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The Gaddang Tribe of the Philippines: History, Culture, Customs and Tradition, Arts & Crafts [Philippine Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]

The Gaddang Tribe of the Philippines: History, Culture, Customs and Tradition, Arts & Crafts [Philippine Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]

The word “Gaddang,” also known as “Gadang” or “Ga’dang,” may mean simply “skin” or the verb “to take a step” as in “gina’dang” (Wallace 2013, 7; Toquero 2009, 2). “Gaddang” may also derive from ga, meaning “heat” or “fire,” and dang or “burn,” and thus means “burned by heat.” A popular myth among the non-Gaddang, which the Gaddang hold with some amusement, is that “gaddang” is the word for “carabao,” which may be a way of likening its skin color to that of the Gaddang. The Gaddang pronounce the word with a glottal stop at the first syllable: Ga’dang. “Gaddang” is the way it is written, as established by the Spanish chroniclers and subsequently adopted by researchers and academics.

The Gaddang are found in northern Nueva Vizcaya, particularly Bayombong, Solano, and Bagabag on the western bank of the Magat River; southwestern Isabela, particularly Santiago City, Angadanan, Cauayan City, and Reina Mercedes on the Cagayan River for Christianized groups; western Isabela, along the edges of Kalinga and Bontoc, in the towns of Antatet, Dalig, and the barrios of Gamu and Tumauini for the non-Christianized communities; and to a lesser extent, eastern parts of Ifugao and Mountain Province of the Cordillera Administrative Region. Related groups are the Yogad and Iraya. The 1960 census reports that there were 25,000 Gaddang and that 10% or about 2,500 of these were non-Christian. In 1979, the total population of the Gaddang increased to 43,150. In 2000, the Gaddang and Yogad had a combined population of 30,778 or 2.4% of the 1,286,515 total population of Isabela province. There were no records in the other provinces where they are known to reside.

History of the Gaddang Tribe - Indigenous Filipino People  

In ancient times, the Gaddang might have come from the north, entering the Cagayan River at its mouth. Details from the epic of Biwag and Malana suggest that the Gaddang may have been the first to occupy the Cagayan Valley after the Aeta. Moving upriver, the Gaddang encountered the Ilongot. These early Gaddang were Proto-Philippineasians who already had knowledge of the uma or kaingin (swidden or slash-and-burn) system of agriculture.

Gaddang man and women in traditional attire
Gaddang man and women in traditional attire (SIL International)

In 1591, the first Spanish military invasion of the Gaddang territory in Dangla province entered by way of the Isinay territory of Tuy, from where the troops traveled north toward the southern tip of what is now Nueva Vizcaya, and from here continued to travel northward toward Cagayan Valley. The expedition, consisting of “70 Spanish soldiers, 2 Augustinian fathers, many armed Indian chiefs and men from Pampanga, and over 1,300 Indian bearers” (Keesing 1962, 270), was led by the governor general’s son, Don Luis Dasmariñas. They had set off from Pampanga through Nueva Ecija along Balete, also known as Dalton Pass, and on to the flatlands of Magat, also known as Cagayan River. The Gaddang territory of Dangla is the present site of Bambang, Bayombong, Solano, and Bagabag, north of Isinay territory. Each village that the expedition passed had an average of 70 houses.

Having learned of the plunder and destruction wrought by the Spaniards on the Isinay villages and the capitulation of the Isinay chiefs in Tuy, the Gaddang chiefs took their oath of allegiance in a peace-pact ceremony with the use of eggs to symbolize the fragility of one’s word of honor. Then the Gaddang proffered tributes of gold necklaces. The Spaniards subjugated nine more villages, but the residents of the 10th, named Bolo, fled with their weapons. The Spaniards seized village women and children as hostages in exchange for food supplies. At Yugan, which was the Spanish expedition’s last stop at Dangla valley, four chiefs came and offered to ransom the captives. Dasmariñas freed them in exchange for the chiefs’ oath of allegiance, which the chiefs took with a peace-pact ceremony, this time using candles. From here, the expedition exited Dangla and entered Nueva Segovia, also known as Cagayan, where Spanish colonization had begun earlier in 1581.

A second invasion a month later took the same route as the first, again entering Dangla Valley through Tuy. As before, the Spaniards captured natives in exchange for food supplies, this time, holding a Gaddang chief hostage. This chief, however, escaped and led an attack against the Spanish camp. In all the villages that the Spaniards passed henceforth, the residents had either left or were ready for battle. Like the first expedition a month before, this second one departed the valley and went on into Nueva Segovia.

Three months later, a third expedition confined itself in the valleys of Tuy and Dangla, from where the expedition returned to Pangasinan through Mount Imuga, passing by Dalton Pass. In Dangla, the Spaniards gave away tokens of goodwill that were of little value—hawk’s bells, rings, needles, small strings of beads, combs, and pieces of cloth—while the Isinay and Gaddang were forced to provide food supplies such as hens, fowl, swine, rice, venison, and gasilung (sweet potatoes or camote), as well as some gold.

By the next Spanish invasion three years later, in 1594, the Isinay and Gaddang chiefs of Aritao and Dangla would capitulate to the Spanish commander, with whom they held a blood compact. Each chief presented the Spaniard with a small string of carnelian beads, a little rice, gold, and some fowl as the first of a series of tributes that they were to pay the Spanish colonial government in the next three centuries. There were villages, however, such as Tuguey, Giarin, and Balagbac, which fended off the foreign invaders with bows and arrows. Others abandoned their homes in anticipation of their arrival. In the inhabited villages that they passed, the Spaniards marveled at the abundance of gold that the people, even the children, were wearing: necklaces, armlets reaching up to their elbows, anklets, and earrings. In the village of Anit, on the other hand, human and animal skulls hung from the houses as adornment.

Generally occupying the same area where they are found today though living in dispersed settlements, the Gaddang were later forced to live in compact communities through the Spanish policy of reduccion (resettlement). The Gaddang intermittently rose in revolt through the centuries of Spanish colonialism, and at least one revolt was led by their own town officials.

A major uprising in 1621 was the result of Spanish abuse and oppression that the colonized lowland Gaddang had grown weary of, primarily the imprisonment of their chiefs and relatives in Manila as hostages, and the collection of tributes. On 6 November of that year, Gabriel Dayag, together with his 23-year-old, younger brother Gobernadorcillo (Mayor) Felipe Catupay, led an uprising that began from their village of Abuatan, in the vicinity of Tumauini, Isabela. They had initially sent a chief elder, Saquin, to Manila to obtain the release of their chiefs who were being held hostage as a means of control over the Gaddang. Foreseeing the futility of this plan, the rebels decided to burn down their own villages, recruit as many as possible of their fellow Gaddang in the neighboring villages, and lead them into the most inaccessible parts of the nearby mountains. The revolt began with the sudden appearance of 800 armed Abuatan warriors on the church courtyard of the nearby village of Pilitan and signaled by a loud war cry that rose above the tumult. They had shed their colonial attire, reverted back to their G-string, and covered their bodies with oil. The brothers Cutapay and Dayag explained the justness of their uprising to the priest, put him on a boat, together with all the gold and silver church paraphernalia of both Abuatan and Pilitan, and provided him with oarsmen. They then set fire to the whole village. The tribute collector was executed. Several other villages joined them in this uprising, including Bolo, which had already proven its recalcitrance against the first Spanish invasion in 1591. Within a year, however, the Spaniards had effectively suppressed the rebellion, and about 300 families of returning rebels were resettled at Maquila in northern Isabela. A few years later, another uprising occurred in the district of Malagueg or Malaueg, a town presently populated by the Ibanag and the Itawit.

Another significant victory, this time for the non-Christian or upland Gaddang, occurred in the 1640s, when they drove away the Spaniards in a considerable area of Christianized Gaddang territory. It took one year for the Spaniards to reestablish control here, too.

Over the centuries, the Gaddang were Christianized in fits and starts by the Dominicans and the Augustinians. It was not until 1739, when the Pangasinan-Cagayan road was completed, that the Gaddang’s submission to Christianity was solidified. The following year, 600 Gaddang and Yogad people came down from their mountain villages to the Augustinian mission settlement of Paniqui to be baptized (Blair and Robertson 1907, 48: 130). Four years later, in 1743, the Dominican priests had six churches built, one each in the Gaddang settlements of Cauayan, Appiat, Bagabag, Lappau, Daruyag, and Carig (or Santiago). Bayombong, which was to become the capital of Nueva Vizcaya province, already had a church, built earlier by the Augustinians and which the Dominicans took over.

The Spaniards relied on a gradual process of subjugation of riverine, plain, and coastal tribes. Although this process did succeed in colonizing many Gaddang, its effectiveness was limited by the Spanish policy prohibiting the Christianized Gaddang from maintaining relations, commercial or otherwise, with their non-Christian brethren. Such a policy resulted in the hardening hostility of the unconverted Gaddang.

Eventually, a basic dichotomy developed between Christian and non-Christian Gaddang. Mutual hostilities intensified between the Christian Gaddang, who called all unconverted natives “Kalinga,” and the non-Christian Gaddang. Periodically they would launch head taking forays into Christian territory, which in many instances developed into pitched battles. The end result of the dichotomy was that the Christian Gaddang were fully assimilated into the general Christian culture, while the upland Gaddang preserved their indigenous traditions during the centuries of Spanish rule.

The tobacco monopoly in the 19th century gave the Spanish government reason to encourage the resettlement of the Ilocano to other northern territories such as Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, and Isabela. By 1903, there were around 50,000 Ilocano in these three provinces that accounted for 17% of the total population.

The Americans took a different tack in their colonizing efforts. The first step in their “Christianizing” and “civilizing” project was to encourage anthropologists to conduct thorough and systematic studies of the mountain peoples of the Philippines, including the Gaddang. Then they adapted their policies to the norms of these indigenous societies, while gaining these peoples’ recognition of American sovereignty. The Americans placed them, particularly the chieftains, in positions of authority within their locales, recruited, for example, into the Philippine Constabulary and the police force. Mission schools established in the mountains introduced Western values to the upland communities. Hence, head taking declined in the American period. The last head taker who freely recounted his exploits was in the 1960s, and he could boast of only two heads to his name. Under the American colonial administration, his achievement was considered a crime, so he was jailed for eight years. He took his second and last head during World War II, when the Gaddang were taking many Japanese heads.

