The Ifugaos, contrary to the stereotypes
Nov 15, 2003
Much has been written about the Ifugaos -their culture, their society, their literature. But who really
are they now? Are they still the g-stringed uncivilized Cordillerans we usually see portrayed on
television's travel programs and on travel magazines?
Though the Ifugaos are whom we call the liberty-loving Filipinos who resisted colonization of the
Spaniards in the early 19th century, they did not remain isolated with the rest of the people. Despite
the rugged and steep terrains, gradual improvements in the society did not leave them untouched.
And when these changes occur, how are their traditional values and practices affected?
However, before we touch deeper on this .
..let us first have a short overview of their culture, history
and literature so we can have a full grasp of how much changes they embraced for three centuries
The Ifugao province is at the heart of the Cordillera, and is composed of several enthnolinguistic
groups which are commonly grouped into three --Western, Eastern and Central.
are the official spoken languages in each respective group. According to Lourdes
Dulawan, a full-blooded Ifugao, in her book "Ifugao Culture and History," the early Ifugaos called
, which literally means "from the hills." When the Spanish colonizers came, they
changed it to
, and it was the Americans who changed the spelling to
The structure of the early Ifugao society was based on the kindship system, and their ancestors play
the most important role in the system. Their ancestors are involved in all types of rituals because for
them rites are family affairs.
One of these rites is the
or rites for man and for rice culture. The
rites are the core of
Ifugao's tribal religion. These rites, performed by the native priest called
, are done at the
start of every man's life and every stage of rice agriculture. The
invokes the ancestors to
act as mediators to the gods.
The Ifugaos have a lengthy hierarchy of gods which includes
(the superior gods),
(gods to whom sacrifice are due),
(god of the skyworld),
(god of the underworld),
(god of the east), and
(god of the west).
For every rite performed, a god or set of concerned gods are invoked and offered sacrifices with,
depending on the purpose of the rite or the type of favor being sought.
The kindship system is also very important in solving conflicts. Whenever there's a disagreement
between members of a clan, a member not concerned with the dispute will settle the rift amicably.
However, if it concerns two different clans the general rule is clan against clan. It is where "vendetta"
enters -when a member of a clan is murdered, the victim's family or clan shall avenge the death to
preserve the clan's social prestige. If vendetta is not sought, the family and the whole clan will be
scorned by the community.
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