Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Kiangan as the heritage town of Ifugao

KIANGAN was once the largest in area and population among the towns of Ifugao until two new municipalities were carved from it: Lamut in 1959 and Asipulo in 1992.

In colonial times from the Spanish, American and Japanese periods and the first three years after the grant of Philippine Independence in 1946, Kiangan was the military and political capital of Ifugao.

Aside from being the center of government in the province for 60 years, it was also the center of education and commerce and at least a number of the people of the place had first access to education and rose to prominence and leadership in government compared with the other municipalities of the province.

This gave Kiangan an advantage over the other towns in the historical development of Ifugao.

Kiangan may not be the capital town of the province anymore, having been transferred to the municipality of Lagawe because of its more strategic location, but the history of Ifugao cannot be written without referring to the history of Kiangan.

The name Kiangan is derived from the word "Kiyyangan", an ancient village that no longer exists. But a small mound in the middle of rice fields about four kilometers from the center Barangay of Poblacion serves as the physical reminder that the original ancestors of the Ifugao people first settled here.

Local folklore says that the real "Kiyyangan" Village in Sitio Habbiyan of Barangay Munggayang is the original settlement of the Ifugaos as often mentioned in the Ifugao epic 'Hudhud", the "Baki" (Ifugao prayer), "Tonton" (genealogical narration) and other oral history of Ifugao acknowledging the town as the cradle of the Ifugao race.

As such, Kiyyangan holds pre-eminence in the mindset of Ifugao elders like the mumbaki (native priests).

The ancient Kiyyangan village was once a large, thriving community on the west bank of the Ibulao River, across from the town of Lagawe proper. Now it is just a part of Kiangan municipality.

In the more popular Ifugao myth, Kiyyangan is the first Ifugao village of the mythological Ifugao ancestors, Wigan and Bugan, who descended from the Kabunyan (Skyworld), a story similar to that of Adam and Eve in the Bible.

A long time ago, the Pugaw (the physical world or earth), the sixth realm in the cosmos according to ancient Ifugao concept, was not yet inhabited but game animals like deer and wild pigs abound that served as the hunting ground of the deities from the Kabunyan like Wigan who also found the soil fertile for farming.

Pugaw is where the name Ipugaw (from the earth or where mortal human beings live) originated. It was later changed to Ifugao by the Spaniards who came to the province.

So Wigan and Bugan decided to settle near the west bank of the Ibulao River and called the place Kiyyangan. Their children married among themselves since they were the only ones living in the place and soon Pugaw was populated by the descendants of Wigan and Bugan.

Ibulao River is the largest of the four rivers in Ifugao that flows to the Magat Dam of which the hudhud" chanters refer to as the kadaklan (big river") and punbangnan (rice dikes) denoting the early settlement and rice fields of Kiyyangan.

Aside from the mythological narrations, modern theories on the origin of the Ifugao people were explained in the books written by famous historians and scholars who visited and stayed in the province like Henry Otley Beyer, Roy Barton, Fr. Francis Lambrecht and Felix Keesing that complement the mythical theories and oral literature of the Ifugaos.

Historically also, ancient kiyyangan is referred to by scholars as the precursor of what is now known as the town of Kiangan. However they are not the same, since Old Kiangan is now a part of Barangay Munggayang which is a smaller political subdivision of Kiangan.

Archaeological studies show Kiangan indeed is the cradle of Ifugao race and civilization.

In June 2012, after more than three weeks of excavation, the Ifugao Archaelogical Project (IAP) reported its findings on the "Old Kiyyangan Village" that constitutes the 1st Field Season of the IAP, a community-led project with the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMO), the local government of Kiangan, National Museum of the Philippines, University of the Philippines Archaelogical Studies Program and the University of Guam.

The IAP crew dug five trenches or excavation units to obtain subsurface information about the site. Trench 1 revealed a buried irrigation ditch called alak in the Ifugao-Tuwali dialect, Trench 2 showed shallow river terrace, Trench 3 and 4 offered valuable information on the life of the old Kiyyangan settlers and Trench 5 holds a large water jar used as a dog burial.

The IAP concluded that the excavation provided the opportunity to look at an early Ifugao village life and that the artifacts recovered suggest a thriving community activity such as hunting deer and probably cultivating rice, taro and sweet potatoes.

Radiocarbon dating on the artifacts found by the IAP indicated that the area was settled as early as 1,000 years ago.

Learning and understanding all these oral traditions, folklore, mythological stories, historical facts and archaelogical studies clarify and make undisputable that Kiangan is the Heritage Town and the Cradle of the Ifugao race and civilization. (Daniel B. Codamon)
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