Chapter 8 Conservation of Ifugao values
Although many Ifugao interviewees recognized the importance of their traditional values, proposals for conservation remain on the cultural pratices such as the farming techniques, the religion, and the dances. However, after examining difficulties of proposed measures of education and government support, I argue that the priority should be the conservation of the Ifugao values (Figure 54).
Figure 54: Conceptual map of conservation strategies and its significance

1.1        Education

Many interviewees referred to education, both in school and in family, as an important measure to develop whill will, at the same time, conserve the culture. One of them told me that “it is only through education that we can improve our life” (KE3). However, there was a complaint about the education system in the past that “in Catholic schools they are teaching the subject of values education, but these are very Christian values…everything is about Christianity but nothing about the Ifugao. So we grew up knowing the only reason why we are Ifugaos is by our names. We know nothing about our culture and nothing about our values” (KE8). Therefore, there are efforts to include the Ifugao culture in the curriculum “so young people will eventually appreciate programs or courses related to the preservation or conservation of [the] culture, like anthropology or agriculture” (KE11). Nowadays, “they [the school teachers] are starting today to teach our children about our culture like the history of this place and the cultural dances, [and] how and when to wear native clothes” (BW16) (Figure 55).
Figure 55: Students learning traditional Ifugao dances
As is recognized, “there is really a big responsibility for us now especially [those] who have the knowledge of our culture to contribute or help” (GW2). Some who have traditional skills are teaching, and one of them said, “I keep on teaching even teachers so that they will teach in the school to help the community, but they just teach and the students will go to college and do not apply [what they have been taught]” (BW11). Another limitation of school education was pointed out. A text in the Indigenous Peoples’ Education Center in Kiangan (2016), using the example of the curricula on the traditional chants, hudhud, reads, “students are taught to memorize snippets of the epic chants not for its socio-cultural significance, but rather for inter-municipality competitions.”
Other than school education, Ifugaos have been passing their traditions across generations through family education. One interviewee said, “[the education] really has to start from the family, because in school it is only the formal education. But it starts at home” (GW2). In Ifugao, “old folks like to bring kids to the rice fields. Maybe [the work at the fields] plants in their mind and even when they are big, they will go back and work in the field. That is why the old folks kept on saying that you [children] come and work in the fields, so that if you grow old, you will not forget”, said one of the interviewees (BH11).
Yet, the fundamental difficulty of family education was that “it is not just the young people who don’t like them [the traditions], even the elders are ashamed of wearing g-strings and [to] dance. Like everybody knows it is hard work to farm, but we tell the young to preserve the terraces” (RF2).

1.2        Government support

Individual efforts on conserving the culture, according to an interviewee, is “a spark in the darkness” (GW7) and therefore, almost all interviewees agreed that the government intervention would be needed. They expected governments to support by providing funds for farmers to maintain terraces, providing affordable education and jobs, and funding cultural events. One example of the government intervention is the environmental fee visitors pay before entering heritage sites. One interviewee said “we collect [an] environmental fee[1] [which]…is used for the irrigation system” (GW7). One municipal government also “provides funds, little funds…for the farmers to have a capital [fund] to start livelihood businesses to support and to help them with the economic situation” (GW6), and likewise another municipal governments “are promoting our School of Living Traditions (SLD) and every time we are funding it,” said another interviewee (GW8).
While many Ifugaos rely on the government support, some limitations were noted. One interviewee thought that the fund from the government “still won’t be enough because the Philippine government is a poor government. They cannot give farmers pensions at all” (GW7). And even if the governments “are providing funds for the ordination of the mumbaki, nowadays the young people are not interested to be trained” (GW3). Moreover, another interviewee pointed out that “modernization of agriculture [and] farmers’ organizations now is already a destruction to our culture” (GW6).
At the same time, due to various limits from the political structure, the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), where many indigenous cultures other than the Ifugao reside, is trying to gain its autonomy. On the 29th Founding Anniversary of the CAR, one speech read: “we want to involve people in decision making, because development should be inclusive. But when we discussed [this] on the national level, sometimes we are prevented because of standards, national standards that we should follow.”
However in fact, the governance in Ifugao had been on an communal level in an autonomous fashion, as one interviewee pointed out, “the present situation is that we have village level government unlike in the old days [when] we talked among ourselves. Now it seems the task is given to the council” (KE9). And perhaps, like what was pointed out, whether self-governing or not, what is needed is an open discussion.

1.3        Conservation of Ifugao values

So far, proposed measures to conserve the Ifugao culture have been rather limited to the practices, like the dancing and rituals, but with little emphasis on values. With all the interviews and observations, it slowly became clear to me that all Ifugao practices not only evolved from the two core values discussed in Chapter 7, the values of communal cooperation and a sustainable relationship with nature (Figure 56) — but at the same time had been protected as people, especially the elders and those who lived in remote villages, held on to them.
Figure 56: Illustration of conceptual relationships of Ifugao values and cultural practices
Therefore, as Ifugaos changed their values and no longer view the cultural practices as preferable, many conservation measures were found costly or even as burdens, and thus require government support. The other limitation is that without emphasizing the underlying values, the practices were reduced to hollow performances for aesthestic and tourist purposes. Moreover, as the Ifugao society becomes assimilated to the non-Ifugao ones, the conservation of the Ifugao culture should be placed in the context of a more universal perspective. And therefore, it is the values from which cultural practices originated that should be the subject of conservation.
However, these values can be easy to undermine, but hard to reestablish. It requires trust and collective action. The difficulty and the irony is that the lack of these prerequisites is, at the same time, the outcome of the traditional values being undermined. Yet, it is our inaction that maintains this cycle, and to break it, we can begin action[2] with our individual reflections on experiences and events in life. Too often it seems that most of us do not question the rightfulness of what we are used to or feel comfortable with. We seem to take for granted that gasoline is a superior form of energy to human labor without thinking about the biomass and time it takes to form crude oil; we seem to take for granted that a shirt can be thrown away when fashion trends change without thinking of the tedious tasks workers used to produce a shirt; we seem to take for granted that our life has meaning as long as we are busy without thinking what we are busy for. Is our inaction a result of our human nature to want comfort, or of our fear of losing what we privately enjoy? If our human nature is to want comfort, should there be limit at which the limited material resources can sustain us? If there is such limit, should we still connect our unlimited desire for happiness with materialistic enjoyment? If we know that our lifestyle is not sustainable, resulting directly and indirectly in sufferings somewhere in the world, should we control our desires although there are others living “more unsustainably”, or do we continue? If we feel it is immoral that opportunities for materialistic prosperity are unequal among the general people, why do we think it is acceptable to pursue them now rather than preserve for the future generations? Is it because we believe that current prosperity will not deprive other people and future generations of equal opportunities, or are we choosing to be unconvinced?
If such reflection provokes any doubt or hesitation in the things we take for granted as good, we should have the courage to try to initiate discussions with our fellow community members and to make small changes in our daily life. No matter how such discussions or changes in the actions in our daily life may turn out to be, uncomfortable, lonesome, or awakening, we experience the tension of the three relationships of human versus nature, human versus human, and human versus self. There will be no regret if the Ifugao values are found undersirable and should be forgotten, yet if we discover value in them and live those values in our life, we would have achieved no small thing.

[1] The environmental fee was 50 pesos for Batad Rice Terraces and 350 for Nagacadan Rice Terraces.
[2] We may need to begin action as soon as possible because with the exponential-like development of mankind, the tipping point posed by climate change and the development of weapons of mass destruction is not far away. (Morris, 2010)