Published on Monday, 08 April 2019 02:55
Written by Noreen
The province of Ifugao is famous for its rich cultural heritage, both in material and in intangible forms. Ifugao is known for its majestic Rice Terraces, and is located at the foot of the Cordillera Central Mountain Ranges in Luzon, Philippines. The agricultural wonder of the Ifugao Rice Terraces, officially referred to as the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera, is also included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites (Zialcita, et al. 2015).
But aside from the rice paddies carved from the mountains by the indigenous Ifugaos, this socio-ecological landscape has much more to offer. Among these are their native houses that feature a unique architectural style and characterize their rich culture. As an integral part of the UNESCO World Heritage Rice Terraces of Cordillera cultural landscape and as a “jewel of Filipino architectural patrimony” (Macapagal and Bermejo, 2015), indeed, the Ifugao native houses are also worthy of acknowledgment and recognition.
Traditional houses mixed with modern houses located in Barangay Batad, Banaue, Ifugao.
These traditional houses feature a recognizable regional character in response to its environment, characterized by a coherent style, form, and appearance, and use a traditional expertise in construction and design (ICOMOS, 1999, as cited in Gawongna, 2016).
A typical Ifugao traditional house, standing on four sturdy posts
(Image source: https://historyofarchitecture.weebly.com/vernacular-houses.html)
The physical appearance of a typical Ifugao house is simple, but well-built and sturdy that it could withstand changes of the environment whether it may be for the dry or wet season of the Philippines. Some of the distinguishing characteristics of an Ifugao house are its elevation through its four sturdy posts and its windowless structure made from native timbers and expertly put together without using iron nails (Ngohayon et al, 2011).
Brgy. Batad, Banaue, Ifugao
There are various types of indigenous Ifugao houses which are categorized based on their structure and function, but what is common among these native houses is “their being a one-room design” (Ngohayon et al, 2011). A native house has its parts divided based on its purpose. A fireplace is located at the right corner opposite to the door that serves as its kitchen and above it are bins where the firewoods, palay, and food are stored. Its floor area serves as both their dining, sleeping, and receiving areas (Ngohayon et al, 2011). There are also shelves where family members usually put their belongings.
Traditional houses have different functions, whether it may be for residential or for storage purpose or as rice granary. Some families who are usually well-off and own many rice fields also own an alang, a structure that serves as their rice granary and storage houses that is also considered as a status symbol (Ngohayon et al, 2011).
In the midst of continuous urbanization and modernization, some of the traditional houses in Ifugao are still left intact. Currently, 205 traditional Ifugao houses have been documented in Kiangan, with over a quarter dated to be over 100 years old and almost two thirds being 60-100 years old. In Mayoyao, 717 traditional houses have been documented, with 357 still being used as either homes or rice granaries, 30 abandoned, and 42 sold or transferred (Gawongna, 2016). A community-based project that aimed to restore Ifugao traditional houses for the purpose of promoting ecotourism was completed in Barangay Batad, Municipality of Banaue in Ifugao province (Macapagal and Bermejo 2017).
The Mayoyao Traditional Houses
Scattered houses in Mayoyao, Ifugao
The native houses of Mayoyao is among the material cultural heritage of the municipality. According to Perez (1989, as cited in Gawongna, 2016), among the Ifugao houses, the Mayoyao traditional houses are “eminent for its pure, classic outline and fine craftsmanship”. Mayoyao traditional houses are spacious and showcase simplicity and symmetry.
Mayoyao native houses
Gawongna (2016) describes a typical Mayoyao traditional house as “pyramidal in shape that is elevated by four posts” and uses “wooden pegs and rattan strips instead of nails and bolts (that) hold the house parts together yet when built, withstood the test of time and are still at present, livable” (p. 23).
Traditional roof material made from cogon grass
In the data collected by Gawongna (2016), there are 717 existing native houses in 7 inspected barangays of Mayoyao, wherein 30 are already unutilized and unoccupied, 357 still being occupied or maintained, and 310 now being used as granaries. Mayoyao native houses are owned either through inheritance, marriage, purchase, mutual agreement, or through construction.