In the postwar years, the upland Gaddang could no longer avoid gradual assimilation into mainstream economic and political life. The land that they lived on was becoming inadequate, especially with the influx of other people, particularly the Ilocano. From 1939 to 1970 in Isabela province, their population decreased from 31% to 29% in the municipality of Echague; from 18% to 8% in Cauayan; and from a solid population of 2,000 to only four in Angadanan. In direct proportion to the Gaddang population’s decline, the Ilocano population rose by an average of 55% in these three municipalities during the same period.

In 1956, a third province, Isabela, was cut out of the northern part of Nueva Vizcaya and the southern part of Cagayan. Bayombong became the new capital of Nueva Vizcaya when its previous capital Camarag, now Echague, became part of Isabela. In 1971, another province was cut out of Nueva Vizcaya to form Quirino. Hence, what was originally the combined area of Ituy and Cagayan Valley became four provinces: Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela, and Cagayan.

Over time, increasing relations with lowland groups and, conversely, the dispersal of relatives and friends, secured the place of Gaddang settlements within the national political framework. Today, there is little to distinguish the Gaddang from other Christian Filipinos, whether in the rural or urban areas. All the Gaddang now belong to barangay and municipalities and are serviced by municipal, provincial, regional, and national government agencies. Census figures have shown that there already is a significant urbanized segment among the Gaddang, approximately some 33% of their total population.

Video: ISTORYA: Mayamang Kultura at Tradisyon ng Ga'dang. Kilala ang Ga’dang sa kanilang tradisyunal na kasuotan na nagpapakita ng kanilang mayamang kultura. Ito rin ang naging daan para makilala sila sa sining ng paghahabi.

The Gaddang Way of Life

Two farming systems are practiced in the cultivation of the Gaddang’s staple crop, which is rice: the uma cultivation by the upland Gaddang, and plow farming by the lowland Gaddang. Uma cultivation is divided into two periods per year: mabini (rice-growing season), which lasts from July to December, and the mamula (season of other domesticated plants growing), from January to July. The uma system is dry cultivation; thus, the uma farmer plants rice by digging a hole in the ground with a sharply pointed stick, scooping a handful of about ten rice grains from a belt basket, and dropping the grains into the hole. The Gaddang continue to follow this practice because they believe that this method guarantees the satisfactory quality and quantity of the rice harvest. Because the grains that are placed in the holes for planting are not covered over by soil, these are easy prey for birds. Up to the mid-1960s, birds were driven away by a mechanism made of bamboo clappers fastened to one another by rattan strips.

Gaddang farmer riding carabao
Gaddang farmer (SIL International)

In the mid-1960s, during the mamula season, as many as 25 varieties of vegetables and fruits, generically called mula, were planted, such as camote, mung bean, sitaw (cowpea), patola (sponge gourd), garlic, tomato, nana (millet), banana, yam, taro, saluyot (jute), ampalaya (bitter melon), kangkong (swamp cabbage), kulitis (spineless amaranth), mustasa (leaf mustard), red pepper, papaya, and sugarcane. At present only seven different plants are grown in the uma. Banana, of which the Gaddang know 12 varieties, is the most important of these food plants. Sugarcane is cultivated as a source of wine.

Gaddang women farmer planting corn
Gaddang farmer (SIL International)

The rice harvest is mainly for domestic consumption, although it is not enough to last the year. The primary cash crop that the uma farmer cultivates is tobacco. Bamboo, rattan, cogon grass, and other wild forest products are gathered for selling in the lowlands. The income from these is used to purchase rice, gin, and other goods. In the past, surplus amounts of rice and gin were reserved for the anitu rituals.

Gaddang farmer in the fields with straw hat
Gaddang farmer (SIL International)

The hunting and trapping of simaron (wild animals) used to be done with the help of dogs and the use of spears. Edible insects are caught. Presently, only birds are hunted because forest animals such as wild boar, deer, monkeys, and fruit bats have disappeared along with their habitat. The river provides an abundance of fish, frogs, and shellfish. Traditionally, the women fish with pole and line and the men with net and spear. However, where dynamite fishing is practiced, these food sources have become scarce. Domesticated pigs and chicken, collectively called ayam, are raised for food and in the past, for use as sacrificial animals in their rituals. The occasional uma farmer who owns a dafug (carabao) does not use it in the field but rents it out to lowland plow farmers for rice.

In the uma system, the soil loses its fertility as the field is planted on repeatedly; hence, the uma household must move every four to six years in search of another area to clear and cultivate. The site for uma farming is selected in February and March. Heavily forested areas are chosen because fields covered by akun, also known as cogon grass, are impossible to cultivate. Key terms for the various stages in uma farming are also succinct descriptions of the agricultural cycle. Busing (site selection) and some clearing of the forest in February mark the beginning of the cycle. Pidwana busing (further cutting) and mataraw (trimming of trees) are done in March. When the area is considered nauma (cleared), this is followed by several months of magangu (drying of cut materials). Sikulan (debris burning) and makat (piling and burning) of materials not burned during the sikulan is done in May. Malandok (weeding) is done in June; makamel (site cleaning), mimunaw (rice ritual), mafini, and mamula in July; amuwawan (swidden potection) in September. The mimunaw is repeated in November; magani (rice harvesting), mamilog (rice drying), madat (bundling) of rice stalks, and minudu (storing of rice into granaries) in December. Mamula is repeated in January and hence begins another cycle.

Because of deforestation, the uma farmer can no longer assume that there will always be a forest to slash and burn. Hence, the Gaddang have universally shifted to lowland plow farming, which divides the year into two seasons: the rice-corn season from April to October, and the tobacco season from October to March. Alternatively, if the farm is planted entirely to corn, it is planted and harvested twice in the year within these two seasons. The permanent field, which has an average size of two hectares, is planted mainly to corn for three reasons: It is a cash crop, whereas rice is for family subsistence; corn is hardier than rice because it can survive amidst cogon grass; and it is less labor intensive than rice, which requires the building and maintenance of paddy dikes. The mula or vegetable and fruit plants, as opposed to ornamental ones, are grown in large tin cans standing in a row in the yard.

About half of lowland plow farmers still cultivate upland uma to supplement their corn harvest with rice, tobacco, vegetables, and fruit in the upland uma, which is about one-half to one hectare in size. However, instead of maximizing the use of the soil for a whole year, the uma farmer now uses it for only half a year and allows it to lie fallow in the second half to give it time to recover its fertility. Coconut, betel nut palm, and banana trees are ubiquitous, and these can therefore be harvested both for home consumption and the market.

Plow farming has brought the Gaddang at the threshold of modern technology as they make use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, and the hand tractor or mechanical plow, all of which must be purchased. His entry into the cash economy requires hired labor for the harvesting and milling, and farm-to-market transport. Thus, the farmer’s net income is only 25% of his gross income.

In 1983, a dam, the biggest in Asia at the time, was built across the Magat, also known as Cagayan River. It brought about some degree of modernization for the Gaddang. A farm-to-market road connected the towns of Isabela to the Gaddang villages, resulting in the daily exchange of goods from and to the Gaddang people. Before this, they had been generally cut off from town centers. As dictated by distance and the weather, the journey used to involve a one-to-four-day hike along dirt roads and footpaths. The four-day hike has been reduced to a 12-hour bus ride, and a day’s walk on a dirt road is now an hour’s jeepney ride on dirt-and-gravel road. Owning a motorcycle has become a viable option; hence, in a typical Gaddang village of 20 households, six may own a motorcycle and one may own a secondhand van, which, besides being for family use, is also for hire.

Kolak, or the traditional trading partnership with non-relatives, has been replaced by the creditor-debtor relationship between the relatively prosperous and the poor Gaddang, defined as a family with less than two hectares of land. The poor farmer takes out a loan at 20% interest per six months and uses the borrowed money to buy the essential farm supplies and materials from the same moneylender. Thus, the moneylender gets double compensation for the sale of the farm supplies and the interest earned from the loan.

The phenomenon of “culture for sale” is the main cause of the disappearance of artifacts such as heirloom beads, weapons, Chinese porcelain, and woven textiles. The value of these items ranges from one to several carabaos, though these are actually priceless and irreplaceable. These have been bought by antique dealers, who either auction them off on the Internet or sell them to middlemen for antique and jewelry shops abroad. Other sources of supplementary income are the partial earnings of offspring employed in the city or the rare offspring who is an overseas contract worker (OCW).

Gaddang Tribal System

Indigenous leadership among the Gaddang was held by a village chief who was supported by a class of warriors. Although no permanent structure or formal ceremony gave recognition to an overall ruler, one chief might be held in greater esteem than others by the chiefs of neighboring villages. There also may arise one who could talk more fluently and logically than others who may become the head of the community. Largely, however, there were no formal political structures.

Gaddang men in traditional wear
Gaddang men in traditional wear (Milo A. Paz)

The Spanish reduccion policy established the pueblo complex in Bayombong and Bagabag and replaced the Gaddang traditional leadership with native, state-appointed officials who had proven their loyalty to the colonial administration. The roots of dynastic politics can be traced to this system. In 1775, Governor-General Simon de Anda appointed Don Juan Lumauig y Acocan of Bagabag as maestre-de-campo (field marshal) to keep Christianized and migrant Igorots of the province under control. More than a hundred years later, in 1889, Don Juan’s great grandson, Don Salvador Lumauig, was the gobernadorcillo and rewarded a Medal of Civil Merit.

In 1839, Cagayan Valley was divided into two provinces: The lower half which covered Ituy territory was named Nueva Vizcaya, and the upper half maintained the name “Cagayan.” Tuguegarao, replaced Lal-lo as the capital of Cagayan, while Camarag, the present Echague, became the capital of Nueva Vizcaya.

The American colonial government continued the Spanish policy of dividing the Filipino people into the remontados (mountain people), who were salvajes (savages), and the urbanizados (urbanized or citified), who were civilizados (civilized). L. E. Bennett, the first American governor of Nueva Vizcaya, classified the Gaddang and Isinay who lived in the lowlands as “Filipinos” and the mountain people “Igorrote.” In 1904, the second governor, L. G. Knight, included Gaddang and Isinay in a list of languages with which a qualified voter was allowed to prove himself literate, the other languages being Spanish, English, or Ilocano.

