Northern Philippines • Igorot: The People of the Mountains
The Banaue Community Hall is a large room on the third floor of a big building right in front of the town’s tuk-tuk terminal. They have a set of chairs lined up at the back of the room and the place is near empty as we walk in. The girls sit in the front row and I sit between them in the row behind.
Quick to make good on my newfound resolution to blog about my trip, my camera is right on my lap.
A group of men, women and children dressed in traditional clothing suddenly begin to appear at the other end of the room and the leader of the group approaches us to begin their presentation. He waits for a moment so that the newcomers can find their sits.
He’s about to tell us about the Ifugao region and his people, the Igorot.
Originally called Ipugao (a combination of “i” [from/people] and “pugo” [hill]), the region got it’s name changed from a “p” to an “f” because it was easier to pronounce for the American settlers who occupied the region after the Spanish regime ended.
The Ifugao region is home to various tribes who belong collectively to the Igorot or “People of the Mountain”, comprised of many groups like the Tuwali, Kalanguya and Ayangan tribes.
As our presenter says:
“So here in the Ifugao society there are three social standings of people: we have the kadangyan or the upper class family, we have also the middle class, we have also what we call the nawatwat or the poor class.
And you can determine the tribal differences through the dialect that they speak, through the colors and the designs of their attires, through the movements of their body when they’re dancing and of course through the sounds of the beat of their gongs”
The presentation includes some examples of traditional clothing for female and male members of the Tuwali tribe as well as some of the tribal dances and songs that have been passed down through generations in the region.
Here’s an edited video I made which shows one of the performances we saw at the presentation:
It is a definite must-see when you visit Banaue because of how well presented it is and the fact it is not so common to see this type of cultural events throughout Southeast Asia when you’re on the backpacker trail.
Near the end of the presentation we got to participate in the dance and that was pretty cool. Unfortunately I couldn’t get video or photos of that, but don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll find a way to embarrase myself on the internet soon enough.
Overall we left the hall feeling very good about learning a bit of the culture in Banaue and the Ifugao region. It’s definitely an experience that should be had and aside from being a good investment of an hour and a half of your time, it’s a very good way to support the families of the performers who help you understand more about the world you live in.
We went to bed early that night, so we could rest for the upcoming hike in the rice terraces the next day. It would be murder.