Ifugao is a custodian of many rice terraces of which most are already inscribed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since they mastered their land and eked their existence from it for many centuries.
The Ifugaos’ expertise in the rice farming system of the terraces is reflected in their indigenous knowledge system and practices as their culture revolves mainly around their annual traditional rice farming system consisting of five major stages each entailing several distinct rituals.
The five major stages begin with the weeding wherein the rice stalks at the terraces that begin to rot and decay are uprooted and piled into mounds called “pingkol” followed by the land preparation in which the “pingkol” or mounds are levelled and the soil is plowed and softened for the third stage of planting the rice seedlings.
The fourth stage involves the protection of the rice plants from destructive pests and animals. The final stage is harvesting. The palay are taken to the granaries for storage and the prime seeds selected for the next annual cropping.
As they wait for the two months to repeat similar cycle, the “Bakle” (making of rice cakes) which is one of the Ifugao’s traditional rice culture feasts is performed usually during the month of August as a post-harvest thanksgiving festival for a bountiful harvest.
This ritual is one of the most anticipated community activities especially in the municipality of Kiangan which is considered the cradle of Ifugao civilization.
It is a celebration of the spirit and unity of the community as manifested in their collaborative efforts and rituals associated with rice farming system as it is a moment to thank the gods and spirit of their ancestors for a bountiful harvest.
During the bakle festival, glutinous rice is pounded into powder using the traditional mortar and pestles by those attending the occasion. The powdered rice is then kneaded with water and other ingredients before being shaped and wrapped in banana leaves for cooking to produce the “Binakle” or rice cakes.
While the “Binakle” are being cooked, the ‘mumbaki” (ritual specialist) performs the “Baki” (incantations) to the gods offering chickens and pigs of which their acceptance of the offering can be assessed by the quality of the bile sac of the butchered animals. The offering also include a jar of rice wine, rice cakes, betel nuts, betel leaves and cooked rice. If the omen is good, the feast continues.
After all is cooked and the “Baki” performed, the feast called “Hamul” now begins with the “binakle” and “baya” (rice wine) served to the public.
The festival also includes the beating of gongs and dancing the native Ifugao dances by all gathered.
The Bakle Festival is revitalized to promote and develop tourism in the area and future generation to re-learn their cultural values while providing tourists and visitors the opportunity of experiencing the rich cultural traditions of the Ifugao people. (JDP/DBC- PIA CAR, Ifugao)