Savor Ifugao life for P1,200 | Inquirer Business

Savor Ifugao life for P1,200

BANAUE, IFUGAO, Philippines—Homestay programs and community hostels have been marketed as the best ways for tourists to embrace the life of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera.

But Alex Ordillo of Barangay Gohang here has taken that tourism model a bit further. For P500 to P1,200, he allows tourists to live with an Ifugao family, hike for miles and help plant Ifugao terrace rice. He grounds the rice himself so the visitors can share a meal with their hosts.

Adding flavor to this specialized-tourist immersion program is Ordillo’s promise to introduce his visitors to the mummified skeleton of his ancestor, Bay-angan Linmangya.


The program was introduced by an advocacy group, which sought institutional support to keep the rice terraces thriving, after these were enshrined in the List of World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).


The Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (Sitmo), which has been developing social projects such as power and potable water systems for Ifugao’s poor, also toured potential donors and supporters through the terraces, and encouraged them to plant on muddy terraced farm plots.

The offer to experience authentic Ifugao life had also been promoted by 18 households offering homestay programs, hotels and inns in the province, says Erlinda Fines of the Department of Tourism in Baguio City.

But Ordillo”s family says that allowing tourists live the Ifugao life, bathe in the rivers, and cook their own meals would give them better insights as to why young Ifugaos are fighting to keep modern lifestyles from killing their traditions.

The family began renting out the Baleâ (Ifugao hut) of the late Linmangya in 2009, and has served 13 tourists since.

It’s the hut that naturally draws the visitors’ interest: its thatch roof is adorned with the skulls of carabao, cattle and wild boar, which express the rich and high social status of its dwellers centuries ago. The animals were sacrificed to appease the ancestral spirits, each time a part of the hut is constructed or put together.

For P200 a day, 10 people can stay inside the hut.


The hut itself is rich in history, says Ordillo, who is Linmangya’s great grand nephew. Linmangya used to be the town crier who announced special days such as the Imbayah. He was also the leader of his village’s mumbaki (ritual priests) and of the Tumunak tribe.

‘’He was friendly and he never drove away strangers from his home. He passed away in 1971,” Ordillo says.

Visitors who want to stay in Linmangya’s hut must pay their respects to a neighboring hut where the ancestor’s well preserved mummy as well as those of his wife, Payyaga, and their adopted son, Manuel, Ordillo’s father, were interred.

Visitors are provided stories and guidelines by the family. Ordillo says he often gives them a rundown of rules, detailing what behavior the ancestral spirits consider to be taboo and which, therefore, must be avoided.

Often, the rules are the Ifugao version of good housekeeping, such as details explaining when the hut dwellers must raise their ladder.

The position of the ladder also has meaning, Ordillo says. Angled at a certain way, the ladder warns strangers to stay away.

From sunrise to sunset, family members help visitors in handling house chores, such as preparing the Tinawon rice for dinner. Visitors are also allowed to pick vegetables from the family garden for meals.

Ordillo says visitors schedule their stay with the planting season. They enjoy helping farmers plow their small terraced farms (payu), plant rice, and mingle with the community, he says.

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They also love to participate in agricultural rituals which are never performed in public, he says.

TAGS: Ifugao, Tourism

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