Members of the IWAK Tribe used to live by hunting, gathering and farming. Farming produce include rice, sweet potato (camote), taro (gabi) and coffee. However, because of the entry of telecommunication towers for cellular phone signals, radiation from the towers affected the quantity and quality of camote produced.
Furthermore, because of the influx of tourists to Mt. Ugo, men and women have ventured into guiding and portering for tourists and climbers to Mt. Ugo as an easier way to earn money. This is because reliance on farming and gathering for trade in the nearby town of Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya, will entail them to carry their produce on foot for more or less three (3) hours, as most roads are still not cemented, and transportation is scarce. To give you an idea, a motorcycle ride by one passenger will cost not less than FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (P500.00) one-way.
There are about 65 IWAK Tribe households. As in other Cordillera Tribes, community leaders are composed of the elders. Family is the basic unit of the Tribe, and BAYANIHAN is very much alive. Although there are very few written literature about the IWAK Tribe and Culture, members of the Tribe still practice age old tradition and rituals. Their history, culture and tradition are recorded through their songs, dances and rituals, which they pass on to their younger tribesmen up to this very day. They butcher pigs and other animals during special occasions, including celebrations to welcome the planting and harvest seasons. Life events such as marriage and death are still celebrated with the age-old rituals.
One of the pride of the IWAK Tribe is their ABUNAN. The abunan is a centuries old sacred structure where they house their mummified ancestors. According to the locals, their used to be FIVE (5) ancestors house in the ABUNAN, a couple and their THREE (3) children.
However, in the early 1980’s scrupulous people, who introduced themselves as historians, managed to steal 1 of the mummies. According to news from the Philippine arcehological scene, the stole mommy has been sold to a collector in Europe. Because of this, the IWAK have been warry of people offering to give them assistance to gain access to the community.
Nevertheless, they have slowly opened themselves to those who show sincerity in extending help to the community. Striking though that the IWAK, proud of their identity, culture and tradition, humbly accept any assistance given them, but prefer to be given technical skills to enable them to improve their livelihood and available resources for long term benefits.
It would be good if we help them make written records of their history, culture and tradition; as well as conduct feasibility studies in relation to farming practices and livelihood appropriate to the community, making use of their indigenous materials and practices.
Credits: (Photo) Tom Deneng