Society-IFUGAO

The Ifugao (Ifugaw, Ipugao, Yfugao) occupy an area of from 750 (LeBar
1975: 78) to 970 square miles, roughly equivalent to the province
of Ifugao, as well as small regions of neighboring provinces in the
central Cordillera of northern Luzon in the Philippine Islands. The
area is located at approximately long. 120 degrees 75 min. to 121
degrees 50 E and lat. 16 degrees 50 min. to 17 degrees N. The Ifugao
are part of a group of indigenous mountain peoples of northern Luzon,
which also includes the Bontok and Kalinga (Chaffee et al. 1969: 47).
The most common subgroup designations for the Ifugao, usually taken
from population centers or geographic locations, include: Bunhian
(Bungian) and Mayoyao (Mayoyo, Mayaoyao, Mayawyaw) in the northeast;
Halipan (Salipnan, Silipan) in the southeast; Kiangan (Quiangan) in
the southwest; and Banaue (Banawi, Benauwe) and Hapao (Sapao, Japao,
Hapaw) in the northwest. Kiangan is the name most frequently used
by neighboring groups to refer to the Ifugao in general. Today the
people who inhabit Ifugao Province refer to themselves as Ifugao,
but the area contains a number of non-Ifugao speakers, and there are
also people who are culturally and linguistically Ifugao but who call
themselves something else because of contemporary political boundaries.

The Ifugao language is Malayo-Polynesian. Conklin classifies it within
his northern group of Philippine languages, while Dyen includes it
within a North Cordilleran Cluster of his Cordilleran Hesion. Ifugao
is closely related to Bontok and Kankanai, with a probable separation
of the linguistic groups somewhere around 900 A.D. (LeBar 1975: 78).

Population estimates on the Ifugao in the twentieth century have varied
from 60,000 to over 100,000, with a 1960 census figure of 76,888 (Conklin
1967/1968: iii). Population density in some areas approaches 400 per
square mile.

Ifugao subsistence is derived principally from agriculture (84 percent),
with an additional ten percent derived from the raising of aquatic
fauna, such as minnows and snails, in flooded rice fields. The remaining
six percent of subsistence activities involve fishing (fish, eels,
frogs, snails, and water clams [ginga]; hunting (deer, wild buffalo
and pigs, civet cat, wild cat, python, iguana, cobra, and fruitbat);
and the gathering of insects (locust, crickets, and ants) as well
as a large variety of wild plants. The primary source of animal food
in the diet comes from fishing, further supplemented by hunting and
the collecting of insects. Wild plants do not form a significant part
of the diet. Monkeys, although hunted, are not eaten. Rice (in flooded
fields) and sweet potatoes (on swiddens) are the principal crops,
supplemented by maize, taro, yams, cowpeas, lima beans, okra, greengrams
and other legumes, sugarcane, and tobacco. Coffee is the main export,
and other tree crops include jackfruit, grapefruit, rattan, citrus,
areca, coconut, banana, guava, and cacao. Terracing, often extending
more than 1,000 feet up a mountainside, is extensively used. Irrigation
is controlled by elaborate systems of dikes and sluices. Fields are
worked with wooden spades and digging sticks. Ritual accompanies all
stages of rice cultivation. Rice is the prestige crop, and a man's
status is determined by his rice fields. Sweet potatoes, on the other
hand, while an important staple food crop, enjoy low prestige value.

Conklin's (1967/1968) intensive survey of a 40-square-mile portion
of northcentral Ifugao revealed a division of the region into some
25 discrete, agriculturally-defined "districts" (himpuntona'an), which
were traditionally geographic units with ritual functions. The focal
center of each agricultural "district" was a named ritual plot, the
first to be planted and harvested each year.

In the Ifugao economy, barter has been replaced by rice and money
for exchange. The Ifugao import livestock, cotton, brass wire, cloth,
beads, crude steel, and Chinese jars and gongs (status symbols). Families
own rice and forest lands and heirlooms, which are passed on to the
children, but may be sold in emergencies. Personal property consists
of houses, valuable trees, and sweet potato crops. Unowned land belongs
to anyone who clears and plants it.

The general pattern of settlement is that of small, named hamlets,
consisting of from 8 to 12 houses (with 30 or more persons), located
on hillocks or on spurs along the sides of mountain valleys, invariably
near the rice fields. Settlement clusters are not found among the
Mayoyao, however; each dwelling is situated as near as possible to
the owner's fields. Houses are well made of timber and thatch, raised
on four posts, and are characterized by their pyramidal roof construction.
Less permanent structures, such as the house for the unmarried (agamang),
are frequently built directly on the ground.

