Notes on Cordillera Rituals as a Way of Life

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by Yvonne Belen

 Among  the  Igorots, rituals affirm and re-affirm  their  connection to  nature, and are  a means  to strengthen  their  identity  as an ethnic tribe  rooted  in the  past.

 --- Caridad  B. Fiar-od,  “Cordillera  Rituals:  Their Features and  Significance”

During the 4th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation held in May 2007 in Dublin, Ireland, Dr. Caridad B. Fiar-od, keynote speaker, made three recommendations. One of these was, “There should be continuing advocacy and promotion of the Igorot culture through conferences, symposia, and other forms.” In a workshop where participants shared their experiences, Ricardo

Cuyob of the Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel), asked, “How can we advocate and promote our Igorot culture when we don‟t even know what these are?” At the end of their session,the workshop participants decided to research on Cordillera people‟s rituals, specifically life and agricultural cycle. Upon their recommendation, the plenary agreed on the research.

In three previous ICBE Consultations held in 2002, 2003 and 2005, the participants gathered with a common goal - to preserve their culture. They listened, they talked, they sang, they prayed, they chanted, they played the gongs, they danced. Their ideas became a pool for the research.

Conduct of  research

In Dublin, the participants agreed to divide the research among the ICBE network members. BIBAK Ireland would research on Benguet rituals, Cordi-Bel on Ifugao, Igorot-UK on the Mountain Province, Igorots in Germany and The Netherlands on Abra, BIBAK-Switzerland on Apayao, and Igorot Austria on Kalinga. They commissioned Dr. Caridad B. Fiar-od as the main researcher; she would also look for other researchers.


From an initial gathering in 2002, Igorots in Europe formed a network in 2003 called ICBE. It is composed of organizations, namely Igorot Organization of Austria, Cordillera Community in Belgium, BIBAK Ireland, BIBAK-Switzerland, and Igorot-UK; and Igorot individuals in Germany, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. They decided to hold a consultation biennially. And one of their objectives is to preserve their heritage, specifically their culture, as residents in Europe.

BIMAAK is an acronym for the six provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), namely Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Abra, Apayao, and Kalinga. Another acronym commonly used is BIBAK, which stands for Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao, and Kalinga.


This article was published in the Souvenir Program of the 8th Igorot International Consultation held from August 5-8, 2010 at the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.


In April 2009, ICBE published a 56-page magazine entitled, Cordillera Rituals as a Way of Life. The magazine forms part of the Proceedings of the 5th ICBE Consultation held in April 2009 in Vallendar, Germany.

The contents  are:

·     Foreword

·     About  ICBE

Yvonne Belen, M.D.

·     Brief  Profile  of the Cordillera  Region

Cordillera Almanac, Department of Interior and Local Government, Cordillera Administrative Region

·     Cordillera  Rituals: Their Features and Significance

Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.

·     Mountain  Province  Begnas  Ceremony:  Its  Meaning  and Significance

Pamela B.  Fiar-od

·     Tingguian Abra  Rituals

Philian Louise Weygan

·     Keeping  the  Kalinga  Heritage  Alive  in  Rituals

Maria Luz  D. Fang-asan,  Ph.D.

·     Apayao  Rituals:  Their Features  and Significance

Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.  D.

·     The Bulul in the Social Life of the Ifugao  People

Serafin L. Ngohayon, Ph.D.  &  Emily Alberto

·     Ifugao  Rituals:  Their Features and  Significance

Anastacia  Lannaon,  Ph.D.,  Nancy  Ann  Gonzales,  Ph.D.,  Caridad  B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.

·     Benguet:  The Peg-as  and  Paypay  Rituals

Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.

·     Script:  Cordillera  Rituals  as a Way  of  Life

Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.

