This is in response to the many comments about the theme of Amador Daguio's Wedding Dance. I must reiterate that I am, by no means, a literary or cultural expert and the contents of this post are my personal thoughts and opinions.
Compared to the other stories, a lot of attention is being given to Wedding Dance, most probably because it is a glimpse of an old tradition from a more modern perspective. Because E. Arsenio Manuel's narrative the Son of Wood is a traditional story from the same setting, I thought it would be useful to compare and contrast the two tales.
Before going on about the actual stories, it is pedagogical to compare the styles of the two narratives. Wedding Dance is a short story, which is more character-centered while Son of Wood is part of an epic, which is more culture-centered. The character-centered short story is more interested in the development of the character and the human experience. On the other hand, the epic tale is a reflection of the traditions and customs of the people that told it and is more interested in passing on ideologies and beliefs to another generation. It has been said in so many words that today's self-centered world cannot produce any epics, unlike the community-centered past, and the difference between the two perspectives are very clear in these two stories.
To me, both stories focus on two things: the continuity of heritage and love. The importance of producing an heir and having someone to inherit the properties and reputation of the family is stressed in both Awiyao's need to marry anew and Amtalaw's creation of Aliguyon. Love, on the other hand, the recurring theme on this site, is a side theme in both stories as Awiyao and Lumnay's reluctance to part and as Gumigid's faithfulness to Amtalaw and Bugan's loyalty to Aliguyon. The stories handle and prioritize these themes differently.
On the point of the importance of continuity of heritage; both stories describe extreme measures being done in order to produce a son. Amtalaw gave up his life while Awiyao and Lumnay gave up their marriage. But the storyteller's treatment of these "extreme measures" as displayed by the characters' actions and reactions are very different. The most apparent disparity is in the responses of Lumnay and Gumigid to their husband's desire to have an heir. It is useful to stress at this point that Awiyao and Lumnay are not Romeo-and-Juliet-esque star-crossed lovers; they are two people separated by what is customarily right. Lumnay's refusal to attend the wedding feast and hence, refusal to give her blessing to Awiyao and Madulimay's marriage, conflicts with the traditional belief that not having children is a sign that their union is not blessed and a good reason to divorce, even if a couple has not lost any love. Lumnay's dilemma is not strange to us who live in a country where importance is given to sons because sila ang nagdadala ng pangalan (they carry on the name of the family, pertaining to how women take on the name of their husbands). This can be sharply contrasted against Gumigid's suggestion that Amtalaw look for an heir amongst his former lovers' homes. To Gumigid, she sees that an heir is needed and, if she cannot provide one, it was perfectly acceptable for Amtalaw to look to other women. It may seem unacceptable to us who live in a Christianized country (although looking at the story of Abraham and Sarah, we see that it's not entirely an alien concept to Christians), but to Gumigid, it is just the way things are and she shows no bitterness towards it because it is her way of life, as well as Amtalaw's. Lumnay, on the other hand, sees something wrong with the practice, submits to it, anyway, but with great pain. Lumnay's defiance is a reflection of Daguio's view of the practice that the Ifugao people have always accepted as norm.
On the matter of love, on the other hand, I decided to use the symbolism of the beads in both stories. Awiyao's gift of his grandmother's beads to Lumnay is a sign of his love. This parallels with how Bugan did not protest Aliguyon's taking of her beads. When Awiyao told Lumnay to keep his grandmother's beads, it is a symbol that Awiyao's love and favor will always be with Lumnay. In a similar manner, as Aliguyon was dying, he held on to Bugan's beads, showing that he cared and loved her and thought about her even as he turned to wood. Both depictions of love, coupled with the reiteration of Gumigid's faithfulness to Amtalaw, show that ideals about love and relationship between husbands and wives are startlingly similar, despite the difference in priority. Characteristics like faithfulness and loyalty have remained part of the ideal loving relationship. Beads, being important possessions in the Ifugao culture, could also mean that giving up important things is a part of love, a concept which is not alien to us today.
But, as I have mentioned before, there is a difference in priority when it comes to love. In Wedding Dance, Awiyao and Lumnay defied custom by being absent from the wedding feast. I interpret this as giving more importance to love than to tradition and tribe. The couple put their own sufferings above the "well-being" of the community. Amtalaw's attendance to Aliguyon and Bugan's wedding feast, despite his nearing death, paints the poignant picture that despite his own suffering, he would put his son and his people first.
Whichever perspective is correct depends on the culture of the reader. Whether personal happiness or the community's good is more important could be debated upon forever. But, it will always be interesting to see how our forefathers were different from us, and yet we cannot deny the resemblance.