Ifugao is a landlocked province of the Philippines in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon. Covering a total land area of 251, 778 hectares, the province of Ifugao is located in the mountainous region characterized by rugged terrain, river valleys, and massive forests. Its capital is Lagawe and borders Benguet to the west, Mountain Province to the north, Isabela to the east, and Nueva Vizcaya to the south.
It is named after the term “i-pugo” (which means i-from/people and pugo-earth thus people of the earth).
The Banaue Rice Terraces are the main tourist attraction in the province. These 2000-year-old terraces were carved into the mountains without the aid of machinery to provide level steps where the natives can plant rice. In 1995, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
People and culture
Ifugao refers to the people, their dialect and the province they live in the mountainous northern part of the Philippines. They are known as an independent, agricultural society. They speak various Ifugao dialects, such as Tuwali and Ayangan. They can also speak Filipino vernacular dialect like Ilokano and Tagalog. Many Ifugaos, especially in Lagawe, Kiangan, Mayoyao, Aguinaldo and Banaue, are fluent in English as well.
This people prefer to be called Ifugaos as opposed to the more generic and less accurate Igorot term that includes all the peoples of the Cordillera Region, which specifically refers to some of the inhabitants of Benguet.
Ifugao culture revolves around the rice which is considered a prestige crop. Thus, it is not surprising that there is an elaborate and complex array of rice culture feasts inextricably linked with taboos and intricate agricultural rites from rice cultivation to rice consumption. Harvest season certainly calls for grandiose thanksgiving feasts while the concluding harvest rites ‘tungo or tungul’ (the day of rest) entail a strict taboo of any agricultural work. Partaking of the rice beer (bayah), rice cakes, and betel nut is an indelible practice during the festivities and ritual activities.
Rightly known as the unrivaled rice terrace builders, the Ifugao people practice swidden farming expending most of their energy working at their terraces and forest lands while occasionally tending to swidden/shifting root crop cultivation as a complementary form of agriculture. This diversification in agriculture, that is to say, rice growing while cultivating indigenous edible shells, fruit trees, and root crops, has been exhibited among Ifugaos for generations which reflects their awareness in diversified but sustainable farming. Even the building of the rice terraces, which is a painstaking and backbreaking work of blanketing walls with stones and earth and effectively drawing water from a main irrigation canal above the terrace clusters, clearly manifests the importance Ifugao people put on their rice terraces. Indigenous rice terracing technologies are in fact identified with the Ifugao rice terraces such as their hydraulic knowledge (use of water as a construction tool), stonework and earthwork (the knowledge of utilizing various types of soil and rocks to form stable terrace walls), terrace design (maximizing the terrace area and building them into an agriculturally-productive area) and lastly, terrace maintenance (traditional irrigation and drainage management systems). As their source of life and art, the rice terraces have sustained and shaped the lives of the community members.
Ifugao is subdivided into 11 municipalities.
Ifugao was formerly a part of the old Mountain Province. It was created as an independent province on June 18, 1966 by virtue of Republic Act No. 4695. The name is derived from the word “IPUGO”. Pugo means “hill” while the prefix “I” means “from”. The Spaniards changed “”Ipugo”” to “”Ipugaw”” and it was finally changed by the Americans to Ifugao.
For the Ifugaos, custom is the basis of all laws. But these customs would mean nothing if not supported by ancestry knowledge. Among the Ifugaos, extensive pedigrees exist. They are the graphic representation that puts in evidence one of the most basic principles of the Ifugao culture: “We can not but do what our ancestors told us” (Lambretch CICM 1964).
Ifugao became the center of warfare during the last stages of World War II. It was in Ifugao, particularly in Mt. Napulawan, where General Yamashita, the known “Tiger of Malaya”, decided to put his last stand against the Filipino and American forces. He informally surrendered to Captain Grisham of the 6th US Army in the Philippines, based in Kiangan, Ifugao, before he was flown to Camp John Hay where he formally surrendered.
Ifugao finally gained provincial status on June 18, 1966 with the municipality of Lagawe as the capital town.