Preservation and Promotion of the Cordillera Cultural Heritage and Addressing Prevailing Issues in Society

Written by Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D. on .

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Preservation and Promotion of the Cordillera Cultural Heritage and Addressing Prevailing Issues in Society

Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D. 

College Vice President, Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC)

Member, Council of Elders, Igorot Global Organization

The Philippine Cordillera

  • Located in the north-central part of Luzon

  • Dubbed as “watershed cradle of North Luzon”

  • Has a mountainous topography with towering peaks, plateaus, valleys, winding rivers that contributed to the significantly unique lifestyle and culture of the people.

  • The 1987 Philippine Constitution finally recognized the clamor of the Cordillerans for autonomy which is expected to promote development.

  • The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) was created by virtue of EO 220 issued by President Corazon C. Aquino on July 15, 1987.

…...however, the organic act that would have granted the religion its autonomy was rejected twice by the people of the Cordillera in 1990 and 1998... hence, CAR remains an administrative region instead of an AUTONOMOUS region.



  • Abra 

  • Apayao

  • Benguet

  • Ifugao

  • Kalinga 

  • Mountain Province

Baguio City

  • 76 municipalities composed of 1172 barangays.


  • Regional center

  • Summer Capital of the Philippines


  • Gold and copper mines

  • Climate suitable to upland vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants – cabbage, celery, carrot, potato, beans, lettuce, sweet peas, broccoli, beets, mushroom, banana, pineapple, strawberry, citrus, persimmon, passion fruit, several varieties of cutflower, coffee, tobacco, mango, apple and pears.


  • Banaue Rice Terraces

  • Maligcong Rice Terraces

  • Sagada Caves

  • Benguet Flower Gardens

  • Handicraft industries


  • Lang-ay (Mountain Province) )

  • Panagbenga (Baguio City)

  • Arya Abra (Abra)

  • Adivay (Benguet)

  • Imbayah or Gotad (Ifugao)

  • Ullalim & Pinikpikan (Kalinga)

  • Sinursor/ Sinangdila (Apayao)

BIMAAK (Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Abra, Apayao, Kalinga) 

the identity of every province is captured in each provincial seal.

The commonality of all provinces as reflected in the seals are the following:

  1. Abundant God-given resources – symbolized by the mountains, valleys, hills, river systems, waterfalls, majestic terraces, green fields that carry with them the people’s resilience, steadfastness, and self-reliance in the face of adversity and challenge. Among the Igorots are their innate indigenous engineering skills, and agricultural potentials to develop tourism landmarks.

  2. Heavenly Bodies – The stars and sun in emblems give impression of sun rays at daybreak heralding the dawning era. The stars signify that the region is integral part of the Philippines contributing substantially to national development. The rising sun depicts the glories of the people’s past. The rays of the sun symbolize the people’s indigenous knowledge as the light in attaining the people’s vision.

  3. Gong – This instrument gives sound to convey unity, cohesion and solidarity towards the attainment of a singular and unified vision for development and industrialization. It also symbolizes the highland culture of the Cordillerans being optimistic in their outlook.

  4. Shield/ Spear and Head Ax – These gadgets speak of the courage of the people, the tradition weapon for self-defense. These are all symbolic weapons of war, protection against ignorance, apathy and intolerance. They also symbolize the Igorots’ indomitable spirit of preserving their way of life, their environment, their customs and traditions.

  5. Symbolic shapes – The triangular shape manifests stability and strength. The circles and wheels stand for earnest vision of every province towards development and industrialization.


… should be preserved and promoted because it is the identity of the Cordillerans wherever they are...

  1. Intangible heritage – songs, chants, dances, rituals, values, indigenous knowledge and technologies.

  2. Tangible heritage – our different bamboo/rattan crafts, our costumes, the engineering structures like the rice terraces, the farm implements and the rice granaries, as well as the man-made dams.

Guidelines on chants, dances, costumes…

  1. Among the Benguets, most gong-dances are to be performed by elders only and not to be performed by the teenagers or children since the music of the gongs are part of the ritual to appease or drive spirits. Gong-dances are played during wakes. Allowing the young children is a taboo since they do not understand the ritual. On the contrary, in Mountain Province, gong-dances are not only part of the ritual but part of community celebrations like weddings, welcome parties, family reunion.

  2. As a Cordillera cultural protocol, the specific ethnic culture should be respected in terms of the performance of chants and dances. The Bendian dance among the Benguets, victory or festival dances among other provinces may be learned, performed with appropriate costumes for identity. There are commonalities and differences in steps and arm positions as well as specific costumes that should be properly followed.