Prior to World War II, the mark of leadership was one’s head taking prowess. Head taking was a means to resolve feuds, cure an illness, stave off famine, prove one’s manhood, or avenge a wrong. The esteemed rank of mingal was conferred on leading headhunters who were infused with madaiyao (great power) approximating that of their culture heroes. A successful head taking raid was celebrated with a grand feast, with dancing and gong playing, and which climaxed with the head taker’s account of his latest exploit, delivered with much rhetorical embellishment.

In the 16th century, the first Spanish expedition in the area observed that at least one Gaddang house had skulls hanging in the houses. Keeping a skull in the house was a gesture of great respect for the person who had been beheaded, and the Gaddang reserved this honor only for fellow Gaddang and other mountain warriors of high status. The heads of other races and of Christianized lowland groups were held in contempt and simply thrown aside and left to the elements.

The decline and end of the head taking practice began with the state’s encouragement of traditional peacekeeping mechanisms: the kolak or trading partnership, and the pudon or peace-pact system. These two devices promote peace and order, especially in dealings with other ethnic groups, and benefit relatives of the trading partners or peace-pact holders. The kolak, literally “sibling,” is forged when two friends or acquaintances but non-relatives agree to enter into a trading relationship with each other. This is initiated by one man who, with wine in hand, calls on a prospective trading partner’s house. There is much camaraderie between the two friends over wine and food before the kolak is formally established with the partners’ exchange of gifts. These partners may be two Gaddang or one Gaddang and a member of another ethnic group, usually an Ilocano. Thus, the gifts will be products of each party’s ethnic culture: On one hand, a Gaddang jungle knife and spear, and on the other, an Ilocano machete and some rice. Subsequently, the kolak becomes of economic, social, and political importance to both partners.

The pudon is a peace pact between communities. Peace-pact leaders resolve conflicts between members of their respective communities through open discussion and consensus as to the penalty to be imposed on the guilty party. Civil authorities intervene only when a crime is committed by a member of a community that is not a peace-pact holder. Participating communities are guaranteed safe travel through each other’s territory.

A pudon is initiated by one community that proposes it to another, and their leaders engage in a thorough discussion over its mutual advantage. Peace-pact leaders, called ulo na pudon, are chosen from members held in high esteem—a mingal, a man with the gift of eloquence, a man of affluence, or a man who has demonstrated his active involvement in community affairs. On the day of the pudon ceremony, the community that has initiated it sends its group of representatives, led by the ulo na pudon, to the village of its prospective partner. As the group enters the village, it is welcomed with community dancing, gong playing, singing, betel nut chewing, drinking, and feasting. Tales from the heroic past are recounted, the benefits of the pudon are exalted, and the geographical territory covering the terms of the pudon is delineated. Hunting knives, head-axes, and spears are exchanged between the two communities. The feasting and revelry lasts for another day or two.

When the Spaniards invaded Gaddang territory, the Spanish commander and the Gaddang chief held a pudong ceremony, the centerpiece of which was an oath-taking ritual. Eggs were used to symbolize the solemn word of the pudon holders. Both leaders each took an egg, threw the eggs to the ground at the same time, and swore to fulfill the promise of peace as they likened themselves to the broken eggs should they break their word. In subsequent Spanish invasions, lighted candles were used instead of eggs, and the wording of the oath was revised accordingly: He who broke his word would be consumed as the candles were consumed. The Spanish commander and the Gaddang chief then put out the flames of their candles and swore that whoever broke the pact would be “slain and would perish.” Hence, a veiled threat was added to the traditional oath.

Blood compacts were also practiced to seal peace agreements. The leaders of the parties involved cut themselves, bled their wound, and drank each other’s blood. The leaders then exchanged gifts such as strings of carnelian beads, rice, gold, and fowl.

The Gaddang population has since been assimilated into the Philippine body politic. Their communities fall within the structure of local politics in their respective areas and are represented by Gaddang barangay captains and Gaddang municipal councilors, police officers, and other civil officials. The Lupong Tagapamayapa, also known as Dispute-Mediator Council, is a standard feature of the barangay in the whole country. In Gaddang territory, it has taken over the functions of the pudon, the residual elements of which may still be evident to some degree. As a local people’s court, its primary function is peacekeeping; thus, it is called on to resolve such petty neighborhood disputes as slander, petty theft, scandalous behavior, and squabbles. Major crimes like the use of arms, homicide, and habitual law breaking are handled by the police. In a typical Gaddang village, members of the people’s court are eight well-reputed elders, predominantly male, who are appointed by the barangay council, which is elected. The people’s court is convened when a complaint is filed by a village member against another. It listens as the two parties present their case, and it settles the case by imposing a fine on the guilty party. Because of the multiethnic population of most barangays, the composition of the people’s court is typically multiethnic. No official language is required by law, but Ilocano is the dominant language used in the court, with a smattering of Gaddang, English, and very minimally, Tagalog.

Legal landownership and inheritance have become major concerns for the Gaddang, whose economic system is still largely agricultural. This relatively recent awareness has brought the Gaddang into the network of various legal processes such as birth and death registration, land titling, taxation, and all other obligations that must be fulfilled by Filipino citizens to enjoy their rights and privileges as such.

In 2014, the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya was cited for its programs and services for the various indigenous peoples of the province. In the same year, the Gaddang of Solano and Bayombong towns were conferred the Certificate of Confirmation by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which represents state recognition of indigenous people’s right to governance and self-determination.

Gaddang Social Organization and Customs

Social order is imposed within the structures of the family and kinship system. But in any community of 25 to 30 families, there may exist a council of elders, composed of the heads of families, which traditionally settles disputes regarding divorces, petty crimes, and so on. Traditionally, however, the honor system is what sustains friendly relations between villagers. In 1633, it was observed that the Gaddang left their harvested palay unguarded in their fields and simply took home a sufficient amount to pound, cook, and eat without worrying about the rest being stolen.

In the days when head taking and warfare were common, blood relationships had great bearing, as relatives were responsible for avenging wrongs committed against family or clan members. Following the decline of head taking, the dispersal of family and clan members, and the shift to plow agriculture, the kinship system was replaced by state institutions, which the individual could theoretically depend on for various forms of assistance.

The tabalayan (household) is the basic unit of society. It consists of the nuclear family, composed of the ama (father), ina (mother), ulitang (uncle), ikit (aunt), kolak (sibling), kapingsan (cousin), anak (child), and panganakan (nephew or niece). The term afu covers the grandparents and grandchildren, extending to all ascendants and spouses and cousins of grandparents and grandchildren. It is also a term of deference and respect for an elderly person. Because a wayi (relative) is more to one’s advantage than not, two people may declare and henceforth treat each other as such.

Gaddang mother and child
Gaddang mother and child (SIL International)

The atawa (spouse) is also the source of additional kinship relations. In-laws are katuwangan, an affinity extending past parents-in-law to their siblings, cousins, and their respective spouses. Children-in-law and their spouses, nephews, and nieces are mannuwang. The two sets of parents-in-law address each other as kafalay. In olden times, the chiefs of two otherwise warring groups might reenforce their peace pact with a marriage between members of their family. Such was the case in 1594, when Isinay Chief Ibarat had a brother-in-law who was a Gaddang chief.

Gaddang woman with bead necklaces and man with tattoo
Gaddang woman with bead necklaces and man with tattoo (SIL International)

Babies were given only one name. An infant son was named after his paternal grandfather; a daughter after her maternal grandmother. Alternatively, the baby might be named after a plant or a sound made by an animal. Today, the Gaddang follow the standard practice for all Filipino citizens at birth: The parents fill up a birth certificate on which a first, middle, and surname need to be provided for the newborn. And unlike those born before the 1960s, everyone knows his or her exact birthdate.

Gaddang parents have close relations with their children. The mother can carry her baby all day on her back with a wide sling, usually a woven blanket, both ends of which are tied in a knot on her chest. This practice allows her to go about her chores without interruption except when she breastfeeds the baby. When the father returns from the field, he relieves the mother of the babysitting duties and carries the child around in the same way. He pays particular attention to his sons, feeding them their standard baby food, which is rice porridge and am (rice water).A hammock that is hung in the houseserves as the infant’s cradle. The baby feeds from her mother on demand and will continue to do so until three years old or until a sibling is born.

Toddlers up to the age of six have no set meals but eat on demand. They are free to play with others, usually role-playing games. Parents intervene only when their children misbehave with playmates. Between 6 and 12, the children are taught occupational skills. The fathers teach their sons how to farm, fish, and hunt, and do other such chores assigned to men. The mothers teach their daughters how to mill rice, cook, clean, and do farm work assigned to women.

With tobacco being tied to their economic history, all Gaddang, adults and children, have a cigarette smoking habit. Cigarette sticks purchased by a parent in the lowlands are taken home to the children as a special treat. However, it is the practice of betel nut chewing that has prevailed from ancient times, being an essential element in all levels of social activity, ranging from village ceremonies to family affairs, to individual encounters.

The phases in the Gaddang life cyle are marked by anitu rituals, four of which are also prestige feasts. The sponsors of the ceremony and their immediate family are the principals of the ritual although they themselves have no role to play in its performance. The first of a series of four prestige feasts to be hosted by a couple in their lifetime is the kurawit. Lasting a day and a night, it is sponsored by a newlywed couple to ensure a happy family life. The great number of guests is the measure of its success. The makadwa is sponsored by the head of the family when he is in his late 20s, and the makalu, in his late 30s. Both events demonstrate that his family is on its way to becoming kamaran (wealthy) because of his capacity to host a feast with at least three pigs and enough rice and wine to feed guests for three days and nights. The most important anitu ritual is the among (grand feast), marking the peak of a Gaddang’s life, which he reaches in his late 40s. The rites are much like the makadwa and makalu, and the event lasts for the same length of time, except that the feast is much more lavish, with pigs, rice, and wine in even greater quantity than those at the first two rituals. The host may honor a cousin or close friend with a request to be his tuwan (partner), who would share in the expenses for the feast by donating a pig and some rice. Few Gaddang are able to sponsor an among.

