Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rediscovering the North - Part 1- LAGAWE, IFUGAO

This is my first trip out of town after 4 weeks of being sidelined due to a freak accident which resulted in a fractured foot. After getting a go-signal from my doctor... I was raring to go!!!! My son, Iggy, asked me to join him on his trip to Northern Luzon. Our destination?? LAGAWE, IFUGAO. Iggy was commissioned by the Filipino Heritage Festival Inc. and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts ( NCCA ) to make a video/ documentary on LAGAWE, IFUGAO and the Hu'dhud of Aliguyun and Hananga. I will talk more about this on my succeeding blogs.

We were going to be with Floy Quintos - director, Gener Caringal - choreographer of Philippine Ballet Theater, Jesse Lucas - musical director/ composer, Bert Delvo and Leo Diaz- asst. videographers of Cinematiconcepts, Del Cayetano, project manager  and Nasser Lubay - Filipino artist. This is in connection with the upcoming event----- PHILIPPINE HERITAGE MONTH 2010 for the whole month of May. I am going to be with them as we celebrate the Philippine Heritage Month 2010.

Iggy and I left Manila at 3:30am enroute to Lagawe, Ifugao.  We decided  to leave early in the morning to avoid the traffic when we drive thru the major municipalities of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya since we were travelling during the week. I have been to Lagawe, Ifugao twice a long time ago with some friends on our way to the BANAWE RICE TERRACES but the trip would take us at least 10 hours on the road. The Northern Luzon Expressway was built only up to SANTA RITA in Bulacan. But with the new expressways that have been built these past years  ---- this long and tedious trip took us only 7 hours. The roads going to Lagawe were not bad at all!!! I will post some major municipalities we passed in case you would be interested in taking this same route to LAGAWE, IFUGAO and to the BANAWE RICE TERRACES ( which was an hour and a half away from LAGAWE ).


We used the Northern Luzon Expressway ( NLEX ) and drove to Tarlac City using the  SCTEX ( Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway ). Since it was very early in the morning our trip was not that long ( It took us barely 3 hours to reach Nueva Ecija ). As you reach at the end of the NLEX you will turn right and go towards the towns of Tarlac which are LA PAZ , ZARAGOZA and at the end of the road--- you will enter SANTA ROSA ( a town in the NUEVA ECIJA province ).  You will have to turn left using the old national highway ( Maharlika Highway ) heading north towards the towns of Cabanatuan ( the capital of Nueva Ecija ) and San Jose City. I suggest that you should make a pitstop at SAN JOSE CITY in order to stretch your legs and have some refreshments.  Since we arrived at San Jose City at 6:30am... Iggy and I  decided to stop here so he could take a quick 30 minute nap before we continued our journey.

While Iggy was resting I walked to the San Jose Cathedral.

Then we headed towards Nueva Vizacaya passing through the mountains of Santa Fe, Aritao, Bayombong ( The capital of Nueva Vizcaya ).

When we reached the town of BAGABAG, Nueva Vizcaya we turned left at the junction heading towards the Ifugao region.

You will pass Lamut  ( the first town of Ifugao ) before LAGAWE. From Lagawe it is approximately an hour to reach BANAWE.

LAGAWE is the capital of the IFUGAO REGION. The dialect spoken here is TUWALI. We arrived at the city center of LAGAWE at 10:30am. Before unloading our luggages, we went to the " only " decent restaurant in the Lagawe called " GAZEBO ". You will not miss it since this restaurant is just a few meters from the Lagawe School. We had our brunch here.

After brunch we proceeded to the Department of Education were we met with some officials who will bring us to a small barangay called TUNGNOD --- this was the first agenda of the day. Most of us were accomodated at the Department of Education Staff House while Iggy and I looked for a place to stay. I was surprised that there were no hotels in the area except for 2 Lodges ( that was what they called them there ). The first lodge we entered did not have rooms available ---- so we ended up staying at this lodge called GARDEN TERRACES owned by Vangie Tayaben. At first, we were refused because her inn was not yet formally opened for business but after some cajoling from Iggy, she allowed us to stay overnight.

According to Vangie, when the inn finally  opens... she has 4 rooms for rent. She  can accommodate at least 10 to 12 people. I love her place!! I was so glad she made us stay! Sorry, I was not able to take any shots of her rooms since they were not yet ready. But seeing these photos of her living and dining room for guests---- you can be sure this will be a great place to stay while you visit Lagawe.