  3. If cultural presentation or performance is to satisfy viewers, the original ethnic dance should be differentiated from choreographed presentations. Originality of dances is hardly maintained since most cultural artists have the tendency to do choreography. In most choreographed Igorot dances, steps of Muslim dances are integrated. To some extent, costumes are misused.

  4. To maintain originality, the proper use of costumes should be observed. The tapis among women is worn knee-level or below the knee. The G-string is worn with a knot worn without brief.

  5. When rituals are to be presented for information purposes, it should be accompanied with literature and the actual butchering of animals on stage be stopped unless the ritual is performed for its actual specific purpose.

  6. In order not to mislead the viewer, it should be made clear if the dance is choreographed and has integrated several dance steps and costumes.


  1. Rice wine or any other wine is always sipped to maintain friendly relationship with the living and the dead. It is to be offered freely as a means to acknowledge the bountiful harvest from Kabunyan, the Almighty. 

  2. Gong-dances are always in circular arrangement as a sign of unity, solidarity and teamwork and with specific purposes.

  3. Wisdom in elders is manifested in their indigenous knowledge of extemporaneous recital of prayers during rituals; narration of historical events, commitment in doing assigned tasks for the community’s welfare.

  4. Dance-chants performed by both sexes during festivities or wakes are common among all ethnic tribes in Cordillera.

  5. Rattan or bamboo wares and other farm implements were original among the Igorots as means to maximize their resources and for specific uses. While these antiques reveal the ingenuity and tells the life of Igorots in the past, it is getting lost due to lack of appreciation and advocacy. As a result, remnants of such ancestors’ legacy have gone to world museums for exhibits.

  6. The indigenous knowledge of back strap weaving, tattooing, mummification, food preservation, stone engineering, rice farming, cooperatives, local governance is innate among the Igorots.

  7. The spirituality of the Igorots in general is encompassed in their strong belief in the power of the Almighty referred as Kabunyan, Alwagan, Lumauig or sometimes termed as Adikaila,Nintongtongdo or Manakaalin. With such belief, the core values of inayan, laton, may kasiyana, lawlawa baw, etc.,are their guiding philosophies in their everyday living.


Towards the abatement of such societal issues, the following recommendations are posed:

  1. Documentation of tangible and intangible heritage should be copyrighted as the Igorots' intellectual property before they are pirated by other artists or authors.

  2. There should be continuing advocacy and promotions of the Igorot culture through conferences, symposia and other forms.

  3. There should be an aggressive continuing education among the youths on the dances, chants, indigenous technologies for them to understand their implication for the development.

  4. A Guidebook for tourists or travelers should be made as to the DONTs and DOs when in the Cordillera.



Presented as powerpoint during the 4th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK-Europe (ICBE) Consultation held in Dublin, Ireland from 17-20 May 2007. 


N.B. For easier access to the powerpoint’s contents, we are providing the text. YKB2019 


About the Author

Caridad Bomas-ang Fiar-od is a retired Vice-President and College Professor at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College in Bontoc Poblacion, Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines.

After retirement, she was hired by then Governor Maximo B. Dalog on job order as Executive Assistant on Cultural and International Affairs. She was later hired by Governor Leonard G. Mayaen as Executive Assistant to coordinate and facilitate external affairs and research-related activities. She was Chairperson of the Scholarship Program of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) and of the Association of Retired Mentors of Bontoc.

Prior to her passing away due to a lingering illness on November 17, 2013,  Caridad worked as an insurance agent for Philippine American Life Insurance (PhilAm Life) for about two years.   

Caridad was born in Besao, Mountain Province on August 1, 1946. She graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Homemaking from the Mountain State Agricultural College (now Benguet State University or BSU). She pursued a Masters course and her degree in Doctor of Philosophy also at BSU.   

She is a staunch advocate of the Igorot culture. As such, she has been invited as a guest speaker to conferences of the IGO in the US and to ICBE consultations in Europe. 

She has written 14 books from 1999 until 2011. Her first book is “Besao Traditional Knowledge on Spiritual Beliefs.” One of her last books is a memoir, “Living the Igorot Culture: A Legacy.”

She was married to Teresde (Terry) Forawan Fiar-od, of Barlig, Mountain Province. Terry died on December 14, 1999 and left Caridad with eight children to support. With six children-in-law, she is a grandmother of nine grandchildren. 

Caridad is an Igorot, and belongs to the Galeled clan of Besao and Manengba clan of Sagada and Besao, Mountain Province. 

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