Traditionally, women from 12 to 14 years old and men from 17 to 22 are considered of marriageable age. A boy may either inform his parents about a girl that he desires to marry, or the parents themselves will seek a bride for him. Because the couple will receive their inheritance on their pisel (wedding) day, families prefer their children’s prospective spouse to be of the same socioeconomic status. Prospective spouses from another village are also preferred so that the families’ relationship networks are widened.

When a boy’s parents wish to ask for a girl’s hand in marriage, they choose a go-between from among their own close relatives, such as a brother or a cousin. He negotiates the terms for the marriage inheritance and ensures the mutual agreement of both parties regarding their obligations as future in-laws or kafalay. When this is achieved, the go-between hands the girl’s parents a kiring (marriage bead), which is a family heirloom from the boy’s parents and worth a carabao or two. This signifies the start of the engagement period and establishes the relationship between the families as kafalay. If the girl is old enough, she is given the kiring, and the wedding date is set. Should the girl’s parents, at any time during the engagement period, change their mind, they must return the kiring. However, should the boy or his parents change their mind, they cannot take their kiring back.

The boy’s family hosts the pisel, which lasts for two days. A makamong (female medium) presides over the ritual killing of a pig because she is the sole interpreter of the omens conveyed by the pig’s noises. Together with a mabayen (male medium), she chants and prays for blessings. The engaged couple participates in all the social activities, which involve games and sports, eating, and drinking sugarcane wine and cheap gin. Shortly before dark, dinner is served. Then the dancing, which will last all night, commences with the men’s gong playing, while the mediums continue their prayer chant. At the height of these festivities, the couple will quietly slip away into a house that has been prepared for them. Although the activities continue till the following morning, the energy will have dissipated by then, and the ceremony ends at noon when the last guest has left. The two mediums end their prayer chant and are given choice parts of the sacrificial pig to take home. This ends the wedding ceremony.

The next day, the newlyweds receive their marriage inheritance consisting of pigs, carabaos, sillay (beads), clothing, and food. Under special circumstance, they may receive it after a year or longer. Part of the bride-price is the pangat-wangan, in which the groom serves his parents-in-law in the first year of marriage; thus, the newlyweds live in the village or with the bride’s family during this period. If they are self-sufficient, they may later decide to settle elsewhere. On the other hand, the inheritance of the parents’ land may determine where the couple may wish to settle. Upon the marriage of their children, the parents of both families will divide their land equally among all their children and gift their newlywed offspring with his or her parcel.

Well into the 1960s or after, a common practice among married couples was the solyad (spouse exchange), which was a temporary marriage entered into by two consenting couples. In a typical village, 40% of married couples had entered into at least one solyad for any of the following reasons: as a measure of a man’s madaiyao, a power similar to that of a head taker; as a means of having a child if the permanent marriage was childless; and as a means of broadening one’s network of alliances, primarily to ensure their safety when they traveled outside their village.

The negotiations were as formal and as elaborate as, if not more than, those for a wedding. First, a man brought the matter up in casual conversation and if the other agreed, each proposed it to his wife. If there was a consensus, the husbands’ parents would conduct the negotiations in their sons’ behalf. The negotiations, which were conducted in a series of three visits from one husband’s parents to the other’s, involved a sacrificial chicken and a ritual exchange of kiring and lufay (heirloom bead earring) as they chewed their maman (betel nut). The negotiations between the two families were conducted in the form of an amiable, long-winded conversation accompanied by much rhetorical flourish. However, these exchanges were of serious import because all parties involved must be clear on the codes of conduct specific to the solyad.

The temporary couple in a solyad was ayam to each other, not atawa. An offspring that was produced in a solyad was the mother’s anak but was the biological father’s banay’i, which had a meaning specific to the solyad and was not the same as an illegitimate child. Theoretically, the child would have the advantage of two ama, thus enjoying their support and that of multiple kinship systems. In reality, however, since the child lived with its mother and her legitimate husband, the relationship between the biological father and the banay’i was bound to fade with time.

The solyad, being a temporary marriage, had the couples returning to their respective spouses after six months to a year. The heirloom beads that were exchanged between the two families served as collateral that would be forfeited should anyone of the two couples break the codes of conduct. If everything went well, the collateral would be returned to its original owners, possibly to be used again should any of the couples decide to enter into another solyad with another couple.

Gaddang weddings today follow the standard practice nationwide. Couples wishing to marry would have gone through the Westernized courtship process. Both families draw up the wedding guest list, which is modest compared to the crowd of guests at the prestige feasts of olden times. The ceremony is either civil or Christian and lasts a few hours, including the reception. The solyad, too, has completely disappeared, and the younger generation has no knowledge of it at all because Christian beliefs and government laws have replaced the rationale for it.

Traditionally, the Gaddang observe many taboos, and breaking any one of these invites illness, general misfortune, and even death. Most taboos center around birth, puberty, and death. Within a five-month period after giving birth, a mother cannot eat sugarcane, pineapple, jackfruit, or fish killed by dynamite; nor can any person other than an immediate relative or midwife enter the house where the child was born within the same period; otherwise, the mother, the child, or both will die. From puberty and for all of her childbearing life, a woman may not eat sweets during menstruation, lest this cause the menstrual flow to cease and lead to sickness or death. It is forbidden for a girl to sleep on the same mat as her father after she reaches puberty and for a boy to sleep on the mat of his mother after about the age of 15 or 16. If they do, sickness would visit a member of the household. Finally, when someone dies, the house in which the person died must be abandoned, otherwise illness or misfortune will come to those left behind.

Omens also influence Gaddang behavior, indicating danger and misfortune at opportune moments. An omen occurring prior to an event or endeavor calls for the cancellation of the latter, lest misfortune befall any or all the individuals involved. Certain omens deter the Gaddang from starting out on a journey or going out in search of new swidden areas: the sight of a snake on a tree or of a kingfisher crossing one’s path, the squealing of a deer, the clicking sound of a lizard, or the sneeze of a child.

These traditional beliefs, taboos, and practices have been replaced by modern ones through formal education, mass media, and Christian teachings. Before 1950, only one male Gaddang might have reached high school and only because he happened to be living in the municipal center. Today, high school is theoretically accessible to everyone, and there will be a few who will go to college in the municipal centers. However, farm work still keeps the boys away from school during certain months, either in the family’s fields or as hired labor for others.

Media exposure has considerably reduced the Gaddang’s cultural isolation as they become witness to the reality of multiple cultures and worldviews. Since rural electrification reached the area in 1997, television has created a new type of social engagement as neighbors gather together in a house with a set. When a Gaddang village has no cell tower near enough for the residents’ cell phones to receive a call, they can walk to certain sites with a signal, where they can send out a message or make a call.

Christian standards of modesty have radically changed the Gaddang concept of their body, not only in their use of modern attire but also in their mundane communal activities. In the past, when men and women bathed together in the river, they shed all their clothing and walked backwards into the river with their hands covering their private parts. Now, the men and women are in shorts and T-shirts, and some women are fully dressed.

Religious Beliefs and Tribal Practices of the Gaddang People

In the Gaddang pantheon of deities, Nanolay is both creator of all things and a culture hero. Nanolay is a fully benevolent god, never inflicting pain or punishment on the Gaddang. He is responsible for the origin and development of the world. Other gods include Dasal, to whom the epic warriors Biwag and Malana prayed for strength and courage before going off to their final battle. The fathers of the two heroes are Bunag, the god of the earth, and Limat, the god of the sea.

Ilosa, the Gaddang universe, is composed of dufafa (earth) and kalekay (afterworld). Ilosa is a place where all living things originated, the place where Nanolay performed his acts of creation. Dufafa is a world where famine, sickness, death, and uncertainty reign, but the concept of kalekay remains vague to many Gaddang. It is simply the place of Nanolay, Ofag, and kararawa (soul). Ofag is Nanolay’s cousin but does not have Nanolay’s creative powers. Kararawa are the souls of dead creatures, human or nonhuman. Upon death, the souls of all creatures go up to the kalekay, except cats which are reborn as ants, and chickens which are reincarnated into butterflies. In kalekay, the kararawa go about living as they lived on earth. Thus, the gaddang concept of the afterlife is based on their life as it is in the here and now. The dufafa is composed of people, domesticated plants, ghouls, and sickness. This concept of the world reflects the Gaddang’s fear of danger brought about by a history of head taking and a life of disease and material need.

The Gaddang believe in two kinds of illness: the sickness caused by evil spirits and the hurt or injury suffered in accidents such as those caused by falling, muscle sprains, and insect bites. Blindness, insanity, birth defect, skin disease, goiter, deafness, and malaria are other illnesses outside the first two classifications. Most “hurts” are attributed to natural causes, that is, it is “natural” for an insect to bite or for a person to accidentally cut his or her leg with a knife.

However, illnesses could also be caused by evil spirits. The bingil are forest ghouls in misshapen human form, with very large eyes that glow in the dark. They cause convulsion, followed by death within two days. The aran is a forest spirit resembling mist, which floats into the village at night and possesses a sleeping person, who then goes insane before dying. The angakokang causes a person to fall gravely ill when he or she hears it whining like a dog deep in the night. The aled are invisible spirits living in parts of the forest like rocks and trees but can take on visible human or animal form. Their food consists of human corpses, and their touch causes general weakness and death within a few days. The most frightening spirits are the karangat, shape-shifting ghouls like the aled but with a mouthful of fangs. They disguise themselves as innocent objects in the village, like a chicken or post, so that they can touch people, who will then fall ill, go insane, and die. The only way a karangat can be killed is to be tricked into taking betel nut chew in the mouth, eyes, and nose, and then allowing the lime in the chew to be mixed with water, so that it would boil and choke the karangat to death.

The Gaddang protect themselves from all these evil spirits, omens, taboos, and malevolent spirits by establishing a harmonious relationship between themselves and the world of other natural and supernatural beings. Between the makamong and the mabayen, it is the former who has the greater ability to communicate with supernatural forces in order to invoke their aid or to appease them. She is the principal performer of the anitu rites and other rituals related to planting, harvesting, death, warfare, sickness, or misfortune. The mabayen’s primary role is to chant from a repertoire of myths and ritual formulas in a specialized “mabayen language.”

