Death and Food Offering: The Ilocano “Atang” Ritual from a Contextual Theology

  • Jeff Clyde G. Corpuz De La Salle University
Keywords: Ilocano Atang, Communion of Saints, food offering, dead/departed


Atang (food offering) is an indigenous ritual for the dead in the Northern Philippines. The atang ritual is thought to be a part of the cultural and religious contexts of the Ilocano people. This research argued that the Ilocanos’ practice of atang ritual is compatible with the Catholic Doctrine on the Communion of Saints. This study utilized descriptive and contextual approaches in doing inculturation. It used the purposive sampling technique to Ilocano participants and discussed the development of doing a local theology of atang ritual in the faith of Ilocano Catholics. Results of the study revealed that the atang ritual has significant implications in the faith of the Ilocano Catholics in terms of the importance of remembering the dead as way to elaborate the doctrine of the communion of Saints. Thus, the concept of the communion of saints can be understood in the context of food offering for the dead.


Abad, R. (1995). Filipino religiosity: Some international comparisons.
Philippine Studies, 43(2), 195-212.

Addison, J. (1924). Ancestor worship in Africa.
The Harvard Theological Review, 17(2), 155-171.

Addison, J. (1925). Chinese ancestor-worship and
Protestant Christianity. The Journal of Religion, 5(2), 140-149.

Aure, B. (2004). Archaeological inference and another
look at Junker’s Mass Burial. Philippine
Quarterly of Culture and Society 32, 161-177.

Bae, C. (2007). Ancestor Worship and the Challenges
it poses to the Christian Mission and Ministry.
(Doctoral dissertation). University of Pretoria.
Retrieved from

Beck, R., D. Bolender, J. Brown & T. Earle (2007).
Eventful archaeology: the place of space in
structural transformation. Current Anthropology
48, 833-60.

Blair, E. & Robertson, J. (eds.).(1903). The Philippine
Island, vol. 3, 1493-1898. Vol. 3.

Borgstrom, E. & Ellisj J. (2017). Introduction:
researching death, dying and bereavement,
Mortality, 22:2, 93-104.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice.
Cambridge University Press.

Catechism for Filipino Catholics. (2005). ECCCE
Word and Life Publications.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. (1994). Vatican
City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Chupungco, A. (1992). Liturgical Inculturation:
Sacramentals, Religiosity, and Catechesis.
Liturgical Press.

Coloma, G. (2015). Atang: Ilocano offering for the
dead. Retrieved from http://northboundasia.

Corpuz, J.C. (2014). The Ilocano practices of Atang:
A theological hermeneutics of an expression
of popular religiosity. South and Southeast
Asian Association for the Study of Religion and
Culture 8, 94-108.

Cunningham L. (n.d.). The Dictionary of Theology,
s.v. “Saints” p. 925.

De Mesa, J. (1987). In solidarity with the culture:
Studies in theological re-rooting. Maryhill
School of Theology.

De Mesa, J. (2005). “The Ama Namin in the Doctrina
Christiana of 1593: A Filipino culturaltheological reading” in Doing Theology in the
Philippines. OMF Literature, 150-158.

Dunuan, L. (2016). The Atang as an Ilocano ritual
of remembrance. Retrieved from https://

Flannery, A. (ed.).(1982). Vatican Council II. Paulines
Publishing House.

Gathje, J. B. (2016). All the saints of God:
Expanding a plural pneumatology through
the communion of the saints. Journal of
Pentecostal Theology, 25(1), 107-122. doi:

Henning, G. (1981). An analysis of correlates of
perceived positive and negative prayer
outcomes. Journal of Psychology and Theology,
9, 352-358.

Hepburn, R. (1973). Method and Insight. Philosophy,
48, 153-160. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.

Hsu, C., O'Connor, M. & Lee, S. (2009). Understandings
of Death and Dying for People of Chinese
Origin. Death Studies, 33:2, 153-174, DOI:

Jocano, L. F. (1966). Filipino Catholicism: A case
study. Religious Change Philippine Educational
Forum Manila, 48-64.

Leo, M. S. (2011). Igorot Ancestor, Ghost, and
Spirit. Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore
and Folklife vol.1, eds. Jonatha H.X. Lee and
Kathleen M. Nadeau. ABC-CLIO. 372-73.

Lonergan, B. (1971). Insight and Method in Theology.
Toronto University Press.

Macdonald, C. (2004). Folk Catholicism and PreSpanish Religions in the Philippines. Philippine
Studies, 52(1), 78-93. Retrieved June 29, 2020,

Macmullen, R. (2010). Christian Ancestor Worship
in Rome. Journal of Biblical Literature,1293, 597-613.

McBrien, R. (1981). Catholicism. Rev. ed. 2 vols. in 1.

McCullough, M. E. (1995). Prayer and health:
Conceptual issues, research review and
research agenda. Journal of Psychology and
Theology, 23, 15-19.

Nantes, F. et al. (2012). An existentialphenomenological approach to understanding
the Ilocanos’ practice of Atang. Journal of
Northern Luzon, vol. 34, (1): 1-2.

New American Bible: Revised Edition. (2010).
American Bible Society.

Phelan, John Leddy. (1959). The Hispanization of
the Philippines, Spanish Aims and Filipino
Responses 1565-1700. University of Wisconsin

Philippines Demographics Profile. 2018. Religions.
Retrieved from https://www.indexmundi.

Pierse, G. (1991). Popular Religiosity: A Philippine
Experience. The Furrow, 42(4), 232-236.
Retrieved from

Pobre-Ynigo, V. (1969). Mourning Customs in
Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. Asian Folklore
Studies, 28(1), 91-93. doi:10.2307/1177782.

Riguera, F. (1968). "Sumang": A Folk Rite in Ilocos.
Philippine Sociological Review, 16(1/2),
66-73. Retrieved from

Sewell, W. 1992. A theory of structure: duality,
agency, and transformation. The American
Journal ofSociology 98, 1-29.

Social Weather Stations. 2017. First Quarter 2017
Social Weather Survey: 48% of Filipino adults
attend religious services weekly; 85% said
religion is important. Retrieved from https://

Steadman, L., Palmer, C., & Tilley, C. (1996). The
Universality of Ancestor Worship. Ethnology,
35(1), 63-76. doi:10.2307/3774025.

Walter, T. (2005). Three ways to arrange a funeral:
Mortuary variation in the modern West.
Mortality, 10, 173–192.
How to Cite
CorpuzJ. C. (2020). Death and Food Offering: The Ilocano “Atang” Ritual from a Contextual Theology. Recoletos Multidisciplinary Research Journal, 8(1), 113-126.