Ifugao cultural masterpiece now face extinction


By JEREMY M. GAWONGNA

MAYOYAO, Ifugao — While the provincial government of Ifugao through the Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office exerts effort to repair the damaged portions of the rice terraces, other historical and cultural masterpieces here face extinction.


Apfo’or Burial Tomb of Inchimag in Banhal, Mayoyao. Photo courtesy of Jeremy M. Gawongna

Among these cultural masterpieces are the apfo’or burial tombs built in the early period for the family or clan. It is a rounded stone-walled enclosure large enough to sit a dead person and keep away rodents and other animals from desecrating it.

Elders here narrated only the well-to-do made use of the apfo’or. With only the crude wooden and stone tools of that early period, it was constructed with bare hands.

Sadly, beneath overgrown grass and weeds, two of this dome like structures collapsed through the years.

One of these tombs belong to Inchimag, a wealthy, childless woman of olden times who had her apfo’or built in the full exposure of the sun at the edge of the mountain range of Ottong. It in just a five-minute walk from the recently constructed Mayoyao hostel.

This stories passed on by oral tradition reveal that Inchimag wanted to be remembered by future generations in spite of being childless.

The locals say that the stones used were hauled by hand from distant Pinuwo river and the clay (oklet) to seal the grave cane from the distant elevated area called Tanaw.

The other apfo’or that also started to collapse is that of Uhupfan, a fierce yet childless chieftain in the early period of Mayoyao.

Elders say despite his fierceness his community mocked him saying his body would be fed to the dogs when he dies because he had no children to take care of his burial. Instead, he built his Apfo’or on the hill of Tomo and asked to be intered there when he died.

“He had a hundred bundles of palay (unhusked rice) pounded on the site and 20 pigs butchered to feed the people,” they added.

Gloria Likiyan, one of the indigenous knowledge holders, said she feels bad that the collapse and eventual extinction of the apfo’or burial tombs means the i-Mayoyaos are losing one aspect of their cultural heritage.

“These cultural masterpieces tell something about our past and someone must initiate to find ways to preserve it,” Likiyan said.

Some conservationists say that losing such a cultural masterpiece would mean the eventual loss of this town’s identity. #(NorDis)

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