THE IFUGAO: A MOUNTAIN PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
(From TribalSite.com : a forum for all those who share an interest in tribal cultures and ethnographic arts)
The Grand Cordillera Central of Northern Luzon is a jumbled mass of lofty peaks and plummeting ravines, of small fecund valleys cleaved by rainfed, boulder-strewn rivers, and of silent, mist-shrouded, moss-veiled forests wherein orchids in their deathlike beauty unfold like torpid butterflies. Within the rugged confines of this natural bastion live the Ifugao, an independent and conservative people who have for over three hundred years stubbornly resisted the cross and sword of the proselytizing Spanish, the cultural arrogance and monetary clout of American administration and the continuous drive by the independent government of the Philippines toward westernization and acculturation. Progress and modernization may be the order of the day in the capital city of Manila (a harrowing eight hours by road to the south) but the majority of the Ifugao retain their identity and live their lives in accordance with the beliefs and mores of their sacred ancestors.
The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago of some 7,000 islands that range from tiny low-lying sand-ringed coral atolls to the large main islands which are mountainous, heavily wooded and lushly fertile. The first people to arrive in these islands approximately 100,000 years ago were primitive hunters and gatherers who lived off the land’s basic resources. Many thousands of years later (around 9000 BC), diverse groups from insular and mainland Asia arrived with advanced agricultural skills and a sophisticated social structure. From this complex intermingling of peoples and cultures the infrastructure of a civilization was created and the Philippines as an entity was born.
When the explorer Magellan discovered the Philippines in 1521 he encountered along the coastal littoral a militant, predominately Islamic people with extensive trading and diplomatic ties to Indonesia, China, Indochina and Thailand. In 1565 the Spanish returned to the archipelago and established their first permanent settlement on the island of Cebu. From this base they rapidly gained control of the Philippine coastline and by the end of the 16th century had turned their attention to subduing the wild tribes of the interior. In this endeavor the Spanish were only marginally successful; conservative tribal groups continued to flourish in the craggy interiors of Luzon and Mindanao and to a lesser degree in the islands of Mindoro, Palawan and Negros.
Just as the Spanish never relented in their efforts to subdue and convert the Ifugao, either did the Ifugao yield in their struggle to retain their social and spiritual independence. Although the Ifugao are only one of many different conservative tribal groups living in Luzon’s Central Cordillera, they are notably intransigent, having caused Fr. Juan Villaverde, a 19th-century Spanish priest, to write, “The Ifugao is, and believes himself, an absolute king, avenging with his ever-ready lance the smallest offense not only against his person, but also against his house and his estate. They hate like death the least domination on the part of strangers.”
Despite the ongoing effort by both church and government to assimilate and convert the Ifugao, they have remained remarkably unchanged. The Ifugao, who number approximately 120,000, live in widely scattered groups over some 750 square miles of rugged, precipitous terrain where heavy rainstorms are frequently followed by slides, flash floods and washouts. They are an agrarian people deeply involved with the growing of rice, the ritual and magic which surrounds it, and in maintaining the ways of the revered ancestors.
In farming their unstable and harsh country, the Ifugao have acquired a thorough familiarity with local drainage patterns. Their understanding of hydraulic technology, combined with excellent stonemasonry skills and the simplest of hand tools, have enabled them to create the world’s most extraordinary system of rice terracing. Ifugao rice terraces are sturdy stone walls which can reach as high as 50 feet, and are constructed along the land’s natural contours. When finished, the terraces are backfilled and another wall at a slightly higher elevation is constructed. By repeating this process from valley floor to mountain peak, the Ifugao are able to construct their rice fields on the steepest of slopes. But sites are selected carefully, because the terraces require an elevated water source to flood the fields during the growing season. An elevated water source is also of great assistance during initial construction. The dammed water can be released to assist in moving the many tons of boulders, stones and earth required in a new terrace. Irrigation water is frequently brought from great distances by ingenious stone-lined channels and hollow log or bamboo aquaducts that cross canyons and chasms and snake around the sides of mountains.
