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Old Ifugao Customs and Traditions

The Old Ifugao Customs and Traditions.
(A personal experience)
Anderson D. Tuguinay
Kiangan, Ifugao31 December 2008

Ha-on hi “Dumay-yahon” (I am Dumay-yahon). Inap-apu-ak ke Inggulun an nak Botlong (I am the grandson of Inggulun daughter of Botlong). My grandmother is a descendant from the Dagadag - Botlong clan that traces its roots in Bayninan, Kiangan. In search for greener pastures, my grandmother’s family resettled in Patukan, a village famous for its ice cold spring water in Liyang and finally in Imbungyaw. It is a small farming community consisting of about five houses sparsely spread by the far end of the rice fields. In the center of the settlement is a towering “dalakit or balite” (fig tree) that resembles an Ifugao warrior, his “pinah-hig” (bolo) drawn and raised towards yonder Julungan. Some sweet “tabuyug” (native pomelo) and “gugul-lu” (native lemon) thrives near my grandmother’s “abung”. In the edge of the village are several “gab-gab” trees that blooms its crimson red flowers during the cold months of December to February. In the outskirts are clusters of “lap-paw” (sun flower) that seems to be an array of intermittent neon lights at night from numerous kum-Cumti (fireflies). My grandmother was a “mumbaki” (pagan priestess), and she performs the “ketema” (“baki” ritual performed for the sick) with other “munbaki” in the locality. On several occasions I have witnessed the “mumbaki” possessed (nihkopan) by spirits of dead relatives and deities, and in a trance impart his message to the living. On the other hand, a mumbaki pleads to the spirit for the speedy recovery of a sick person, bountiful harvest and well being of an individual. I am not a schooled or trained writer, but my desire to recount my experiences regarding the old Ipuggo traditions and culture bade me to recollect and write about a cherished past. It is also a way to let other people reminisce about the pleasant yester years as it is becoming extinct and adulterated.

We live in a “bale” or “abung”(house) which has four posts which is more of less five feet in height. Each post (tukud) has the traditional “lidi” (cylindrical shaped wood placed above the post). I often wonder what those geometrical structures are for, but one thing that I had learned from my old folks is it prevents rodents from gaining access in the house. Just above the “lidi” is the “kuling” (beams). In the tuwali dialect, the following are the parts of a house: atop – roof, dingding - walls, dulung – floor, tawang – window; tukud – post, kuling – beams; onob/panto– door; hagpo – the ladder landing or flooring right in the door. The house generally have one single space or room where everything from eating to sleeping is done. The “pun-dap-ulan” (fire place) is located in one corner of the house. Just above the pundap-ulan is the “hay-ung-ngan” where palay is dried. The “hay-ung-ngan” is a weaved bamboo where about five to six bundles of palay is spread to dry. Further up above the “hay-ung-ngan” is the “huguhug” where firewood is piled to dry from the heat generated from the fire in the “pun-dap-ulan. We sit on the “dalapong” (wooden stool about 6 inches to 1 ft in height). We use the “tete” (ladder) to get in and out the house. The ladder is made up of light wood or bamboo pole which is pulled up inside the house or otherwise lowered down as a means of entry and exit. The roof consists of thatched mountain reeds (bila-u) or “gulun” (cogon grass) and the walls are made up of wooden planks or weaved bamboo.

The normal way of courtship between a man and a woman before marriage is customary to early Ifugaos. Courtship is generally done in the house of the woman with the strict supervision of the parents and approval of the girl’s family. This is contrary to the myth that courtship is done in the “agamang” where promiscuity is tolerated. The “agamang” is a house in the locality where people go to sleep only at night. It is usually a house owned by childless couples, widowers, spinsters or bachelors. Males and females have separate “agamang” houses. There are occasions however wherein the family of the boy chooses a girl as the prospective wife. The boy’s family would propose the matter to the girl’s family. When the proposal is accepted, a pig is brought to the girl’s house where the two families make a feast. At a very young age, the two are parentally engaged but are not allowed to live together. This is called “nit-bi”. When by chance, after the two reaches maturity and the woman marries ahead, a pig is sent back to the man’s family as replacement of the pig that was used for the engagement. However, if the man marries another woman instead, the family of the woman is not obliged to replace the pig. When a union had been planned, the man’s family sends a “go between” to inform the woman’s family about the intention. Pertinent matters about the marriage are discussed. This is called the “mun-ga-wi”. If the proposal had been accepted, three pigs (hing-ngot) are brought to the bride’s residence in an entourage comprising the groom’s relatives and close associates. Affluent families usually butcher a carabao or a cow and an array of pigs for the marriage celebration. The marriage feast is characterized by extravaganza of endless dancing and merrymaking. In a particular area of the marriage feast, the choicest "baya" (rice wine) is given to any one who in turn gives gift or dowry to the newly married couple. This is called “gala”. Free lunch is given to the multitude who came to witness the affair. A long queue is formed for the orderly distribution of food. This is called “hamul”. Later, the families of the married couple would inform the bride and the groom the respective properties to be inherited. The “ta-wid” (inheritance) system of the “tuwali” usually gives the choicest property to the eldest child, going down to the youngest. Couples in some occasions separates basically because they are childless. It is uncommon that early Ipuggo couples would separate due to infidelity. This is called “mun-bolhe” (divorce) in the tuwali tribe. They may remarry which is termed as “nun-bintan”. A woman begetting a child out of wed lock is called “nun-lag-lag-a”. Prostitution and polygamy is never a trait nor practiced by Ifugaos.

“Haliw” is the “tuwali” term for being fined for a fault or a felony. The fault ranges from oral defamation to simple form of unjust vexation. The fine may be of palay, money or domestic animals. Theft and robbery is uncommon to the Ifugaos, neither is begging for food as a result of laziness. Disputed rice field boundaries are settled though the “bultung” (Ifugao wrestling) if amicable settlement fails. In the “bultung”, two belligerents wrestle each other holding the opponent’s wano (g-string) as the initial duel position. A respected and influential elder from the village is chosen as the umpire. The “bultung” will commence on the very spot where the questioned property boundary is located. The fight maybe brief or would take a longer time. The place where the looser falls or pushed farthest will be the new rice field boundary (kiggad). It will be respected by both parties. Respective feuding families would perform the “hago-ho” a “baki” ritual to assure victory over the other.

