The Ifugao People
The Ifugao People

The Ifugao People

(Excerpt from Heritage: An unpublished reference material for IK integration at the elementary, intermediate and secondary level of education written by the NIKE Team in 2009.)

Folk History and Origin

Theories of Migration

Henry Otley Beyer (1917) initially speculated that the first Ifugao people were the Malay migrants from the South East Asia.  According to him, they landed on the Lingayen gulf then spread, thereby, reaching Ifugao.  Later, he claimed that the first Ifugao people descended from the Indonesian Type B migrants from the Southern China province.  They gained entry to Ifugao by passing through the Pangasinan plains then to the cordillera and Nueva Vizcaya areas.  These people, Beyer further explained, had knowledge on rice terrace building and native house construction.

Meanwhile, Felix M. Keesing (1962) posed that the Ifugao forebears came from the upper Cagayan Valley who were pushed to the mountains by the military expeditions of the Spanaiards.  By following the Cagayan river, they reached the Magat river and established themselves in the nearby mountains and built rice terraces for their subsistence.

Barton (1919) affirmed the theory presented by Beyer that Ifugao was originally occupied by migrants from the South East Asia region.  He supported his theory by showing the similarities between the Ifugaos and the other South East Asians in terms of physical characteristics.  These migrants, according to Barton, displaced the aboriginal negritoes.  They spread along the cordillera region which explains the similarities in language, culture, house construction, and rice terracing technology.

Origin and Ethnolinguistic Affiliation

Ifugao derived its name from the word Ipugo, which means “from the hill”.  Practically, all Ifugaos trace their descent from the first man and woman on earth named Wigan and Bugan of Kabunyan (skyworld).  They copulated and bore children who intermarried and spread all over Ifugao.  During the great deluge, only two people survived, Cabbigat and Bugan, because they sought refuge at the top of the lofty mountain of Napulawan, Hungduan (or Mt. Amuyao, Mayoyao according to some informants).  Being the only people left, they married and had offspring who also intermarried and inhabited Ifugao. 

Never did the Ifugaos classify themselves under a particular ethnolinguistic grouping.  Hence, a common ethnic identity distinct to them has not been known.  Instead, references to folks were simply based on their place of residence.  For instance, residents of Kiangan were basically called i-Kiangan, meaning from Kiangan just as residents from Hingyon were  merely referred to as i-Hingyon which means people from Hingyon.

It was only when foreign missionaries and scholars came that ethnolinguistic classifications began. Probably to facilitate analysis and comparison of group behavior, they started classifying the Ifugaos  into Tuwali, Ayangan, and Kalanguya.

Gem-o, a mumbaki from Batad explained that Bugan and Wigan actually had ten children.  When they grew up, they looked at the skyworld and remembered their ancestors. One day, they decided to cut trees, tie the lumber, and use it as a pole to climb up to the skyworld.  While they were midway, Maingit of the skyworld looked down at them and said, “you can never reach us even if you make a very long pole, better get down and I will show where each of you should live”.  In order to prevent the mortals from attempting any future ascent to the skyworld, he changed the dialect of each and sent the siblings to live in different places.  Thus, the emergence of the different ethnolinguistic groups in Ifugao.

Ethnic Groups

Tuwali Group

Considered as the most dominant group in Ifugao, the Tuwalis inhabit the municipalities of Kiangan, Hingyon, Hungduan, and some areas in Lamut, Asipulo, Lagawe, and Banaue.  Based on myth narrated by traditional priests (mumbaki), this group first resided in Kiangan before spreading to the other parts of Ifugao.

Hungduan Attire. Photo: Erik de Castro

Kiangan Male Pagaddut attire
Photo: Tzar Angelo Catiling, 2009
Kiangan Female Pagaddut attire
Photo: Tzar Angelo Catiling, 2009

Myth of the Tuwali

(Source: Culture and History of Lagawe, 2005)

The earthworld was once uninhabited.  When Wigan of the Skyworld realized this, he decided to populate the earthworld by making a house, filling it with rice, coops full of chicken, and pigs tied on the posts.  After which, he took his sleeping children, named Kabbigat and Bugan, placed them inside the hut and dropped the house down to the earthworld.  When the children woke up, they were amazed to find themselves in a strange place.  Because they felt that their father grew tired and finally gotten rid of them, they decided to remain in the earthworld instead of returning to the skyworld.

