(Note: These notes were prepared as part of the ad lib of the students taking up Ilokano courses at the University of Hawai’i’s Ilokano Program. The students will do a performance and demonstration of the arikenken and kurriti before the public in a statewide gathering, the 15th Annual Children and Youth Day, October 5, 2008, at the Hawai’i State Art Museum on Capital District in Honolulu, Hawai’i. In my previous articles on the arikenken and kurriti, I have mentioned Mrs. Lucia Geronimo as the primary informant on some concepts and steps, and I would to continually recognize her for making me remember what could have otherwise been lost to oblivion if these aspects of the Ilokano intangible heritage would be claimed again and again. I also would like to mention that Angeline Limon-Duque Foshay and I performed on radio the first-ever radio arikenken and kurriti. Angeline was my co-anchor of the “Filipiniana Variety Show,” our radio program at KORL 1270 AM. The text used was my revised version of the arikenken and kurriti that I wrote in 2007, during the Ilokano and Amianan Literatures and Cultures conference held at the Philippine Consulate, and then performed at the GUMIL Hawai’i coronation at the Pacific Beach Hotel in early 2008
By A Solver Agcaoili
From the old and continuing traditions of the Ilokanos come the arikenken, a dance of celebration the context of which is in the broader community ritual of daldallot.
Arikenken has a sibling, the kurriti.
The distinction between them is that the first dance form requires a slower footwork while the second is marked by a distinctive frenzied foot movement.
Accounts from the daldallot performance in Laoag, the major city in the northern part of the Ilocos, speak of the arikenken segueing into the kurriti especially so when the community has been awakened from its stupor after hours and hours of hearing the two sides of the parties—the lalakian, the groom’s party, and the babaian, the bride’s party—transact the business of betrothal, the business running the gamut from the preliminary courtesies to the mundane, and then to the stylized use of metaphorical language that alludes to marriage and conjugal relationship.
But we must understand that marriage for the Ilokano, in the past as it is still today in substantive form, is not plain and simple the marriage of two individuals who are in love and who have vowed to love each other for all eternity.
That is partly true.
Even today, marriage is a transaction of two people—but it is a transaction as well of the community, let us call this the families, of these two people.
Fairly enough, we can say this: that one is being married off to someone but that person who is being married off is being married off as well to the family—and community—of that person.
This is the broad context of arikenken as a courtship dance, as a dance of betrothal, as a weddings dance involving the community.
There is certain flexibility in the arikenken, as its constant is that of a community celebrating, and honoring the love of two people.
Part of the manner for honoring is the simulation of movements from the surroundings, and in the case of the arikenken—possibly an onomatopoeia, or the creative use of the sound of nature to mark off the name or term of an experience, or as a strategy to express into language what the awesome experience is—there is that allusion to a rooster courting the female chicken, the hen, first in a light movement of feet and body, and then in a frenzied footwork that resembles the fecund circles of love, with the rooster rooting for the beloved hen, and with the rooting simulated by the community now set afire by the love of two people who have publicly declared their commitment to love each other.
Kurriti, possibly also onomatopoeia, alludes to the frenzied steps that trace that same circle, that fecund circle of love.
After the betrothal, when the terms of the wedding have been agreed upon by both parties, the community now is inebriated by the constant passing of the ritual red wine from sugarcane juice, the basi. For those who can afford, a white wine extract from the basi could be had side by side with the basi, the arak.
The arak is a distillation from the basi—and has a higher alcohol content than the basi, which explains the community getting a bit more than sober, and hence, the natural quality of quick movements of lips, and thus songs, and body, hence the community dances.
One would expect someone to get to the middle of the ground—or the place of betrothal, and break a song, a dallot, or break a dance, hence the arikenken and kurriti.
While both the kurriti and the arikenken are substantive parts of the dalidallot or daldallot, they are not bound by strict rules, and there is a certain freedom for the community on when to begin and when to end, and when to begin again. Remember that this is the community celebrating.
In the past, men and women had the balabal, a piece of clothing worn for many reasons, and worn everyday: as a headdress, as a scarf, as a wrap-around, as a covering for the shoulder, and many others. Since this one came in handy during celebrations, people had worn them to emphasize their body movements, and not for any other reason.
The steps are freer even if there is certain constancy in the beat and anyone can get in and out of the circle whose center is the unrolled mat.
The wedding mat—a symbol of the union of the bride and the groom—is unrolled and its unrolling and laying flat on the ground or floor signals that the arikenken may begin.
For our demonstration, we would like to recognize our students of the Ilokano Language and Literature Program of the University of Hawai’i who have learned by heart this almost forgotten part of the rich culture of Ilokanos: Jenny Manog, Janelle Funtanilla, Velarie Ruiz, Angelita Juan, Marichu Gano, James Ramos, Michael Clemente, Jeremy Sabugo, Maricar Marcos, and Diana Valencia.