One day, our whole family went to Ba-e, Kiangan to attend the “kat-lu” of a relative who died of lingering illness. The deceased was a male of advanced age and is alone since his wife died years ahead. Neither did they have any children. He was wearing a “binuh-lan” (g-string) and sited (nihadag) in a crisscross makeshift made from betel nut trunks fastened on the ground under the house. He seems to be sitting among the mourners. His torso was fastened to the “hadag” by some “wano” (g-string) and was draped with the “gamong” (native woven cloth use for the dead). The dead were not then embalmed nor placed in caskets. A fire was built near by. Relatives took turns sitting fronting the dead to drive away flies and insects. The dead is normally buried late in the afternoon of the third day (katlu) counting from the first day (boh-wat) after the dead is brought out from the house, bathe, clothed and sited (ni-hadag) under the house. The “hudhud” is sung nightly for an elderly who died of natural causes. Customary to the “tuwali” tradition, a carrabao is butchered in the morning of the day the deceased is to be buried. This is called the “dang-li”. The carabao which is tied near the house is hacked in the neck and other parts of the body. While the felled carabao was being sorted out, a male relative who was apparently drunk went and started to cut pieced of meat from the carabao for his clan’s share (bolwa). No one could pacify the male relative. Other relatives suddenly joined the ruckus getting their own share too. There was some shouting, pushing and shoving as the fray went on. I was told that this was the “gennet”. The orderly distribution of the “bolwa” was not followed because the “mun-ngilin” was not able to impose his job in directing the orderly sharing of the “bolwa”. The “mun-ngilin” is one of the “mumbaki” and no less than a distant relative of the deceased. He should be knowledgeable in the genealogy of the family (nun-domod-mang). He is in charge in managing the activities from the “boh-wat” (first day of the wake) to the internment and most particularly in directing the orderly distribution of the “bolwa”. My grandmother explained to me that it is a customary for the Tuwali tribe that during the “katlu” a portion from the rear flank/leg (kuli-wang-wang) of the carabao (“dangli”) is divided among the relatives of the deceased up the fifth degree. In some occasions, relatives quarrel over their portion of meat if said relative thinks that the share of the “bolwa” is not fair. Sometimes, an errand would walk several miles of rugged terrain just to deliver the “bolwa” to a relative. The “bolwa” symbolizes that the person to whom it is given is a relative. The wake could last up to more than five days depending on the social stature of the deceased. Pigs are butchered everyday to feed the people attending the wake. Some portion of the carabao meat which was taken by relatives during the “gennet” was however was recalled and distributed to nearby houses as viand for the multitude who attended the wake. It is customary that during the “katlu”, neighbors help in providing food for the people. The carabeef viand is a chunk of meat plain boiled and salt to taste. If the deceased have married children who are financially capable, each child take turns in shouldering the expenditure for the wake. There are some instances that each of the married children bring their dead parent to his own house for a night’s wake. The cranial remains of the “dangli” is affixed to the walls outside the house. The number of cranial remains seen affixed in a house denotes the number of carabaos butchered as “dangli”. These are not trophies nor souvenirs from hunting expeditions.

In the afternoon of the “katlu” (third day of the wake), the dead is carried to the “lubuk” (grave) for the internment. The grave is a tunnel built in a hill side. It could be an individual grave or for a clan for several generations. Male are not inter buried with the female, but each have a separate burial places. The tunnel has a small opening but has a large space inside. Rocks and soil are put in place after a person is buried and opened again if another is to be buried or the bones of a deceased is exhumed for the purpose of “bogwa”. Several individual burial tunnels could be excavated in a hill side that serves as cemetery for the locality. There are also instances wherein graves are made right in the backyard of the family of the dead. The dead is piggybacked (i-abba or ibagtutu) by a relative and followed by relatives and friends. One or two gongs are sounded while everyone walk to the burial place. When the dead is finally brought inside the grave, immediate family member are made to enter and gently shake the dead for the last time while saying his last words of farewell. A part of the “gamong” particularly the “talung-tung” (fringes) is removed and given to the family as a sign of separation from the dead and the living. Others opined that it is a memento for the dead akin to a flag being handed to the family of a soldier who is being buried. The rest of the “gamong”, remains covering the dead. Afterwards, the family members would briskly leave the burial place and proceed each to his home. Relatives from a further degree of relationship would close the grave using rocks and soil. After two years or more, the tomb is opened and the bones are cleaned, wrapped in a new “gamong” (burial cloth) and brought back to the house where another three day wake is performed. This is called the “bogwa”. Several “bogwa” could be accorded to a deceased depending on the necessity and social stature or necessity. It is also the option of the family if another “dangli” is to be accorded.

