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Documentation and Mapping of Traditional Native Houses in Kiangan, Ifugao

Documentation of the Tired and Scarred Wooden Ifugao Traditional Houses in Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines: Rituals and Practices in Bale Construction

Eulalie Dulnuan and Marissa Bulong

Ifugao architecture is an indigenous system of wooden construction that is much more complex than its seeming simplicity. It is reflective of the Ifugao culture, cutting across its social, physical and economic aspects. Modernization has brought in Western influences in the construction of houses, leading to the proliferation of concrete structures. Without conservation measures put in place, there is danger of the Ifugao architecture losing its original character, as it gets adulterated, modernized and altered. This study will describe the beliefs and rituals related to house construction (eg. site selection and orientation, timing, selection of wood, house warming, etc.). It also made a documentation and inventory of all traditional houses in all the villages of the Municipality of Kiangan, the acknowledged seat of culture in Ifugao, Philippines. Interviews were done with the house owners. In addition, location information of the traditional houses were done and provided to the local planning and development office for inclusion in the town map (using Google maps). A total of 205 structures were surveyed. Lambrecht (1929) identified 321 houses and granaries. The survey revealed that 90% are 70-100 years old. Since the Ifugao houses are wooden, all have experienced damage and most have been renovated. Roofing materials used to be dried grasses but were replaced with galvanized iron sheets for its durability. Almost 20% are already abandoned. With a complete inventory and mapping of the built heritage of Kiangan, Ifugao, Ifugao leaders and concerned agencies could be more rational and plan for precise projects that will help in the conservation and protection of its built heritage. Protection of the wooden traditional houses allow the people in the present time to profoundly understand and appreciate the way they perform their socio-cultural beliefs, customs and practices, and how essential it is in defining their sense of place and their way of life.

To Be or Not to Be? Rituals and Tree Identification in the Construction of the Ifugao Traditional House in Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines

Rosalie C. Mendoza and Consuelo dL. Habito

The Ifugao traditional house forms part of the rich cultural tangible heritage of the indigenous people of the Cordillera Mountains in north Luzon, Philippines. It is used either as a home or a rice granary. It is a one room house with four walls put together using a mortise-tenon construction. Hence, it can easily be taken apart and moved elsewhere. Despite its seeming simplicity, it is a sturdy house sitting atop four hardwood posts with a steep sloping roof. In the past, the house construction follows a sequence of rituals performed by a ritual specialist or mumbaki. The house builder follows the prescriptions of the ritual specialist on the kind of wood that will be used and when it will be cut. Conservation of these houses are vital for the future generations to encounter this simple yet culturally-distinct structures that can still be found dotting the Ifugao landscape. One basic step in the conservation of these structures is determining and characterizing the wood species used in building these houses. Replacement of worn-out wooden structures can then be done using same tree species used or a similar tree species showing the same characteristics such as withstanding termite damage. Wooden components of the standing traditional houses in Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines were identified by collecting data using the triangulation method. Wood species were identified by examining the cross section of a wood sample from a major house component and interviews with the house owner and/or builder were done. A total of ten traditional houses built in different years and located in different sites were selected. Wood identification was done by chopping off a section of the wood sample to expose the cross section of the wood and examining it using a hand lens with a magnification of 20x. For photo-documentation purposes, images of the cross section of the wood were captured using Scalar USB microscope that was connected to a laptop. When the home owners or house builders were available , questions regarding the wood species used to build the houses were asked. However, there were some limitations that emerged during the data collection. For example, wood identification could only be done on those wooden house components that were exposed, since all the sampled traditional houses are still currently standing and some wooden sections could not be accessed. Tree species that were identified by examining by the cross section of the component included Molave or Amugawon (Vitex parviflora), Narra or Udyo (Ptercarpus indicus), Tuai or Tuwol (Bischofia javanica), Yakal or Bannutan (Shorea astylosa), Anubing or Tobak (Artocarpus ovatus), Marang or Bakan (Litsea cordata), Galiguian or Galiwgiwon (Evodia meliaefolia) and Benguet pine or Halong (Pinus insularis) to name a few.

Ifugao Traditional Houses: A Glimpse on the Material Cultural Heritage of the Ifugao Rice Terraces, A UNESCO World Heritage Site


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:

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

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

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

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

The Ifugao Rice Terraces has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO in 2004. It is described as a living cultural landscape that successfully harmonizes the physical, socio cultural, economic, religious, political and environmental aspects of the Ifugao Province.

However, it was placed under the World Heritage Committee’s danger list in 2001 because of the degraded conditions caused by various factors including soil erosion, poor maintenance, abandonment of rice terraces and out-migration of young Ifugaos. including soil erosion, poor maintenance, abandonment of rice terraces and out-migration of young Ifugaos.

To address these problems, rehabilitation efforts have been done by various sectors to restore its condition.

