Banaue

Imbayah 2017

What used to be held every four years is now held yearly which is good news as there’s no need to wait for years before the next one comes along.  The Imbayah is a prestige feast given by affluent Ifugao people belonging to the elite kadangyan class.  There are village Imbayah feasts but the one held at the last week of April in Banaue has been institutionalized by the local government of Banaue.

Lilymae and I arrived Friday morning, a day before the main festivities. Stalls had been set-up at the short road to the municipal hall.  At the area fronting the municipal gym, male wood carvers were busy displaying their skill and creativity by carving wooden stools in their own designs.   In the evening, we headed to the municipal gym for the Mr. and Ms. Imbayah pre-pageant (what’s a town celebration without a beauty pageant?) and the Banaue’s Got Talent contest.

The main event, however, at least for outsiders like me, was the street parade participated in by the different baranggays of Banaue which took place today.  

The parade started at the Immaculate Conception School grounds and ended at the municipal grounds where the groups danced and re-enacted rituals to large crowds of excited locals, tourists, and special guests.

EditBecause animal sacrifice,  drinking of wine, and sharing of rice is a common feature in Cordillera rituals, many of the presentations featured these. 

While other baranggays were content with faux animals,  Baranggay San Fernando actually killed a live boar! 

Of course, there were lots of dancing to the music of the flat gongs (gangha).

If you’re used to lively street dancing such as you find in the Sinulog, Kaamulan, and other festivals, you might find the presentations at the Imbayah a bit too low-key.  However, that’s precisely the charm.  There are no hired choreographers to set-up the presentations so you get to watch something that the community themselves created out of their own experiences and knowledge.  If I may use the term, it’s a little bit more “authentic” than those highly-choreographed and synchronized extravaganzas.

In the afternoon, under a lightly drizzling sky, we stood by the road to see the wooden scooter racers wheez by to the finish line at the plaza.  These scooters are 100% handcrafted from wood and display Ifugao ingenue in design and wood carving. 

This one is really different from the rest.

There were also native games for children and adults which were fun to watch mainly because everyone were having some good old fashion fun.  I really admired the Ifugao kids’ skill with the top. 

The one below is a race where women walk with a native basket called laba on top of their heads.

The most exciting game though was the leg wrestling.

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Magandang Umaga, Banaue!

After about 10 hours on the Ohayami bus from Sampaloc, we finally disembarked at the tourist registration office along the highway (if you could call it that) in Banaue.  It seems tourist companies or organizations have got everything down pat to steering tourists to their services.  A few hundred meters before arriving at the main town of Banaue, a young man in a peeling Von Dutch black leather jacket got on the bus and asked to see our tickets.  I assumed he was part of the bus company.  Arriving at the registration office, a guy dressed in an official-looking green shirt directed the passengers to the registration and pointed everyone to a free shuttle that would bring us to a tourist information office.  We needed a ride to the center of town so we boarded the green jeepney.

The tourist information office turned out to be the tour desk of a guide organization based in a lodging house. Inquiring with the guy in the Von Dutch jacket (who also boarded the shuttle) for bus tickets to the return trip to Manila, he took the dates we wanted and promised to go to People’s Lodge where were staying to deliver our tickets.  So I guess, the desk wasn’t the Ohayami booking office at all as he had said it was when I asked him earlier at the registration office.   Anyway, as long as he secures us the bus tickets, I’m fine.  We could have skipped the whole hoopla if I had known that People’s Lodge sent someone to pick us up at the bus drop-off.  I didn’t bother checking out the names at any of the signs being held up by some people as I didn’t think a cheap lodge such as People’s would have pick-up service.  Von Dutch asked a young guy hanging around to walk us to the few meters up the road to People’s Lodge.  The whole set-up was fine really—you get a free ride to the town center and you get some information.  One thing though, someone was asking about transpo to Batad.  Rather than pointing to the public jeeps, the guy with a green shirt answered that they were just waiting for the other bus to arrive and see if there are other Batad-bound passengers.  Considering you’ll also need to wait for the public jeeps to fill-up, green shirt guy’s Batad arrangements would roughly turn-out the same, at least in terms of time.

However, if you really want to do your thing independently, the municipal tourism office is at the top of the road that leads down to the town center.  

So anyway, here I am at our room typing this.  It was too late for the buffet breakfast at Banaue Hotel so we just ordered breakfast at the lodge with a view like this.

As expected, like most lodging houses in Banaue, there are no electrical outlets in the room.  Fortunately, there was a set of outlets just outside the door so I simply plugged-in the power strip Lilymae brought, let the cord pass through under the door and viola–we could charge our gadgets un our room!

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