Apu Ingulun stressed to me that a person who is murdered shall be accorded a different custom other than that given to a person who died of natural causes. The “him-ung” is followed as a tradition. The “bangibang” or “mun-gitak” is performed as ritual. The “bangibang” is performed by a group of dominant male who would depart from their abode to attend the interment of a slain person. The two lead men of the “bangibang” performers would do a mock while menacingly aims his “balabog” or “gayang” (spear) to his opponent. In the process the two would lunge crashing in each others “hap-piyo” (wooden shield). Each member is donned for battle with a shiny “hinalong” (double bladed bolo) or heavy “pinah-hig” (one bladed big bolo) fasten to the hips. In his left hand is a prepared wood more or less two feet in length that is rhythmically beaten in unison by another smaller and shorter wood (more similar to a rod) he carries his right (for right handed person). The group would move stealthily to the resonance of the wood they beat, alternately running or walking from the point of origin up the place where the slain is interred. Women who join the group would not participate in beating of the wood but would just tag along. All the members would have the blood-red “dong-la” leaves (T-plant) fasten around their head. When the group arrive at the place where the slain is laid, they immediately join other “bangibang” groups circling the dead; shouting and cursing with intense agitation. Loud crying, shrieks and lamentation are heard. The spirit of the slain is urged to avenge him self. During the burial, the corpse is dragged to a makeshift grave and just covered with earth. Person who are killed or died of violent and unnatural death is not accorded the customary “dangli”. The bones would be exhumed after a year or more for the “bogwa”. Several other rituals is performed before a murdered victim is accorded the traditional burial and given a “dangli”. The matter (murder) is settled though revenge if amicable settlement failed. When revenge is the option, the male relatives of the victim who has the intention of avenging the dead is gathered around during a “baki" which is specifically the “hago-ho”. This ritual is done only during night time up to the wee hours of the morning. At one specific portion of the ritual, the “munbaki” cuts off the head of the chicken being sacrificed and places the headless chicken in the center of the gathered men. The chicken would struggles and toss around as blood spouts from the severed neck. To where the direction of the bloodied neck finally points would be the avenger for the victim. Several male relatives of the deceased would organize at night to avenge the victim, picking only on the close relatives of the malefactor. This is called the “mangalana” in the Tuwali tribe. The “mangalana” (avenger) would wear the “bango” to protect him from the adverse forces of nature and practically as a camouflages while he lay and wait for his adversary. The “bango” is an upper garment woven from the coarse black fibers of the “u-noot”, a typical palm that is endemic in the mountain ranges of Ifugao. This particular palm had strong black hair like fibers on the bark. Meanwhile, at the perpetrator’s house, the “hago-ho” would also be in progress. In the “hagoho” ritual, a dog is preferred as the animal sacrifice. This is done to protect the perpetrator and his family from any harm coming from the victim’s family and relatives. The “hago-ho” performed at the perpetrator’s residence sans the cutting of a chicken’s head. Families of the victim and the malefactor shall be bitter enemies or “buhul” for life. It is a taboo for someone to enter the “buhul’s” house or attend to any of his feast or occasions. When revenge had been successful, the aggrieved family would also resort to revenge. The endless chain of revenge would continue for generations. Eventual marriage between both parties can only extinguish the feud. Another “baki” ritual that is commonly performed until today is the “pahang”. It is done when a misfortune befalls a family or an individual. It is also done to shield a person from harm and unfavorable situation while he is away or on a journey. A minimum of eight chickens are offered in this particular ritual.

Early Ifugao families are dependent to farming as a means of sustaining their daily needs. Early Ifugaos have their very own native rice called “Ipuggo”, That rice variety is sometimes corrupted and called as “tinoon” (yearly) because it is only planted once a year - specifically in a season on the year. It is also sometimes called “Innipuggo or Immipuggo” by the Tuwali folks. Preparing the “payo” (rice paddies) starts by early October thru December. This stage is called “Ahi ga-ud”. The villagers would organize as a work force to walk through the “paluk” (irrigation) for the purpose of cleaning the “alak” (small canal) from debris, repair the damages from “gode” (soil erosion) and replacing the damaged “tulaluk”. The “tulaluk” is a bamboo pole or palm trunk that is used as water viaducts in the irrigation system. It is an integral part of the irrigation system that connects the flow of water in cliffs or areas where making and/or building a canal is not feasible. Sometimes it would take a taxing three day work or more to clean and repair the irrigation, depending on the distance of the water source. While the “paluk” is being over sheered,. The “guhing” (water gates) of the rice fields are opened to enable the field to dry up in preparation for the cultivation. Other rice fields which are not watered (loda) will just be cleaned of grasses, reeds and weeds. The systematic cleaning of the rice paddies commences. The villagers organized themselves into working teams called “Ub-bu”. The “ub-bu” is a communal work system where in one would voluntarily join a group of farmers to render labor until every member is served. Some farmers would join the group as a “mun-bokla” (laborer) and are paid about five bundles of palay a day. The “kadangyan” (wealthy) is still dependent in the “ub-bu” system regardless of utilizing the “nuwang” (carabao/water buffalo) to plow his fields. Basically, manual labor is still intrinsic in farming. The long handled spade called “gaud” is extensively used. Bare hands and feet are also used methodically during the rice paddy preparation. This is the season when the beautiful yellow colored small bird called “Tiwad” come individually or in pairs, wagging their tail and fly about from dike to dike.

By early morning, the “mun-u-ub-bu” would arrive individually or in groups to the field which is scheduled to be prepared. The dikes are first repaired and replaced by removing half of the “banong” (dike) from the inside the rice paddy and replacing if with a fresh mud taken from the rice field. The farmer uses the “ga-ud” to scrape the mud from the “payo” and overlay it to the “banong” (dike) being replaced. The right (left) foot is extensively used to compact the mud and shape in into a new dike, which would eventually dry up baked in the sun replacing the old one. Dikes (banong) that are used as path walk or trails have a bigger size and are overlaid with big flat stones (dalipe) and “tuping” to make it sturdier. While other workers are busy repairing the dikes, other are concentrated in preparing the field for planting. With the use of the “ga-ud”, the soft ground is fully pulverized. Then the workers would equally distribute the pulverized mud in the rice paddy using the water level as the guide to attain equal elevation. This method is called the “Kiblu”. The farmers will have a brisk lunch and back to the paddy to the soonest. While at work and during short breaks, the farmers would share each others moma (betel nut) hapid and apul. (Lime) that produces reds saliva and leave the ground stained red. By dusk, the “alawin” of each farmer would be full of “kal-lakal” (earth cricket), yuyu and other crustaceans which is palatable to the Ipuggo household.

Meanwhile, a separate rice paddy is prepared as “panopnakan or punhopnakan” (seed bed). There, the “ipuggo” rice grains still in the stalks are neatly lined in the soft mud. Seedlings are sown according their variety. After several weeks, the seedlings have fully grown and ready for transplanting. All the rice paddies would be eventually ready to accommodate the seedlings. This stage is called “Ahi Tunod” (rice planting) which is from January through February. The “Ubbu” continues to be in place and active. From the “panopnakan” (seed bed), the rice seedling that are ready for transplanting, are gently uprooted and hand carried to the field where it would eventually re-planted. The farmers who are all lined up would gently separate each individual seedling from the bundle and plant it.