Rice to the Ifugao is something more than basic sustenance. Over countless generations they have created a balanced, stable society based on rice as a medium of exchange, power and subsistance. Ifugao social status is inexorably linked to the amount of rice harvested, terraces built and all-round good management and business acumen.
Although the mountains yield frugally at the cost of much labor, the production of rice and the building of thousands of miles of stone terracing and irrigation systems are regarded by the Ifugao as a physical manifestation of ritual energy and group cohesiveness. With the help of the ancestors and other spiritual beings (called up on a complex cycle of agricultural rituals and ceremonies), the Ifugao have transformed high mountains and deep ravines into vertical, verdant fields that have allowed them to prosper and remain independent of the vagaries of national politics.
Bound strongly by family ties and the need to be near their fields, the Ifugao live in small, loosely confederated settlements of identical thatched roofed houses. Many years ago, fierce rivalry and constant inter-valley feuding caused villages to be bunched in relatively inaccessible but easily defended locations, but now in more tranquil times, villages are found perched on top of prominent peaks, carefully wedged into steep mountainsides or clustered in valleys. Small, but well constructed, Ifugao houses are appropriate for a people close to the land and to each other. Insofar that the greater part of Ifugao life takes place outdoors, little more is required than storage for a few possessions, a place to sleep, and a shelter in which to rest and cook during inclement weather. In housebuilding, as with most other aspects of traditional Ifugao life, form is dictated by custom and convention.
In traditional Ifugao society upward mobility is founded on ownership and effective management of extensive wet rice terracing, astute borrowing and lending and the support of the gods elicited in magical-religious ceremonies. The commercial instincts of the Ifugao are well developed and there is considerable bartering, exchange and manipulation of assets. Progression from the lower to the upper strata of society is accomplished through the accumulation of wealth, marked by a series of increasingly lavish rituals, feasts, sacrifices and commissioning of artifacts corresponding to the position sought or gained. Although this pursuit is an extremely costly undertaking that requires the support of kith and kin, enormous prestige and privileges are gained, including the right to wear certain ornaments and dress, to display elaborate house emblems and architectural refinements, and be buried in a particular style of coffin. In earlier times, martial prowess and headhunting skills were also important factors in achieving upward mobility; nowadays, these particular skills are less important.
Socially the ritual process of advancement helps to ensure the distribution of wealth (as represented by rice and animals), provides an outlet for the energetic and ambitious, and encourages the continuous building of terraces and the production of rice. By following this sytem wealth is not accumulated to excess but is restored to the community in return for privileges and honor. Competition is fierce among the aspirants as each struggles to demonstrate their munificence to the people, while with largesse and rituals they seek the support of powerful spiritual beings.
Religious rites accompany every significant phase of Ifugao life and provide a means by which the unknown or unexplained can be approached and understood. Ifugao religion is a vastly complex structure based on ancestor worship, animism and magical power. The Ifugao pantheon consists of innumerable spiritual entities that represent natural elements, forces and phenomena in addition to ancestral and methphysical beings. The trust and confidence that the Ifugao have in these beings allow them to face what is often a complex and frightening world with a great deal of confidence and understanding. They believe that the gods and other beings are approachable and can be influenced by the proper rites and behavior to intercede on behalf of an individual or the entire community. Generally the gods are viewed as generous and benign beings who enjoy feasting, drinking wine and chewing betel nut, as do the Ifugao themselves. However, the gods are quick to anger and if ignored or treated badly can quickly become ill-tempered, demanding tyrants capable of causing misfortune and injury.