Government institutions are poorly developed among the Ifugao, and
chiefs, councils, and politically defined districts or other units
are lacking in the traditional culture. "The functions of government
are (or were) accomplished by the operation of collective kinship
obligations, including the threat of blood feud, together with common
understanding of the adat or custom law given the people by ancestor
heroes, in particular the inviolability of personal and property rights."
Informal arbitrators (monbaga), who are "respected men of wealth skilled
in knowledge of genealogy and adat," and whose decisions can be backed
up by a large and powerful kin group, serve as go-betweens who "negotiate
and witness property dealings, marriage transactions and the like,
and who are paid for their services" (LeBar 1975: 81). A very loose
type of community leadership has traditionally been achieved, however,
through the role of the "rice chief," one of the leading priests of
the area, to whom members of the community give voluntary obeisance.
The principal function of the "rice chief" was merely to determine
on which days certain religious customs of common interest to all
should be observed. The "rice chief" (manu'ngaw) had very little real
authority for he could not enforce the decisions he had made, nor
could he in any way change the laws dictated by the adat. The bonds
of kinship served to unite the people of a particular valley or watershed
area, but feelings of solidarity rarely extended much beyond the local
area. Beyond this so-called "home-region" were zones of increasingly
less friendly contacts, culminating in an outer "war zone," the locale
of headhunting raids.

Social stratification was traditionally based on the accumulation
of wealth in terms of rice, water buffalo, and slaves. The ranks or
statuses (they are not really classes) are: the kadangyan, the wealthy
aristocrats; the natumok, who are families with relatively little
land and as a result are greatly dependent on the kandangyan for their
existence; the nawatwat, or very poor, with no land at all (including
servants and tenants on the lands of the wealthy); and, finally, the
slaves. The political power of the kandangyan is in terms of prestige
and influence rather than institutionalized authority, but is still
often considerable. There was a tendency toward endogamy among the
kandangyan. Slaves were only rarely kept, most often being sold to
lowlanders. There was no hereditary slave class.

Monogamy was the normal form of marriage, although polygyny was practiced
occasionally by the wealthy. In cases of polygyny, the first wife
has higher authority and status than her co-wives. Marriages are alliances
between kindreds. First cousin marriages are forbidden in both theory
and practice, but marriages to more distant cousins can take place,
with suitable payment of fines in livestock. Bride-price is present.
Residence is left to the personal choice of the married couple and
usually results in settlement near the largest rice field holding
of either partner. First children tend to inherit irrigated farmland,
but otherwise inheritances are divided among all legitimate children.

Each sibling group is the center of an exogamous, bilateral kindred,
which is reckoned vertically to great-great-grandparents and laterally
to third cousins. Each kindred is collectively responsible for the
actions and welfare of its members. Eggan (1967) mentions a regional
descent group or "cognatic stock," which includes those persons in
a particular region who claim descent from a common deified culture
hero. The "clan district" mentioned by Beyer and Barton (1911) seems
to be the same as Conklin's "agricultural district." Conklin's districts,
however, cannot be defined as localized kin groups. Ifugao kinship
terminology is generational with a Hawaiian-type cousin terminology.

Igugao religion is pantheistic in nature and has a well-developed
cosmology. Adult males traditionally functioned as priests within
their kindreds and invoked the spirits of departed ancestors within
their own and closely related kin groups. This is a part-time occupation,
and payment is made in meat and drink. Most rites involve invocation,
prayer, and spirit possession on the part of the priest and inevitably
require some type of offering. Illness is believed to be caused by
deities acting with the consent of the ancestors and is treated by
a priest through the medium of divination and curing rites. If the
deities refuse to return the soul of the person they have made sick,
despite the best efforts of the priest to effect a cure, then the
person dies. Illness and death can also be caused by sorcery and the
evil eye. The tulud is a witchcraft ceremony in  which characters
of a recited myth are made to perform the desire of the priest.

For an easily accessible and concise summary of Ifugao culture, see
LeBar (1975: 78-82).

Culture summary by Martin J. Malone



Beyer, H. Otley.
 An Ifugao burial ceremony.
 By H. Otley Beyer and Roy Franklin Barton.
 Philippine Journal of Science, 6, D (1911): 227-252.
 Chaffee, Frederic H. Area handbook for the Philippines.
 By Frederic H. Chaffee, et al.
 Washington, D.C., U.S.
 Government Printing Office, 1969.
 Conklin, Harold C. Some aspects of ethnographic research in Ifugao.
 New York Academy of Sciences, Transactions, ser.
 2, 30 (1967-1968): 99-121.
 Eggan, Fred.
 Some aspects of bilateral social systems in the northern Philippines.
 In Mario D. Zamora, ed.
 Studies in Philippine Anthropology in Honor of H. Otley Beyer.
 Quezon City, Alemar-Phoenix, 1967: 186-202.
 LeBar, Frank M., ed.
 and comp.
 Ethnic groups of Insular Southeast Asia, Vol.
 2.
 New Haven, Human Relations Area Files Press, 1975.


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