December 3, 2023

KIANGAN, Ifugao – The National Museum of the Philippines-Cordillera and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) through the office of Board Member Joselito Guyguyon are vying for the recognition of the Tomlinson Stone Hagabi as a national cultural treasure.

NMP-Cordillera Supervising Administrative Officer Eulalie Dulnuan shared that the primary goal of this bid is to raise awareness of the importance of the hagabi as part of the cultural heritage in Ifugao. 

It also aims to restore the stone hagabi to its original appearance or make a replica and extend the lifespan of the structure through protective measures. For its 110th anniversary, Dulnuan hopes to conduct a celebration for stone hagabi on Dec. 25.

The stone hagabi was already declared an important cultural property of the province through SP Resolution 2023-139 and in the municipality of Kiangan through Resolution 135 s. 2022. 

The century-old stone hagabi was carved out from a large stone by “Laya,” a sculptor from Banaue, and was setup on Dec. 25, 1913 as part of the inauguration of the Ifugao Sub-Provincial Building in Kiangan.

Its construction was through the directive of Lieutenant Governor Owen Tomlinson, then military governor of Ifugao, to express his respect for Ifugao traditions and as a sign of gratitude for the support of the community in their peacekeeping efforts during the American colonial period. 

Hagabi is a traditional ceremonial bench, usually carved from a single trunk of a tree.

In Ifugao, hagabi is carved for wealthy families as a symbol of prosperity, power, and prestige. A set of lavish rituals and festivities is required before the bench is installed at the owner’s residence. Hagabi is used as a resting place and an outdoor lounge area for guests.

According to Raymundo Baguilat in his short papers on “Philippine Folklore and Life”, not less than 35 carabaos and 45 pigs were slaughtered and 200 sacks of rice were also consumed during the celebration of the stone hagabi ritual.

The wealth of the kadangyan is based on the ownership of real property, especially in the form of rice fields.

Frank Jenista in his paper, “White Apos” also described the stone hagabi feast as “a tremendous event, complete with speeches, dancing, sporting events, and even the collapse of a second-floor balcony crowded with excited Ifugaos watching the wrestling matches below.”

The Tomlinson stone hagabi is located in front of the Cordillera Regional Museum, WWII Memorial Shrine, Kiangan, Ifugao. – Florida B. Robles