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Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao

Philippines

The hudhud is recited and chanted among the Ifugao people - known for their rice terraces - during the sowing and harvesting of rice, funeral wakes and other rituals. Estimated to have originated before the 7th century, the hudhud - comprised of some 40 episodes - often take three or four days to recite. The language of the chants, almost impossible to transcribe, is full of repetitions, synonyms, figurative terms and metaphors. Performed in a leader/chorus style, the reciter - often an elderly woman - occupies a key position in society. There is only one tune, common to the entire region, for all of the verses.  Very few written examples of hudhud exist.

Threats: The conversion of the Ifugao to Catholicism weakened their traditional culture. The hudhud was linked to the manual harvesting of rice which is now mechanized. It has been replaced at funeral wakes by television and radio. Although the rice terraces are inscribed on the World Heritage List, the number of cultivators continues to decrease. The few people who know all the poems are very old, and young people are not interested in this tradition.

Action plan: The rights of indigenous peoples are protected by Philippine law, including their intellectual property. Publication of historical and ethnological iconographs is planned. The government also proposes festivals and indigenous ceremonies. The National Library and National Museum are responsible for a complete archive of the hudhud. A project teaching the tradition to young people is foreseen.