An Igorot culture appreciation that will never go out of style.
The morning after our Sagada hike, started at the end of Maligcong Road in Mountain Province. I found myself trying not to chicken out as we’re about to hike, again. While contemplating, I decided to peek at the trail and I was mesmerized. Favuyan-Fang-uraw Trail is one of the trails to reach Maligcong community which requires traversing through the rice terraces, literally. Left my fear of heights at the curb, armed with cameras plus tripod, off we went.
Settlement in Maligcong came about when a couple from Fa-ang went looking for their lost pig. They search in vain for days. Until one day, to their surprise, they saw the pig underneath a boulder with its piglets. As Fa-ang was experiencing heavy drought, the pig then looked for a more suitable environment to raise its newborns. The couple realized the place has a good source of clean water and decided to migrate there. They went back to Fa-ang and gathered all belongings. When other villagers asked them why they were packing, “we’re going to Maligcong and there we shall settle. We found our missing pig there and we saw that water is plenty,” they answered. Soon enough, all villagers left Fa-ang and started anew in Maligcong.
Maligcong was an up and coming destination when we went there in October 2015. We were accompanied by Ian from DOT Cordillera, Elizabeth, and Beau from DOT Mountain Province plus the faces of the province, Joseph and Shella. Both of them wore a traditional Bontoc attire while effortlessly working the catwalk. Well, sort of, because the trail is roughly a foot wide pathway which is at the edge of the rice paddies. Kid you not, I was definitely channeling all kinds of cats that I know of to arrive in one piece.
“Bontoc” refers to the people of the present Mountain Province, its capital, the people’s culture, and their principal language. The term “Bontoc” is derived from the two morphemes “bun” (heap) and “tuk” (top), which, taken together, means “mountains.”
Guidelines On The Use of Bontoc Traditional Attires
A. Women’s wear: Lufid, bakget, beads, gold earrings
1. Use the lufid as a wrap-around skirt only.
2. Use it for special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, festivals and other traditional rituals/feasts such as Pasuk-ey of Bontoc.
3. Overlap the right side end onto the left- side end when donning the lufid.
4. Mind the length so it will be below the knee.
5. Keep old lufid, if tattered, bury it.
6. Wear the belt with its tassels/fringes at the back.
7. Use the beads and tsuli in its traditional intention.
1. Use as decoration or backdrops, or covers for table, seat, piano, wall, or any other way, except as a skirt.
2. Use it to dance other ethnic dances that are not dancers of the ethnic group who own it.
3. Copy or use its design for or onto other garments.
4. Use as a mini skirt.
5. Use old tattered lufid as rags or doormats.
6. Discard old wakes that have its tassles removed. They can be used as a back or a waist support when doing hard work.
7. Use the beads, tsuli, and earrings as decorations. They are meant to be worn on the head and neck and they are considered TAWID, so must be kept in a safe place to be used for future special occasions.
Video by Beau
B. Men’s wear: wanes, suklob, fallaka, tofay, and kalasag
1. Use the wanes as loincloth only.
2. Use it for special occasions, except the type known as tsinangta which is only for the dead.
3. Keep in a clean dry place away from cloth eating pests.
4. Use it without briefs just like in the olden times for a more authentic look.
5. Use the accessories the way they should be: suklob/fallaka for the head; tangkar as an armband; saong on the chest; tufay, held by the hand and as a walking stick (sukod); kalasag, held by the hand as a pair of the tofay.
6. Bury old and tattered wanes if cannot be used anymore.
1. Use the wanes as decorations on the stage, or twist it into a giant ribbon for lectern, or as a cover for piano, table or seats.
2. Use the tsinangta for happy occasions.
3. Copy or use its designs for other garments.
4. Use as turban, waistband, scarf or breast cover.
5. Use old and tattered wanes as rags or doormats.
6. Use the accessories as stage decorations for it might give the wrong impressions to viewers.
C. Pinagpakhan- a woven blanket which is valued so much considering its versatile uses and being a valuable heirloom inherited from generation to generation. Aside from being used as a blanket for the living and the dead, it could be used to carry the sick or to carry a baby on one’s back.
1. Use as blanket or bed cover, as this is the intention of its size.
2. Use in Traditional Bontok dances that require it.
3. Keep old, inherited or new Pinagpakhan in a clean dry place away from pets.
4. Darn the torn area nicely. If entirely non- usable, store it well, or bury it.
1. Use as stage decoration, float cover, table or seat cover, or in any manner other than a blanket.
2. Use it for other dances except for dances of the ethnic group.
3. Copy or use its designs for other woven garments or clothing.
Via a published note by Bontoc Tourismo from NCIP Mountain Province.
My Take Away
Travel tales from years ago, yet still relevant today. As an outsider, cultural appropriation is inevitable but preventable. Especially in this day and age that one can research the internet, including social media, to check its relevance to the locals. Or better yet, travel and immerse with them. The best guidance can be obtained from earning the locals’ trust.
Like what Beau said, they love it when people buy their products. But would appreciate it more if to use the product for its sole purpose only. Nothing more, nothing less.
Obviously, I made it in one piece. Even made it to Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao and Abra provinces during the same trip. It’s a no-brainer that this trip kickstarted my fond interest in the indigenous cultures. I even bought a cloth, same size as a placemat, sold at the Banue View Point. Though I was called out by Ian, but I still purchased it. Why? Because I’ve been dying to buy one of these. Also, I know locals rely on tourism to feed their families, so I thought I’d help in my own little way. Since then, I’ve deeply pondered on the matter. Perhaps, I should’ve known better.
Checked with The Igorot, a Facebook Page dedicated to promoting Igorot culture, if the pattern I got was for a tapis. And it is indeed a tapis pattern of Ifugao. Such a shame. I was advised to be more aware next time to avoid being called out. Another thing is that sadly, some vendors are also not aware of such cultural significance. In which The Igorot, and other LGUs, are trying to shed light on.
Bottom line, respect the culture. Seek guidance or ask for clarifications. And not make the same mistake I did.