What is it in our Culture that Should be Passed on to the Next Generation

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What is it in our Culture that Should be Passed on to the Next Generation

Collated by Yvonne Belen


During the 3rd Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK-Europe (ICBE) Consultation in Aeschi, Switzerland on 5-8 May 2005, we requested the participants to write their ideas and/or thoughts on the topic: What is it in our Culture that Should be Passed on to the Next Generation. Many replied and we collated the responses. 

Earlier, for the Igorot European Consultation held in Vienna, Austria on 29 May-1 June 2003, Ayban (or) Edmund Sr. Bugnosen wrote an article: Igorot Values: Some Personal Thoughts. We got an excerpt from the article. 

Fast forward to January 2020 and around 15 years after the 3rd ICBE Consultation, we requested our compatriots in ICBE for ideas on the same topic since we believe it is still relevant. We received three responses and included these in the material collated earlier.  

So, for this article, there are three parts: 

First, are the responses of the 3rd ICBE Consultation participants in 2005. Second, is an excerpt from the article by Ayban (or) Edmund Sr. Bugnosen in 2003. Third, are the replies of Kristine Gayep Kawi Gorans, Jane Klee-Morgens and Christina T. Moncado in  2020.


By Caridad B. Fiar-od (Philippines)

If culture is dynamic as affected by migration, education, religion, etc., one day the Igorot Culture shall have lost its identity unless this generation makes an effort to pass some aspects of the Igorot culture to the next generation.

As such, foremost, the identifiable spirituality of the Igorots should be passed on. The spirituality of the Igorots manifested in different ways, in different places and different times in accordance with its applicability in terms of specific ethnic beliefs is what matters. Spirituality as practiced by the older generation of Igorots is acknowledging the Supernatural Being or Creator with or without performing a ritual at any time yet giving due respect to whatever religious affiliation he belongs to. The Creator is referred as God, the Almighty, the Powerful, the source of life, the Creator of all things termed in different local/ethnic names like Kabunian/Lumauig, Alawagan to the Isnags, Nintotongcho to the Bontocs, Adikaila to the Kankanaeys, Apo Dios, Manakabalin, Allah, etc. Being spiritual or believing in the value of spirituality, redounds to respect of land, bodies of water or the environment in general which is anchored on the belief that a spirit or spiritual deity present in every living creature controls its life per se. The belief in the presence of spirits by the power of a Supernatural Being is a manifestation that there is a God.

Secondly, on matters of the Igorot as a social being, the next generation for identity should make effort to learn and understand Igorot rituals expressed in cultural dances, songs, chants, traditional choreography, literary arts, etc. with the proper instrument/gadgets, costumes as well as their meanings, origins, and what each color, design/icons symbolize or represent. The originality and uniqueness of every ethnic culture in the Igorot communities should further be learned and understood parallel to other cultures where they are immersed, before the original Igorot Culture gets lost. Being knowledgeable on all those mentioned above would avoid misinterpretation or negative impact and instead would lead to the voluntary appreciation of the Igorot culture.

Another identity of the Igorots which should be passed on to the next generation is whatever applicable indigenous knowledge and appropriate technologies relevant to making the most of whatever least resources for healthy living, or long life.

As a whole, the second generation, before making the necessary innovation/adjustment, should understand first what it means to be an Igorot defined by culture, what it means to be a Christian Igorot defined by one’s spiritual beliefs and unique traditions, and what it means to be a successful social being defined by one’s ideology acceptable in a global society anywhere around the world.


By Marjorie Lev (Israel)

“Inayan” is my favorite because it is a kind of discipline from your parents that goes on from generation to generation. 

Every time a child starts to talk and understand what is good and bad like if they pinch, fight or bite other children, they always say, “Ene inayan na into no innikikan da abes ken sik-a!” The same as they grow older. If they lie or steal, inayan is always there. It is also a differentiation to know right from wrong.

In short, for me, it is the “Golden Rule” of the Igorots.

Finally, I am thinking a lot about how modern life changed most generations these days, how we have in many ways lost our way morally.

Secondly, the “BagBaga” goes hand in hand with “Inayan.” BagBaga are pieces of advice not only from our elders, parents, but also from anybody who wants to share their knowledge, experience bad or good, especially how they change their lives, how they became successful.