Since Kabbigat and Bugan were siblings of opposite gender, it was taboo for them to sleep under one roof.  Being the man, Kabbigat slept outside.  Bugan, on the other hand, slept inside the house.  Everyday, Kabbigat went hunting while Bugan accomplished all the household chores.  One day, while Kabbigat fed the chickens, he noticed how the rooster mated with its siblings.  This made him realize that if the chickens procreated that way, he and his sister can also procreate in the same manner.  

That night, Kabbigat entered the house and slept with Bugan.  Bugan did not recognize him since it was dark and neither of them spoke.   This happened every night.  Though Bugan suspected her brother, the latter denied having committed such act.  Thus, Bugan decided to put lime on her navel to see who is sleeping with her.  The next morning, Bugan saw the lime marks on Kabbigat’s navel.  Hence, she convinced her brother not to pretend any longer and, instead, they should live as a couple.

Kabbigat and Bugan begot five children, two males and three females.  Like their parents, the children grew up and married each other.  However, one of the female had no partner.  So, she turned bitter and went to the easternworld and married Muntalug, a member of the maknongan deity.  From their union sprung the mana’haut deity or the gods of deception.

Soon, the earthworld became so populated.  Wigan solved this by sending heavy rains for several days.  This flooded the earthworld and drowned practically all living human beings, animals, and things.  However, there were two survivors, Ballitok and Bugan, because they were carried by the currents to the top of the lofty Mt. Amuyao.  After the flood, the two came down and lived as husband and wife.

Keley-I or Hapuan and Yattuka or Hanglulo Group

The Hapuan or Keley-i group occupies the barangay of Antipolo in the municipality of Asipulo.  They are believed to have come from Tekak, now a sitio of barangay Namal of Asipulo and from Ahin of Tinoc.  Closely related to the Hapuan or Keley-i group is the Yattuka or Hanglulo group.  They inhabit the barangays of Amduntog and Nunggawa, Asipulo. Majority of the Yattuka or Hanglulo trace their origin from Julungan, Nagacadan, Tuplac, Maggok, and Madanum.  Because of the rampant headhunting and tribal wars in the early times, they moved to the place hoping for a more peaceful settlement. 

Both Keley-I or Hapuan and Yattuka or Hanglulo are often classified by outsiders as a subgroup of the broader Kalanguya ethnolinguistic group.  Yet except for their similarly sounding dialects, the Keley-I or Hapuan, Yattuka or Hanglulo, and the Kalanguya peoples differ. In a closer observation, the Keley-I or Hapuan and Yattuka or Hanglulo are very culturally affiliated with the Tuwali-speaking people of Kiangan.  In contrast, these Keley-I or Hapuan and Yattuka or Hanglulo Ifugaos refer to the Kalanguya people as Igullut or I-Ehbunan. 

Kalanguya Group
The Kalanguya refers both to the people and their dialect. It is a contraction of the words keley ngo iya, which literally means, “what in the world is this?”, a phrase commonly used by the old folks to pacify and to correct mistakes, therefore, making it a word of peace (Cayat, 2008).

Kalanguya courtship dance
Photo: Jovel Francis Ananayo
Typical Kalanguya attire
Photo: Tsar Angelo Catiling,2009

Based on the testimonies of the nangkaama (elders) in a series of Kalanguya Congresses beginning in 1993, the main origin of the Kalanguya people are from the adjacent communities of Ahin, Taboy, and Tukucan (Cayat, 2008).  Due to the terrors brought about by headhunting and the plague that afflicted and killed many of the people, many left the area. Others went west to Buguias and Mountain Province, others to southern Benguet and eastern Pangasinan, and others to Asipulo, Nueva Vizcaya, and Nueva Ecija.

Ayangan, Bahelna, and Henanga Group

Majority of the Ayangan ethnic group trace their origin from a small community now called Barangay Ayangan of the municipality of Mayoyao.  By following the Alimit river from Banaue down to Lagawe, Lamut, and Nueva Vizcaya, they became the most spread ethnic groups.  For this migrating group, other Ifugao groups refer to them as the I-Ayangan which means “people from Ayangan.” However, they prefer to be called Ijadjang or Ijadyjangan, changing the ‘y’ into ‘j’ or ‘ch’ which are prevalent in their local dialect to stress their distinctive identity.