The “Gab-gab” tree is endemic in the mountain ranges of Ifugao. If left undisturbed, would grow to a huge towering tree. The tree is not a choice for firewood, but is used by the early Ifugaos in making the “hap-piyo (shield) because it is very light when dried It is also impregnable and serves well in parrying the bolo and spear in close quarter combat. It has big bright red flowers that make the whole tree crimson from December through February. The flower appearance is similar to the “Euphorbia pulcherrima” commonly named “poinsettia” although the former is large. The tree also is a habitat for numerous birds and wildlife. The bright red flowers from “gab-gab” sprout during the planting season. This is called “mun-hablang”. When the bright red flowers fade away, it signals the end of the planting season. Villagers would fast track the plating before the flowers of the “gab-gab” tree disappear as it would not be only a bad omen but a taboo as well.

As if by nature, the yellow colored “tiwad” bird would suddenly be out of sight. Two moths after the rice had been planted, weeds and grasses that is outgrowing the palay needs to be removed. The communal “ubbu” would again be activated to clean the fields. The weeds and grasses on the walls would be scraped (dalu) by use of the long handled spade (ga-ud). The dikes will also be cleaned with the use of the “pag-gawe” (short handled utility bolo used in cleaning the dikes). The rice field itself will be cleaned of the weeds and grasses using bare hands. This is called “mun-kagoko”.

Four months after planting, the palay have grown enormously to about four to five feet in height. The immature palay would start to show up at the end of the plant. The “tuwali” folks call it “mun-hulit”. The tip of the palay would bulge as evident of the fast sprouting palay. Then the young green palay would come out slowly. This is the time when the farmers would gather vines and strings from tree barks from the mountains and tie it around the fields. Scare crow (kig-lo) made from reeds shaped as a man would also be set in place. A shade or shanty (al-lung) is set up in the “dolya” (edge of the rice fields where several varieties of vegetables are planted) for the “mun-adug” to shelter. The “mun-adug” is the person responsible in driving away the rice birds (buding) feeding on the young palay. The strings and vines that connect the reeds and scarecrows will be pulled enabling it to shake thereby scaring and driving away the rice birds. As the palay would mature, the fields would turn in to bright gold. The Ipuggo farmers then start preparing for the most awaited harvest. Thin stripes of about one centimeter in width and a foot long in length would be meticulously sliced from the “a-no” and “bikal” (wild bamboo vines) or “kawayan” (bamboo) using a sharp “uwa” (knife). The stripes are bundled and hung to dry up which produces a flexible and durable tying material. This is used to bundle (“botok”) the harvested “Ipuggo” rice. This process is called “mun-ul -yun”.

The palay is now ready for harvest. This is called “Ahi-ani”, meaning harvest season. This is from June to July. With the communal “ubbu” system active again, the harvest workers which are predominantly women would arrive at the “payo” (field) early in the morning and start harvesting the ripe palay with the use of the “gamulang”. The “gamulang” is a special palay scythe used solely in harvesting the Ifugao native rice varieties. The sharp blade resembles a half moon horizontally embedded in the handle. The “mun-ani” (harvester) would grab the palay and pull it against the blade thus severing it from the sheaf. It is also used in trimming the edge of the “nabtok an pa-ge” (bundled palay). The “mun-ani” would form a line and move systematically forward harvesting the ripe palay. One of the “mun-ani” (harvester) using a light bamboo pole would move ahead to bend the tall palay stalks forward to enable the harvester to reach the ripe palay stalks which are bent in a uniform level. The harvested palay is bind with the “botok” and strewn in the field. Meanwhile, the owner or one who is tasked by the field owner would go about picking choice rice stalks to be used as “bi-nong-o”. The “binong-o” is a choice palay preserved as seedling for the next planting season. It differs from the standard bundled palay in terms of size and top trimming, the latter in bigger bundle and untrimmed stalk edge and the other in a neatly top trimmed smaller bundle. As soon as the harvest have commenced, the “mun-ani” would start singing in chorus the “Hudhud”. The “munhaw-e” (lead singer) would lead and sing solo portions of the “hudhud”. Able bodied men starts to gather and carry the bundled palay to the “alang” (granary) using the “batawil”. The “batawil” is a wooden pole designed to carry the harvested palay by straddling and balancing it from the center. Children would join the work force by running errands such as fetching water from the “ob-ob” (spring) with the use of the “aluwog” (bamboo designed for fetching water). The “aluwog” is a choice bamboo which has a bigger diameter cut to the desired length. The nodes are removed except the one at the base. Artistic designs such as lizard, snake and other designs are etched in the “aluwog”. When fetching water, the open end of the bamboo is filled with water and carried by the shoulders in an upright position to avoid the spillage of the water.

According to Ifugao traditions, the harvested palay is not brought to the house of the rice field owner but instead to the granary (alang) where it will be stored. It is a tradition that only palay representing the regular consumption is withdraw from the “alang”. The “alang” usually is built at the edge of the rice fields (dolya). It is analogous to the Ipuggo hut but of smaller proportion. Similarly, it has also four posts (tukud) which about five feet in height. The posts are of choice sturdy tree trunks. It also has the traditional “lidi” placed in the posts before the “kuling”. The “alang” has no window and has only one detachable door. The door has neither hinges nor padlocks. The floor boards (dulung) are of choice hard wood. The walls (ding-ding) are of weaved bamboo or hard wood boards and the “a-top” (roof) is of thatched reeds or cogon grasses. No one lives in the “alang”, but the surroundings are meticulously spick and span. Sometimes some granaries are grouped together. Other people build their granaries right in their backyard, as it is not a tradition that the palay be stored in the homes. Some “kakadangyan” (wealthy) have exceptionally two or more granaries.

