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The Center for Southeast Asian Studies > Projects > Ub-ufok Ad Fiallig Overview > Resources > Old Kiyyangan Village Teacher’s Archaeology Manual > Early Ifugao History, the People, and Old Kiyyangan Village

Early Ifugao History, the People, and Old Kiyyangan Village

The present municipality of Kiangan is surrounded by Hingyon in the north, Asipulo in the south, Tinoc in the west, and by Lamut and Lagawe in the east.  The municipality is 10 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Lagawe. The highest elevations are about 1000-1500 meters above sea level and the lowest elevations are at 500-700 meters above sea level along the Ibulao River. According to Ifugao historian Mariano Dumia (1979: 31), the later spelling of “Kiangan” came from the Spanish equivalent “Quiangan”, which was a mispronunciation of Kay-ang, “a settlement at the foot of huge mountains overlooking the Ibulao river” and the name of a sitio in Habian in present-day Barangay Mungayang.

Early Ifugao culture had a ranked social organization based on kinship. The kadangyan were the elite land owners of rice fields, the tagu were kadangyan relatives who did not hold elite status, and the nawotwot who were considered poor worked for the kadangyan. Ifugao status was seen through the size of their rice fields, material things they owned, the feasts they performed, the attires and jewelry they wore, and their roles in the community (Dulawan, L. 2001: 6).  

“The poor are those who have only one or two small rice field or none at all. They depend largely on their kaingin for subsistence or on the meager return they receive from the rich people for their services rendered… A rich Ifugao has five or more rice fields whose yield fills two or more granaries.  Other assets are forests, gold, jars, house hold items of value, and a considerable amount of money. The affluent Ifugao commands respect and to some extent wield authority although there is no formal code which prescribes duties and rights.”

Majority of the Ifugao traditions and ritual practices revolve around the tinawon (once-a-year) rice cycle. The tinawon cycle consists of five stages: weeding, land preparation, sowing and planting, pest protection, and harvest.  Each stage involves multiple ritual ceremonies, which encompasses the year-long hongan di page rice rituals.  Pigs and chickens are sacrificed to thank or appease gods and deities for a bountiful harvest (Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement 2008: 21-23).  Ifugaos also mark special occasions like weddings, death, coming-of-age with elaborate rituals.

Many of the Ifugao cultural material documented in historic and ethnographic papers are found in Ifugao’s archaeological record. These archaeological artifacts not only provide tangible representations of early accounts, but also bring forth new discoveries about early Ifugao life. Early archaeological investigations in Ifugao noted the interesting relationship between Ifugao origin stories and the town of Kiangan.  Ifugao oral history records a strong connection to the place. Many of the accounts are situated in Kiangan, describing it as the first settlement of the Ifugao (Dulawan, M. 2005), as the place where rice was first introduced (Ibid), as the place of spiritual gathering (Maher 1984).

In 2012, the Ifugao Archaeological Project (IAP) began excavations in Baranggay Munggayang in Kiangan, Ifugao. Kiangan plays an important role in both Ifugao oral and written histories.  Many of their origin stories began in Kiangan, which identify the municipality to be the place of origin of the Ifugao people, Ipugo.  Historically, it was the seat of military headquarters in Ifugao during the Spanish colonization, and continued to be until the 1940s during the American occupation.  Kiangan was also the last holdout of the Japanese military, where they surrendered during WWII (Dumia 1979). The outcome of the IAP project resulted in the reconstruction of early Ifugao culture history in terms of subsistence, their relationship with the environment, and shifts in social, political, and economic activities upon the arrival of colonial forces in lowland areas near Ifugao (Acabado 2013).

The majority of the artifacts are plain earthenware ceramics, including bowl-shaped pottery and 1-3 mm thin earthenware that proved to be an undocumented pottery type in the Philippines (Acabado 2013).  Most of the pottery pieces were utilitarian, for cooking and water storage. Excavations also provided information on other uses of pottery. Earthenware jars were also adapted for burial purposes (Barretto-Tesoro in Lauer 2015). Furthermore, every burial jar contained earthenware, stone, and glass beads. These identified trade materials, along with porcelain and stoneware, suggest that the Ifugao had interactions with lowland groups who had access to these goods. Other artifacts include pottery anvils, clay pipes, and loom weights.  

Faunal remains were also abundant at Old Kiyyangan Village (OKV). The dominance of deer and juvenile wild pig remains indicates that early Ifugaos relied more on wild game than domesticated animals, such as chickens, dogs, and domesticated pigs (Ledesma, Amano, and Acabado 2015). Early Ifugaos not only used animals for food, but also for other purposes. Domesticated animals, including dogs, were raised mostly for ritual ceremonies and other special occasions (Ibid). The bones have cut and chop marks indicating that metal tools were used to butcher the animals. Domesticated animals were used to signal status or rank in the community. These social displays of material wealth expressed a person’s capability to host communal feasts, such as the uyauy or hagabi (Dulawan 2001). Animal bones were also used as jewelry. Archaeologists found evidence of polished or smoothed bone rings that early Ifugaos used as armlets or bracelets.

Pollen analysis from pottery sherds identified starches that were typical of Philippine crops, such as taro, breadfruit, and arrowroot (Eusebio, Ceron, Acabado, and Krigbaum 2015). Based on OKV stratigraphy, taro phytoliths were found in the early stratigraphic layer, while rice remains were found later. The soil layer corresponding to taro was dated to about 700-900 years ago, while the layer that contained rice was 150-310 years ago. No evidence of rice cultivation or other kinds of rice processing was found before the arrival of the Spanish (Eusebio et al. 2015), which suggests that early Ifugaos primarily subsisted on taro and other starchy staples prior to rice.  Early Ifugaos used plants for building Ifugao houses (bale), for carving wood objects, and for weaving. Plants also indicate social status in the Ifugao society. Rice, for example, is the most revered crop in Ifugao. Ritual ceremonies are held throughout the planting and harvesting cycle of rice.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that the OKV was settled 1000 years ago.  It was not until the 15th century, however, that pronounced changes appear at OKV. Although the Ifugao and the rest of the Cordilleras were not as easily subjugated as the lowland groups, the Spanish presence affected them politically and economically. Acabado (2012, 2016) claims that the later transition from taro to wet-rice farming was a result of the arrival of the Spanish forces in the Philippines in the 16th century AD. This event also corresponds to the time period tradeware ceramics appeared in the archaeological record (Acabado 2016). The intensification of agricultural practices and the shift of staple products were due to an increase in population and demand for food.


Acabado, S.B.

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Dulawan, L.S.

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Dulawan, M.B.

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Dumia, M.A.

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Eusebio, M.S., Ceron, J.R., Acabado, S.B., and Krigbaum, J.

  • (2015). Rice pots or not? Exploring ancient foodways through organic residue analysis and paleoethnobotany.  National Museum Journal of Cultural Heritage, 1(1), 11-20.

Lauer, A.J. and Acabado S.B.

  • (2015). Infant death and burial practices in Late Prehistoric Kiyyangan Village, Kiangan, Ifugao. National Museum Journal of Cultural Heritage, 1(1), 21-29.

Ledesma, C.P., Amano, N., and Acabado, S.B.

  • (2015). Faunal remains recovered from the Old Kiyyangan Village, Kiangan, Ifugao. National Museum Journal of Cultural Heritage, 1(1), 21-29.

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Stark, M.T. and Skibo, J.M.

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