Ifugao Rice Rituals

IFUGAO RICE RITUALS

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Rice cultivation is weaved in almost every aspect of the Ifugao culture. They are practically “ruled” by their rice rituals and traditions. From the preparation and planting through harvest, from the lowest class to the wealthy class called Kadangyan, and the rich or Baknangs, the time-honored rice rituals are still observed to this very day. Ifugaos practice virtually the same rice rituals their forefathers have practiced and they strive to preserve these rituals for the future generations. These rites, summoning spirits through narrative songs and making animal offerings are called Baki which are still performed by the mumbaki, the male Ifugaos, in observance of their age-old practices.

Throughout their long history that defines their relationship, dependence and connection with rice, the twelve rice rituals illustrate harmony and balance with the environment and the Ifugao’s desire for a bountiful harvest.

Starting with the Lukya, or opening, when the seed rice is taken from the granary it signals the start of the planting season in December. Then the Hipngat is performed once the terraces are cleaned. The Panal is done as the seeds are sown. To ask for healthy plants, the Bolnat is then performed as the seedlings are taken to the terraces. When the planting season is done, it is only proper to ask for thanksgiving for a successful planting so the Kulpi is performed. As the farmers weed the terraces, the Hagophop is performed in the growing season for the protection of the rice from pests. To ask for the plants to bear bountiful grains, the Bodad is recited while the terrace walls are cleaned. As the rice grains mature, the Paad is performed to prevent rice plants from wilting. To signal the eve of the harvest, the Ngilin is performed. The harvest-day rite of the Ani retells the story of the sacred rice, Ipugo or Butnol, was given to the Ifugao from the sky world.

The post-harvest rite is the Upin which asks the forefathers for blessings on the harvested rice and also for prosperity and good health for the village. The end of the rice cycle is marked with the performance of the Kahiw, which is the Ifugao’s rite of thanksgiving and asking for the replenishment of the granaries.

According to Dr. Stephen Acabado, assistant professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Guam, who had spent many years studying the Ifugao, “In Ifugao, rice seems to be the center of everything – rituals, social ranking, rice would be almost always part of their social interactions”.

A rich tapestry of rites interwoven into the lives of the Ifugao and rice agriculture, these hardy people lead often harsh and demanding lives and yet still manage to blend old traditions with modern necessities in honor of their ancestors and their heritage.

With a culture as colorful as their tribal wear and as fascinating and majestic as their rice terraces, the Ifugao are a people one should find the time to get to know better.