I have an uncle that every time we are gathered to my aunties’ or my uncles’ house if he is around, he always tells us, “You know it is not only the professionals who are successful or make good in their lives, anybody as long as you have a goal and a determination to reach that goal you want, if there is a will, there is a way. Look at me I’m not a professional but ‘I made it’.” This uncle I’m talking about was the late Bernan Capuyan from Ambasing.


By Lolit Hafner (Switzerland)

My opinion in answer to the above question is related to my report before on bicultural marriage.

Since cultural practices are made meaningful with the use of one’s own language, I believe teaching our younger generation to speak and understand our dialects is important. Inability to communicate in the vernacular will limit access to our Igorot culture since our literature is mostly orally passed from generation to generation (rhymes, chants, legends, fables, songs and stories). Teaching them to speak in the dialect doesn’t need to compete with their formal education. It can start from nursery level and would develop as they grow up hearing the pure language at home. This may be in the form of bedtime stories on Igorot legends, fables, suitable stories of childhood experiences on how we lived back home in our communities or traditional practices. This can be followed by some written documentation or books about Igorot culture. Having knowledge of some background about our culture, they will be the ones asking more questions as they grow up or get exposed during their immersion in our ili.

As I have previously written, knowing the language helps to access our culture. It is therefore our responsibility to teach our children our language as one way of passing part of our Igorot culture we hold dear.


By Violeta Passerini (Switzerland)

Some of the young generation were born in Igorotlandia and came here with their parents, who came to work, and some were born here through multicultural marriage. Those families who are lucky could go for a vacation yearly, once in two years or after five years, etc. These young generations are also lucky when they could stay in the “ili” and see how our elders live. And considering they have taken vacation here in Europe, it’s very short to stay at home.

The connection of this to the “What should we pass to the next generation” is just simple. While most of us write about our culture and tradition, I would also like to say that pictures are also nice to pass to our children.

The Igorot way of living changed through modern technology which reached our provinces. The hearth was replaced by Shellane that it’s impossible to hang and make “kini-ing.” The camote or “tugi” is now seldom cultivated. The reason is our parents are already old to do this manual work and either the children are in the cities or abroad to seek for better living, or camotes are replaced by vegetables crops.

Through the “ahente” or museum collection our native art crafts are also disappearing. It’s a pity that some of our parents don’t know the value of these things.

When we have these pictures, we also have an evidence when one day our children confront us with the question, “How did you live before in Bontoc, Ifugao, etc.? What’s the use of these things? How do you use it? Do my grandparents still use them?” And when we show these pictures and our children ask questions, I’m sure it will be a nice moment to recall the past and also tell them about our culture.

The late Hon. Masferré documented the Igorots through his photography but I know that there are still pictures which we possess since the ‘60s or ‘70s not taken by Masferré but from a friend or relatives.



By Peter Agnaonao (Belgium)

I would like to answer this question by enumerating some of our Igorot values that are deeply rooted in our culture.

First, is the Inayan concept that emanates from our beliefs.

Second, is the Ob-obbo, which is one expression of solidarity.

Third, is the traditional governance of the Ili like the recognition of the wisdom of the council of elders, the practice of tongtongan in settling a conflict within the community, and the traditional practice of managing and conserving the natural resources.

From our humanities and arts, I think that our music, dances and artefacts are still worth passing.

Another thing that I would like to suggest that should continue to be passed is the concept of the Dap-ay. This could certainly take a new form like this ICBE, organisation of Cordillerans, BIBAK, IGO and other forms of Igorot associations that make itself a venue to:

1) discuss issues affecting us and our Igorotland,

2) talk about problems and find solutions or remedies and

3) pass to the next generation, our Igorot culture.


By Yvonne Belen (The Netherlands)

During my childhood in Bontoc, I had experiences on several aspects of the Igorot culture. But I have taken most for granted. Now that I write on what has to be passed on, I want to share some I distinctly recall.

One is strict adherence to community tradition. I refer especially to tengaw, a day or days designated by village leaders as community holiday.

Since I consider myself a student of Igorot culture, I requested for information from Caridad Fair-od. She wrote:

Tengaw is a community or village holiday. On the day of a tengaw, no one is allowed to enter or go out of the village the moment a signal is announced through village criers and with knotted plant symbols at strategic entry places. The purpose of tengaw is to avoid any spiritual disturbance that might be the cause or reason for any misfortune or the non-realization of the very purpose of the community ritual performed.