|The Ifugao have created an extensive ceremonial cycle in which their deities are honored and feted (such ceremonies also ensure their support and cooperation). Some deities, although acknowledged, are rarely if ever called upon; others with influence over such daily matters as agriculture, health or fighting are in constant demand. Of perhaps the greatest importance to the Ifugao are rice or agricultural deities which have the power to ensure bountiful crops and actually increase the amount of rice already in storage. To accommodate these plenipotent and often voracious spirits, an Ifugao farmer will hire a community artisan to carve a pair of wooden effigies (known as Bululs) which serve as a temporary earthly home to which the rice dieties can be drawn. Although Bululs (usually male and female together) are expensive and are viewed as notoriously demanding, they are considered a wise investment because of their power to augment rice production. While Bululs and other such effigies are treated as purely functional objects, they are nevertheless handsome and powerful forms that reflect the Ifugaos’ inborn appreciation of aesthetics.|
The creative energy of the Ifugao embodies the values and principles of their deep involvement with agriculture, status and ancestor veneration as well as their relationship with natural and supernatural forces. Art (although the Ifugao would not define it as such) is an integrated part of daily and ceremonial life. The Ifugao are highly skillled craftsmen renowned for their creations which in form and function have been refined over generations. Enjoyment is derived from objects that are both functional and pleasing to the eye; even such utilitarian items as baskets, spoons and bowls are as handsomely crafted as are artifacts and effigies made for the gods. Although secular and religious objects share many of the same images and decorative elements, only those specifically intended for ceremonial use are ritually empowered and in a sense, given life.
In some instances there has occurred a proliferation of extremely specialized forms and designs to meet different applications. In no other area is this more true than Ifugao basketwork, which is rebust, functional and extremely diverse. Although the primary elements of form and structure are largely dictated by custom and propriety, no two objects are exactly alike. Every Ifugao artist has his individual style and personal aesthetics. Ritual boxes, gong handles, bowls and spoons, coffins, wooden beds, lime containers (of wood and human bone), textiles and even houses are ornamented and embellished for no other reason than that of the artist’s pleasure or preference. Whatever the Ifugao make or use, there is generally added another dimension, as knowing hands see and shape the essence contained in a piece of wood, bone or stone, or shape from a lump of clay a form which is both functional and elegant.
The Ifugao appreciation of fine and beautiful objects extends to a variety of imported items, including ancient stoneware and Chinese porcelain jars, bronze gongs, glass and porcelain beads, weavings from other mountain peoples, and a variety of shells (used for jewelry) carried up from the coast. These mainly prestige items are in many instances restricted (either by custom or cost) to wealthy and socially prominent families.
Restrictions also apply in matters of personal adornment: certain garments, designs and tattoos are limited to the nobility, or to specific parts of the body. Some ornaments can be worn on the legs but not on the arms; specific types of tattoos can only be worn by successful head takers. In recent years, however, both tattooing and headtaking have largely ceased and now tattoos are only to be found on the elderly; trophy heads have all but disappeared.
Although Ifugao daily dress is somewhat sparse, devoid of jewelry and consisting of little more than a breechcloth for men and a short skirt for women, ritual wear is colorful and exuberant. Festive and ceremonial occasions provide an opportunity for the Ifugao to don heavily coiled copper leg and arm ornaments, gold necklaces, earrings and headpieces, shell chest ornaments and girdles, boar tusk armlets with handsomely carved figures, precious beads, and elegant woven skirts, loincloths and jackets.
Within the mountains there is a sense of timelessness and continuance as change comes but slowly to a people who cherish the old ways. Over hundreds of years of contact the Ifugao have proven themselves doughty fighters, stubbornly resistant to the siren song of progress. More than three centuries have passed since the Spanish first attempted to subdue the Ifugao. The Spanish have long since departed, as has the colonial American administration, but the Ifugao still endure. By adhering to the ways of the ever-present and watchful ancestors, the Ifugao continue to prosper and grow, in spite of the turmoil and chaos that surrounds their world. Resolutely resisting assmilation and change, the Ifugao remain a society of determined and prideful individuals who in the words of Fr. Juan Villaverde, “Have no king, nor ruler, and pay tribute to no one.”
Recommended Reading on the Ifugao Mountain Tribes
The “Ethnographic Atlas of Ifugao” by Harold C. Conklin, published by the Yale University Press in 1980 is an outstanding example of scholarly research, beautifully presented. Although mainly concerned with land use, terracing, crops and agrarian matters, the Atlas also gives an excellent overview of the Ifugao people and their culture. Not sure if it’s still in print, but probably available through ethnographic and/or antiquarian booksellers.
