Filipino Documentary Photographer

Coda’s first haircut (2018)

Photos by Martin San Diego
Story by Mirra Reyes on

Coda with his long, uncut hair, is easy to spot in any crowd. He is the first grandson in the Codamon family, a clan of regal ancestry in Kiangan town.

But standing out, when you’re 5-year-old, is not always a good thing. And so two years ahead of schedule, Coda, a lively young boy with bright brown eyes, gets his hair cut.

The “kolot” is a two-day ritual. For Coda, this begins on the first sunset of May. The mumbakis or local shamans start by performing baki or sacred chants, calling upon the departed members of the clan to guide and protect Coda.

A chicken is sacrificed to foretell his fortune. Two pigs are later offered, then inspected again. Matching the results of the chicken. Coda is foreseen as becoming, “a kind man, someone who will live long, and will be gifted with good fortune.”

On the morning of his kolot, Coda quietly sobs in between spoonfulls of breakfast. He does not want to have his hair cut anymore. His mother pacifies and reminds him why he is special and why this ceremony is special for their family.

The mumbakis call Coda. It is time for his act of bravery.

Together with his father, Gaongen Omengan, and the head shaman, they assist him in sticking a full-sized spear onto a tree bark. The mumbakis circle around him and begin to cut his hair.

The banging of the gongs envelop the house once more. The entire family forms a bigger circle for a festive dance. A feast is served for lunch. Guests are free to linger, eat, and drink.

Coda gets a proper haircut the next day. Asked if he likes it, Coda smiles and says yes. He says he looks different and, like any 5-year-old, immediately runs off to play.

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