Tengaw is observed after a community ritual is performed. The tengaw could be after the following rituals with their common purposes: (1) Victory or loss over a tribal tribal war, performed to acknowledge and thank Kabunyan and other spirits, (2) Kanyaw in celebration of harvest or the symbolical sowing of palay seeds, performed to acknowledge the Creator and to wish for abundance and prosperity, (3) Cleansing ritual after a bad omen was observed in the community, performed to pray for diversion of the bad to something good.

In the western municipalities of Mountain Province, they call it obaya not tengaw. The procedure and purposes are the same. The difference is that the western people or iAplai do not have ritual after a tribal war. Among the Bontocs and Sadangas, the most nairut is the tengaw after a tribal war.

I only realized the effects of tengaw the last time I went with my family to Bontoc. We were there in December 2002 and decided to go to Mainit to see the hot springs. But we were refused entry because the community had a tengaw.

We were already going up the village when the woman, at the first house we passed by, said, “You can’t proceed. It is tengaw today. Didn’t you see the plant with a knot?”

“Yes, I did.” I replied.

But I didn’t know the meaning of the knot in the plant.

“That means it is tengaw,”she told us.

Disappointed, we returned to Bontoc. While we missed the hot springs, I admire and respect the village elders for their decision.

We had a similar experience when my family and I went to Alab. I wanted to show them my grandparent’s house in Dongyuwan, where I was born. We weren’t allowed to go to that part of the village because they had a tengaw. Somebody died. So, I could only show the house where I was born, from my cousin’s house at the mountain opposite Dongyuwan.

While we were at my cousin’s house, he brought out etag from the luden. Etag are pork slices,which are kept in the dried shell of a gourd called luden. We Igorots and Cordillerans have been practicing this method of food preservation for generations and I think it should be passed on. The meat is free of chemicals except table salt, which is used as the preservative.

Aside from food preservation, the Bontocs make safeng, a fermented food product. Among the Bontocs, they call it safeng; those from Sagada call it, sabeng. From the internet, I was able to get the recipe of Marya Tsullipas. The ingredients are spring water, sweet potatoes, cassava, fresh corn ears, broth from boiling rice (am), ripe frying bananas, cooked glutinous rice and small young squash (optional). These are placed in an earthen jar and sealed. After a week, the concoction is ready and the liquid can be drunk in a gulp or taken in sips. It is used as vinegar when cooking fish, which the Bontocs call khachiw. Others mix the liquid from safeng with water and use the mixture to boil sweet potatoes.

I have tasted sweet potatoes boiled in this mixture and it has a different taste from those boiled in plain water. I must say the taste of safeng is acquired.

The women in the ili in Bontoc and Sagada still make safeng or sabeng, respectively, since the recipes may have been passed on by their mothers or grandmothers. They know its nutritional benefits. It is for this reason that I think the knowledge of making safeng should be passed on to the next generation.


By Henry Foken (Switzerland)

(1) Our Dances 

Most of all, our dances identify us as Cordillereans. And I know that wherever we are, when we hear the sound of our gongs, we feel at home (if we are proud to be an Igorot, not trying to hide ourselves).

Some Igorots don’t want it because they don’t know our dances. Or they don’t understand our culture. So it’s good to share these dances to our  next generation.

And one more thing it seems we are one here in Europe, it is good to do it here. So one day, when our next generation goes home, they will challenge some people in Cordillera. In my experience most of the next generation in the Cordillera don’t  know where they come from. Because most that they know now is Born again...

That’s why, it’s good to share these to the next generation.

(2) Our Songs 

I should say that our songs are mostly monotone. That’s why most people don’t hear so much or are not interested at all, especially if they don’t know the language. In my experience again how to make it interesting to other people is, mixed like modern but not modern. For example: Sing the song with guitar or other instrument, plus in every paragraph there’s a refrain. And mostly, the refrain or chorus is the place to tell what you mean in that song.

Another is, it is the artist who also makes it attractive. One sample which I composed is “Cordillera.”