For those with more of an interest in material culture, I would recomend “The People and Art of the Philippines,” by Father Gabriel Casal, et al. It was published by the Museum of Cultural History at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1981. Although this publication presents more of a general cultural overview of the Philippines, the chapter “Arts and Peoples of the Northern Philippines” by George R. Ellis covers in some detail the mountain people of North Luzon. The text includes an excellent map plus numerous black & white photographs illustrating a rich artistic culture.
If you are a really serious kind of person who would like to explore Ifugao ways and customs in some detail, I would recommend “American Archaeology and Ethnology,” Volume XV, published by University of California Publications – 1919 – 1922. Reprinted by Kraus Reprint – Periodical Service Co. ; 11 Main St. Germantown; New York, N.Y. 12526 This volume covers different aspects of various mountain groups in great detail. Some great photographs, too.
OLD IFUGAO TRADITIONS – BOGWA
(Bone Cleansing Ritual)
by Anderson D Tuguinay
“Bogwa” is the practice of exhuming the bones of the dead, cleaning, rewrapping and returning them to the grave or “lubuk. The Ifugao is one of the ethnic groups in the Cordillera region of the Philippines that practice this tradition of exhuming their dead usually after a year or more depending on the desire and necessity. The Ifugaos traditionally see it as a family responsibility towards the deceased loved one and a necessity for those left behind in order to prosper and live at peace with the spirits of their departed. With all the animals offered to appease the spirits of the dead, the bogwa is one of the most expensive native rituals next to a wedding. Three days of feasting rather than mourning is expected and an open invitation is extended to everyone within or outside the community. Performing bogwa shows not only the love and care to a family member even though he died several years ago but also the concern, love, care and hope for prosperous years for the living ones. Bogwa repeats the normal burial ceremonies and activities when they died without the expression of grief.
Ifugaos before western influence did not embalm their dead nor place it inside coffins. Instead, the corpse is bathed and clothed with the traditional g-string or “binuh-lan” for men and “ampuy-yo” for women. The deceased is seated in betel nut trunks called hadag fabricated under the house or da-ulon. With the absence of embalming chemicals, the corpse decay fast and only the bones remain in the tomb after year duration. Traditionally, early Ifugaos would just open up the tomb (lu-buk/gu-ngat), gather up the bones (tinip-lud) and after cleaning, wrap it in a new burial blanket called gamong. The bones are not brought to the residence for the bogwa but instead returned immediately to the grave. A pig is butchered as an offering to the dead. This is called “pinapong-pong” meaning to take hold or to grasp. It is believed that the sacrificed pig is given to the spirit of the dead who thereby brings it to his ancestors. The “bogwa” comes in later either by necessity or obligation.
Because of current legally required embalming practices, the cadaver is still intact and mummified even after two years, thus the decimation of the “tinip-lud” practice. When the “bogwa” ritual becomes a necessity, the bones have to be separated from the mummified cadaver. The bones have to be forced out from the sockets and the flesh to be scraped out with the use of knives and other instruments. Sometimes the hair and the face are still intact and recognizable but with the tradition, the skin and the hair have to be removed as a requirement for cleaning. The bones are then cleaned and neatly arranged in a new gamong with the leg bones (femur, tibia and fibula) first. The arm bones (humerus, ulna and radius) come in next. Pelvic, rib and other loose bones are gathered in the center of the piled bones. The skull comes finally on top. The burial blanket is folded wrapping the bones in place and carried to the residence for the “bogwa”. Several persons gathered for the wake that would consist of three days and two nights. During the “bogwa”, it is the obligation of the family to serve dinner to persons attending the wake. Snacks, confectioneries and alcoholic beverages are also served. “Hud-hud” is sung nightly by elderly folks who come in droves to attend the wake. Christian religious groups also participate by praying the rosary and singing religious songs during the wake. A “bogwa” is characterized by presence of several persons day and night, as it is customary that even in the wee hours of the morning several persons are seen gathered to where the bones are laid.
