I was born to a family of educators from Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya. My parents taught in the public schools. The last American Schools Division Superintendent in Nueva Vizcaya Province was Carl Bennet, who married into one of the prominent Gaddang families – Aleja Cutaran from Bayombong. They are distant affinal relatives of ours, as the sister of Aleja Cutaran was married to Tio Salvador Roxas, aleady a Public School Supervisor at the time, who was the first cousin of my mother Primitiva Bunanig. Public Schools Superintendent Carl Bennet prodded his affinal relatives and the members of the local native populace, to go into education. The indigenous peoples or natives of Nueva Vizcaya, to which my parents belong, are known as the Gaddangs, an ethno-linguist group in the three (3) main adjoining towns of Bagabag, Solano and Bayombong. They speak the Gaddang language. By and large, most of the prominent Gaddang families in the three towns are inter-related by blood or as affinal relatives.
According to Rev. Orlando Lorenzo Maddela, Jr. who had done intensive research and study on the Gaddangs, in his paper “Tracing the Gaddangs” relates “that about 3, 000 years ago (approximately 1, 000 B. C. or half of a few thousand years from the last ice age) when the land bridges were under water, the first wave of Gaddang came to this northern part of Luzon (Ybalon island) on a big boat called “caracol” and landed on a coastal area now known as Calaccad and Paracelis. The Cagayan Valley was still non –existent and the Gaddangs navigated from the old Faru (Aparri) up to the foothills of the Palalli range where the ancestors of the Gaddangs of Bagabag, Solano, and Bayombong settled which was referred to as “Nallubbunan” (human settlement) in the upstreams of “Yrraya”, now the Magat River. The first Spanish mission from Nueva Segovia (Lal-lo, Cagayan, described the Gaddangs as “another people” “who are literate and have irrigated lands with two harvests; they have streets running at right angles and wedid not have anything to teach them. We left the cross at the plaza.” The Spaniards relating the “another people” in like manner, as the Basques of Spain (whose language can not be classified as Hispanic) gave the name Nueva Vizcaya. Another prolific historical research on the roots of the Gaddang people, by Dr. Dolly Guiab Lumicao-Mibolos, faculty member of the UP Department of History, disclosed that there were several resistances by the Gaddangs against the Spaniards colonizers. The many
military expedition that the Spaniards launched from 1572-1596 to conquer Nueva Vizcaya achieved very little. The strategic importance of Nueva Vizcaya lying between Cagayan and Central Luzon meant the pacification of all Cagayan and the island of Luzon was dependent on the colonization of Nueva Vizcaya. The Spaniards stationed their expedition force at Bagabag, as a staging area to penetrate into Ifugao. Between 1596-1639 there were several Gaddang revolts against the Spaniards. According to Rev. Orlando Maddela, Jr. the most significant, were those led by Cuntapay and Dayag in 1621.
Gaddangs have their own culture, innate strength, language and ancestral domain. Some local writers, Gamboa (1960) and Lora (1984) dealt on the general culture of the Gaddangs. Mary Christine Abriza said that Gaddangs have reformulated their culture to meet new situations. The influx of lowland groups such as the migrants of Ilocanos, Cagayanos, and other groups from Central Luzon began to affect the population and pressure on the land. Former Nueva Vizcaya Governor Corazon A. Espino, whose mother is an Allayu, a pure Gaddang from Solano, was married to a Manzano, a Pangasinense who later became Provincial Governor of Nueva Vizcaya. Gov. Corazon Espino who according to the narrations of his late father Gov. Manzano, said that Nueva Vizcaya was then known by the lowlanders as a vast fertile, rich and sparsely populated area with abundant lands for settlement purposes. Hence the drove of migrants coming from Ilocos, Pangasinan, Central Luzon and other parts of the country. The Gaddangs are known as amiable, friendly and peace loving group.1 Most of the migrants married with the natives and that is how Manzano from Pangasinan married an Allayu of Solano and became Governor. Leon Cabarroguis from Ilocos Sur married a Lopez from Bayombong also became Governor and eventually a Congressman. The first native Governor of Nueva Vizcaya was Castañeda from Dupax, who married a native Isinay.
