The Ifugao Tribe

The Ifugao Tribe inhabits the Gran Cordillera in the Northern Luzon province of the Phillipines. They are an independent and traditional people, having clung with tenacity for hundreds of years to their indigenous culture in the face of Spanish conquest. Even today, when most of the Phillipines has submitted to both Spanish and American influence, the Ifugao have kept their identity and held steadfastly to their ancestral traditions.

Approximately 120,000 Ifugao are living and working as a traditional agrarian culture in spite of continued efforts by church and government to convert and assimilate them. In the face of religious and bureaucratic proselytizing, the Ifugao continue to observe their ritualized, yet highly sophisticated, approach to the farming and harvest of rice.

In Ifugao society, there is great social incentive toward hard work and success in maintaining extensive rice terraces. By accumulating a large store of rice, which is the general medium of exchange as well as the staple of their diet, individuals and their families can enjoy higher status within the tribe. This idea of wealth focuses on status based on benefit to the community as a whole rather than the accumulation of excessive personal wealth. When an individual achieves higher status, they have the right to adorn themselves with specific ornaments. For the home, special artwork, structural styles and emblems are allowed. Tattoos are limited to members of the nobility.

Religion is a significant part of this agrarian, animist culture. The Ifugao pantheon includes deities, which represent natural forces and phenomena, as well as metaphysical and ancestral beings. Their gods and spirits are benevolent and generous, can be approached with rites and festivals, and the Ifugao believe that they can influence or impress the gods with good behavior. However, it is important to the Ifugao to maintain good relations by showing proper respect to these deities, or they can become irate, demanding or even dangerous. In earlier and less stable times, the Ifugao were feared head hunters, brandishing spears and shields, and would perform a war dance in which they encircled a chicken and killed it, naming the person closest to the chicken as the one to perform an act of vengeance.

Artistry among the Ifugao is generally ritualistic or functional. The Ifugao are highly skilled craftsmen who take pleasure in adding a creative touch to the most functional of items as well as in the creation of effigies and artifacts made as offerings to the gods. While this tribe of versatile and creative artists applies their skills in a number of areas, Ifugao basketwork is particularly notable for its originality and diversity. As a people, the Ifugao see beauty in simple forms and will lend a personal style to everything they make, from ritual boxes and wooden sculptures to houses and rice fields.   Carved wooden hunter’s shield (233)

The Philippines