In the midst of modernization, some of the native houses had already been renovated due to multiple reasons. Though most of the owners of the native house claimed that their houses are still intact, a few of the houses are said to have already been infested with termites. Some, due to lack of money, dismantled parts of their houses and are planning for reconstruction in the future when funds for repair is already available. Some native houses are modified by adding extended compartments while some houses, changed their roofs with galvanized iron from the traditional cogon grass roofing material. Some of the owners claim that these modifications are due to practicality and availability of resources.
The Kiangan Traditional Houses
A native house located in Kiangan, Ifugao
Meanwhile, the Kiangan traditional houses are also considered as one of the cultural treasures of the municipality of Kiangan in Ifugao.
Mayoyao style traditional house along the Nagacadan Open Air Museum, Kiangan, Ifugao.
The Municipality of Kiangan is considered as one of the oldest towns in Ifugao. Through the years, this heritage town has been developing its tourism. It prides itself with its tourists destinations such as Ambuwaya Lake, Numbongngog Waterfalls, Baay Waterfall, General Yamashita Surrender Site, Philippine War Memorial Shrine, Nagacadan Rice Terraces, Bokiawan Rice Terraces, Million Dollar Hill, Spanish Hill (Awa Encounter Site), Yamashita Trekking Trails, Kiyyangan, and the Origin of Ifugao Culture (DILG-CAR, n.d.).
A modified native house with galvanized iron roofing located in Dalligan, Kiangan, Ifugao
Moreover, what also makes Kiangan unique are their own native and traditional houses. Ifugao native houses vary based on their locality. Kiangan native houses, unlike other native houses, are not as steep and do not descend to the floor level, as it expose the house cage. Different from Mayoyao native houses, Kiangan houses are no longer pyramidical, but hipped, where the roof ridge runs parallel to the house front (Gawongna, 2016). Through the years, some of the Kiangan houses have been modified due to practicality, purpose, and availability of resources.
Native houses located in Dalligan, Kiangan, Ifugao
As part of the material cultural heritage of Ifugao, these traditional houses are indeed unique architectural jewels that must be treasured not just by the locals of Cordillera, but also of the country. The challenge now lies on how these treasures will be preserved, considering the many factors that may affect and inhibit the conservation of these architectural heritage. These native houses had withstood years of abrupt and changing environmental conditions, as well as changes in lifestyle of the people. Despite the era of modernization, it is hoped that these native structures, together with the indigenous knowledge and know-how in architecture of these native houses will be preserved and hopefully be passed on to the younger and future generations of Ifugaos.
DILG-CAR. (n.d.). Municipality of Kiangan. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from http://www.dilgcar.com/index.php/2015-07-10-09-25-49/municipality-of-kiangan
Gawongna, J.M. (2016). A Survey of the State of Mayoyao Native Houses. The Upland Farm Journal Volume, 24 (1), pp. 20-28.
Macapagal, R.A. & Bermejo III, R.A. (2015). The Batad Kadangyan Ethnic Lodges Project: Community-Based Indigenous Tourism in a UNESCO World Heritage Rice Terrace Cultural Landscape. In Mena, A.C. (Ed.), 2nd International Conference on Best Practices in World Heritage: Peoples and Communities (pp. 793-810). Retrieved from https://eprints.ucm.es/34899/1/ActasMenorca15.pdf
Ngohayon, S.L., Alberto, E., Alcayna, E., Babang, M., Labhat, M., Benohlan, J. ... Valdez, G. (2011). Ifugao Indigenous Knowledge (IK) Workbook. Lamut, Ifugao: Ifugao State University.
Tan, N. (n.d.). Filipino Architecture. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.academia.edu/5118669/FILIPINO_ARCHITECTURE
Zialcita, F.N., Soco, A., Sarmiento, R.F.A., Stanyukovich, M.V., Toohey, A., Canilao, M.P., ...Tamayo, A.N.C. (Eds). (2015). Preserving the Ifugao Rice Terraces: A Literature Review. Pasay City, Philippines: UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines.
Documentation and Mapping of Traditional Native Houses in Kiangan, Ifugao