A glimpse of Ifugao culture and traditions at the ‘Gotad ad Hingyon’

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By Lawrence Casiraya

HINGYON, IFUGAO – Though less prominent than neighboring towns like Banaue or Lagawe, the town fiesta at Hingyon is not lacking in color and more importantly, tradition.

There isn’t much information to be found about this tiny Ifugao municipality. A quick Google on Hingyon and the most “interesting” I found was this set of photos – a few road signs here and there, some houses, an empty town plaza, people lolling around, even ducks and chickens literally crossing the road.

But it was no ordinary day that greeted us when we reached Hingyon, after a rough-and-tumble 12-hour bus ride straight from the city. There was a swarm of people at the town plaza and munisipyo (municipal hall).

Every mid-May, the town celebrates “Gotad ad Hingyon” – gotad, in the Ifugao dialect, is synonymous to fiesta. Like any town in the country celebrating its fiesta, it was a time to be merry, to eat sumptously and partake of tapuy or local rice wine.

Most of the people were dressed in their Sunday best. But for some, like Mang Romelindo, it means dressing up in traditional Ifugao attire – handwoven wanno (g-string), sash and headgear. Barefoot, of course. The ladies, too, were wearing traditional skirts and blouses, distinguishing themselves from the ukay-ukay fashion of the teenagers.

Mang Romelindo tells me village elders like him make it a point to wear traditional clothing during the Gotad. “Young people are not too comfortable with it,” he tells me in Tagalog. We did see children wearing the same attire – but judging by how fidgety they looked, I would assume they were forced to by their parents for the sake of the fiesta.

On the subject of food, there was plenty. Although unofficial, it seems as if it’s the mayor’s duty to feed everyone in the town even for a day. The feast included adobo, igado and pancit served by the batya or wide basin.

Coming in as the mayor’s guests, we were seated in the VIP tables but we were nonetheless served the same dishes. I still have fond memories of the peppery igado and the papaitan. We also took it as an opportunity to talk to the locals over lunch (and a few shots of tapuy).

Hingyon remains a fifth-class municipality, not too well-off compared to Banaue and Lagawe. But the latter towns have the natural advantage of tourism (the Banaue rice terraces), and Lagawe being the provincial capital. There are rice terraces in Hingyon but are not even close in terms of scale to those in Banaue.

Dondon Baguidudol, a municipal administrator who also served as our guide, tells us about plans by the local government to develop a rainforest area to become a sort of park and wildlife sanctuary. In terms of livelihood, Hingyon is also promoting its native coffee flavored with native tinawon rice.

We spent the rest of the day watching more activities, including a showcase of native dances (including the traditional Ifugao chanting called hudhud that, unfortunately, we missed) and traditional Ifugao games.

There was a sort of spear-throwing contest joined by women – but using what looks like talahib or native shrub. For the men, it was arm-wrestling and the bultung, or native wrestling, with local policemen serving as referees.

There was plenty of food and drink, games and most of all, fun and laughter. Everyone seemed genuinely happy in this tiny town that day. It was like nothing like those rather drab and nondescript photos I saw before getting there.

(Check out more photos of the Hingyon town fiesta in our Facebook page.)

Related stories:

In Batad, go beyond the rice terraces and trek to Tappiya Falls

Savor the unique blend of ‘tinawon’-flavored Ifugao coffee

How 2,000 years of ‘bayanihan’ built the Ifugao rice terraces

Traditional Ifugao huts are symbols of a centuries-old culture

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