“Anitu” to the Gaddang does not refer to an ancestral spirit as it does in Mountain Province, but to a system of beliefs centered on a supernatural power. This is because the term means “that which is followed by all.” The supreme being, Nanolay, is not addressed directly but through anitu, which can only be viewed as benevolent. Thus, there is no such thing as a narakat a anitu (bad anitu). The second meaning of “anitu” is the ritual that is held to ask for the spirits’ aid in curing the sick, appease them when a taboo has been broken, and invoke them to ensure a long and healthy life. During the anitu rituals, a pig or chicken is sacrificed by the makamong while the mabayen chants the ritual prayers.

The most significant anitu rituals are those celebrating the seven phases in the Gaddang life cyle. The agagwa is a simple rite that is held to keep evil spirits away as a house is being built. The balog, which lasts a day, is held to initiate a 9- or 10-year-old child’s entry into the human and supernatural world of the Gaddang. The binatung is the final anitu that is hosted by the head of the household to celebrate his fullness of age. The other four anitu are called kurawit for a house blessing; makadwa and makalu, both hosted by a man in the prime of his life;and among, hosted by a man in his 40s to celebrate his life’s achievements. Although just as spiritually meaningful, these are primarily prestige feasts serving as occasions for tightening community relations and indicating the host’s socioeconomic status.

Jamug house blessing ritual
Jamug house blessing ritual (Milo A. Paz)

Anitu rituals on a smaller scale are those requiring the participation of only immediate family members or even just one individual who is the object of the anitu. Rites pertaining to planting, harvesting, naming a newborn, and death are family affairs. Rites for illness or misfortune, particularly as a consequence of breaking a taboo, may revolve around a sole individual. Rites for head taking and warfare are events of the remote past.

The mimunaw or rice-planting rite is performed a few days before planting. The rice that is used for this rite is one-fourth of a cavan of rice harvested in the previous year and stored in the granary since. As it is cooked and eaten by the family, the makamong prays that the rice about to be planted will be spared from disease and predators. The ritual is repeated just before rice harvest around December of each year.

Six sacred items called unting are hung from the rafters of the Gaddang house as constant reminders of their beliefs and taboos; thus, these serve as the residents’ protection from malevolent forces. As of 1965, all upland Gaddang houses contained these six unting, whereas Gaddang houses in the lowland villages, which are multiethnic, have already dispensed with them. The kubang, which is the most powerful of these unting, is a bundle of heirloom objects: a G-string, an aken (wraparound skirt), and beads; as such, it is a memorial to the family ancestors. The antolay is a piece of wood sculpture, 2 feet x 2 in square, one end of which is carved into a man’s head atop a set of incised lines and figures. The secondary unting are the alat, buririraw, lutong, and kuliwang. The alat is a small, woven rattan ball with a chicken feather attached to it. The buririraw is a small woven bamboo fan. The lutong is a small piece of wood with rattan strings attached to it, and the kuliwang is the core of a piece of bamboo attached to a string of rattan.

Today, the Gaddang adhere to Christian norms of worship and ritual and no longer practice the rites of anitu. By 2010, only the one or two 80- or 90-year-old makamong were still alive in a village and were no longer being called upon to hold any rites. The mabayen have died out. Replacing the makamong in the role of healer is the mafuyat (midwife), who lays her hands on the sick part of the patient’s body and massages it with oil. Corn and mudfish are regular fare, despite the old taboo against eating them in the house, because corn has become the primary crop for lowland plow farmers, and their rice paddies abound in dalug (mudfish).

Pre-Christian undercurrents, however, continue to run in Christian devotions. The belief in God, for example, closely parallels the concept of Nanolay as the all-benevolent creator. The intercession of gods and spirits has been replaced by the veneration and appeal to saints. Particularly potent beings among the Christian Gaddang are the Blessed Virgin Mary and San Luis Beltran, patron saint of Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.

The Gaddang funeral is today a syncretic mix of indigenous, Christian, and modern scientific practices. The body is embalmed, and a priest or pastor is asked to hold the rites. The wake used to be held in a baowi (makeshift house), built specially for the dead. Now it is held in the family’s residence, where the deceased is placed in a wooden or bamboo casket made by family members or friends. The casket is laid atop a bench for the viewing of the body. Friends and family help in digging a grave six feet deep, at a site that was the dying person’s express choice, such as near the house. The body is buried with a set of clothes and food to accompany it in its journey to the afterlife. A betel nut chew or a favorite object of the deceased is temporarily laid atop the grave. On every death anniversary, food and water are placed on the grave. Mentioning the name of the deceased in conversation is taboo.

A radical difference between Christian dogma and the Gaddang belief system is the concept of the afterlife. To the Christian, the afterlife is divided into heaven and hell, and where one goes is the result of a person’s earthly life. The Gaddang kalekay is a place where all kararawa go and continue their life as they have lived it on earth.

Gaddang Community

In the old days, the Gaddang lived in houses built on high branches of trees. These afung (dwellings) were built 6 to 20 meters from ground level. Entry to the afung was through a detachable ladder, which was drawn up at night for security. The construction of the afung was probably in response to Ilongot head taking raids. As the communities grew bigger, lower houses became common. Until the mid-1960s, a few afung still existed, but now it has gone the way of the head taking practices.

Gaddang house
Gaddang house, 1902 (Census of the Philippine Islands by the United States Bureau of the Census. Bureau of the Census, 1905.)

There are two types of settlements depending on the farming system followed by the residents. Where the uma system is practiced, the families live in a dispersed settlement where houses, granaries, swidden fields, and footpaths form no definite shape. The Gaddang practicing plow farming live in more clustered houses in a village structure no different from the standard Philippine barrio.

Gaddang woman in a bamboo house
Gaddang woman in a bamboo house, Isabela, circa 1980 (SIL International)

The traditional house measures anywhere from five to 16 square meters and is raised one to two meters on piles. People enter the house on a bamboo ladder. The shape of the house is rectangular. The walls are of bamboo, which may be thatched with grass or husk. The floor is of split bamboo slats placed a centimeter or two apart. Cogon-thatched roofs slowly arch downward from a central horizontal beam all the way to the lower part of the walls. The parts of the house are tied together, not nailed, with split rattan, although in the 1960s, metal wire had begun to replace the rattan ropes.

The interiors have very little or no furnishings, save for one or two wooden chests where valuables like beads and gongs are kept. The family members sleep and eat on the floor. On one corner of the house is the hearth where a fire is kept burning and beside which sits a rice pot and a water jar, both made of clay. Tin plates are lined up above the hearth, stuck between the bamboo posts and thatched walls. Other items piled neatly along the walls and in corners are hunting and fishing paraphernalia, mats and pillows, and some foodstuff in storage. Hanging from the rafters are the family’s six unting, items believed to have the power to protect the residents.

Similar to the family residence in size and shape and standing near the family house is a granary in which the year’s supply of rice for the family is stored. Thus, the granary’s thatched roofs, walls of woven bamboo slats, and smaller door are securely built, even more than those of the family residence, against water, vermin, and pests. Wooden rat guards are attached to each post supporting the granary. One granary is shared by two families; thus, the number of granaries in a village would be half the family residences in it.

Standing at the edge of a swidden field is a lookout shed, one to two square meters wide and one to two meters above the ground, with a cogon roof and no walls. Alternatively, it may be a tree house with the same dimensions. It is a child’s task to stay here from morning till dark to drive away predators from the fields with bamboo clappers. These are a set of 8-10 bamboo poles 3 meters high and 3 meters apart, held up by a long bamboo pole lying horizontally along this row of upright poles. When the young lookout pulls the strings attached to this set of bamboo poles, a clapping noise is produced.

Between the 18th and 20th centuries, the Christianized Gaddang were conscripted to build many churches. The first few churches, which were in Bayombong, Cauayan, and Lapau, were built like the Gaddang houses—compact and sturdy structures made of wooden planks. The most outstanding of the Spanish-period churches is the San Matias Parish Church in Tumauini, Isabela. Completed during the term of Dominican Fray Domingo Forto in 1783, this unique structure is made entirely of bricks, many of which have decorative motifs. Its cylindrical tower and rounded pediment distinguish it from most churches of the country.

The family practicing the uma system used to transfer residence every four to six years in search of forests to slash and burn. Communities numbering about 8 to 12 houses were dispersed as dictated by the location of the families’ swidden farm. The farthest that a family lived from their swidden field was a 15-min walk away. Footpaths were formed after the people had built their houses beside their swidden fields, from which they walked to other places. Since the mid-1960s, however, the Gaddang have shifted to plow farming, which allows them to stay put beside permanent fields. Where roads are built, villages of 20-25 houses spring up afterwards. Some villages in Nueva Vizcaya are the size of towns, although these are of multiethnic composition.

Where only footpaths used to connect the village to the outside world, the form of transportation was a carabao sled on which the farmer loaded his supplies. At the river, the farmer transferred the supplies to a boat, which he pushed forward with a pole, while the carabao swam beside it. If the river was near two or more villages, the people crossed it on a wooden barge that was strung on a cable and was large enough for two or three medium-sized vehicles. Since the mid-1960s, highways, dirt and cement roads, and cement bridges have reduced what used to be a four-day travel to a two-hour bus or jeepney drive. On the other hand, the uma is still 1 to 2-hour hike away. Because the Gaddang now reside in lowland villages near their permanent fields, a family member stays in a baowi constructed on the swidden field during the uma season, which is from April to November.

The contemporary Gaddang house has the standard look of any other town or barrio house in the Philippines. It may either sit squarely on the ground or on pilings no higher than one meter above the ground. The walls are made of split bamboo, wooden planks, or cement. There are two levels: The ground level is divided into the kitchen, measuring 2 x 4 meters, and the combined living-and-dining room, 4 x 2.5 meters. The elevated level, which one enters through a short bamboo ladder, is either one bedroom with the same length as the house or divided into two bedrooms.

In a typical village of 20 houses, two may still be one-room structures with thatched roofs while the other 18 would have galvanized iron roofs. Ten of these houses would have cement floors and the other 10, packed dirt. However, except for two or three houses with private toilets, the natural environs are still used as the people’s common toilet. Five houses have furniture: a dining table and a wooden or bamboo sala set consisting of a couch or bench and one or two chairs. Only a house with a makamong living in it would still have unting hanging from the ceiling. Alternatively, a small bamboo hut nearby would house her six unting. Rice and corn grains are stored in the house; hence, granaries are obsolete in the villages. The rare granary that exists is in the mountains, where the uma farming system is still practiced. It is a smaller replica of the contemporary house, and the rat guards are tin sheets taken from five-gallon cooking-oil cans and wrapped around each of the granary’s four posts.