By Patrick A. Bounggick and Cristabel Olat-Bounggick (Austria)

The Igorots are composed of different tribal groups who share some common attributes, but also have many distinct differences in traditions, dialects and practices. Luckily, Patrick and I belong to the same tribal group so we have a common culture hence, we combined our report. We are both pure Igorots by origin, but our childhood exposure was not sufficient or honestly, we did not take seriously the importance of our culture. Thus, sharing our thoughts on this query is based on our background, observations, experiences and exposure.

First, it is an honor to be called by our Igorot names “Layugan and Dono.” We acquired our names through rituals, with chants and pinikpikan performed by our parents. We inherited our Igorot names from our great-grandparents and quite advantageous, for knowing the same names from others could be traced that she or he is our relative.

Secondly, it is quite essentially teaching our children our very own dialect. No matter where we are, who we are, migrants or immigrants, our children should express themselves speaking our dialect. The communication problem will not only be affected but being Igorot as a whole. Our children should be aware that we have several dialects such as Kankanaey, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Itneg, Isneg, Kalinga.

The Igorot dances are by themselves beautiful, meaningful and unique. Encourage and teach the young generation to wear our costumes by involving them in any activity such as presenting our dances for any invitations, joining special occasions and attending seminars or consultations. Provide them the proper understanding of our various weaving designs and their meanings. Hence, our dances and costumes should be appreciated and preserved.

The second generation should be prioritized in such gatherings like seminars/ consultations sponsored by our organization, BIMAAK Europe or Igorot Global Organization.


2. EXCERPT from “IGOROT VALUES: SOME PERSONAL THOUGHTS” written for the Igorot European Consultation held in Vienna, Austria on 29 May - 1 June 2003 

Good Igorot values are plenty

By Ayban (or) Edmund Sr. Bugnosen (United Kingdom)


One of the fundamental values of the Igorots that is in common with that of other Filipinos is the respect to elders, but in the Igorot mentality, I think it is more of obeying elders.

Unfortunately, this is slowly being eroded. I have also noticed changes in Igorot values across the years. The ubaya (a unifying community holiday) for example is no longer totally observed in some communities. Also, with the introduction of “Christian” teachings some converts began to think or realize that a number of the Igorot ways of giving thanks and praise or having festivities such as senga (butchering animals for various reasons/occasions), daw-es (a cleansing ceremony with animal sacrifice) and others are no longer proper ways of doing things.

During my exposure - as a small boy - to the dap-ays of Payeo and Padanga-an (barrios of Besao) I have seen people working from out of town (mostly in the mines of Benguet and Zambales) who are on vacation bringing gifts (called tinikang) of liquor, matches, tobacco or canned goods to the members of the dap-ay. It was a way of sharing one’s bounty with those who were stayed put in the ili. However, the Igorot value that fascinated me most during this process is the way the dap-ay members accept and appreciate such gifts. Knowing that the gifts were hard-earned, the elder who does the prayer (pitik) would praise the gift-giver and ask for more blessings upon him and the tinikang is readily accepted and the liquor and tobacco enjoyed. However in cases (very rare occasions) where the dap-ay members are aware or even suspect that the gifts are the result of suspect activities (e.g., stolen, swindling, etc.), the gifts are refused. It is a very decent and good Igorot value, which unfortunately seems to be fading as well. Otherwise many of our good Igorot values or practices will endure.

Our unity and solidarity (I have no appropriate Igorot word for this) will surely remain and grow. This is clearly demonstrated by the holding of this very meeting as well as the past and future Igorot consultations, not to mention the on-going formation of Igorot organizations and groupings around the world and at home.

Our natural tendency to help each other is also a value that we should be proud of. It has firm institutional foundations in the forms of ob-ob bo (taking turns to do work for one another, and modernized involving money), giving supon (gifts, including cash) during times of weddings and deaths, sagaok (sharing one’s fortune in gold mining), etc. to keep us going and it is a practice.

Foremost on my list of our good Igorot values is our strong belief in “life after death”. It is a very Christian value, which actually existed within the Igorot people long before the Christian influence or teachings were introduced in the Igorotlandia. It is therefore very clear that the Kabunian (the Almighty) did not forget us. Somehow the Kabunian has taught the Igorots this universal belief of “life after death” since the very early days of the Igorot existence.