That afternoon Iggy together with the rest of the group went on an occular inspection of TUNGNOD ( which is 4 kms away from LAGAWE town proper ) in order to find out what we will all be doing the next day. I stayed behind and had a nice long chat with Vangie. Vangie , is a 100% Ifugao. She was very knowledgeable about their culture, rituals and history of the place. Let me share some of what she told me which I found very interesting.

The Ifugao people are a rice-growing people who live in a mountainous region of Northern Luzon. There are 2 social classes, the rich is called KADANGYAN and the poor is called KODO. These Kadangyans attain their social status by lineage, intermarriages or accumulated wealth. Monogamy is the norm with the Ifugaos, but the wealthy sometimes practice polygamy in order to keep the money in the clan.

The Ifugao depend greatly on their wet-rice pond fields. Most of their diets derived from what they harvest---- like mudfish, clams, and snails living in the rice fields. According to Vangie, nowadays they do not have much of these mudfishes, clams and snails because some rice fields use fertilizers unlike before. They also grow taro, cotton, beans, radishes, cabbage and peas on their fields. A man's status depends on his rice fields. The irrigation on their fields are accomplished by dikes. Their average field is at least 270 square meters.

Their Rituals:

The Ifugao people still practice their rituals up to today. During their HONGA ( thanksgiving ritual ) - in which they acknowledge their ancestors who have given them their land... they offer at least 3 pigs.

BOGWA - is a ritual which they honor their dead. It is one of the most expensive rituals of the Ifugaos. Usually after 5 years the bones of their parents are bundled together in a new handwoven blanket ( called  GAMONG  ) and they have a 3 day celebration. These Ifugaons give a lot of importance in death and after death. The MUMBAKIS ( their priests ) pray over the bones. BAYA ( or rice wine ) is usually the drink that they offer to their dead.

KUWE - is the house blessing of the Ifugao people. They butcher their offerings which are usually pigs or carabaos. The blood of the animal is then scattered in the area that will be blessed. Then they invite all their relatives to partake in the celebration.  After the celebration-- a little piece of meat will be given to the people who came for this ritual.

During rice harvesting or planting season,  all their neighbors come and help each other. They are either paid in cash or most of the time.. they are given some rice ( palay ) to bring home to their families. During the olden days... it was the Ifugao women who would go to the fields when it is rice harvest time and thus the HUD HUD was born. I will tell you more about this is my next blog.

After my mini interview with Vangie, I asked her if it would be possible for Iggy and me to try something local for dinner. She immediately asked her friend to make for us INLAGIM - this is a free range ( native ) chicken or duck stew that is used during their rituals or celebrations in Ifugao. I chose duck to be used instead of chicken. Our dinner was served at 6:30pm. Our menu was INLAGIM, Red rice and boiled vegetables. She wanted us to try their TINAWON rice ( native red rice found in the Ifugao region ) but it wasn't available that day. So she served us brown rice instead. The Tinawon rice ( or 8 wonder rice ) is now sold all over the states in gourmet delis or organic stores.

She explained to us how it was done. The duck is butchered and the big feathers are taken off from the animal. However, the small feathers are left on the duck. It is then roasted over a fire ( made of wood ) and then cut up. The entrails of the duck are cleaned and placed into a pot together with the cut up pieces of the duck half filled with water and boiled. Salt is the only thing added to this dish. After trying this dish --- these are my observations. The whole dish looked very plain to the eye but the soup was very tasty. It tasted like the soup of the BALUT ( another delicacy of the Filipinos ). The meat of the duck was very soft and delicious!! You do not even taste the small feathers that was left behind. You should try this dish when you go to Lagawe!! it is called... INLAGIM!!

Iggy and I decided to call it a day at 8:00pm because we have to be up and about at 6:00am to go to our next destination... TUNGNOD, Ifugao.  It was fine with me --- Vangie warned me that there was no nightlife in LAGAWE. People in Lagawe sleep early and are up at 4:00 am. Yes, they do not use room airconditioners in Lagawe. It gets chilly at night. You also do not need to bring your alarm clock too--- the roosters will wake you up... They crow every hour.. hahaha!! I had no choice but to wake up.. The best time of the year to go to Lagawe is between December and March.