Electricity may have reached the village since 1997 but each house would have only two lightbulbs. Half would have radios and television sets, which receive only one or two weak signals from Cagayan Valley. Four would have refrigerators, which give them reason to have sari-sari stores attached to their houses. The water supply is both natural and manmade. A government-installed rubber pipe connects a natural spring nearby to a water tank. Alternatively, villagers fetch water from community hand pumps except during the dry season when these water sources dry up. The villagers must then hike to the main river to bathe and do their laundry. They collect their drinking water from this same river by improvising a small well in the riverbank.

Indigenous Gaddang Attire

Tattooing was common to both men and women, with designs imprinted on their arms, legs, and fingers. The men had theirs on the breast. They believed that being tattooed assured them passage to heaven. Plain white teeth were considered ugly, especially among the affluent class. The upper teeth were filed until they were pointed, and these were dyed a dark blue. A chief had small golden pegs attached to his teeth.

Gaddang textile with intricate beadwork
Gaddang textile with intricate beadwork (CCP Collections)

Traditional attire for Gaddang women includes the tapis, also known as aken, a lengthy piece of cotton cloth wound around the waistline and falling loosely down to the knees; and burasi or barawsi, a long-sleeved, round-necked, collarless, and waist-length blouse. The women weave the cloth for these garments from homegrown cotton dyed in natural colors. Dark blue and red are the standard colors for their everyday wear. In olden days, Gaddang women did not have upper garments except during feast days.

The women used to weave the men’s traditional garment, the most basic of which is the abag (G-string). This is held up by bakwat (a girdle), whose flap is weighted down on the hem by fringes made of beads. Most ceremonial garments have dinnogat (beaded seams). The man’s ceremonial abag is predominantly white, with orange or red horizontal stripes and bead fringes hanging from the hem. His upper garment is a heavily beaded short jacket in blue, red, and orange weave. Headkerchiefs display similarly intricate beadwork. A decorative headpiece called suklong or soklong (basket cap) is placed on the back of the head. This is held in place by a cord tucked underneath the hair. The cap is almost completely covered with white, red, black, and yellow beads, and is adorned by bead fringes and bawisak (large shell pieces). The suklong is worn during ceremonies, together with daladal (feather headdress), koton (beaded shirt), tapit (cape), barangal (red kerchief), dinega, and abag made of woven red and black cloth, and adorned with white and yellow beads.

Gaddang man in traditional garments
Gaddang man in traditional garments (SIL International)

The women’s ceremonial attire consists of the following items: a galantia (headband) composed of 14 or more rows of threads covered in red, yellow, black, and white beads called tifulan or malada; lagod (decorative combs), which are also lavishly tasseled and beaded; a red or blue burasi (woven jacket) with beads on the long sleeves; a dark blue and red aken with white, horizontal stripes thoroughly covered with beads; on the shoulders, a red scarf with beaded corners; a woven belt with matching colors; and a beaded suklong. The sel-lay (necklace), made up of the most precious beads, was of two parts: the ka-kad (choker), consisting of five to six strands, and the waist-length gongon, consisting of six to eight strands. Two types of bracelets are the ginadding, made of beads, and the ginalmaddan, made of copper. Additionally, the female medium wore a rattan basket cap called the baginatnat.

The Gaddang are distinguished for having elevated beadwork to an art form, unique among northern Luzon communities. The Gaddang are lavish with their use of beadwork. Their women ordinarily wear seed beads around their heads, necklaces, and wrists. But heirloom beads, which were the most highly prized, were centuries-old precious stones of glass, porcelain, and quartz as well as metal drops of brass, silver, and gold, which had been acquired by trade from the Chinese, Indians, and Europeans.

Today, the Gaddang use shirts, trousers, and dress for everyday wear. On their head is the gimme cap or baseball cap with either a machine-stitched or printed company logo or a politician’s name on the front. An elastic band horizontally attached at the back of the cap helps to keep the cap in place. The traditional attire is worn only as a costume for celebrations or festivals emphasizing ethnic identity. But social occasions such as weddings call for fashionably modern apparel. Most heirloom beads have been sold away to antique dealers.

Gaddang Tribal Literature and Legends

The Gaddang possess a wealth of literature consisting of riddles, proverbs, poems, legends, and the epic Biwag Anni Malana, as written down by Francisco Gabuat-Soriano.

Lal-lagunut (riddles) reflect the flora and fauna of the Gaddang areas and serve to sharpen a child’s sensitivity to his or her environment. The samples below show the consistent use of an image parallel to the object being referred to (Lumicao-Lora 1984):

Ana tata bafay, iwarac na ino anacna.


(A woman scatters her children.


Appat a mauauahi sinumallung so simban

Naddadaruma color na sinnun da

Allawan da, tata lamang a libaga. (Mamman)

(Four sisters went to church

Wearing clothes of varied hues.

When they came home, they all wore red.

[Betel chew])

Ana tata tolay,

Accananna bagguina. (Candela)

(There’s a person eating up

His own body. [Candle])

Sin bisac canggam cu

Sin docal, pinapatay cu. (Pahay)

(I loved it when small

I killed it when mature. [Palay])

The lalenut (proverbs) reflect the Gaddang’s cultural and values system. The behavior of the natural elements is likened to the character traits of human beings (Lumicao-Lora 1984):

Ino pakay a naddawa naddumug.

(The rice stalk full of grain is bent.)

The way in which one lives in the present determines one’s future:

Mapia quepay a mattangit ca sito aggaw abao

Eh maccataua ca si uddi

Mah so maccataua ca toya eh mattangit


(’Tis better to cry now and laugh later,

Than laugh now and mourn the day after.)

Parents are of primary importance, even for married people:

Metappol nu you atawan

Baccan si guinatan

(You can throw your wife or husband out,

But never your own parents.)

Lal-lao (poetry), which is usually sung, is composed for special occasions. Most poems have themes of love, goodwill, service, and obedience. One recurrent metaphor is that of flowers symbolizing love, as in “Berso Na Ana-anap” (Verses of Frustrated Love) below (Lumicao-Lora 1984):

Tata a lappao yo pangirang-ngirang cu

So bahu a sinag, banna-bannay na dihat

Metalugaring nu mepadandan sicuan

Yo neduma a anggam, neduna a anap

Daddaramat anna fuab

Yo mammanoc era naccayaccac

Na cancion mapparaparappag

Y canta-cantanda a iyayag yo anggam cu

Yo anggam cu a madammat a suerte

Cuppat a bucal

Cuppat a inanaman

Cuppat a bucal yo innac a imula

Yo mangiada si allac nga ira yo pattolayan

Nattufu, naddam, napangga, nallappao

Udde menangque nabbunga.

(I compare thee to a flower,

A ray of light that gives inspiration—

More so if you give me your attention.

Love comes in many forms from the young,

Which I am expecting every morning and afternoon

In my native town.

Songs that convey what I feel—

A love that caused such a burden and pain;

The four seeds I have sown

Which are my only hope.

Dried seed,

Dried hope,

Dried seed that I may plant,

That perchance your charm may let grow.

It grew, it climbed, it branched, it bloomed

But never did it bear fruit.)

Male mediums had a repertoire of myths that they drew from when called upon to chant these, especially during anitu rites. “The Origin of the World and the Quarrel between Nanolay and Ofag” is an origin myth with several episodes. It was recounted by an elderly Gaddang man in May 1966 and translated by Lidjou Dubadob. It tells of a serendipitous partnership between the creator god Nanolay and a mother rat in the creation of dufafa. In this myth are embedded the origins of the trickster hero and the problems of land acquisition, the rationale for rage killing, and the reason why human beings live a life of suffering.

The world that Nanolay first created was nothing but clay covered with water. He needed some soil to build a house on, so he moved to the upper world, which was made of land. The first species that he created were rats, which lived on banana trees. The mother rat went up to Nanolay to ask him for some soil to build a house on. He reluctantly gave her a guava-sized piece of land, but she repeatedly went to Nanolay to ask for more land. Each time she did, he refused, so she would secretly take home some soil until she had enough to form the mountains and plains of the dufafa. Nanolay accused the rat of stealing his land, but the rat tricked him into believing that the dufafa was all her own making.

Nanolay created a man to walk the earth but seeing his loneliness, Nanolay created a woman out of the man’s bone. The first man and woman had many children. Nanolay wanted a wife of his own too and found a human being named Bilokan. They lived in dufafa, and her two brothers Sabukal and Isik moved nearby. Soon, some of Nanolay’s family moved to earth, too: his cousin Ofag, and his four sisters, Kwamat, Burak, Menalam, and Sambabayan. Nanolay’s parents and brothers stayed behind in kalekay.

When Bilokan became pregnant, Nanolay decided to go to kalekay to fetch his two brothers. He told his wife they would hold an among as soon as he got back. He bade Bilokan to make sure her brothers did not drink any of his wine, which was to be served at the among. Ignoring Bilokan’s pleas, the brothers drank Nanolay’s wine, which they discovered was limitless. The brothers, drunk and angry, broke the wine jar, and all the wine spilled out. Nanolay came home and broke into a rage when he discovered that the ritual feast could not be held because there was no wine. Greatly shamed before his own brothers, he hunted down all the animals he came across and brought them home. He shouted and beat his gong loudly, but no one could hear him.

Nanolay had to kill a human being to regain his pride for the sake of his future descendants. He killed the son of his cousin Ofag, so now he had reason for a grand celebration. This time, everyone heard his shouts and his gong. All but Ofag came to the feast. He had not buried his son, with the hope that Nanolay would bring him back to life. Nanolay, however, knew this would be unwise because everyone else would wish the same for their own dead. The enraged Ofag went after Nanolay with a spear and an axe, but Nanolay had makapangwa (omnipotence). Nanolay offered Ofag a kiring, then some gold, then all of his wealth. Unappeased, Ofag set fire to Nanolay’s house. Adug (thunder) and Talit (lightning) tried to mediate by presenting Ofag with Nanolay’s most precious bead, the galdak. When Ofag still refused this, they sent down loud noises and rain, thus forcing Ofag into accepting Nanolay’s galdak. However, he laid a curse of suffering on Nanolay’s descendants, which were to be the human race.

