[Inquirer] Ifugao myths make sense of archeological finds

An Op-Ed from AIS affiliated faculty, Professor Stephen Acabado. —

By: Marlo Martin, Stephen Acabado
December 11, 2020, 11:05 AM

“There she lies beautiful, Kiyyangan, a village west of Kadaklan, the Great River. Where all things started. Surrounded by the three sacred peaks, home to the most powerful earth spirits, sentinels to the gods. For is she not a child of the skyworld, Kabunyan?” (Ifugao Creation Myth)

The recent auction of an Ifugao hagabi (wooden bench) that fetched $460,000 brings to fore the loss of cultural properties and increasing economic marginalization of Indigenous peoples. In the Philippines, this is a continuing process that started during Spanish colonization, reinforced today by nationalized Philippine history curricula. The Philippine colonial experiences, from the Spanish, to the US, to the present-day nationalistic fervor, have erased the existence of Indigenous peoples in historical narratives.

If we are to redress Indigenous peoples from the economic and political oppression, we can start with providing tools to reclaim their history and heritage. In this essay, we highlight our work in Ifugao, where the Kiangan (Ifugao) community has taken control of and is conserving its heritage through the interweaving of archaeology, history, and community stories.

The Ifugao are known for their majestic rice terraces, previously claimed to be at least 2,000 years old but are now dated to about 400 years old. What most Filipinos don’t know is that these rice fields allowed the Ifugao to resist the Spanish conquest and facilitated their participation in the colonial economic world. This new historical narrative is based on archaeological research and community interpretations of the artifacts recovered from the Old Kiyyangan Village (OKV).

Kiyyangan is mentioned in Ifugao creation mythology as the first village to be inhabited by the Ifugao. There are different versions of the myth, but they consistently refer to the Kiyyangan as the location of the first village in Pugaw. This was confirmed by the myth documented by Roy F. Barton, a pioneer American anthropologist, which was provided by Pumihic Pablo, a mumbaki (Ifugao religious specialist) of Puitan, Banaue and was confirmed by two other mumbaki from Bo-oh village in Banaue, Tabayag and Pahitte.

The settlement was first documented in a letter by Fray Juan Molano to his Father Superior in 1801, indicating the village had 183 houses and 4,000 inhabitants (a very large settlement of that time).  This letter was also the first to describe the existence of rice terracing complex in Ifugao. When the Americans reached the region, the Old Kiyyangan Village was already abandoned, and its inhabitants relocated to the present town center of Kiangan.

Read the full article: https://usa.inquirer.net/61015/ifugao-myths-make-sense-of-archeological-finds