Kiangan as the Heritage Town of Ifugao


Kiangan was once the largest in area and population among the municipalities of Ifugao until it bore two daughter municipalities, the municipality of Lamut in 1959 and Asipulo in 1992 reducing its land area and population drastically.

In colonial times from the Spanish, American and Japanese periods and the first three years after the grant of Philippine Independence in 1946, Kiangan was the military and political capital of Ifugao.

As the center of government in the province for 60 years, it was also the center of education and commerce and at least a number of the people of the place had first access to education and rose to prominence and leadership in government compared with the other municipalities of the province. This proved to be the foremost factor that gave Kiangan an advantage over the other towns in the historical development of Ifugao.

Kiangan may not be the capital town of the province  anymoreas it was transferred to the municipality of Lagawe because of its more  strategic location, but the history of Ifugao cannot be written without referring to the history of Kiangan.

The name Kiangan is derived from the word “Kiyyangan”, an ancient village that no longer exist. But a small mound surrounded by rice fields located about 4 kilometers from the center Barangay of Poblacion  serves as the physical reminder of the first human settlement of the original ancestors of the Ifugao people.

Local folklore says that the real “Kiyyangan” Village in Sitio Habbiyan of Barangay Munggayang is the original settlement of the Ifugaos as often mentioned in the Ifugao epic ‘Hudhud”, the “Baki” (Ifugao prayer), “Tonton” (genealogical narration) and other oral history of Ifugao acknowledging the town as the cradle of the Ifugao race.

As such, Kiyyangan holds pre-eminence in the mindset of Ifugao elders like the “mumbaki” (native priest)  who performs the “baki”.

The ancient Kiyyangan village was once a large thriving community on the west bank of the Ibulao River from across the neighboring town of Lagawe proper but is now just a part of Kiangan municipality.

In the more popular Ifugao myth, Kiyyangan is the first Ifugao village of the mythological Ifugao ancestors, Wigan and Bugan who descended from the “Kabunyan” (skyworld), a story similar to that of Adam and Eve in the Bible.

Long time ago, the “Pugaw” (the physical world or earth) which is the sixth realm in the cosmos according to ancient Ifugao concept, was not yet inhabited but game animals like deer and wild pigs abound that served as the hunting ground of the deities from the “Kabunyan” like Wigan who also finds the soil of the place fertile for farming.

Pugaw is where the name “Ipugaw” (from the earth or where mortal human beings live) originated which was later changed to Ifugao by the Spaniards who came to the province.

So Wigan and Bugan decided to settle near the west bank of the Ibulao River and called it “Kiyyangan”. Their children married among themselves since they  were the only ones living in the place and soon “Pugaw” was populated by the descendants of Wigan and Bugan.

Ibulao River is the largest of the four rivers in Ifugao that flows to the Magat Dam of which the “hudhud” chanters  refer to as the “kadaklan” ( big river”) and “punbangnan” (rice dikes) denoting the early settlement and rice fields of “Kiyyangan” near its banks.

Aside from the mythological narrations, modern theories on the origin of the Ifugao people were explained in the books written by famous historians and scholars who visited and stayed in the province like Henry Otley Beyer, Roy Barton, Fr. Francis Lambrecht and Felix Keesing that complement the mythical theories and oral literature of the Ifugaos.

Historically also, ancient kiyyangan is referred to by scholars as the precursor of what is now known as the town of Kiangan . However they are not the same since Old Kiangan is now a part of Barangay Munggayang which is a smaller political subdivision of Kiangan.

Archaeological studies  show  that  Kiangan indeed is the cradle of  Ifugao race and civilization.

In June 2012, after more than three weeks of excavation, the Ifugao Archaelogical Project (IAP) disclosed in their report their findings regarding the “Old Kiyyangan Village” that constitutes the 1st Field Season of the IAP, a community led project with the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMO), the local government of Kiangan, National Museum of the Philippines, University of the Philippines Archaelogical Studies Program and the University of Guam.

The IAP crew opened five trenches or excavation units to obtain subsurface information about the site in which Trench 1 provided a buried irrigation ditch called “alak” in the Ifugao-Tuwali dialect, Trench 2 showed shallow river terrace, Trench 3 and 4 offered a valuable information of the life of the old Kiyyangan settlers and Trench 5 holds a large water jar used as a dog burial.

The IAP concluded that the excavation provided the opportunity to look at an early Ifugao village life and that the artifacts recovered suggest a thriving community activity such as hunting deer and probably cultivating rice, taro and sweet potatoes.

Based on the radiocarbon dates (c14) conducted on the artifacts found in the excavation by the IAP, it indicates that the area was settled or found as early as 1,000 years ago.

Learning and understanding all these oral traditions, folklore, mythological stories, historical facts and archaelogical studies clarify and make undisputable that Kiangan is the Her.

By: Daniel B. Codamon