Biwag anni Malana, an epic of 546 lines by F. G. Soriano, presents two of the Gaddang’s greatest culture heroes, who after crossing the seas from Sumarta (or Sumatra) with their mothers, landed in Faru, now Aparri, Cagayan. In this tale, Biwag is the son of the earth god Bunag and Beling; Malana is the son of the sea god Limat and Casta. Beling and Casta are daughters of the queen of Sumarta; thus, Biwag and Malana are maternal cousins and demigods. Upon discovering these unions, the queen banishes her daughters and their sons Biwag and Malana. In Faru, the Gaddang take in the two princesses and adopt Biwag and Malana. The two demigods grow up into courageous young men and embark on a series of adventures, once even against each other. Together, they subdue a crocodile about to devour a woman. When they see a chieftain’s daughter, named Reling, bathing in the stream, Biwag defends her virtue against Malana. Then they defeat the Gaddang’s dreaded enemy, the Ilongot. They also kill a bothersome giant. Finally, their greatest victory comes when they lead the Gaddang against thousands of enemies. The epic ends when the aged Biwag and Malana are carried away to sea on a boat.

The epic is a portrait of the Gaddang’s worldview and cultural values: “Gaddang hospitality, reverence for elders and leaders, a deep sense of justice, a respect for and adherence to law, a sense of goodwill and brotherhood, a sense of responsibility, courage and bravery, honor and integrity, atonement and retribution, utang-na-loob (debt of gratitude), a high regard for women, a respect for the dignity of human beings, and a sense of humor” (Lumicao-Lora 1984, 112-19).

There are legends that explain the origin of natural elements and formations. The rocks forming a triangle at the opening of a cave in Luyang Hill, Bayombong, were supposedly used by the villainous giant Mambag to slaughter animals for his meals. The Magat River is said to have been named after a handsome youth who saves a maiden from a python as she is bathing in a stream. The woman agrees to marry him on the condition that he should never see her at noontime. Inevitably, Magat’s curiosity gets the better of him, and one day at noon he sees a lamag (crocodile) on his wife’s bed. The crocodile transforms into his wife to reproach him, expires, and turns back into a crocodile. Heartbroken, Magat buries his crocodile-wife in his yard and drowns himself in the stream. Over the centuries, the stream has grown into the mighty Magat River, trying to reach out to the crocodile-wife who is buried at the center of the town.

Magat watching as his wife turns into a crocodile
Magat watching as his wife turns into a crocodile (Illustration by Jonathan Rañola)

Bayun, a mingal of Lumabang, also known as Solano, is in the mold of the culture heroes Biwag and Malana. First, he defeats the Ifugao marauders who are the bane of his own fellow villagers. Then, the chief of Isabela asks Bayun to rid his own village of the giant who comes out of his forest dwelling only to eat the villagers. A great battle ensues between Bayun and the giant, until Bayun succeeds in beheading the giant.

Oral tradition about the Magat River explains the disappearance of several people as they are crossing it: A baby who vanishes into the water is heard crying afterwards; a Spanish messenger on his way from Bambang to Bayombong disappears and resurfaces four days later in a trance; participants in religious processions disappear and never return; and a fisherman who survives to tell about the sirena (water spirit), describes her palace underwater and the feast of which he partakes, but dies in the middle of his tale.

An oral tradition that seems based on specific historical events centers on Battalan and his powers of precognition. Father Juan Molano, the parish priest of Bayombong in 1754, seems to attest to the accuracy of Battalan’s prognostications—a monkey stretching a hand out to Father Molano was a sign of the country’s dire future under colonial powers; a pair of hawks flying speedily toward them both indicated a pair of corpses ahead, which would cause Father Molano’s horse to buck and throw him off his saddle; and a bird flying and landing on seven different leaves was a warning of continuous rain for seven days.

Giant cobra leading a procession of smaller cobras
Giant cobra leading a procession of smaller cobras (Illustration by Jonathan Rañola)

Another legend set in the Spanish colonial period is about a harmless, giant cobra, 24 meters long and one-and-a-half meters thick. It leads a procession of smaller cobras through the villages of Latuyut, Mabalit, Baringan, Busilac, and Bangan toward La Torre, the patron saint of which is the Immaculate Conception, whose image is standing on a serpent. The villagers join the procession with drum and bass band, but the snakes mysteriously disappear behind the village chapel. Proof of the truth of the event is the trail of barren land left behind by the snakes.

Gaddang Music and Performing Arts

The Gaddang’s traditional musical instruments include the gangsa, dulating or gulating, and the nose flute. The gangsa is a flat gong played exclusively by the men. The gong player lays it on his lap while he sits on his haunches and thumps it with his hands; or he may beat it with a stick on one hand and hold it from a rope on the other while dancing. The dulating is a bamboo guitar. The nose flute that is played in the Mountain Province may have been introduced by the Gaddang in the early 1900s.

Gaddang men playing the gangsa
Gaddang men playing the gangsa (Photo by Joseph R. Fortin in Tuklas Sining: Essays on the Philippine Arts by Nicanor G. Tiongson. CCP, 1991.)

Chants are performed by the mabayen while the makamong performs the anitu rituals. He accompanies himself with the thumping of his forefinger on a small drum made of a bamboo segment with the skin of a crocodile’s penis stretched over the upper end. These chants are in an archaic language specific to the anitu rituals. Mythical stories and descriptions of the steps in the ritual process make up the mabayen’s repertoire of songs, from which he chooses those that are appropriate to the occasion. The following excerpt from “The Saying of Alotu” emphasizes the number five and the betel nut chew (Wallace 2013):

Kokanweno Alotu

ma’ lo masedan

lambutam i anak Awing

kokanweno Talangani

i kanamak a Nanolay

pagi sikwam Nanolay

ginabat ti bilingan

dinomana gapatana

nesakama galab

netokina ki Alotu

bino’ butna to’ funa

ne’ almudna to apaanga


finisila balafiling

sakama paratawetna

nedijana makwolao

sinarsikana aritangkang

tufayang malabinggan

pitanda si’ molan

pidwanda si’ molan

pi’ wanda si’ molan

balena pilimana

pipatanda si’molas


numatog bifida

makanolan malaban

dinat ralura.

(The saying of Alotu

I am possessed

You might die my son

The saying of Talangani

I am like a relative of Nanolay

You are not a relative of Nanolay

Stand up Bilingan

She took her basket

Including the lid

She returned it to Alotu

He takes his betel nut bag

He holds the betel nut

With the small knife

And other betel chewing things

Divided it into five pieces

Included it with the betel leaf

Placing with the lime on the leaf

Small lime holder of bamboo tube

First time putting the mixture in the mouth

Second time putting the mixture in the mouth

Third time putting the mixture in the mouth

Fourth time putting the mixture in the mouth

Finished at the fifth time


Their lips become red

Spitting like a group of

Maya birds.)

The lyrics of Gaddang songs come from folk poems whose authors are no longer known. However, the melodies for these poems were composed in later years by various musicians, notably Francisco Panganiban, Jose Daguigan, Francisco Bulan, Orlando Maddela, Severo Labog, Tranquilino Basat, and Jack Labog.

Occupational songs collectively portray the Gaddang’s daily grind. “So Payao” (Planting Rice) and “Aggani” (Harvesting) pay tribute to manual work, besides evoking the Filipino bayanihan spirit. The fisherfolk’s song “Sassarabet” (Hear Ye) condemns theft, while “Bambal Sosao” (Careless Washing) chastises the inept housewife. On the other hand, favorite pastimes provide some relief from these burdens. “Na Manuccu Borbon” (My Bearded Rooster) reflects a devotion to cockfighting (Lumicao-Lora 1984):

Ana manuccu borbon

Siniggutancu si liston

Innangcu netarit

Nangaffut si tatalapit.

(I have a bearded rooster,

I tied it with a ribbon;

I brought it to a derby

It won fifty centavos.)

The children’s education begins at home with nursery rhymes. “Ana Tan y Bugan” (Here Is Bugan) projects a disciplinary act on a domesticated animal, presumably a cow (Borromeo 1971):

Ana tan y Bugan a dumala-dandan

Siggutan cu si gaddang, auan se maccattang.

Siggutan cu si bannuc auan se mabbannut,

Siggutan cu si lanut, auan se maluffut.

Intam a igacad si macata fuhab,

Intam a iraccad, taquesi maggarab.

Gagutan tam y Bugan, se pala-pesintam,

Pigya yo ipesitam, adua-fulu assiam.

Callac pay y Bugan, pinalapesi tam,

Ara cadde-ay lamang, ammec que a guinnan.

(Here is Bugan, always tagging along

Will I tie her with leather? No, for she’ll break loose.

Will I tie her with rope? No, for she’ll escape.

Will I tie her with vines? No, for she’ll slip out.

Let us tie her all afternoon

Let us put her in the field to graze.

Let us catch Bugan and let us whip her

How many times will we whip her? Twenty-nine


Poor Bugan whom we have beaten

It does not matter, for I have not felt the pain.)

The lullaby “Angngiduduc” reflects a mother’s constant love. “Mataggat A Urena” (Hardheaded) describes one’s will power, and “Atta Cami” (We Are Aeta) affirms Gaddang ancestry. Instructive children’s songs are “Inte Pagadwe” (Counting Song), “Saquiting” (Small Children), and “Ite Ite Gangarite” (One, Two, Get Set). Songs that express a child’s woes are “Una Ulila” (An Orphan) and “Lallay Na Itatanac” (Song of an Only Child).

“Don Don Simon” (Mr. Simon) is a community game song, in which the adults sing about the different parts of a cooked bird, and the children respond with “o yan” or “ammec” when they like or dislike the parts mentioned. These bird parts are the ulo (head), payac (wing), sussug (bill), addag (back), cucu (nail), bullao (neck), uffu (thigh), bitual (gizzard), lufa (breastbone), mata (eye), pempel (legs), and illug (egg) (Borromeo 1971):

Don Don Simon, niggam si appompol

Mang a nacaual,

Namarambang si gayang.

Nedatañga sicuara, ininao y ataua na

Binallelballena sicuara a masasina


’Mem mattañgit Eteng se acuam na no ulo na.