May the Kabunian guide us all to follow the right values!

3. RESPONSES from ICBE (January-February 2020)

By Kristine Gayep Kawi Gorans (France) 

Language is the first thing that comes to mind for the reason that it is a major part of any culture, and language and culture go hand in hand.

But as a circumstantial result of migration, Igorot families living outside of the Cordilleras integrate to the language and culture of their host or birth countries.  So as far as passing on our Igorot language to the next gen is concerned, it presents a challenge. Language is learned through constant exposure to it and in the case I mentioned, one may not have this opportunity. 

Feeding in vocabulary to our younger generation could be the first step and this can be done simply through:  Firstly, passing on the folk tales. Remember the amusing stories of ikit and alapo? – in my  own childhood, tales pertaining to Lumawig…or even, the is-istorya pug-pugot.  I smile as I write those words because it brings back memories.  Those tales would charm any child as it did me; and secondly, introducing Igorot music, dance, and our colourful costumes.  Vocabulary is interspersed among all those.

It may take a lifetime to be good at a language, but it doesn’t matter as it takes a lifetime to be an Igorot.  Step-by-step, little-by-little is fine, and introducing lexical knowledge is a good starting point. 

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see the next gen living in different parts of the world, each one speaking- or having some knowledge of- an Igorot local language different to another, but everyone sharing one common root- that of being an Igorot.


By Jane Klee-Morgens (Germany)

Even if I am unable to contribute to “What is it in our culture that should be passed on to the next generation,” I just want to express that the practice of Igorot community and family living helped me a lot (there I learned and practiced only the basic needs in life... these led me to plan, make decisions and evaluate my present life easily, simply and functionally) which I realize only now. I feel exempted from encountering the most common, complicated, unnecessary and lengthy unsolved problems here. The Igorot community and family life I experienced before ensure every member’s freedom yet gives one responsibility, obligation and welfare without money and different institutions (like: advisory, rights, defense, social, maintenance, etc) involved like here. Everyone shares his capability for mutual community development and supports each other as needed.

The Igorot community and family life in the Cordillera should continuously be told to the next generations. From the information, they may not practice the ways (because time and communities have changed) but know that there are genuine alternatives to overcome, solve or work on for a better life situation. Many examples of our Igorot practices and culture are already cited by co-Igorots in response to the request during the 3rd ICBE Consultation in 2005 on: “What is it in our Culture that Should be Passed on to the Next Generation.” 


By Christina T. Moncado (The Netherlands)

Our cultural heritage is so diverse and we have different practices that make us unique from the different indigenous groups in the Philippines.

Preservation of our indigeneity must be sustained.

 Modern technologies are a big threat to losing our rich cultural heritage.

For me, there are two things that I want to pass to our young generation. First is the wearing of the indigenous costume and secondly our cultural dances and gong playing.

1. The wearing of our indigenous costume should be carried on by the young generations because it is the forever trademark of the tribe. The design and the color define which tribe you belong to in the Cordillera. As they say, it is the silent proof of your tribal ancestry.

Knowledge and appreciation of the said costume should be also included so that they will understand the importance of wearing one during special rituals or occasions.

“The very symbolic meaning of figures in the designs are the very same things that are being solicited from the almighty god or Kabunian (Igorot name of God) every time a prayer is uttered. (Essay, Wrapped in Prayers, Meaning of Symbols in the Bontoc Lufid by Maria Luz Delson Fang-asan).

2. Playing the gongs and the native dances.

These are the two important things that should be passed on to the younger generations.

  1. Playing the Gongs and learning the Native Dances. The Gong is one important element in Cordillera culture. As they say, the sound heals the soul. It resonates with the history and struggle of the native Igorots. There is no Cordillera tribe that does not play the gong. It is played during weddings, death, and other important festivities like during peace pact or kabodongan, Cañaos, and other related events.

  2. The native dance has been our means of showing respect to our land and environment. Our ancestors laid the footwork for us to follow. Respect for the animals is evident because we imitate some animal movements like the mountain eagle, chicken, and even the monkeys. The dance also is a way to appease our ancestors. And also thanking Kabunian for a bountiful harvest. 

If the sound of the gongs and the native dance are lost, that means our culture and our indigeneity is either challenged or our ancestry will have forever vanished.icbe2020

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