The origin of the Ifugao’s is derived from the term Ipugo which refers to the rice grain given to them by their god Matungulan. Until the present day, this kind of rice grain is cultivated by the Ifugaos. Over two thousand years old of cultural herigate, the ifugao’s are continuing the tradition of planting the world renowned banaue rice.
The Ifugao inhabit the most rugged and mountainous part of the country, high in the Central Cordillera in northern Luzon, with peaks rising from 1,000-1,500 m., and drained by the waters of the Magat River, a tributary of Cagayan River. The area covers about 1942.5 sq. km. of the territory. Their neighbors to the north are the Bontoc; to the west Kankanay and Ibaloy; to the east the Gaddang; and to the south the Ikalahan and Iwak. There are 10 municipalities in the province: Banaue, Hungduan, Kiangan, Lagawe, Lamut, Mayoyao, Potia, Hingyan and Tinoc. There are 154 barangay, with Lagawe as the town center of the province.
Ifugao religious beliefs are expressed in the numerous rites and prayers (baki) that comprise the main body of Ifugao myths. The myths and folktales tell of their gods and goddesses, related supernatural beings, their ancestors and the forces of nature. The Ifugaos, aside from being deity worshipers, are nature worshipers and ancestor worshipers.
Before harvest, the ifugao’s are having a ritual called Munbulul, where they offer animals to the bulul – it is a wooden statue; female or male. An expert performer in the invocation of the gods, is needed. The family can invite the neighbors to join in, also with the ritual meals. It is performed when the family finds it necessary. It is sacred to the family who owns it.
The “hudhud” is recited and chanted among the Ifugao people during the sowing and harvesting of rice, funeral wakes and other rituals. Estimated to have originated before the 7th century, the “hudhud” – comprised of some 40 episodes – often take three or four days to recite. The language of the chants, almost impossible to transcribe, is full of repetitions, synonyms, figurative terms and metaphors. Performed in a leader/chorus style, the reciter – often an elderly woman – occupies a key position in society. There is only one tune, common to the entire region, for all of the verses. Very few written examples of “hudhud” exist.
The conversion of the Ifugao to Catholicism weakened their traditional culture. The “hudhud” was linked to the manual harvesting of rice which is now mechanized. It has been replaced at funeral wakes by television and radio. Although the rice terraces are inscribed on the World Heritage List, the number of cultivators continues to decrease. The few people who know all the poems are very old, and young people are not interested in this tradition.