’Mem mattañgit Adung se acuam na no payac na.

O yan! / Ammec!

(Mr. Simon held a club,

Went harrowing

And caught a crow.

Upon arriving home, his wife cooked it;

He divided it among

his wife and children.


Don’t cry my daughter, you will have the head,

Don’t cry my son, you will have the wing.

Yohoo! / I don’t like!)

Love seems more pain than pleasure to the Gaddang youth. Self-pity is a persistent theme in their love songs. “Abumbu Ca Appatanca O Futuc” (You Are Too Much of My Heart) and “Me Patay Lamang Gumafu Sicuam” (To Die Just Because of You) are among many songs that bemoan the fate of tormented lovers. Then there are self-deprecating songs like “Bersu Na Angga-Anggam” (Verses of Love) and “Mabeling” (Enchanting). “Na Siggarafuy” (The Moth) warns against infidelity using the analogy of a moth attracted to the flame. Love is bitter in “Ope Mangque Nahi” (Where Is It, Sister?) and “Quelona Immanque a Quirraquiragan” (How Painful It Is to Ponder), which is quoted below (Lumicao-Lora 1984):

Quelona a quiraquiragan

Yo raddam mepintac to taggang

Se mapia quepay ino tappiay

Amma so raddam na cassittolay.

Gannot nu wara gumammuang nga

Si pirac onnu pacandama

Se datangna no aruedana

Ipamannum na se awanna cuana.

(How painful it is to realize

The grief that fills my breast;

Poison is preferable

To ill will from another.

If this is caused

By the accidents of wealth and power,

The wheel will somehow turn

And fortunes will change.)

Contrasting with the cynicism in such pieces is the idealism conveyed in other Gaddang love songs. “Annie Ino Amme Marili?” (Who Would Not Be Dazzled?) extols a woman’s beauty, both in body and soul. Nature provides the metaphors to heighten the lyricism in “Azucena” and “Bituin Na Silauan” (Star of the East). More realistic songs are “Nattalebarac” (I Passed By) and “Attabag Na Maccanggam” (Dialogue of Lovers). However love is treated, God maintains his role as divine intermediary in these varied songs.

Songs are instructive during the advanced stages of courtship. “Asakay Lalaki” (O Shameless Fellow) belittles the indolent young man who fails to satisfy the girl’s family during the pangatnangan, the period of bridal service. A father offers marital advice and a dowry for his future grandchildren as he sings “Annutun” (Counsel) to his son about to marry. “Imbestida” is traditionally sung by an elderly person while newlyweds dance at their wedding reception. Couples who are later blessed with children gratefully sing “Mapia Nu Wara Anac” (It’s Good to Have Children). “Yo Lacay” (The Old Man) is a touching song on senescence. A popular event at one anitu, the kurawit, presents a happy occasion for the young to meet the old. This is a series of singing jousts in which the younger people challenge the elderly to relate their life’s experience as they drink all through the night. Guests acknowledge a person’s hospitality with songs of praise and gratitude, such as “Mappalanday” (Hospitality), or with a song wishing their hosts a pleasurable evening, as in “Dios ta Gafi” (Good Evening).

Gaddang songs can also be both social and religious. On the eve of All Saints’ Day, the Gaddang go from house to house singing “Indan Dacami si Decat” (Give Us Cakes). Nor is the Gaddang Christmas complete without their own repertoire of carols: “So Tangnga na Cafi” (At Midnight), “Bituin na Pascua” (Christmas Star), “Mangga-Anggam Etam” (Let Us Rejoice), and “Newalang si Lutong” (Laid in A Manger).

Gaddang festive dances are performed at weddings, baptisms, and other social occasions. Ritual dances are led by the mabayen and makamong. Dance steps are characterized by knee bends and muscle-tensing foot movements. Hands are flapped with the graceful coiling of fingers. The female steps are more shaped and controlled compared to the male’s, which are more vigorous in foot and hand movements. The dancers move to the music provided by the gangsa and the galating or dungadong (bamboo guitar), usually in 2/4 or 4/4 time.

Gaddang performing the balamban dance in Echague, Isabela
Gaddang performing the balamban dance in Echague, Isabela, 1962 (Francisca Reyes-Aquino Collection)

The men exhibit their skills in beating the gongs in a showy dance called mallallebad tontac, while the women perform saba-llungung, a graceful dance with smooth, twisting, and bouncing body movements. Saba-llungung is an all-woman dance accompanied by a bamboo guitar. The agammeyan is a typical ethnic festivity dance performed in very fast steps at a gathering or anitu.

Gaddang women performing a traditional dance
Gaddang women performing a traditional dance (SIL International)

Rivalry in love is expressed in a courtship dance called bumbrac talatabog. This is the most stylized dance of the Gaddang. It is performed by a man and a woman, or two women and a man with a handkerchief. The woman to whom the man hands his kerchief is his choice as life partner. Five gongs provide the music and the beat. A variation is the bumbuak, where three “tobacco” trees attract three Gaddang “birds,” one male and two females. These “birds” fly and glide through the trees. When exhausted, they perch. Lastly, the Christian Gaddang have a wedding song-dance called the imbestida, in which the wedding guests pin money on the newlywed couple who dance around the reception area.

Indigenous Gaddang theater may be seen in both the anitu and the non-anitu rituals. In the agagwa ritual, two female mediums preside over the ritual killing of a chicken to keep evil spirits away. In the child’s initiation ritual called balog, the medium smears a bit of sacrificial chicken’s blood on the child’s forehead, symbolizing the child’s union with the world of humans and spirits. A dance specific to the ceremony is performed by the child and the mediums. During the prestige feast called the among, a pole called arawarawi is erected, around which the dancing takes place. Made of bamboo and festooned with cigars of rolled tobacco leaves, a pair oflufay, and a bird carved from wood, the arawarawi looks like a two-meter-high Christmas tree. The tips of each extending branch are connected to strips of thin bamboo, thus forming a series of circles at the top of the tree. The lufay are hung at the feet of the bird. The cigars are attached to the circles of bamboo, hanging like ornaments on the tree. As the people dance around the arawarawi, they occasionally approach the pole and take one of the cigars.

Curing rites to treat afflictions or illnesses vary according to the degree of seriousness of the illness. A person on the brink of death requires the sacrifice of a pig. Less serious afflictions may require only the sacrifice of a chicken. Sometimes, a small bamboo platform is constructed at the site of the ritual where rice and wine are left for consumption by the supernatural force the medium is trying to contact. If the curing rite fails the first time, it may be held again. If a patient dies, it does not reflect negatively on the medium. However, eventually there is a decline in the demand for the services of less successful mediums.

The medahut (to bring down) or nangidahut si mabakit (to bring down the sick) is a ritual culminating in a dance where the makamong is possessed by the spirit Dawirawin, who then challenges the mabayen to a duel with a spear. The duel is a stylized dance where the makamong/Dawirawin ultimately defeats the mabayen. Dawirawin, having proved his prowess, then leaves the makamong.

Unlike the ordinary curing rites, purification rites are preventive rather than curative. It is believed that such rites can avert illness or misfortune foreshadowed by an evil portent or the violation of a cultural taboo. The household must prepare two or three gantas of rice for the ritual. When the two makamong arrive at the house at about noon, a bead owned by one member of the household is tied to each of their wrists. A Chinese bowl is placed before one makamong, who strikes it with a small bamboo piece. Both commence praying and chanting. Then the male head of the household presents to them the sacrificial pig. One makamong pours water on it and thrusts a stick in its ear, and the pig’s noises are interpreted as signs that conditions are ready for the ritual.

Members of the household, and sometimes their kith and kin, butcher and cook the pig. More rice may be cooked. Afterwards small portions of rice and pork are set on five plates. The entire household witnesses the scattering of the ritual food around the house by the makamong who pray, “We beg forgiveness and offer you this food.” Thus appeased, the spirits purge the household. Members of the household eat what remains on the five plates. The ritual concluded, friends arrive to partake of the excess food in the celebration highlighted with music and dancing. For their services, the makamong are given a hip and a shoulder of the pig.

Gaddang theater with Spanish influence is represented by the komedya which has been performed in Nabuan, Santiago, Isabela, since the turn of the century, where it was believed to have been introduced by the Ibanag. Four komedya have been performed in Isabela since decades ago, and two of them are Principe Leodevico and Principe Rodrigo. Hermitanio Botol was one of the four generations of directors who handled the komedya. Today, the komedya features red breeches, shirts, bands, and capes for the Moors, and green or blue attire for the Christians. The marches are accompanied by a band consisting of the clarinet, saxophone, drums, trombone, mandolin, and banjo. Performances are held in front of houses or on the street during the town fiesta.

Media Arts

There are currently four radio stations in Nueva Vizcaya. Radio Veritas Global Broadcasting System’s DWRV-AM 1233 and DZRV-FM 90.1 are stationed at the provincial capital Bayombong. Vanguard Radio Network’s DWMG-AM 819 and DWDC-FM 101.3 are at Solano. There are 10 FM and 16 AM radio stations in Isabela, mostly based in Cauayan City and Santiago City.


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———. 1970.Shifting Cultivation and Plow Agriculture in Two Pagan Gaddang Settlements. Manila: National Institute of Science and Technology.

———. 1970b. “Agricultural Technology of the Pagan Gaddang.” In Cultures of the Pacific, edited by Thomas Harding and Ben Wallace, 63-77. New York: Free Press.

———. 1974. “Pagan Gaddang Mediums.” Arctic Anthropology 11: 204-12.

———. 1983. “Plants, Pigs, and People: Studying the Food Web in Pagan Gaddang.” Ethnology 22 (1): 27-41.

———. 1983b. “Modernization of Pagan Gaddang.” Philippine Studies 31 (1): 75-86.

———. 2013.Weeds, Roads, and God: A Half-Century of Culture Change among the Philippine Ga’dang. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press Inc.

This article is from the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition.

Title: Gaddang

Author/s: Monica P. Consing, with additional notes from Corazon A. Hila, Wilhelmina R. Torralba, Ramon P. Santos, and E. Arsenio Manuel (1994) / Updated by Rosario Cruz-Lucero, and Gonzalo A. Campoamor II (2018)


Publication Date: November 18, 2020

Access Date: August 25, 2022

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