Meanwhile, others who followed the river upstream settled at the precipitious mountains of Mayoyao and became the I-Bahelna group, which means“from the other side of the mountain”.  On the other hand, those who settled at the valley called themselves Henanga.

Typical Henanga male attire
Photo: Zenia Ananayo,2009
Typical Henanga female attire
Photo: Zenia Ananayo,2009

Myth of the Ayangan

Asipulo Version 
(Source: Tagu ad Adjang, 2005)

After the great flood that submerged most parts of the earthworld, there remained only a couple by the names Bfongar and Embfangngor.  They survived the flood by escaping to the lofty mountain of Mt. Amuyao in Mayoyao.  This couple begot nine children, of which, five are males and four are females.

When the nine children were growing up, the parents mutually agreed to live in separate territories so that one day, the males may meet the females and they may intermarry. Years passed, it so happened that in one of the men’s hunting expeditions, they met the females.  Not knowing that they were brothers and sisters, they married each other.  One of the males, however, had no partner so left feeling bitter and resided in a farther mountain.

From these couples, the Adjyangan tribes proliferated and spread to other areas in Mayoyao, Banaue, Lagawe, Asipulo, as well as in other lowland areas such as Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Isabela provinces.

Lagawe Version
(Source: Basilio Bumahit, 2008)

Old folks recount that before the occurrence of the great flood, there lived a man named Gwighan and his sister named Fughan, children of the skyworld deity, Bakayyawan and Bugan. One day, Fughan suddenly disappeared which alerted the whole neighborhood. They searched everywhere but did not find her. 

Days later, as Gwighan went hunting at Mt. Amuyao, he found his sister Fughan. According to her, a group of people brought her there.  Gwighan, thus, asked Fughan to go back home with him.  Yet, as they were about to leave, there came very strong winds and heavy rains. So, they took refuge at the big Fhalitti tree.

The rain continued to pour and a flood ensued. There was no way the two can go down, hence, they stayed up on the mountain.  As night came, they felt very cold. Lidchum of the Skyworld felt pity on them so he sent a cat to bring them embers. From the ember, they built a fire to keep them warm. 

Several days and nights passed before the flood receded. Gwighan and Fughan decided to go down from the mountain and started a new life. With the help of Lidchum, Gwighan built rice terraces. After which, he planted it with the Finuntulan rice variety that Lidchum gave.  And to ensure abundant rice harvest, domesticated pigs and chicken, Gwighan and Fughan performed rituals with the instruction and guidance of Lidchum. 

Sometime later, Gwighan and Fughan made rice wine out of the harvested Finuntulan rice. Then, Fughan suggested to Gwigan to look somewhere for a wife.  The next morning, Gwighan embarked on his journey, searching near and far places for other human beings, especially women, but has not seen any.  Feeling very tired and frustrated, he went back home and asked Fughan to bring out the rice wine they made. 

Gwighan and Fughan drank until they got intoxicated. In their intoxication, they forgot they were siblings and had sexual contact. When morning came, they regained sobriety and realized what they have done the previous night. Initially, they felt shame and remorse.  However, as they figured out the reality of their lone existence, they set malice aside and decided to live as husband and wife. 

Thus, Gwighan and Fughan became the first Adjyangan couple. They bore children who also intermarried, produced offspring, and spread all over the Adjyangan areas in Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, and Quirino Provinces.


Ananayo, Zenia.  2007. The Tuwalis of Hingyon, Ifugao.  Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office.

Barton, R. F. 1919. Ifugao Law.  University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, XV. No. 1 

Beyer, H.O.  1917. Population of the Philippine Islands in 1916. Manila:  Philippine Education Co. 
Keesing, R.M.  1962. Ethnohistory of Northern Luzon.  Stanford:  Stanford University Press. 

Municipal Government of Asipulo. 2005. Tagu ad Adjang.  Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office.

Municipal Government of Lagawe. 2005. Culture and History of Lagawe.  Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office.


Basilio Bumahit, an elder from Caba, Lagawe, Ifugao.  March 25, 2007.

Gem-o , Ma’ in, a mumbaki from Batad, Banaue.  June 2, 2009.

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