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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gotad Ad Ifugao Celebrates the Hudhud and Indigenous Culture

From June 17 to 20, 2010, the province of Ifugao is celebrating its 44th founding anniversary through Gotad ad Ifugao with a varied lineup of activities including street dancing, indigenous games, agro-industrial fairs and others. One of the highlights of the Gotad ad Ifugao is the hudhud chanting competition to be held on June 18 in the capital town of Lagawe with Pedro Dulawan at the helm.

Different municipalities all over Ifugao will send delegations of chanters for the contest. The grand winner will receive cash incentive and the Hudhud Perpetual Award trophy, a sculpture by artist Rosario Bitanga called Circle in a Spiral made of stainless steel and resin. The Hudhud Perpetual Award trophy is a revolving trophy to be passed on to the next winner. The Circle in a Spiral trophy is a new trophy launched last year. The old one, also by Bitanga, was given to the municipality of Lagawe in perpetuity for winning three consecutive times from 2007 to 2009.

The annual hudhud competitions organized in Ifugao and the Hudhud Perpetual Award, created and launched in 2006 as an annual recognition of performances in cultural context, were initiated by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to encourage the involvement of the community and to ensure the continuous practice of the hudhud in its social-cultural context.

About the Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao

The hudhud is recited and chanted among the Ifugao only during four occasions: the harvesting and weeding of rice, funeral wakes, and bone-washing (bogwa) rituals. Estimated to have originated before the 7th century, the hudhud—comprised of over 200 stories with about 40 episodes each. The language of the chants, almost impossible to transcribe, is full of repetitions, synonyms, figurative terms and metaphors. Performed in a leader/chorus style, the lead chanter, munhaw-e—often an elderly woman—recites an introductory line to set the tone, and then this is taken up by a chorus of women—the mun’abbuy—to the end of the phrase. This cycle is repeated until the end of the episode. It may take days to complete a story, depending on the situation. The hudhud is a celebration of Ifugao heroes, heroines, wealth and culture.

The conversion of the Ifugao to Christianity weakened their traditional culture. The hudhud is linked to the manual harvesting only of tinawon or indigenous rice. The few people who know all the epics are now old, and young people are not inclined toward the practice of this tradition. The NCCA/ICH has completed the UNESCO/Japan supported three-year action plan of safeguarding and the transmission of the epic, to rekindle life in the dying chant. The project actually took eight years.

About the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

On 18 March 2001, UNESCO for the first time awarded the title of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" to 19 outstanding cultural spaces or forms of expression from the different regions of the world. In Asia, UNESCO honored six masterpieces, among them, the hudhud chants of the Ifugao of northern Luzon.

On November 25, 2005 the Maranao epic chant, the Darangen, was also proclaimed as another Philippine masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

UNESCO defines oral and intangible heritage as “the totality of tradition-based creations of a cultural community, expressed by a group of individuals and recognized as reflecting the expectations of a community in so far as they reflect its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means.

The NCCA Intangible Heritage Committee (NCCA/ICH) undertakes the inventory of Philippine forms of intangible heritage; and the safeguarding of these. There are five categories: 1) oral traditions and expressions, 2) performing arts, 3) social practices and festive events, 4) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and 5) traditional craftsmanship.

About the Hudhud Perpetual Award

The Hudhud Perpetual Award is the final strategy of the action plan to safeguard and promote the hudhud chants, engaging the active participation of the practitioners and the community, and seriously involving the local government and the education department in the process which best exemplifies what a country can do to help safeguard its intangible heritage. The action plan identified activities that focused on education, research, publication, and promotion.

To encourage the involvement of the community and to ensure the continuous practice of the hudhud in its social-cultural context, the Hudhud Perpetual Award was created and launched in 2006. The annual award encourages the chanting of the stories during harvests, wakes, and bone washing (bogwa) occasions in the participating municipalities.

The NCCA successfully completed the safeguarding programme for the hudhud chants of Ifugao province in eight years. The programme was focused primarily on transmission of the hudhud chant to young Ifugao in seven, out of 11, municipalities of Ifugao province, through a range of activities including formal education in local primary schools—the Hudhud Schools for Living Traditions (HSLT)—as well as documentation, publications, competitions and festivals. A signal achievement of the project was its success in maintaining the tremendous local diversity within the hudhud tradition, as each class learned to chant based on the singing of a hudhud elder within its own village.

The programme was implemented by the NCCA through three activity-financing contracts from UNESCO, with funds coming from the Japan Funds in Trust and the Arirang International Prize from the Republic of Korea. NCCA in turn worked closely with the Ifugao Division of the (national) Department of Education and with the province of Ifugao. The programme was directly managed by the Intangible Heritage Executive Committee (IHEC), established in the context of the hudhud safeguarding activities and comprising concerned local officials (from DepEd and several provincial bureaus), local intellectuals, and representatives of NCCA and the National Museum.

Despite the termination of UNESCO-Japan FIT and Arirang financial assistance, the province of Ifugao has committed itself to the continuation of the programme, as evidenced by Executive Order 16/S.2008, signed by its governor Teodoro B. Baguilat, Jr. on January 24, 2008, in which a Provincial Council on Cultural Heritage is established and the Province undertakes to assume financial responsibility for sustaining the Hudhud Schools for Living Traditions and related safeguarding activities. This Executive Order provides for an integrated advisory and management mechanism for safeguarding both intangible heritage and tangible heritage—notably, the rice terraces of Ifugao, inscribed in 1995 on the World Heritage List.

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