The Taj Majahual, Jewel of the Cosat Maya, Majahual, Mexico

Banaue and Ifugao History 

"BANAWOR", a primitive word, was the original name of the municipality of Banaue. It is the ancient name given to a swift flying night bird that lives in one of the oldest sitios of the town once known as "Banawor". When the Spaniards occupied the town, "Banawor" was changed to "BANAUE" (ba-NOW-ee), as that is how it was pronounced by those occupiers.

One of the indications that manifests the ingenuity of early inhabitants of Banaue was their capacity to cause the establishment of communities. They have their own respective origin, common language, culture, mores, customs and traditions.

Their domiciles are considered communities. You will find, if your visit involves several days, that what would be considered a part of a communal group is, in fact, a separate community. From the heart of Banaue Town, it is possible to view a number of these communities. You really must visit here to truly understand this concept.

In keeping with their ancestry, and to provide their peoples with one of life's basic necessities, that being food, the Ifugao carved mountains into rice terraces which are better known as the "8th wonder of the World".

The people had a unit of government of their own, each tribe distinct from the other. They have unwritten laws which are religiously followed and are handed down from generation to generation, even to this day.

Another unique distinction of Banaue is its carbon-dated indigenous typhoon-resistant homes. Called "pfaley, " they exemplify the great technical ingenuity prevalent in the people. These "pfaley", or homes, made of simple wood with thatched roofs of cogon grass, are neatly fitted together without nails.

The "kitchen" in a traditional Ifugao hut includes an open-hearth wood burning "stove", for lack of a better word. Smoke from this cooking fire carbonized the timber, hardening it and protecting it against pests. The pyramid roof resembles hands with fingertips of cogon grass folded over one another, creating a perpetually cool interior.

Banaue is the artistic center of the Ifugao Province. Home to Ifugao carvers, whose work is seen throughout not only the country, but also the world. The ancient arts of bark cloth weaving, ikat dying and traditional cloths are traded in the shops scattered throuhgout the town. The traditional jewelry "pfu-ong" represents good luck in hunting or the prosperity of children. There are also a number of blacksmiths producing various knives in the traditional way.

These arts have served merely to supplement the organic rice terrace production. Called "tinawon" in the native language, the rice grown here is of three different varieties: red, black and white. The Ifugao devotion and propagation of their ancestor's land is strong in the Ifugao soul.

The Ifugao people observe and perform different rituals or canyao called 'honga'. These are performed in the villages by native priests called "mumbaki." The rituals are performed for good luck, protection against the evil motives of man, healing from sickness, thanksgiving, and to drive away evil spirits. Occasions where rituals are being done are during marriages, birth, travel, sickness, planting and harvest, and burial.

There is a very sophisticated series of rituals associated with rice cultivation. This involves a series of carved wooden figures, which embody the spirits of their rice gods (bulol), a carved wooden ritual box, and the sacrifice of poultry and livestock. None of these rituals are practiced. However, it is possible to partake in a reenactment, if desired.

Prior to Christianization, ca. 1900, all of the tribes in this mountainous region practised headhunting and shamanistic rituals associated thereupon.

On of the rituals that has survived Christianisation that of death. This ritual takes place over several days. For more information about this, just inquire at Banaue Halfway Lodge.

Ifugao dances and songs are integral part of Ifugao culture and the only social activity not connected with religion. The only instruments used are "gongs", which are metal drums of sorts.

The Ifugaos today still preserve the cultural value they place on social prestige, health, wealth, hospitality and industry.

The rice terraces which were built by their forefathers have attracted tourists from all over the world.

In 1997, the UNESCO declared the Ifugao rice terraces in the list of World Heritage Sites.

The major terrace destinations are those in the villages of Batad, Bangaan, Hapao, Combolo, and Banaue.


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