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Oral Literature of the Tuwali Ifugao in Kiangan

The oral literature of the Tuwali Ifugao in Kiangan has been classified into four types with three of the types having sub-types.

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The oral literature of the Tuwali Ifugao in Kiangan has been classified into four types with three of the types having subtypes. The classification has been based on the manner of delivery, purpose of the rendition and structure of the pieces.

The types and subtypes are the following:

  1. The narrative
    • folktale
    • legend
    • myth
      • bukad
      • huuwa
  2. The chant
    • ritual chant
      • alim
      • baltung
    • non-ritual chant
      • hudhud
      • bonwe or liwliwa
  3. The song
    • simple folk song
    • ballad
    • palat or satire
  4. The rhyme

Folktales and legends are usually narrated in ordinary day-to-day speech. Myths, on the other hand, are recited in a singsong, sometimes stylistic, manner. Mythological narratives, too, are replete with archaic and ritual terms which are not normally used in ordinary language. All ritual myths are epical narratives, with the huuwa piece "Huuwa’n di Nabugbugan di Page" ("Myth of the Origin of Rice"), narrated during the observance of the different rice rites, decidedly a true folk epic.

Tuwali legends are two kinds, the ordinary and the mythological. Ordinary legends have no religious significance while the mythological ones are adaptations from sacred myths. In the absence of written accounts, legends and myths provide the only surviving means for the Ifugao of knowing about their past. They give insights to their forefathers’ beliefs and ways , supply the rationale and reason for the institution of many of their present-day socio-religious practices.

Ifugaos of Northern Luzon in wedding dress

Ifugaos of Northern Luzon in wedding dress

Ritual chants are necessary and integral parts of the rites during which they are rendered. Non-ritual chants, on the other hand and as the term suggests, are not a part of any rites, hence, they may not be performed. However, they may be rendered during ritual or other appropriate occasions as forms of entertainment. Examples of the non-ritual chants are the hudhud tales which are chanted during the harvest times in the ricefields, during wakes on the death of elder persons who died of natural causes, and on theirbogwa or bone-cleansing rites.

A traditional Ifugao hut

A traditional Ifugao hut

Tuwali simple folk songs are classified as such because they are characteristically short, sung in simple melodies and convey very simple ideas. Ballads are formal songs and they almost always have a story line. Thepalat or satire are songs that satirize, make fun of, or ridicule a subject, his physical person, character o behavior. Adopted or borrowed words are commonly employed in palat compositions which enhance their satirizing and/or humorous effect. Both ballad and palat songs are sung in group during socio-ritual gatherings for general participation and entertainment.

The most important role of songs, especially the ballads and the palat, is their unifying effect among the community people. This is attained through the practice of singing more as group activity than as individual performances. The reason for the inclination or preference is that when the act of singing is commonly shared, there is more enjoyment, hence, there is created a profound and meaningful effect among the participants. The shared experience during the long singing sessions help forge a unity of feeling and spirit among the people.

See also: Ifugao in a nutshell

Tuwali rhymes are perhaps the forerunners of the simple folk songs. While the purpose of the composition is to effect rhyming of words and sounds, many rhymes are crude and metrically irregular. Tuwali rhymes are usually short, and while some convey ideas others have incomplete or no sense at all.

As in some other cultural communities, Tuwali rhymes are composed for the entertainment and enjoyment of children. Old women, especially grandmothers, are mostly the composers of rhymes. Some bright children, too, can come up with two-or three-line rhymes but these lack polish.

A complete set of Ifugao ethnic attire for men usually used by the elite "kadangyan" Ifugaos

A complete set of Ifugao ethnic attire for men usually used by the elite "kadangyan" Ifugaos

The recitation of rhymes by old women and babysitters is to entertain young children, get their attention, make them behave or keep them from doing mischief. The verbal ability of children in parroting or composing rhymes has a great carry-over value in the art of lead-singing and lead-chanting during their adulthood.

About the Author:

Manuel Dulawan is the Officer-in-Charge of the Ifugao Academy and has authored two books on Ifugaos and the Ifugao culture.

About the cover photo:

The Ifugao's "punnuk" (tug-of-war) takes place in the river - as a means of cleansing the soul and spirit with organic figurines being offered to the river as a means of thanksgiving. Read more


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