Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Ifugao Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines

The Ifugao (Ifugaw, Ipugao, Yfugao) are an indigenous mountain people from northern Luzon, an island of the Philippines. Estimated to number around 150,000, they live on the slopes of Mount Data in western Bontok along the waters of the upper Abra, Chico, and Magat Rivers. The Ifugao indigenous peoples recognize several subgroups: the Banaue, Bunhran, Mayayao, Halipan, Hapao, and Kiangang.

The Ifugao indigenous peoples have been living in the same geographical area for several hundred years, speaking the Ifugao language, which is a Malayo-Polynesian language of the Northern Philippine grouping. Despite increasing pressures of modernization, many Ifugao have maintained their traditional cultural practices. Subsistence is mainly through wet-rice agriculture and slash and burn cultivation of tubers. In addition to agriculture, hunting and gathering continue to play a large role in Ifugao indigenous subsistence. For example, the ginga - a clam found in the rice fields - is still a main source of food. Recently, coffee has become a growing agricultural crop for the Ifugao as demand from Western countries grows.

The Ifugao indigenous peoples are known for their sophistication in wet rice terracing and their intricate ritual and legal organization, even though traditionally they have little or no intervillage political systems. The Ifugao indigenous people call themselves the "inhabitants of the earth", a loose translation from "I-pugaw."

Currently the Ifugao indigenous peoples are experiencing great change as more and more land is being turned into non-traditional crops: coffee, palm oil, etc. Tourism has greatly increased, espeically after the Banaue Rice Terraces were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Despite these encroachments of modernization and globalization, the Ifugao indigenous peoples of the Philippines continue to maintain many aspects of their traditional lifeways.

A couple of good books for further reading on the Ifugao indigenous peoples include:

Asian Development Bank. (2003). Indigenous Peoples: Ethnic Minorities and Poverty Reduction: Philippines

Gatmaytan, A. (2007). Negotiated Autonomies: Case Studies on Philippine Indigenous Peoples' Land Rights. IWGIA.

Wallace, Ben. (2005). The Changing Village Environment in Southeast Asia Applied Anthropology and Environmental Reclamation in the Northern Philippines. Routledge.

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H.A. Page said...

There is an exhibit that has just opened at the IAIA Museum in downtown Santa Fe featuring work by Choctaws. Just to let you know.

Peter N. Jones said...

Thanks for the heads up H.A. Page. I'm trying to get a trip in to do some research west of Santa Fe - looking at resource use in a watershed - and will check it out if it is still going. Cheers.

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