Philippines Travel

Baguio Museum (Learning about the people of the Cordillera region)

More than the panoramic views, the thing I loved most about traveling is discovering the way of life of people from different parts of the world. The denser the display of their culture, the more fascinated I become. Human behaviors and peculiarities, origin story, why people do what they do, these are the things that pique my curiosity. Which is why when I went to Baguio recently, my most favorite part of the itinerary is the visit to the Baguio Museum. There, I learned about the interesting story of the people of the mountains.

I joined some bloggers and other social media influencers on a familiarization trip to Baguio organized by Azalea Hotels and Residences. One of the places we went to is the Baguio Museum. It holds a large collection of artifacts and other objects of historical significance from the 6 provinces that make up the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Benguet, Mountain Province, Kalinga, Ifugao, Abra, and Apayao. Cordillera is the home of the Igorots, or the people of the mountains.

With the help of the museum’s curator, we found out about the stories, customs, and traditions of the different Igorot tribes. There are 6 glass cases inside the Baguio Museum for each province, holding relics that depict their way of life.

Benguet

Benguet is the frontier of Cordillera and the most populated of Cordillera provinces. It is known as the Salad Bowl of the Philippines for its great production of upland vegetables. It is described as the simplest tribe, which is evident in their modest clothing and other paraphernalia. Some of the things that they have on display are as follows:

  • Bango – A rain gear made by woven rattan, nito fiber, and pine needles.
  • Bangew – a bag made of the same material as bango.
  • Kuval – a red-colored G-string that symbolizes power.
  • Latok – a set of serving plates.
  • Kayabang – baskets carried by Ibaloi women over their heads.
  • Duli – a necklace made of a snake’s vertebrae, which women wore during childbirth to ensure safe delivery.
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Mountain Province

Mountain Province is in the center of the Cordillera mountain range. This is where you can find Sagada, a municipality known for the hanging coffins as well as the caves that tourists like to visit for spelunking.

Ifugao

Ifugao is the land of the best woodcarvers, with their woodwork prominently displayed at the Baguio Museum. The name Ifugao came from the word, “i-pugo,” meaning people of the hill.

The Ifugao worship gods and deities, one of which is the Bululs, the gods of household. The people carve small statues of Bululs out of hardwood and store them inside the rice granary. Their purpose is to guard the wealth and food of the house owners against thieves, rats, and pests.

Situated in this province is the Banaue Rice Terraces, a declared UNESCO World Heritage site.

Kalinga

Kalinga is the tribe of the most skilled craftsmen proficient in metalsmithing, pottery, beadwork, loom weaving, and basket making. This is the home of the famous last mambabatok, Apo Whang-Od, a traditional tattoo artist.

Kalinga and Apayao used to be a single province until 1995.

Abra

The province with clear Spanish influence is Abra, as shown in their artifacts. Some of their objects that are on display are the following:

  • Kalugong – cone-shaped, bamboo hat worn by men.
  • Badu – White jacket made of cotton.
  • Ukken/Kimona – Blouse made of Rengue textile.
  • Piningitan – Wrap-around skirt.

The Abrenians are good at creating products out of bamboo, which they celebrate in their yearly Kawayan Festival. The festivity includes parades, street dancing, and bazaars where people can buy local products.

Apayao

Apayao is the last frontier of Cordillera and the least populated out of the 6 provinces. Formerly, it was part of a province called, Kalinga-Apayao until they became two independent provinces in the 90s.

Apayao’s artifacts show a strong Moro influence. The first Apayao inhabitants come from a tribe called Isnag (or Isneg). Families often live in a household with their extended families, usually in great numbers as they practiced polygamy.

Igorot Customs and Traditions

We learned other interesting facts about the people of the mountains which are as follows:

Mummification

The Igorots practiced mummifying or preserving their dead long before the Spanish occupation. It was most prevalent in the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Mountain Province. The process includes water, salt, water, and smoke to dry the corpse and to prevent insect infestation. Finally, the dead is placed inside a wooden coffin and buried in caves. For info, there is an actual mummy inside the Baguio Museum, but visitors are not allowed to take photos of it.

Bodong

Bodong is an agreement where they settled tribe disputes. Representatives from two opposing tribes would meet to discuss and form a treaty to end the tribal wars. A successful Bodong ends in a feast with some rituals that include butchering a pig, throwing rice over the heads of the visiting tribe as a sign of welcome, drinking fermented rice or sugar wine between the warriors, native dances, preparation of a rice cake called, inandila, and the pagta where old men and women engage in debates.

Hagabi

Carved entirely from a single trunk of a tree, this piece of furniture is usually about 3 meters long and 50 meters in height. It’s a symbol of social prestige, only seen in the houses of the wealthy.


I’ve always felt like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the meaning of being a Filipino. It doesn’t help I am a Tagalog and an urban dweller since birth. Old traditions in this part of the country are textbook material rather than a practice. Hence, I appreciate opportunities like this, to learn the rich history and heritage of Filipinos.

The Igorot culture is complex and quite distinct. To me, a visit to the Baguio museum made this trip all the more meaningful for me.

Baguio Museum Information

Baguio Museum
Address: Dot-PTA Complex, Gov. Pack Rd, Baguio, 2600 Benguet
Schedule: Open daily from 9:00 – 5:00 p.m. except for Monday
Telephone no.: (063) 444 7451
Entrance fee: ₱40

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