As part of its mission to encourage social responsibility and nationalistic commitment among its faculty, staff and students – the University of the Philippines Open University together with Kanazawa University, Ifugao State University, and Ifugao Local Government Units  joined together in a three year collaborative and multisectoral human capacity building project – the Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program (ISMTP) - a program funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that aims to help build the capacities of Ifugaos in the conservation of Ifugao Rice Terraces as a GIAHS site.

Youth for Ifugao Rice Terraces (#Y4IRT)

As part of its mission to encourage social responsibility and nationalistic commitment among its faculty, staff and students – the University of the Philippines Open University together with Kanazawa University, Ifugao State University, and Ifugao Local Government Units joined together in a three year collaborative and multisectoral human capacity building project – the Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program (ISMTP) - a program funded by JICA that aims to help build the capacities of Ifugaos in the conservation of Ifugao Rice Terraces as a GIAHS site. This program will be completed with the graduation of the third batch of participants from all over Ifugao this January 26, 2017.

With the end of the first phase of this project comes the beginning of a new one – the Youth Capacity Building and Exchange Program towards Sustainable Development and Conservation of Ifugao Rice Terraces. A project funded by Mitsui & Co. Ltd., this project  will involve collaborators from UP Los Banos and graduates of ISMTP as new additions.
This will draw upon the successful implementation of the ISMTP and will focus on the expansion of the capacity building and exchange program between urban and rural youths in the Philippines.

With these widespread problems that threaten the sustainability of the Ifugao Rice Terraces, there is a need to continue to educate, empower, and expose the youths of Ifugao to the importance and relevance of Ifugao Rice Terraces to biodiversity conservation and food security of the Ifugaos and the region.

The capacity building and exchange program will empower the young generation of Ifugaos with both the knowledge and leadership capability to sustain the Ifugao Rice Terraces landscape.

The exchange program will allow participants to learn about Ifugao Rice Terraces culture and respect for their way of life.
It will enable the youths to learn from each other to promote a holistic view of rural and urban linkages - to appreciate the interconnectedness of these systems will hopefully result to the decrease in rural to urban migration as well as stimulate economic development, strengthen food security and preserve the rich cultural and environmental heritage of the Ifugaos.
Ultimately, it will make them aware of the value of these GIAHS areas and its relevance in our present world.


Other related programs or topics:

Ifugao Traditional Houses

Heritage Conservation

The MOOC on Inter-Local Cooperation was developed by FMDS in partnership with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) – Decentralization Program. Offering MOOCs is in line with UPOU’s  mission to provide wider access to quality higher education.


MOOCS on Inter-Local Cooperation is specifically designed to further improve and enhance the capacity of Local Government Units (LGUs) to coordinate and work with other LGUs in achieving a common goal.  At the end of the course, it is expected that the participants will have a better understanding and appreciation on the importance of Inter-Local Cooperation among LGUs.


The course comprised four (4) modules, namely: Introduction to Inter-Local Cooperation; Legal Ingredients; Institutional Ingredients; and Financial Ingredients.  


In Module 1, the background on ILC, its legal bases and the critical ingredients to sustain it will be explained to the participants.  A diagnostic tool will enable the participants to identify the missing critical ingredient in their ILC. The module 1 will be held on June 1-27, 2015.


Module 2 will identify the legal bases of ILC. Participants will learn how to prepare a memo of agreement, a legal basis for ILC. They will also understand how to use joint resolutions in ratifying agreements and decisions. Harmonizing policies among LGUs and other legal instruments to build and sustain alliances will also be discussed in this module, that will be held on July 6-32, 2015.


In Module 3, participants will learn the different steps in forming and formalizing an alliance, understand the various models of existing alliances and select which is most appropriate for them, and make sure the Local Chief Executives are actively involved  so that the alliance may be sustained.  They will also learn to make Manual of Operations. Module 3 will be held on August 3-28, 2015.


Module 4 will be held from September 7 to October 2, 2015. Participants will be taught how to look for ways to sustain the alliance financially.


Local government units, non-government organizations that collaborate with LGUs as well as individuals and groups working with government service are invited to attend these ILC modules.

Dr. Herwig Mayer is  the course writer. Thehe first MOOC of FMDS, it was launched last 19 March 2015, 2:00 pm at the  Audio Visual Room, ICTO bldg (formerly NCC bldg), CP Garcia ave, Diliman, Quezon City.



DMSW Comprehensive Exam

This is a gentle reminder for DMSW Comprehensive exam takers who finished all 39 units (MSW) and 33 units (DSW) last 1st semester AY 2018-2019. You should be enrolled for residency this 2nd semester before taking the exam on May 6, 8, and 10, 2019.

Please get in touch with the Program Chair as soon as possible or before May 1, 2019.

 FMDS Comprehensive Examination Dates (2nd semester 2018-2019)

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