To enter the “alang” (granary), one has to put a ladder (tete) to the door after it is detached. The door is not fixed and has no hinges. The “tete” (ladder) is removed and hanged in the side of the granary and the door put in placed when closing the granary. Some granaries (alang) have the “pi-le”. The “pi-le” is a stone that is sculptured resembling a man or just plain granite stone placed outside the granary. It represents another deity that guards the “alang” and the rest of the property against intruders. Another figure that is prominent in the rice fields is the “pudung”. It is no less than a couple of cogon grass with an overhand knot in the end. This is visibly displayed in areas where there are plants. The “pudong” connotes that it is forbidden to gather anything without the consent of the owner.

The “bulul” and its paraphernalia are placed near the door of the granary. The “bulul” is the Ifugao deity responsible for guarding the granary. It is primarily associated to rice production and bountiful harvest. The “bulul” is wooden statue of a man standing or sitting. It is accompanied by two wooden pigs and the “tingab”. The “tingab” is the ritual box in the form of a “balunglung” (carved wood where the early Ifugaos feed their pigs). Inside the “tingab” is the “buga” and “palipal”. The “buga” are five small black granite stones that is believed to be mysteriously disappearing and returning by itself. It is an integral part of the “tingab”. The “palipal” is made from “u-go” (type of bamboo). It is approximately about a foot in length with the internodes intact in both ends. One of the ends is split at the center up to about ¾ of the length. Approximately about half of an inch is removed in the center in one of the split section. This enables it to cock up when the “palipal” is briskly raised up during the ritual. When it is brought down and slapped against the palm, it produces a slapping sound. The “bulul” and the “tingab” are passed on from generation to generation precisely to the first born or most favored child of the family.

Meanwhile, under the “alang” (granary), a group of “munbaki” is busy performing the “hongan di pa-ge” (Feast of the Palay) ritual. A “dot-al” made of “bila-u” (weaved mountain round reeds) is spread for everyone to sit or squat on. Fronting each of the “munbaki” is the “hukap di hukup” or a liga-u (hukup cover or rice winnowing tray) where the moma (betel nut), hapid, and a cup of “baya” are neatly arranged. A jar (a-ngang) of “baya” is set alongside. Each of the ritual ministers are given a cup of wine each. The “tingab” is brought out from the granary and placed alongside other “baki” paraphernalia. The “bulul” with the two wooden pigs however remain inside the “alang” during the ritual. Sacrificial animals such as the native pig and several chickens are brought to the “alang”. Each of the "munbaki” chants or say his portion. The munbaki who is assigned to offer and appease the “bagol” starts his “baki” opening prayer in part, “bakiyon dakayun bagol ad daya ya ad lagud” , (praying to you deities from the east and the west) while the one assigned for the departed forbearers starts reciting the genealogy of the family (ton-ton).

The front and hind legs of the pig are tied with “u-we” (rattan twine). A sharpened wood with a palay tied to the edge is pierced below the rib cage. The wood is pushed halfway enabling the pig to stay alive. This makes the pig scream (mun-uwik) as the “baki” progresses. At a certain portion of the ritual, two of the “munbaki” briskly stands up and take one “palipal” each from the “tingab” and circles the granary while chanting his “baki” portion. Every time they come fronting the pig, they would pause and point the “palipal” to the direction of the pig. Then simultaneously would raise the “palipal” and briskly bringing it down to his open palm producing a flopping sound. The pagan priests will then say in unison, “umali kayun bagol” (“bagol” come and join this feast). There are occasions wherein instead of circling the granary, the munbaki would stand up, recite his “baki” while simultaneously pointing the “palipal” to the sacrificed pig. Finally the sharpened wood is pushed further inside the ribcage. The sacrificed animal is carried to an open fire and burned off the hair. When done, the pig is brought back to the “munbaki” who makes an incision in the abdomen. The legs are pushed downwards to give room for the internal organs to be pulled out. The intestines are pulled out but leaving them intact. The bile is examined by the “mumbaki” who gives his prognosis. The other “mumbaki” would also examine the bile and concur or point out their respective prognosis. According to the old Ipuggo tradition, dark colored bile that appears visibly in the liver bespeaks that the sacrifice is well accepted by the aammod and deities. While discolored or abnormally thin and pale bile means that the offering is not accepted. The pagan priests shall discuss among themselves the unfortunate situation and what additional rituals to be performed to appease the deities. Additional rituals are performed until the bile of the sacrificed animal is found to have the accepted appearance. The meat of the pig is cut into pieces and cooked in the “lambike’ (large pot). Only salt is added to taste. Sometimes, when feasible, some “kutlong” (soft core from the mountain reed and “al-laga” (large red tree ants) are added to flavor the soup.

The wings and feet of the chicken are held by one of the “mumbaki” while another holds the head. The “mumbaki” who is holding the head, pluck out feathers in the neck to expose the skin. A small incision is made on the neck letting the blood to drip into a coconut shell. The “baki” continues until all the chickens are sacrificed. The chickens are given to a male who would clean it from its feathers. The pinions are removed before burning the rest of the feathers in the fire. Burned feathers are systematically dust off from the chicken until cleaned. A slice is made to enable the thigh to be pushed outward. Another incision is made on shoulders and holding the chicken firmly, the breast is pulled out from the rib cage exposing the liver, gizzard and intestines. The bile is examined. The procedure in making the prognosis is same as with the sacrificed pig. After wards, the gizzard and intestines are removed but leaving the liver and bile intact in the ribcage. The breast portion placed back into the rib cage bending the feet and neck to lock the chicken in place. The whole chicken is cooked and salted to taste.

When the rice, chicken and pork are cooked, a portion of it is placed in another “hukup” and lay it along side other baki paraphernalia. The ritual continues. No one is allowed to eat until the “bukad” (food offering prayer) is finished. Customary, as soon as the “Hongan di Pa-ge” is on progress, one of the male would take hold of the “dip-dipu” (small conical drum made from wood and animal skin) and beat it to its rhythm. As the sound reverberates in the rice fields, it connotes that a “hongan di page” is on going for a bountiful harvest. This signals an invitation to the villagers to come and partake of the feast. Finally the ritual is finished. To everyone’s delight, each take his share of boiled rice from the “hukup or liga-u” and automatically returns to their respective places. and waits for the person distributing the “atal”. The “atal” is the viand which is a chunk of meat or a cut portion from the chicken. Soup is placed in prepared bamboo internodes while the rice is placed on prepared banana stalks. The liver, neck and head of the chicken are not included as “atal” but are given for free to whoever asks for it. With a little grain of salt and “paktiw” (red hot chili), everyone would enjoy the meal.