Customary to Ifugao traditions, the grave is opened in the morning. The bones are cleaned, wrapped in a new “gamong” and brought to the residence for the “bogwa”. This ritual could be a day wherein the bones are brought back to the grave in the afternoon of the following day or it could be up to three days and two nights. During a three day ritual, the first day is called the “boh-wat”, the second day is called the “kad-wa” and the third is called the “kat-lu”. Pigs are butchered everyday with the exception of a carabao or a large pig during the “kat-lu”. A carabao is butchered if the deceased was not given the traditional “dangli” during his death or if the family wishes.
During this occasion, some parts of the animals butchered are given to relatives as a sign of kinship. This is called “bolwa”. The “lapa” (front legs) and “ulpu” (hind legs) are the choice parts for the “bolwa”. The “lapa” (left and right front legs) are given to families related to the father and mother of the deceased. The “ulpu” is given to the persons who are related to the in-laws of the deceased. The rest of the meat is cut into chunks and cooked as viand for people attending the wake. It is the “mun-ngilin” who decides and directs the separation of meat portions intended for the “bolwa”. The separated meat portions are immediately given to the representative of each clan who in turn calls for clan members and divide the meat amongst them.
In the afternoon of the “katlu” (third day) the bones are brought back to the grave with the usual three gongs accompanying the entourage. The bones are positioned inside the grave with the skull facing opposite the grave opening. Family members enter the grave one at a time slightly shaking the skull saying their farewell. When about to close the slab or stones that seals the grave, two “lawit” is lowered inside and pulled briskly when closed. It is believed that the “lawit” will pull back any stray soul of any person who entered the grave either for reason of doing maintenance work or saying their respects. Once the grave is closed, one of the “lawit” is given to a family member or relative who briskly walks ahead without looking back. When the person carrying the “lawit” reaches the residence, he stacks it in the corner of the house. The other “lawit” is left beside the grave door. A “lawit” is a “pu-dung” or a cogon grass, the leafy edge tied in an over hand knot.
The “munbaki” performs the “kib-kib-lu” or closing rite when the family reaches home. In the prayer (baki) of the pagan priest, he asks the “Maknongan” (God) that the “bogwa” benefit the spirit of the deceased and the family. In the “kib-kib-lu” ritual, the jaw bone of the pig butchered during the “katlu” is added to the betel nut (moma), piper betel (hapid) and a bottle of native wine (baya) which are placed in the “liga-u” (rice winnowing tray).
The culminating ritual is the “kig-gad” which is performed a day after the “bogwa”. This is the final and culminating phase. A large rooster (poltan), a large hen (up-pa) and four other medium chickens (umatub-lu) are needed for the ritual. More chickens are added to suffice the viand for those persons present during the ritual which is done by one or two pagan priests. The chicken being offered in the ritual is held by the feet and wings by a person while the “mun-baki” holds the head and incises the neck with a sharp knife. As soon as blood spouts out, the “mun-baki” starts his prayer. The roster and the hen (first and second) are offered to the “mundomod-mang” (genealogy). Only the names of deceased persons are mentioned during the “baki”. The roster and hen are sacrificed one at a time. The third chicken is offered to the “matungulan” or host. It is synonymous to the “maknongan” or supreme god. The “baki” for Matungulan said in part, “dawaton mi ta hay map-map-hod di iliyak ya dumakol di ag-gayam ya imog-mogan”, literally means praying for bountiful harvest and plentiful livestock. Bountiful harvest does not only refer to products from the rice fields but also from the habal or slash and burn agriculture.
The fourth chicken is offered to the “manah-ha-ut” from the Tuwali word “ha-ut” (noun) or “mun-ha-ut” (adjective) meaning to deceive or to cause to believe what is not true. The offering is intended so that the individual or family does not become a victim of deception or false belief. The “mun-ha-ut” symbolizes the fallacies and false belief of an individual that will tend to imperil his aspirations.
