Imbayah Festival, also called Banaue Imbayah Festival, is an annual cultural event in Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines in the last week of April. It is the biggest cultural festival in the province of Ifugao.
Imbayah is the age-old ceremony and merry-making among Ifugaos that they hold when elevating a person and family to the noble status called kadangyan. It comes from the word bayah, which refers to rice wine. And imbayah or bumayah signifies abundance as it relates to the lore that on such an occasion an earthen jar overflows with rice wine.
The lavish ritual was a community feast held by the bumoyah, the person undergoing the rite of passage to nobility and the feast’s host, where mortals and the god can partake.
More than being an exhibit of one’s wealth or prestige, it was a means to affirm a deep connection with the community, gain their acceptance, participate in an active role in performing and preserving customs and tradition, and celebrate one’s good health or golden years.
The feast begins with the beating of the gongs and continued for thirteen days. In the evenings for nine days, which is a period of time called nabah, the Ifugaos engage in revelry through singing, dancing, and storytelling (through the chanting of epics).
Sugarcane would be harvested and turned into wine on the seventh or eighth day, and on the tenth day the gotad (see Gotad Ad Ifugao) was held. They drink wine in communion. Boars are slaughtered for sacrifice and served in the banquet.
Ifugaos of all ages, from children to elders, participate in the cultural activities. Women wear colorful attire such as tapis (a wraparound skirt) and the men their loincloths. They also wear head-pieces, accessories such as necklaces, and other adornments.
History of Imbayah Festival
The Ifugao ceremony of Imabayah is where Imbayah Festival was inspired from. It has become a platform through which the municipality of Banaue exhibits the rich cultural heritage of its people.
It was first organized within the term of Mayor Adriano Apilis Jr. in December 1979 and held every three years. In between, the Urpih was conducted. Urpih is a thanksgiving ritual observed after planting the rice fields with seedlings.
Starting in 2016, it became a yearly event under the administration of Mayor Jerry U. Dalipog. The festival is a yearly tourist attraction in Banaue, boosting the local economy with tourism and providing a source of income to the locals.
Imbayah Festival Activities
Imbayah Festival has a line-up of activities that showcase Ifugao culture. There are musical and cultural shows that contain indigenous songs and dances, presentations, performance of rites and rituals, parade, beauty pageant (Mr. and Miss Imbayah) and performing arts. It also has a fair where food and local products are on display for sale.
Moreover, it features Ifugao artistry and craftsmanship through their cuisine, wood carving (munpaot), and weaving of traditional fabric. Another mainstay is the number of ethnic games and sports. In history, these indigenous games were utilized as a way to achieve resolution of disputes.
Perhaps one of the most popular in the fest is the annual competition of wooden scooters, which are bicycles created entirely out of wood that can reach to speeds of thirty kilometers per hour.
They evolved from a cart used by the ancestors to transport stuff such as agricultural produce. They can be embellished with carvings, and some have handlebars and frames sculpted into the likeness of wildlife or fearsome creatures.
However, they are not equipped with brakes and pedals. Male participants in the race wear wano or traditional loincloth, and they had to be skilled—and their scooters well-made—to avoid crashes.
How to reach Banaue, Ifugao
Buses going to the Banaue, Ifugao are available from Metro Manila, Baguio, and other parts of Luzon.
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- Imbayah Festival – April 29 to May 31, 2017. Municipal Government of Banaue. Retrieved April 20, 2023
- Karlson Lapniten. Celebrating Ifugao culture. Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 6, 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2023
- Lauren Alimondo. Banaue celebrates Imbayah Festival. Sunstar. April 27, 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2023
- Ifugao celebrates Imbayah festival. Sunstar. April 27, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2023
- Imbayah. Municipal Government of Banaue. 2017. Retrieved April 20, 2023
- Festivals. Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority. Philippine Tourism Authority. Retrieved April 20, 2023
- Dave Leprozo Jr. Imbayah festival: A renewal of tradition. Rappler. May 3, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2023