A word of advise to those people who expect 5-star hotels waiting for them in LAGAWE, I would just tell them to stay at home.. If you are picky when it comes to food... you might as well stay put wherever you are .... LAGAWE is not for you!!! But.... if you are an adventurer like me.... GO TO LAGAWE... and experience the wonderful time I had when I went to Lagawe.

In case you do not like to drive going to LAGAWE, there are other means of transportation to get to LAGAWE, Ifugao. You can either catch the FLORIDA BUS ( 850 PHP per person ) in Sampaloc. It is a deluxe airconditioned bus with comfortable seats and a bathroom right inside the bus. It leaves Manila at 10:30pm at night and reaches Banawe at 7:00am.

I would reccommend this guy, Gary Dombriguez, who drove for the rest of our team. According to Gary, he drives this route at least 3 times a month bringing foreigners to BANAWE. And another thing ---he can speak English well.




Poblacion East Lagawe
tel. nos. ( 074 ) 382 - 2040
             ( 0906 ) 803 1977

contact person: Vangie Tayaben


Florida Bus Liner
810 Lacson Avenue, Manila Metro Manila
Tel. nos.  ( 632 ) 731 4473

Gary Dombriguez 
cellphone number    ( 0906 ) 957 2605
                                 ( 0922 ) 843 2608


  1. Nice! Ifugao culture is amazing but it is starting to vanish...

    ***Jesse Lucas - Musical Director / Composer

    Nasser Lubay here. I like your travel blog! :)

  2. HI nasser!!! Sorry ha.... I was not able to get Jesse's title!!! Will fix it now. Thanks for your info.

  3. hi there,
    i like your blog. i love my hometown.
    im actually from lagawe, ifugao and ms vangie is my "appu" grandmother.

  4. i dint know Lagawe changed so much!

  5. I like Lagawe 4 decades ago, mostly jungle for us kids to roam, huge tall trees, beautiful smelly flowers as big as vats, cristal clear rivers with lots of fish... now all gone. we know everyone then now i don't even know some people a few meters who live like squaters!I prefer Lagawe when I was a child.

  6. I love my hometown but people and places change with fellow ifugaos were healthier and more god fearing then.They were more respectful of people and nature then.I use to know by "smell" of the air when I'm home
    and I usually feel peace and joy when i go home.The last time I was there,several of the big Acacia trees downtown were gone and were never replaced.The town is too crowded that you don't know anybody anymore.

  7. It's so nice to read your blog about our little hometown Lagawe,where i myself grew up there..and I agree with others here who made comments that I kinda miss the old used to be a very quiet town where most people no matter where you go in the 4 corners of town you know the original families living there..we didn't use to have house adresses,anyone sends you a mail,they just put the address Lagawe,Ifugao and the postman delivers your mail to your door..these days,too much traffic and a lot of strangers in town..i guess part of what they call "progress" but i say otherwise..N'way,am glad you had a nice stay in our little town and met nice hometown mates..Thanks for the nice complement,visit us again..hope the culture of being friendly and accomodating still remains in the hearts of our people..Godspeed and God bless you always.

    1. I agree. I do not know most of the establishment owners after going back 25 years later.

  8. I grew up as a kid in Lagawe during the 60’s to the late 70’s. True, the Lagawe I knew then had the quietness and simplicity that one would not find now. A stretch of the road starting from the central part of the town was lined with acacia trees on one side of the street and whose branches spread out to the opposite lane providing cool shade along that particular stretch. A welcoming sight to see and experience while walking. There were no tricycles then so walking was always the way to go. The presence of a two tiered ROTUNDA, a triangular shaped location marker, (sort of a roundabout with gumamela bushes planted at the middle), located at the center of Lagawe town was a place where I and my playmates would run around the steps and play tag in the afternoons. It was such fun for us. This was also a place that served as the loading spot for early morning passengers who were taking the 4:30 AM Dangwa bus bound for Baguio City. Sometime ago, this original marker was deemed useless and was leveled to give way to street widening projects. ,Although at a later time, a smaller rotunda was built in the same spot, it did not bring about the same ambience that the old one generated as this was dedicated more for use in traffic control.