·     Acknowledgments

Overview  of  two researches

In  Dr.  Fiar-od‟s  paper,  “Cordillera Rituals: Their  Features  and Significance,”  she  says  that among the

Cordillera people, rituals are central to their lives. It is their means to convey messages to a Supreme Being, the creator, who could be Adikaila (Unseen), Manakabalin (Powerful), Nintotongcho (Someone in Heaven), Mangus-usdong (Overseer). The people perform rituals to show respect to a Supreme Being and to preserve the environment. They observe rituals when they tattoo or mummify. Some features are prayers, animal sacrifice, applicability to customary laws, exclusiveness and inclusiveness. Rituals include chanting, playing of gongs, dancing, drinking wine, and sharing food. Symbols, color, and sound add to the ritual‟s importance. Rice and chicken are symbols of plenty; spear and shield of protection; money of financial soundness. Clothes with bright color, which people wear, indicate a joyous occasion. And playing of gongs means an event is on-going. Finally, she mentions occasions outside the village setting where rituals could be used.

Dr. Serafin L. Ngohayon and Ms. Emily Alberto‟s research on “The Bulul in the Social Life of theIfugao People” traces the Bulul‟s origin, presents the Ifugao tribes that still practice the Bulul ritual, summarizes the Ifugao people‟s level of awareness of the ritual, shows people‟s beliefs on the Bulul‟s importance, and determines the perceived effects of practicing or not practicing the Bulul rituals.

Life and agricultural  cycle  rituals

While the authors included other rituals in their research, I focused below on the life and agricultural cycle.

“Mountain Province  Begnas  Ceremony:  Its  Meaning  and Significance”  by  Pamela  B.  Fiar-od.

The Applai tribe of the Mountain Province perform Begnas as a community ritual. The Council of Elders determine the purpose. The rituals comprise a preparatory phase, Begnas proper, and closing. The closing ritual signals the start of the agricultural cycle‟s next event.

“Tingguian Abra  Rituals”  by Philian Louise Weygan

The Maengs celebrate a wedding depending on the couple‟s means. It could be tinipuy or kinaiw, eyapdo or danon. In tinipuy or kinaiw, the bride and groom‟s families arrange the wedding while ineyapdo, villages of both parties are involved. Danon is the most expensive because the woman‟sfamily demand gifts such as land or house. The bride and groom‟s families invite the village and other communities.

“Keeping the  Kalinga  Heritage  Alive  in  Rituals”  by Maria  Luz  D. Fang-asan,  Ph.D.

In Lubuagan, Kalinga, the people have house blessing rituals - lumok ji be-yoy and chomchomog. When the house is ready to be occupied, they do the lumok ji be-yoy. And if the family is financially able, they continue with the chomchomog. The family slaughter a large pig and invite relatives and neighbors.

“Apayao Rituals:  Their Features and Significance”  by  Caridad  B.  Fiar-od,  Ph. D.

The  Isnags  carry  out  rituals  during  the  agricultural  cycle.  As  stated  by  the  author,  these  are  done “before clearing the grassland for rice planting, before rice planting, before harvesting, before starting to eat the newly harvested crop, and for abundance before a festivity.”

“Ifugao Rituals: Their Features and Significance” by Anastacia Lannaon, Ph.D., Nancy Ann Gonzales, Ph.D., Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.

The Ifugaos conduct rituals before and after the baby‟s birth. Before birth, rituals include prayers, e.g., to ease labor pains, and animal sacrifice to hasten labor pains. After birth, rituals are mainly prayers - to thank God, welcome the baby, and indicate that gifts can already be given to the mother and baby.

“Benguet: The Peg-as and  Paypay  Rituals”  by  Caridad B.  Fiar-od,  Ph.D.

During the wake, the Ibalois go through a closing ritual called peg-as. It is composed of prayers, and splashing of water for cleansing. Before interment, they observe the paypay ritual. According to the author, the purpose is: “…to drive away the spirit of the living and those who worked there and might have been left in the graveyard.”


The magazine is a contribution towards self-discovery and identity. It highlights the values of community sharing and sacredness of life. It reveals the connection of life- in community and nature - to the past, present, and future. ICBE documented and published some Cordillera rituals. The challenge is for others to continue.

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