The harvested palay is counted by the bundles as follows: ‘hin-hongol” – five bundles; “hindalan” - twenty bundles; “nabongle” – fifty bundles and “hin-upu” as one hundred bundles. The harvested palay is spread under the “alang” to dry up. Customary, to Ifugao beliefs, the “bulul” will take charge in keeping the palay safe while it is still outside the granary. When the palay is ready to be brought inside the granary, another ritual called the “tuldag” is done. A minimum of six chickens are offered as sacrifice to the “bagol” and “aammod”. The occasion is never without a jar or if not feasible, a bottle of “baya”. After the ritual, the palay is brought inside the granary and piled by variety. The common rice variety is the “Ipuggo” which have large white grains. It produces a luscious aroma when it is being cooked. Another variety which has appendages or tail on the grain. is called the “abul”. The maroon colored grains when husked is called the “bulkitan”. The glutinous rice (dayakkot) variety is: Ing-gu-pul which has maroon grains; Ha-ut which has white grains; and a rare variety which is called the “In-dal-dal-u” which has a predominant dark brown stripe on the un-husked grain.

Few weeks after the harvest, the tender palay that was left during the harvest becomes full green unripe grains. This is the time when the young unripe palay is gathered to be made as “bal-lu”. The “bal-lu” is prepared by separating the grains from the stalks, roasted and pounded in the stone mortar. Preparation is usually at night when the weary farmer brings it to the delight of the family. The glutinous variety (dayakkot) is preferred for this delicacy.

A few days after all the rice fields had been harvested, the villagers prepare for the “bakle” (thanksgiving feast). The preparation of the “bakle” starts with the drying of the newly harvested “ipuggo” in the “hay-ung-ngan”. After palay had been dried, the stalks are manually pulled out (i-nulut) one by one to separate the palay from the straw. The palay is pounded in a stone mortar (luhung) with the use of the “al-u” (pestle). The rice bran from the pounded rice is separated with the use of the “liga-u” (winnowing rice tray). Once during the half way of the pounding called “nahul-hul” and second after the pounding is through (na-lop-a). Fine rice bran called “upok” is set aside as supplementary food for the pig. Rice intended for food during “bakle” is set aside in a “kulbung” (rice container made up of weaved rattan) together with the glutinous rice (dayak-kot). The Ifugao traditional baya (rice wine) is prepared to grace the occasion.

One of the elders in the village practically from an influential family set the day of the “bakle”. The community does the occasion altogether. The “bakle” is the grandiose celebration and thanksgiving after the harvest. The “dayakot” (glutinous rice) is saturated with water for a few hours then pounded in the stone mortar to produce fine flour. Three people would do the pounding to the rhythmic sound of the “al-u”, at times deliberately hitting the mortar to produce the sound akin to the beating of drums. It is however the tempo as to where the pounding pace would be based. Sometimes pestles would break or split up when it hit constantly the edge of the granite mortar but it is considered as the spirit and joy of the “bakle”. With the use of the “bila-u” (rice winnowing tray), coarse rice is separated from the fine flour. The coarse rice is again pounded until all the rice is of fine flour quality. The flour is then made into dough. When “lungi” (sesame seeds) is available, it is mixed. Rattan (littuku) and banana (balat) leaves are used to wrap the dough. The wrapped dough is tied securely by strips from the banana stalks and neatly piled in a “lambike” (big pot) and cooked. The cooked “binakle” is served to every one. Some portion is given to visiting relatives and other visitors to be brought home. Child visitors on the other hand have a special treatment. A chicken or duck is given as a gift. This is called “awil” in the tuwali tribe. This customary gift giving is not limited only during the “bakle” but on all occasions when a child visits a settlement for the first time.

While the pounding of the rice is ongoing, the “munbaki” is also busy performing customary rituals. It is his obligation to perform all the rituals in every home if no other “munbaki” is available. Several chickens are offered as sacrifice in this occasion and will be cooked as viand except one which is given to the “munbaki” for his services. The tradition is called the “nun-baki-yana” (payment or share from the sacrificed chickens). Immediately after the fine flour is made into dough, a small portion of it is brought briskly to the “alang” (granary). It is molded and placed in the shoulders and feet of the “bulul”. From morning till dusk, merriment of the village is continues. The following day however, is the “‘tungo or tungul’ (day of rest). It is the concluding day of the festival. Performing any type of farm work is strictly prohibited; neither is boisterous and loud noises. Silence for the whole day is in the village is generally observed.

The Ifugao native rice wine or “baya” is prepared to grace feast, rituals and special occasions. It is made by cooking together in ratio and proportion the “Ipuggo and dayakkot” (glutinous rice) and fermented by the use of the “binokbok”. The “binokbok” is the sun baked dough mixed with the roots of the “on-wad”, a type of grass herb abundant in the rice fields. The “binokbok” can also be dried in the “hay-ungan”. The “binokbok” which is crushed to fine powder is sprinkled to the rice, mixed thoroughly, and then placed in a “lopoh-han” layed out with banana leaves. After three days, the rice which is already moist because of fermentation is placed in the jar (angang) and securely covered with banana leaves. The rice wine (baya) is extracted after two weeks or more by draining the wine from it. The longer the fermentation is, the stronger the wine is (nap-got).