The fifth chicken is offered to the “ido”. The “ido” or “pit-pit”, a jargon in the Tuwali –Kiangan dialect is a small boisterous colorful bird with red and black feathers which is regarded as the bird that imparts an omen for a journey. It is believed that when the bird intersects the trail (mun-a-lawa) you are traveling, it is implying a warning that an untoward incident may happen. Traditionally, the traveler used to discontinue the journey or step aside from the trail for a few minutes to let the misfortune pass by. However, if the “ido” moves parallel to the trail seemingly accompanying the person, it is a sign of good luck. Idiomatically, the “ido” symbolizes the obstacles we encounter in our daily life. It is in this offering where the “munbaki” pleads in his prayer (tobotbal) that there will be no obstacles for the individual who toils for his welfare and wellbeing of the family.
The sixth chicken is offered as “paki-dal-da-lanan”. It is derived from the Tuwali word “dalan” (way) or “mun-dal-lanan” (to walk). In essence, it is the relation of an individual with the community and other people. The offering is for the charisma or luck of an individual that he may be blessed in all his undertakings and aspirations.
The bile of the animals and chickens sarificed in the ritual is inspected and given prognosis. Bile which is black and seemingly round, imbedded neatly and covered by the liver lobe is called “mabga”. This is the best prognosis as the offering is well accepted by the one to whom it is offered. If the bile is full but pale in appearance, it is called “im-makig”. The interpretation is that the spirit of the deceased wishes to take one of the family member with him in the unknown world. When the apex of the bile lies exceptionally outside the liver, it is called “mun-dung-dung-o”. It comes from the Tuwali word “dung-o” meaning to peep or looking through from the outside. The prognosis means that the spirit of the deceased is always looking at the family. Another type of bile prognosis is the “nakupo”. This is when the bile is exceptionally pale, thin and without any fluid. It connotes emptiness. Except for the “mab-ga” prognosis, the others are not favorable. Some rituals are recommended to attain bile which is “mab-ga”.
According to Apu Inugwidan, a well respected “munbaki” from Kiangan, Ifugao, there are three reasons why “bogwa” is performed, namely – “ligat” (hardship), when a widower plans to remarry (mun-bintan), and “ule” (kindness). The Tuwali word “ligat” is a synonymous to the Ilocano word “rigat” which means hardship or suffering. A family member who becomes sick is a form of “ligat”. It is believed that a spirit of the dead is causing the illness. It is also manifested in unusual dreams wherein it is believed that a spirit is implying a message. Extreme scenarios could be manifested by paranormal activities such feeling the unusual presence of the spirit (ma-min-da-ang), unexplained hearing of voices or other unusual occurrences. Personal accounts of some individuals who performed the “bogwa” because of unusual occurrences revealed that when the tomb was opened, it was found out to be flooded. It could also be that the grave could be full of ants or termites or a nail from the coffin pressing against the cadaver.
During earlier times when the “baki” was rigorously and meticulously practiced by early Ifugaos, it is customary that the family performs the “ketema” when a family member gets sick. “Ketema” is a “baki” ritual itself which involves the butchering of chickens. It is however more specific in determining who among the spirits of the dead relatives and deities causing the illness. The ritual is performed by three of more pagan priests depending on the necessity. As the ritual gains its momentum, the pagan priest/priestess performing the “ketema” would be more agitated as they mention individually the names of dead relatives and deities. As the pagan ministers chant the “ketema”, one among the persons present in the ritual would suddenly go in a trance, trembles and speaks incoherently which is a sign that the person is possessed (nih-kopan). Through the possessed person, the spirit identifies itself and makes known what he/she wishes to be done. In some instances, the spirit of the dead would request that he/she be brought home for the “bogwa”. The spirit would then leave the possessed person in a daze. So it is from this reason that the family shall perform the “bogwa” as a necessity no matter how costly it may be.
