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The Ibalois (also known as Nabaloi or Inibaloi), like other Igorots, are traditionally an agrarian society that grows rice in terraced fields.
Ibalois are also known to have a rich culture that existed before the Spaniards came to the Philippines. Some of their famous traditions are the mummification and the Cañao ceremony. They also believe in supreme beings that guide their way of living as well as their future.
The Ibalois have an ancient tradition of preserving a loved one's body through mummification. This process is hard to accomplish and might take months or even years to finish and not all mummification attempts are successful.
Before they start the mummification, they make sure that the corpse is cleaned properly. Then they cover it with salt and other herbs before they place it over a fire in a sitting position. They smoke it to completely dehydrate the dead body. Meanwhile, tobacco smoke is also blown into the mouth of the corpse to dry its internal organs. Then the body will be placed in a hollowed log and buried in caves that are believed to be spiritual by the Ibaloi.
During the early 20th century, several mummified remains were found in different caves in the Cordillera mountains. According to scientists, these remains were dated back to between 1200 to 1500 CE.
Here are some of the mummies found in the Cordillera.
Cañao is a ritual that refers to several native feasts of the Ibalois and Benguet people. There are different types of cañao ceremony and most of them require massive preparation. Chicken, pigs, and/or carabaos are being butchered as a sacrifice during this ritual, and later feasted on. Tapēy (rice wine) is also an important offering during these rituals because in the past, rice was a special commodity and was only served during special occasions.
These rituals are performed to appease the spirits, seek approval, or simply to give thanks for healing, birth, good harvest, or progress. Some of these celebrations could take up to a week.
A glimpse of an Ibaloi cañao.
Here in the Philippines, many people, specially those from the lowlands, thought of cañao as a kind of sorcery. This is a common misconception. Cañao is a ritual but it does not include any kind of black magic.
Like other Igorots, the main music instrument of the Ibaloi is the gang-sa or hand-held gong. In the video below, you can see that the rhythm of the music is different from the Ibontocs (which I posted in my previous article). The pattern and designs of their woven bahag (loincloth) and tapis (wrap-around skirt) are also different.
Here is an example of an Ibaloi music and dance.
Tonglo - The legendary Ibaloi gold trading village
Tonglo is frequently mentioned in Ibaloi traditions as one of the first Ibaloi settlements in Benguet. It is also mentioned not as a gold mining site, but as the center of gold trading. The Ibaloi were skilled in processing the gold that they traded in the lowlands. However, historians, anthropologist, and other scholars have different opinions about its exact location and the present-day location of Tonglo village remains a mystery.
This article is the third part of The Igorots series. Below are the links of the first and second part.