Immediately after the “tungo” or “tungul”, would be the season for the “Kiwang” (August through November). “Kiwang” in the “tuwali” dialect literally means to step aside or dodge off. Stepping aside in the sense that the field is temporarily free from the rice crop. But this would not make the rice field idle. The rice stalks and weeds are uprooted and piled in several small mounds in the field. This is called the “pingkol". This is applicable for fields which have a normal supply of water coming from “ob-ob” or “ot-bol” (spring), “wa-el” (brook) or by nature, normally watered the whole year round. The “pinkol” is then planted with “kolet” (cabbage), pechay, “balantina” (egg plant) and other vegetables. Insecticides, fertilizers and other farm chemicals are not used in the rice fields. The dikes are also planted with “bulligan” (winged beans), “antak” (sting beans), “bulhe” (beans), “aba” (gabi) and many more. Endemic native beans varieties such as the “itab” and “gay-yak” would also be seen robustly growing on the walls of the rice fields. The “kunde” (edible grass) and native “alay-yon” (spinach with thorns) would be abundantly growing on the dikes. The “tang-hoy" (water crease) would grow robustly in the “guhing” (dike opening) to any shallow part of a watered field.

The “dolya” is a permanent part of a rice field not utilized for rice plating because it is not watered. It is generally of higher elevation. It is however maintained and planted with various plants, root crops and vegetables such as the native “kuldi”, “gat-tuk” (sweat potatoes), “luktu”, “laya” (ginger) and many more. Wild ferns (paggalat), and shrubs like the “but-gi” which has sweet red fruits, and the “pinit” (wild straw berries) almost grow every where. The “gampa” (weaved rattan basket which is spherical in shape) is used to carry agricultural products. While the “dolya” and the “habal” (slash and burn agriculture) have similar produces, both differs in terms of location and permanency of use. The “habal” is a clearing in the mountain sides and could be temporary or permanent place for agriculture.

During the “kiwang” children would gather “umuk” (the core or pith of a palay) which grows from the harvested crop. Native shells such as bat-tikul, ginga, kuwiw-wiw, aggudung, and hiyok would be abundant in vast rice fields. The “al-lama” (freshwater crabs) is caught in quantity. The freshwater crabs are wrapped in banana leaves and stays overnight or two days to putrefy. It is then mixed with the “puhun di balat” (banana blossom) then pounded in the stone mortar until it becomes putty. Cooked and salted to taste, would be a fine delicacy. The mud fish (dolog) and yu-yu (Japanese eel) is also abundant in watered rice fields. It is simply salted to taste; ginger (laya) and garlic (amput) added, wrapped in banana leaves and roasted in the fire. This is called “inutum”. Another method of cooking is the “tinang-bul.” It is placed inside a cut bamboo and roasted in the fire. Leaves of the “aba” (gabi) could also be prepared and cooked through “inutum” or “tinang-bul”. The “alawin” (piece of bamboo with an open end used to accommodate things gathered in the rice field) finds it as an integral attire of anybody going to the fields. It is tied and hung in the waist and would be virtually filled with all edible things while the farmer goes about through the rice field. Other native trades that are used to catch fish and the Japanese eel (yuyu) in particular are the “gubu” and “dol-ak”. The “gubu” is a cylindrical shaped fish trap made of weaved rattan or bamboo stripes that is opened and closed in the other end. The open end is concave and gradually decreases in size just enough for the fish to pass through. Sharp bamboo spikes are placed facing inward in the small opening which prevents the trapped fish to get out. The “bubud” or refused fermented rice from the “baya” is made as bait.
The “dol-ak” is a kind of vine that creeps in the forest floor. It stuns the “yuyu” when the water is laced with it. Water is first drained out from the paddy. The vine is pounded and placed against the water that is released into the drained paddy. This stuns “yuyu” which surfaces from the mud making it easy to catch and gather the fish in large quantity. The “kat-tad” is the Ifugao ingenious fish trap purposely for the “dolog” (mud fish). It is a cylindrical shaped weaved bamboo that is opened in both ends. The handle is less than a foot wide while the opposite end varies in size from 1.5 feet to 2 feet in diameter. The user would briskly prod the “kat-tad” from place to place as he goes about in the field. A sight bumps on the “kat-tad” indicates a catch. In the absence of the “gubu”, “kat-tad” and “dol-ak”, Ifugao folks catches fishes and crustaceans with their bare hands.

Not long, the “kiwang” season would come to its end and it would be the time to mend destroyed parts of the “paluk” (irrigation). The “ga-ud” (spade) which had been idle for a short while will be again the principal tool in cultivating the rice fields. As the planting season is only a few weeks away, the “guhing” (water gates) of watered rice fields are opened (i-kulu) in preparation for the drying up of the field. It is at this most awaited time of the season when the whole village would flock to the rice field to catching the “dolog” (mudfish), shells and other crustaceans for free

Apu Inggulu told me during her time as a young woman, the Ifugao lad, before reaching adolescent, would by instinct, laying bird traps in the fields. He knows where to find the “hobang” (bird’s trail) and where he would strategically put his “hulu” and “appad”. The “hulu” is a sturdy twine from the “u-noot” made to a lasso and position where the bird would pass. The “unoot” is a type of palm that has coarse thread like fibers on the trunk. The “appad” is an assembly of a sturdy twine and a tree branch/bamboo that springs up when the lock is disengaged. The lock is wedged on a stick that holds the bent bamboo in place. When the unsuspecting bird steps on the stick, the weight brings down the stick thereby releasing the wedge. This releases the lock thereby enabling the bent bamboo to spring up. The process pulls the twine tightening the loop on the bird’s feet. The “appad” is position on places where the birds frequents. Barefooted but very agile, the Ipuggo lad’s hunting grounds knows no boundaries and limits. By nature, manga-iw (gathering firewood) and “mun-anup” (hunting) are inseparable. Knows how to use the “liyok” (termite) as “tap-pang” (bait) in bird traps he makes in the forest. Among the traps he is an expert is the indigenous pukot, lingon, and katig. The “pukot” is the sap from the alimit and pa-kak trees. It is gathered by making a cut in the bark and letting the sap flow into a prepared bamboo. The liquid is heated in the fire to make it solidify, sticky and firm. When the unsuspecting bird lands on the twig with “pukot”, its legs stick and unable to fly away. The “lingon” is a variation of the “appad”; only it is placed above the ground, while the “katig” is a series of small lasso arranged in a branch. The unsuspecting bird that land on the trap would surely insert its neck in one of the loops. Knows how to make the “bitu” for the wild boar (ulha) and other traps for the “makawa” (deer) “uldunne” (wild chicken), “banniya (monitor lizard), amunin (squirrel) and many more. In the rivers, he braves the rapids and swelled rivers, dives the deep river basins and knows where to catch the “dalit” (eel) and “uggadiw” without much ado. Penetrates deep in the jungle at night to catch giant bats (panniki) and medium size fruit bats (lit-talit) with the use of the indigenous “tawang” (bat trap made of weaved fibers or thread). This does not exclude his expertise in locating and gathering honey from the “alig” and “iy-yukan” (honey bees). He knows the particular period during the rainy season when wild mushroom (u-ung) blankets the forest floor. Joins his elders and his peers in dancing the “paggaddut” or “dinnuy-a” in feasts and social gatherings. And above all, finds him self an integral part of the “ubbu” that works in the rice field from morning till dusk. It is from here that the Ipuggo lad tastes his first moma (betel nut), apul (lime) and hapid, which eventually become a habit. It is also from here that he would learn to admire the sweet taste of the “baya”. He would be as agile as the “boot-boot” (hawk) as evident on how he spreads his arms when he “gopa” in the “dinnuy-a” and how he thread heavily his feet when he dances the “pagaddut” or when he “baltung” (stomps) his feet in the rituals such as the “alim” and some portions in the “honga”.

