Cool Ifugao Humor

The humorous side of the Ifugao people
By Delmar Cariño/Philippine Daily Inquirer

BANAUE, Ifugao – The jokes are still on them, but the Ifugao have managed to keep things in stride. And just like those who have heard the funny stories, the people themselves relish listening to the stories.

The so-called Ifugao jokes have made the natives popular, making others want to know more about them as indigenous peoples, next to the curiosity over their woodcarving skills, world-renowned rice terraces, and years of chewing muma (momma) or betel nut.

Ramon Dacawi of Hungduan town, Baguio City’s public information officer, brought the house down during the Igorot International Consultation (ICC) at Banaue Hotel when he dished out samples that ribbed the delegates to the hilt.

Here are some of them:

An Ifugao flagged down a Dangwa Tranco bus bound for Baguio. When the bus stopped, the conductor asked where he was going. The man answered, “Ket siempre dita oneg a (There, inside),” meaning, he would go inside the bus.

The man had a pig placed in the bus compartment. When the conductor asked him to pay for the cargo, the man said, “Damagen a no adda pagpliti na (Ask the pig if he has money for fare).”

Evolution of jokes
Dacawi’s jokes, narrated with native accent and facial expression, were enough to generate discussion on their evolution.

Fernando Bahatan, former director of the Cordillera Executive Board, said the jokes reflected the Ifugao’s sense of humor and flair for knocking in some sense to a situation or communication through seemingly harmless – but practical – questions and answers.

“The jokes showed how the Ifugao view life and their struggle to confront the changes that came their way,” Bahatan, a native of Banaue, said.

But the stories were sometimes misunderstood, he said. Listeners have typified the Ifugao as “pilosopo (smart aleck),” but he said: “The jokes actually expressed our being discerning and critical through practical queries and retorts.”

The jokes were first known as “Kiangan jokes,” he said, referring to the former capital town of Kiangan. The early ones had something to do with riding on the Dangwa bus, which had its loading area in Kiangan at that time, Bahatan said. “But later, the jokes became applicable to all areas in the province,” he said.

He said the jokes had helped a lot in easing tension and in arriving at an amicable settlement for elders who handled conflicts involving personal quarrels, land claims and family relations.

These showed the Ifugao people’s ability to make things light or to provide some comic relief to some serious, if not tense, matters or conditions, Hungduan Mayor Pablo Cuyahon said. These evolved from the way the Ifugao adapted themselves to the transition period in their lives, he said.

“That’s why the jokes often involved experiences while riding on the bus, going to the city or meeting policemen when caught violating a city ordinance,” he said.

Discerning trait
Cuyahon said the jokes showed the discerning trait of the Ifugao. “Their questions might appear ignorant, but they actually wanted facts or questions to be direct and clear,” he said.

Aguian Maximo, a retired public school teacher and now a farmer in Barangay Patilong in Banaue, said the jokes also came from their elders who would end the day gathered before a bonfire. “There, they would exchange stories that turned out to be funny and which later became stories,” he said.

Maximo, 72, said the jokes were often associated with daily experiences.

Gov. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said the funny stories were actually the “self-deprecating humor” of the Ifugao. “We make jokes out of ourselves, about our feigned ignorance and about our peculiar traits, like betel nut chewing and the use of G-strings,” said Baguilat, a native of Kiangan.

“The jokes are meant to make one think and not actually to make one laugh. They are actually sources of wisdom,” he said.

But he said the kind of jokes spun for them were not exclusive to his province mates since these also applied to the other provinces.

Dacawi said the jokes revealed the sense of humor that the Ifugao had. “The stories showed how the Ifugao made life bearable for themselves.”

These had something to do with the rice terraces that made engineers marvel over how they were built, he said. “The Ifugao realized that the task of building the terraces needed a shovelful of humor,” he said.

Ifugao jokes are many, but Baguilat said he had yet to come across a book on them.

Bahatan though said his classmate at the seminary then, now Rev. Patricio Guygoyun of the Episcopalian Diocese of Bontoc-Lagawe, had a record that contained 62 stories.

Ray Baguilat Jr., president of the Igorot International Organization which convened the ICC, was so entertained with Dacawi’s jokes that he hinted at sparing a slot for Dacawi in Vancouver, Canada, the next conference site in 2010, for the jokes’ retelling.

Whether Baguilat was serious or not, only he would know.

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