These landed families were generous in donating their properties to the government or to private institutions. The site of the old capitol building in Bayombong was donated by Fernando Gauan and the area included up to where the PNP Headquarters is now located. The Garingans also donated the site where the Saint Mary’s University buildings near the PNP barracks are located. In Bagabag, the present
site of the new market site was donated by the Lumauigs and Bunanig families to the municipal government.
My late father Diego, was in his first year at the Philippine Normal College in Manila, when he was summoned back to the province. He opened and set-up the “Immugan Farm Settlement School”, a frontier barrio of the town of Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, nestled in the Caraballo mountain ranges near the border of Pangasinan Province. From there, my parents – a husband and wife team also opened the primary school in La Torre, a barrio of Bayombong – the capital town. From their teaching stints in Nueva Vizcaya, my parents joined the pioneer group of Nueva Vizcaya families who went to Kiangan, Ifugao. A number of them were educators and joined the relatively new but increasing teaching force of the public schools of the province. The others were in small business, traders and skilled craftsmen and carpenters.
The other Nueva Vizcaya famiies who were also among the first settlers in Ifugao like the Castillos of Bagabag, were also teachers; the entrepreneurs like the Danguilans and Velazquezes of Solano and the Manalos of Bayombong, who opened the first bakery shop in Kiangan. The Alindayos of Bagabag and the Gadingans of Bayombong were engaged in large cattle trading. The Ifugaos were good customers of these large cattle traders, as carabaos were among the favored slaughtered animals for the Ifugao “kanyaw” festivities. Bonifacio Whigan, Ambrosio Whigan and Ramon Roxas of Bagabag were skilled craftsmen, who were patronized mainly by the Ifugao Bureau of Public Works (BPW), to do the construction, maintenance and other carpentry works in their BPW buildings.
I am, Ifugao by birth. I grew up in the bosom of Kiangan as my parents were educators who migrated to the area from Nueva Vizcaya. By birth therefore, I am an Ifugao and by parentage I am a Gaddang from Nueva Vizcaya. My parents are from Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, belonging to the ethno-linguistic cultural group, popularly known as Gaddangs--or the natives of Nueva Vizcaya. At the heartland of the Ifugao province, Kiangan is where I trace my birth roots. Growing up there, to a considerable extent defines my personal and ethnic identity.
From my anthropological readings of our province, Ifugao is actually situated in Kiangan. Ifugao is composed of several sub-tribes, but the main ethnic or linguistic groups there was the Ifugao. Residing in Kiangan as a low-lander was not a problem for us. As educators, my parents and family were respected. The locals were also a very hospitable group, and they gladly welcomed us in their circles. Ifugao society was then a sort of dichotomous setup – the common simple living populace and the easily noticeable ones, who were known as belonging to the landed gentry and of more progressive outlooks, called the “Kadangyans”. In fact, I have memories of some of the rituals they performed every time they had social events such as marriage, death or during their harvest festivals.
The late Joaquin Codamon, the well-respected head of the Codamon clan, was a close personal friend of my late father. Whenever there was any event in their family and they would hold the Kanyaw where several carabaos or pigs were slaughtered and then shared with the community, Mr. Codamon would always sent to us, a fair first share of the meat. It was a cultural practice that I experienced and something that I will always remember. In this aspect, it may not be amiss to state, that the “Kadangyans” were the highlanders, while we were the lowlanders. Yet there was that innate sense of camaraderie and belongingness among our peoples.
The acknowledged “patriarch” of the Ifugao families – Don Rafael Bulayungan, a tall and very dignified looking gentleman, apparently of Spanish extraction, used to drop by at home and engaged in a hearty conversation with my father. Don Rafael spoke a smattering of Spanish and converse fluently in Gaddang. In a way, the Gaddang culture must have been weaved into the Ifugao culture, as the older/senior Ifugao folks, like the late Assemblyman Miguel Gumangan, who also usually pay us a visit at home, spoke Gaddang fluently. And even up to this time, some Gaddang Christmas songs like “mewalang so lutung no ana-nga Diyos, Cordero na langit, Jesus maidduc”, used to be sung in church during the midnight mass on December 25. The Gaddang song “Yo Purgatorio dandaman diyao” is also sung during the wake for the dead. The arrival of Gaddang teachers, businessmen and skilled craftsmen, who readily mingled with the locals, must have made significant inroads into the life and practices of the Ifugao circle of friends. Our people did blend together and we just simply lived harmoniously despite ethnic variance in the dialects spoken. But somehow later, there were notable adaptations in the easily assimilated conversational expressions of the groups. As I try to reflect upon these things now, it is probably these early experiences I’ve had with the Ifugaos in Kiangan that somehow shaped my perspective on integration. I have seen how these people were gradually integrated into the mainstream. In fact, in my kindergarten days in school, I remember one or two schoolmates who would come barely clothed, and attended our classes barefooted. But it didn’t matter then because we were taught to respect other people’s differences. After some time, being taught in school, we attended classes all properly attired and were also quite happy about it. Our house
in Kiangan was very near the Catholic Church school ground. We were just a stone-throw away, so to
speak, to the convent and the missionary parish priest – a Belgian, Father Jerome Moerman, every now and then would drop by for a visit. So were the Belgian CICM Sisters, who often invited us along in their Catechism classes in the nearby barrios.