The Ipuggo girl on the other hand is the “apple of the eye” on every family. Basic house hold chores are intrinsic before reaching her teens. She learns by instinct the native art of cooking plain boiled rice and viand such as “ikilit” (sauté), “ipulitu” (fry), “lambung” (plain boil), “ihomba” (roast), i-u-tum, i-tang-bul and many more. She knows how to cook the delicious “inlap-lap an gattuk” (boiled and sweetened sweet potato/ camote). Feeding the chickens in the morning before letting them let go off the “kubi” (chicken cage) and putting them back in the cage before dusk is a fascination every Ippugo girl would cherish. As a teen, she starts helping in the rice fields as a weed cleaner (mun-gabut). The “alawin” finds it an integral part of her costume in going to the fields to gather shells and crustaceans (mang-dut). She would catch the “yuyu” and “dolog” (mud fish) with her bare hands with out much ado. Pounding and winnowing of the palay becomes a basic chore. She knows the procedure in preparing and making the “baya” (mun-ka-il) which is passed on from one generation to the other without adulterating or circumventing the tradition. She would find herself unwittingly joining the singing of the “hud-hud’ during harvest season. The Ifugao maiden suddenly finds herself the enchanted beauty of the Ifugao highland. One of the secrets that keep the beauty of her jet black hair is the “ta-yuyu”. It is a preparation of burned rice straw (ulut) placed in a weaved bamboo strainer. During her bath, she rinses her hair with water through the “tayuyu”.

Early Ifugaos believes in existence of the supernatural such as the “bagol”, “tayabban”, “pinading”, bibiyo”, “bumdang” , “banbanilag”, “banig”, “kilkilang” “hakuku”, and many more. He believes in the protective power of the “kodla” or “kiwil” (amulet) and has faith in the charisma of the “agayup” (talisman). The Ifugaos are peace loving and family centered people. His unwavering trust and confidence in the Omnipotent – The “Maknongan” (God) is beyond question.

In the Ifugao “dinnuy-a” and “pagaddut” dance, the Ifugao brave spreads his arms akin to that of the “but-but” (hawk), that remains steady in the air while looking for his prey and in a loud deafening voice declares;

Gopagopahan dakayun am-in an iiba, aam-mod, tutulang ya ibban bimmoble! Ya udum an tinatagu! Peh-kaw ka man, Mabla, Ma-ilag wen nu Mangitit

Come all of you who hear and listen
Let us pause for a while and see how beautiful the “Gab-gab” tree is
Her towering bosom adorned crimson in blood
That beacon the “Mun-tunod” to speed up the Ipuggo rice planting
Before the crimson flowers starts to fade
Like the yellow Tiwad bird who is only seen during the Kiwang and Ahi-ga-ud
We are the only ones who chant the “Alim” and sing the “Hud-hud”
Performs the “Baki”, “Bogwa” and “Bangibang”
Partake in the Kadangyan’s Uya-uy, Kolot and Gumal-lihong
Dance the “Dinnuy-a” and the “Pagaddut” to the reverberating gongs
Drink “Baya” and take pleasure in the “Bakle”
Sit on the “Hagabi” to witness the “Hinggot”
And savor the chunk of “Atal” in the “Hamul”

Our traditions are being adulterated, changed and becoming extinct
Who would blame the discoveries in science?
Like new wonderful things brought about by infrastructure
And exotic ways copied from the Peh-kaw and foreigner
Our ancestors call it “banting”, then “katapigu” borrowed from the
Conquistadores’ “Casa de Fuego”
Are we slipping in oblivion?
Like the dead sitting in the “Hadag”
Plunging into the deep unknown
With only memories left as time goes by
Let the “Pinahhig” fall the “Dangli”
Wrap the mighty warrior in the “Gamong” and lay him to rest
Sound the “Gangha” and call the spirits of the “Aammod”
Like the ‘Mum-baki” who pleads to the “Bagol, Bibiyo and Pinading”
Remind the young about our ancient traditions
Like it was passed from generation to generation
The true epitome of an Ifugao

Wagahan dakayun am-in ke Maknongan!
Dumakol kaya di aggayam ya imogmogan,
Adi kaya makal-iwan nan ine-e dih do-ne
Tuwali man, Ayangan wen nu Kalanguyya
Te Immipuggo takun am-in Tuwali


  1. WOW, Anderson, i did not know you can write this well and articulate a truly native narrative of your tradition and culture. i am very much impressed.but that the old adage said, that GOLD is well-hidden underground, and far from the prying eyes of the poachers.you have written such a vivid recollection and articulating it well, plus generating with so much interest especially me.like you, i am also into the old and traditional way of celebrating an old tradition and as much as possible, using the very language that we are born-using.VERY NICELY WRITTEN.CONGRATULATIONS.