The Ifugao: Culture, Deconstructed



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An Ifugao woman takes the time to complete the weaving of tapis, a multi-colored piece of cloth that is wrapped around the body to become a skirt. In the 16th century, Spanish colonizers deemed tapis dressing as improper and immoral, and insisted on covering up women with more “modest” attire.

But here she is today, loom in hand, expertly weaving through warped threads to form complicated patterns of alternating stripes—patterns which have been designed entirely in one’s mind.

 

See the whole visual journal I made for Kamusta? Magazine, inspired by our trip to Banaue this July 2013. Collage & write-up by meeeee! Lol.

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An Ifugao child’s typical day starts at home: waking up at dawn, helping prepare the family’s meal, and feeding the animals all before sunrise. The uphill trek to reach the local elementary school could take a good hour, but the distance does not come between the desire to learn.

After the flag ceremony and a flurry of classes, the Ifugao child takes a path downhill to witness the community’s responsibilities: Rice pounding by the granaries, errands by the stream, wood carving in a neighbor’s backyard. The child takes part when possible.

As dusk starts to settle, the child goes home for supper and closes the day in a full circle: connecting the dots around the mountains, making invisible map trails of the everyday routine.

 

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In the Ifugao culture, native chickens are sacrificed as an offering to the gods, thanking them for a bountiful harvest.

The ritual starts with slitting the chicken’s neck; the thick blood that pours out is to be collected in a small bowl. Then, the chicken is plucked of its feathers and cut open, its innards placed in the bowl of its blood.

The ritual ends in prayer, as words of thanks are whispered to the deities whom they hope would continuously grant them abundance.

 

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Danica is one of the many young Ifugao that are confronted with a challenge: they are caught between the preservation of tradition and the pursuit of modernity.

To greet tourists, she clothes her body with traditional Ifugao clothing painstakingly woven by women before her, but holds her hair back with a pink plastic clip—a trinket picked out from the sea of mass-produced commodities.

Should they speak their native language or practice the English taught in school? Should they follow their elders or look for their own path? This is an everyday struggle.

 

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Dancing is a vehicle for physical expression—it can tell the story of a ritual, a celebration, even a war. At first glance, the Ifugao way of dancing seems simple enough. Steps are limited to the raising of the hand and foot in between the changes of the beat produced by the gangsa. The different dances, having similar steps, seem indistinguishable to the untrained spectator.

However, one can still understand the sentiments behind the movement. Hands jut out in the bangibang (a war dance) to express tenacity, intensity and force. The beats become faster, as if in a race to get ahead. The celebratory dances have hands that alternately dip down and point to the sky to give thanks to the gods above.

Despite differences, one can look past the barriers of language and culture and choose to see the bare bones—the primal movements of the human body—to know exactly what is being said.

 


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