears will have a long life.

• Women with wide hips will bear many children.

• People with naturally curly hair are moody or ill-tempered.

• People with eyebrows that almost meet easily get jealous.

• Men with hairy chests are playboys.

• A person with lines running from the palm of his hand to his fingers is successful in business.

• People whose teeth are spaced far apart are liars.

Superstitions on Wedding

• Brides shouldn’t try on their wedding dress before the wedding day or the wedding will not push through.

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• Knives and other sharp and pointed objects are said to be a bad choice for wedding gifts for this will lead to a broken marriage.

• Giving an arinola (chamber pot) as wedding gift is believed to bring good luck to newlyweds.

• Altar-bound couples are accident-prone and therefore must avoid long drives or traveling before their wedding day for safety.

• The groom who sits ahead of his bride during the wedding ceremony will be a hen-pecked husband.

• Rains during the wedding means prosperity and happiness for the newlyweds.

• A flame extinguished on one of the wedding candles means the one whose candle was extinguished will die ahead of the other.

• Throwing rice confetti at the newlyweds will bring them prosperity all their life.

• The groom must arrive before the bride at the church to avoid bad luck.

• Breaking something during the reception brings good luck to the newlyweds.

• The bride should step on the groom’s foot while walking towards the altar if she wants him to agree to her every whim.

• A bride who wears pearls on her wedding will be an unhappy wife experiencing many heartaches and tears.

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• Dropping the wedding ring or the veil during the ceremony spells unhappiness for the couple.

• The member of the couple stands first after the ceremony will die ahead of the other.

• A bride who cries during the wedding will bring bad luck to the marriage.

• It is bad omen for the newlywed couple if their parents cry during the wedding.

• Upon entering their new home, the couple should go up the stairs alongside each other so that neither one will dominate the other.

• An unwed girl who follows the footprints of a newlywed couple will marry soon.

• If a woman is widowed during the new moon, she will marry again.

• A person who habitually sits at the head of the table during meals will never marry.

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Superstitions on Pregnancy

• All windows and doors should be wide open for the laboring mother’s easy delivery.

• Pregnant women should avoid witnessing an eclipse, so that when born their babies would not have the habit of winking the eyes abnormally.

• An expectant mother should not act as sponsor in a baptismal ceremony to avoid difficulty in delivering her baby or to avoid the death of the fetus or of the newly baptized child.

• Sitting on the threshold of the house by a pregnant woman will result in a difficult delivery.

• Taking pictures of a pregnant woman will cause an abortion or a difficult delivery.

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• An expectant mother should have her house neither constructed nor remodeled to avoid difficulty in delivering her baby.

• Do not partake of the food being eaten by an expecting mother. If you do, you will either become sleepy or will feel drowsy or sick.

• The new mother should avoid itchy or scratchy foods like gabi, and round fruits or root crops such as citrus, ube, tugui, and coconut for three weeks so her inner organs can return to normal.

• Do not leave the ladle on top or inside of the rice kettle, but set it aside until more rice is needed. This is done so that childbirth will not be difficult.

• A visitor must not sit or stand on the ladder or at the door, but come inside so that delivery will not be hard.

• The mother should not eat shellfish. These are slippery and if they are taken from the brook, the baby may be expelled from the womb.

• An expectant mother should not eat fish from pointed shells lest the baby have too much mucus or drool too much.

• A pregnant woman is not allowed to cut her hair; she will give birth to a bald baby.

• Pregnant women should not cry because they will suffer a difficult birth, and the baby will become sensitive and a crybaby.

• Miscarriages only occur during the odd-numbered months of pregnancy.

• Taking a bath before delivery will hasten the birth of the baby, as well as of the placenta.

• An expectant mother should not participate in funeral activities. Doing so would endanger the mother and the baby during delivery. If a pregnant woman wears clothes which were hung overnight, the fetus will be affected.

• It is believed that when denied the food a pregnant mother likes, her child will salivate profusely and will be prone to vomiting.

• A pregnant woman should eat all the food on her plate, so that when she delivers, everything will come out, leaving her womb clean.

• A comb is submerged in coconut milk with sugar to make the mother's breast full of milk.

Superstitions on Death

• A lingering black butterfly is a sign that one of your relatives just died.

• A falling spider that lands on you is an omen that someone close to you will die.

• Do not form groups of three or thirteen, or one of you will die.

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• If a person dream of having his teeth pulled out, this mean that family member will die.

• Sometimes the soul temporarily leaves the body while in a deep sleep. Rousing a person at this time might kill him.

• When a tree that was planted upon the birth of a child dies, the child will also die.

• It is said that the soul of the deceased returns on the third, the fifth, and the seventh days after death.

• A coffin should be built to fit the corpse; otherwise, a family member of the deceased will soon die.

• Tears must not fall on the dead or on the coffin; this will make the dead person’s journey to the next world a difficult one.

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• If someone sneezes at a wake, pinch him lest he join the dead.

• During a wake, never see your visitors off at the door of the chapel or funeral parlor.

• A widow who caresses her dead husband’s face will surely remarry.

• Do not sweep the house until after the burial.

• Always carry the coffin out of the house, church or funeral parlor head first. This prevents the soul of the dead from coming back.

• During the funeral march, a man whose wife is pregnant should not carry the casket. Before going home, he should light up a cigarette from a fire at the cemetery gate in order to shake off the spirits of the dead.

• Digging a hole larger than the coffin will cause an immediate relative to join the deceased in the grave.

• After the coffin has been lowered to the grave, all family members should take a handful of soil, spit on it and throw it in the grave. Doing so will not only bury any evil let behind by the deceased, but also lessen the burden of grief on the family as well.

• After the funeral service, do not go home directly so that the spirit of the dead person will not follow you to your house.

• Never let a child step over an open grave lest the spirit of the dead visit that child.

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• Give away your black dresses after one year of mourning to prevent another death in the family.

SOURCE / REFERENCE

http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Philippine_Beliefs_and_Superstitions

• UP-ISMED. Philippine Folk Science, Katutubong Agham ng Pilipinas. Quezon City: Pundasyon sa Pagpapaunlad Kaalaman sa Pagturo ng Agham, Ink., 2000.

• Sta. Romana–Cruz, Neni. Don’t Take a Bath on a Friday: Philippine Superstitions and Folk Beliefs. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1996.

• Filipino Superstitions. Filipino-dating. http://www.filipino-datng.com/filipino-wedding-superstitions.htm (accessed 6 November 2007).

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