With the decrease of persons knowledgeable in performing the “baki”, families resort to “agba” instead of the costly “ketema” in determining whose remains are to be brought home for the “bogwa”. The “agba” is a method of the “mun-baki” to determine which ancestor is causing the illness. The ritual is done by one “munbaki” (pagan priest) with the use of two eggs, knives and other materials as a sign that the name of a spirit mentioned is the one causing the malady. The ritual starts with a “tobotbal” (prayer). Then the pagan priest one at a time utters the names of deceased relatives and at the same time place two eggs or two knives on top of the other. Surprisingly, when the name of the spirit causing the malady is mentioned, the eggs or knives used in the ritual stand upright on top of each for a few seconds thus giving the prognosis. It is however surprising that the materials used would not stand on top of each other if the name called is not the spirit causing the illness. When the spirit is identified, the “mun-agba” would then act as the medium and informs what the spirit desires or needs to be done. No chicken is sacrificed in this ritual.
Persons who die from violence are buried without the traditional butchering of the carabao called “dangli”. It is however a must that the bones be brought home for the bogwa after a year or more from the date of the burial. Seven to nine days after the victim is buried, the family performs the “opa”. It is a “baki” ritual practically focussed in calling the spirit of the dead to get down from the sky. It is believed that after the person have died from the violent incident, the spirit, after leaving the mortal body wondered up in the sky. Name calling in the ritual sometimes include the names of living persons who help or handled the victim after the incident. When the family feels that it is a necessity to bring home the bones for the bogwa, the opa ritual it is again done in the morning before the bones are brought in the afternoon. A pig is butchered during the opa ritual. A cluster of the red “dongla” leaves are tied to the hilt of the spear which is briskly raised towards the sky in the direction of the sun by the pagan minister who shouts name of the dead person. The spear is abruptly reversed with the blade towards the liga-u (rice winowing tray) shaking it briskly. It is during the bogwa that the traditional “dangli” is finally butchered. The bones are brought back traditionally to the grave after the ritual.
The Tuwali word “u-le” means kindness. The “kadangyan” (wealthy) or financially capable family performs the “bogwa” for no other reason than to maintain the tradition of remembering the dead. This is done as recognition for their wealth and prestige. It is also done as a basis for a reunion of relatives and clans. Ifugaos believe that when the dead are taken cared of and given what is due in a cultural tradition, the kindness shall be returned in the form of peace and prosperity for the family.
Bogwa is still performed by the Ifugaos. Some of the non-Ifugao settlers also perform the “bogwa”. The rituals for the “bogwa” is basically bone cleaning and a repetition of customs and traditions accorded to the recently deceased. The consistency of bogwa shows the love and care to a family member even though he had died several years ago. Bogwa as a tradition is more of a personal responsibility towards a love one rather than performing it as a necessity.
Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines
01 December 2009
The ABU’WAB tales of rice rituals
“There is a woman and a man named Bugan and Wigan who live at Ducligan. They have healthy chickens, pigs and children. They farm their rice. One day, the people of Ducligan were performing the pangnga sacrifice. The wife Bugan asks Wigan the Ifugao. “Where are you going, Wigan?” Wigan the Ifugao says: “I am going to drink with the people of Ducligan who are performing the pangnga sacrifice” Wigan gets his spear and dagger and goes to drink with the people of Ducligan. By midmorning, the people of ducligan drop down their seedlings as they perform the pangnga sacrifice…”
“…The earthquake of the underworld says : let me invite the thunderer of the skyworld, the farmer deities of the Deity of lagud and of the Deity Giving-growth of the Underworld, and the Farmer deities of the Thunderer of the Skyworld so that they may raise the rice up” The thunderer of the Skyworld and the Farmer deities ask : “Are you inviting us, Earthquaker of the Underworld?” The Earthquaker of the underworld says : ” Yes, I am inviting you to raise up the rice of Bugan and Wigan at Ducligan who sacrifice to you.” They say : “Yes, we shall do.”
On account of this, the soul of the rice of Bugan and Wigan at Ducligan returned and their rice multiplied. Bugan and Wigan live at Ducligan with their pigs, chickens and children…”
(excerpt from 106 IFUGAO ABU’WAB TALES documented by Franz Lambrecht, CICM from 1932 to 1957; Compiled, Annotated and Edited by Carlos R. Medina, Ph.D.)