Luzon and the Igorot: Cultivating Culture

November 11, 2009


The Banaue Rice Terraces

The Igorot were a pagan people who believed in the Great Spirit named Lumawig as the creator of the earth. They thought that he made the world by splitting a reed into many different pairs and placing them around the world. These reeds grew into people that spoke different languages and began to populate the world as man and woman. When Lumawig saw that they people needed supplies on earth, he started by giving them salt. However, the group he first gave the salt to did not do anything with it so he gave it to the Mayinit instead. Since the Mayinit used their gift of salt they became to rightful owners of it. Lumawig tried to give clay for pots to the Bontoc but they did not understand how to use it so the Samoki got the clay instead. The Samoki were talented potters so they gained ownership of the clay while the Bontoc were stuck purchasing jars. In this way, Lumawig taught the people to use what they have and this is how they came to have what they own now.

I’m thinking that eventually the Ifugao of the Igorot eventually were given rice. This is because they are the ones known for having made “The Eighth Wonder of the World”… the Banaue Rice Terraces. This landmark is probably the most well known of the Igorot’s accomplishments. The terraces were made with minimal tools, largely by hand, and cover around 4,000 square miles of land- so extensive that if the steps were to be laid end to end, it would stretch half way around the world. The terraces are still in use today for cultivating rice and vegetables, watered by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above. However, the terraces are beginning to erode due to lack of care and use as people are drawn away from the agricultural life and into the tourism industry.

Nevertheless, due to their connection to rice, the food became a staple in their cuisine. They would even make a rice wine to be served by the host at parties and drank in large amounts at public festivities. The counterpart to the white rice wine was a broth made of camote and… rice! They would also eat kinal-oy which combined rice with sliced camote and a leafy vegetable. Thus, rice was often included in their meals and became an integral part of their diet.

                During the celebrations and rituals, the Igorot would often dance in community. They would dance for many reasons… to appease the ancestors and gods; for victory in war; to fight natural disasters; and for many other ceremonial purposes. However, dance was also a means of expression- a way to congregate, socialize, and release emotions. Igorot dance functioned as a way to pray for a more promising future and to honor significant stages in life.

As I had mentioned in the first article, the Ibaloi dance the Bendiyan Dance which is a victory dance to praise the actions of courageous warriors. In this dance the downward movement of the hands signifies the people’s affinity with the earth while there is a stamping of the feet. It is made up of a long line of dancers, starting with the musicians followed by the men and then the women.

The Bontoc danced the Pattong as a part of their head hunting and war ceremonies. It was meant to give the warriors the bravery and strength to hunt their enemies. Also, it was danced from February to April in order to appeal to Lumawig for rain. The dance was often an improvised story line of two tribes confronting one another, ending in the death of an enemy warrior.

In celebration of successful harvest and thanksgiving, the tribes would dance the Bumayah. The men and women would take part in this dance as they imitated a rooster scratching the ground, joyously thanking the gods for a plentiful season. And finally, one of the courtship dances was the Takik. This was a flirtatious dance where male instrumentalists would provide the music for a man and woman engaging in a love dance. They would dance in a line, with the gongbeater taking up the back- dancing more complex steps than the rest. During the dance, the gongbeater will dramatically pause to stick out his foot to set an expressive tone.

                Therefore, it is clear that the Igorot were a dynamic people. They had many different aspects in their society and we are still able to know discover facts about the lives they led by their traditions that have carried on and the marks they left behind on planet earth.


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