Ifugao province, which is adjacent to Nueva Vizcaya, belong to the old geographic region known as the old Mt. Province, then consisting of five sub-provinces of Benguet, Bontoc, Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao. These are now separate provinces, and with Abra province included, the Region is now called the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). In the early stages of the American Administration, and even when the Philippines Legislature was already organized, the Mountain Province as it was known then, together with Nueva Vizcaya was administered by the Bureau of non-Christian Tribes and later transferred to the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Ifugao is located on the high Cordillera Mountain Range which forms the spine of Northern Luzon, which is the principal island of the archipelago. It is peopled by the descendants of the ethnolinguistic group known as the Ifugaos, although it has now plenty of settlers from the lowlands. The people have long been Christianized by American and European missionaries and are now predominantly Roman Catholic. Ifugao is world-famous for its rice terraces, which attracts thousands of tourists yearly. Some say that the rice terraces were carved out of the mountainsides about 2,000 years ago ascending the mountains like giant steps. The construction techniques, especially the irrigation system used for the rice paddies, applied by the natives have indeed amazed engineers. If placed end to end, the terraces would actually encircle the earth.
Kiangan was at the center of Ifugao province for several reasons. First, it was once where the seat of the then sub-provincial government was situated. The entire Mountain Province was actually a long
lone province which starts from Baguio going down. It was one big province that was subdivided into 5 sub-provinces. Second, Kiangan was the main artery of the transport system then. It was just hard to miss Kiangan but only because all transport route would have to pass through Kiangan, whether going to Baguio, Lagawe or Banawe. Third, Kiangan was considered by many historians and anthropologists as the center of education of the entire province of Ifugao. There were two high schools in Kiangan: The Ifugao
Academy ran by the Protestant Missionaries and the Saint Joseph’s High School with complete primary and elementary units, ran by the Belgian Missionaries. My parents were teachers at the local public school. The low-land migrants to Ifugao, were conveniently referred to by the natives as the “Kulityagangs”, a corrupted word for Christians. We did not mind at all the appellation. As time went by, understanding, closer relationships and intimacies developed, we were invariably called “ibba” or “tulang”, meaning friend or brother. We now were ushered in as adjuncts if not bonafides of Ifugao society.
We were ten siblings, but three died in infancy. I am actually the fourth child of the surviving siblings of five boys and two girls, although two of my older brothers passed away already. My parents were profound Catholics, educators and belonging to the so- called old school. They were tireless in their imparting to us, the revered Filipino values of tradition, respect for elders, the essence of value formation like ethics, honesty, integrity, humility, and compassion and the dignity of labor. At home, the daily routine was to do our respective share of the household chores, accomplishing our school assignments, and other personal concerns, while my parents were preparing themselves for their classroom duties.
My daily chore was to polish the wooden floors of the two big rooms of the house with a coconut husk. Coming from a big family, seniority played an important role in our family life. My father and the two elder brothers often had the last word and I often assumed menial tasks for them. After classes in the afternoon, and after being done with athletics or industrial arts assignments, we all repaired back home for the family social time. Exchanges of the events of the day took place often resulting in brief impromptu programs, like reading or rendering a poem learned in school or individual or group singing. Praying together the Angelus was strictly observed, at 6 o’clock p.m. sharp. Dinner time followed after which, we worked on our school homework while my parents were busy working on their lesson plans for the next day. Retirement time was 8 o’clock p.m. as all the lights were put off by then, except the coco-oil candle at the family altar.