Food Sustainability

Rice is a highly valued food in the Cordilleras. Growing this crop signified the sustainability of food in most villages. In some villages in the Cordillera, the non-propertied class alternately subsisted on root crops such as sweet potato and taro which are grown in swidden farms, house yards or along the paddies of the rice terraces. Amongst Ifugaos, only the kadangyan propertied class own several rice fields producing abundant harvests that were shared to the villagers during traditional feasts. Thus terraced rice fields were constructed and were used as an important indicator of wealth and rank. Harvested rice was stored in the alang rice granaries and in ulbong containers.

In most cases, women plant and harvest rice and also specialize in establishing and maintaining traditional “seed banks‟ for the types of rice that passed the preferential taste of the locals. Special rice seeds were stored in small rattan woven containers. Translocal trade of rice varieties was often practiced in the highland villages making people store several types of rice varieties from which they choose for their needs during the planting seasons. Some villages continue growing traditional rice varieties with distinct rice rituals with the aid of objects now found in this collection.

Text: Prof. Dr. Leah Abayao

Female figurative sculpture

A finely carved wooden female sculpture from Northern Ifugao. Figure is standing on a round platform. Part of the platform is chipped off. Hands crossed over the breast.

Bul-ul with hair

A finely carved male Bul-ul with human hair on the head, and possible layers of blood patina. Ears pierced with circular holes on which the mumbaki ritual priest would sometimes put rice panicles during the harvest rituals. The base was shaped likened to an Ifugao rice mortar. Comes from western Ifugao.


Ifugao wooden Bul-ul without blood patina. Sitted on a square platform. Collector notes that this object is from Southern Ifugao and was used for about four generations


A wooden ritual box with cover used by the Ifugaos in rituals performed to urge for bountiful rice production. It is carved with animal shaped busts projected at each end from upper side of box. It contains remains of pakhuy (unhusked rice), momah (areca cathecu), cut runo (Miscanthus chinensis) stems, a stone amulet, a small flat iron (resembling part of a blade used to harvest rice) and possibly dried part of the momah plant. The box’s contents are remains of ritual performances using the object. Each ritual that was performed left ritual paraphernalia inside the box. Runo stems were sometimes used in healing rituals to call for the soul. In some villages in Ifugao, runo remains in ritual boxes may have been used to record the number of pigs that were used to pay the rice fields associated to the ritual box.

Ulbong or Orpfong

Woven container with cover. It was used for storing husked or pounded rice (from the mortar and pestle). Before the introduction of plastic and ceramic rice bins, each house owned one of this. The container was primarily used to protect the rice from unwanted insects and kept the desired rice moisture and taste for days. Each household would store pounded rice so it will be ready for cooking. Containers like this were kept inside the Ifugao traditional house. It was a practice to keep this container filled with some rice contents. In recent times in Ifugao and other parts of the Cordilleras, containers similar to this are woven and used as ceremonial gift to newly married couple.

Ulbong or Orpfong

Woven container with cover and braided handle used for storing ceremonial rice.

Small seed container

Rattan container with cover and handle. Remains of rice seeds are still in it. Some Ifugao villages store their rice seeds in rattan containers that allow natural aeration for the seeds to maintain the desired moisture and quality. Over the years, the Ifugaos have planted several varieties of rice and they have been observing the characteristics of these rice varieties as this was very important in the traditional rice production.


Small version of the Ifugao gampa. Open basket made out of rattan. With rattan strip border and an attached handle. It is used as a tray e.g. for boiled sweet potato or taro.

Miniature rice mortar Luhong and pestle Alu

Finely carved miniature Ifugao mortar and pestle made out of wood. These two represents what Ifugaos use to pound and husk rice that were harvested and sundried. Each house in Ifugao society would own at least one pair of pestle and a mortar. It was normal that homes would have more pairs of pestle. Sizes and weight vary depending on the age groups that would use it. Several homes stopped using these since the kiskisan rice mill technology started operating in the communities.

Seed Container

A bamboo container with rattan basketry weave around it. With a cover and braided handle. Some Ifugao villages store their rice seeds in bamboo and rattan containers. Over the years, the Ifugaos have planted many varieties of rice. They have observed the characteristics of each of these varieties s this was very important in the traditional rice production.