My Experience in Ifugao Native Houses! Getting to know the Ethnic Group in Cordillera

It was my birthday trip to one of the coldest places in my country when I explored the rice terraces last January 2020. Read here for my full travel guide and itinerary. Staying for an overnight in an Ifugao native house is probably one of the main highlights during our Banaue trip. What excites me most every single time is to learn about the beautiful ethnic groups in the Philippines. As a result, spending the night in a native house with the vast intricate terraces and surrounded by dense forest became the cherry on top of our adventure.

If you’re planning for a trip to these beautiful scenic mountains, I highly recommend trying this out too! The experience in totality is unique, overwhelming and breathtaking at the same time. Above all, it’s fulfilling to experience one of the best ethnic culture in the Philippines!

Ifugao Native House

About the Ifugao Native House

Who are the Ifugaos?

To give you a bit of information, the Ifugao culture is a practice found among the Ifugao ethnic group occupying the mountainous areas of Northern Luzon. They can be specifically found in the Ifugao province of Cordillera region which are areas that are mostly covered by vast dense forests. As a result, the Ifugao people are believed to be animist in the modern world.

Furthermore, the Ifugao people also have their own language, way of living, survival techniques and belief system which made their culture and traditions famous in the country. One of which is the practice of nga-nga or betel nut chewing. Nga-nga is highly observed in the Cordillera region especially to the men. This practice makes the mouth of a user turn red and it heats up the body which is perfect for the cold weather. Amazing isn’t it?!

native ifugao banaue
The Native Ifugaos in Banaue
nga-nga in banaue
Nga-nga or bell nut chewing

Parts of the Ifugao Native House

The Ifugao native house is considered a very simple architectural design, but is proven very useful back in the days. The native Ifugao house looks like an elevated pyramid with wooden walls and a ladder. The materials used were made out of timbers tied together without using nails. Despite the way an Ifugao house is built, it is proven to withstand natural calamities like typhoons and earthquakes. Furthermore, the native house is a one room house with an attic for storage.

You can read more detailed information about an Ifugao house here.

House design and uses

Even though the Ifugao native house has a simple design, you will not believe how artistic and useful it is for the locals. The attic serves as the primary storage of harvested rice. While the elevated one-room is used for everything like a one-stop shop. It’s where they eat, sleep and cook food. Also, the one-room house is elevated and with a detachable ladder for a purpose. Whenever they are inside the house at night, they remove the ladder to prevent thieves going inside their house.

Around the house they decorate the remains of an animal they hunted like skins of snakes, iguanas, bones and horns of other wild animals. Below the house is a fireplace where the family gather around a bonfire during cold seasons or especially at night. Amazing isn’t it? Tell me if you’re not yet amazed by how cool the intelligence of this tribe before! And it doesn’t end there! Below the bonfire place is where they bury the remains of their family member. Yes! You read that right..

By now you must have realized how talented the Ifugao people are. Under one room in a one-room style, you can find a storage area, kitchen, dining place, sleeping place, bonfire place and a graveyard. Now you know why the Ifugaos have one of the richest culture and tradition in the Philippines!

My experience in the Ifugao Native House

As part of my Banaue trip last January 2020, I had one of the craziest experience ever! Disclaimer: it is not my intention to scare you or fabricate the story. But this is base from our experience and I want to share it with you to avoid getting the same mistakes happen twice.

I have mentioned earlier that the Ifugao people are believed to be animist in the modern world. With this being said, I’d like to point out that this statement is real and is truly practiced by the Ifugao tribes back in the days.. Therefore, most of their valued possessions were scattered inside the one-room house like decorations. Even the belongings of the dead ones.

Trivia: Did you know that one of the Ifugao’s burial tradition is to let the dead body of an Ifugao sit at the front door where the ladder is attached? While the people attending the burial are seated outside? It’s like a stage and audience set-up. After this, the dead body is buried below the bonfire place of the same house.

Bonfire at night

Upon arriving the village of Batad in Banaue, we left our bags in the native house we rented to hike and trek to the famous waterfalls. It was almost sunset when we got back in the house and we immediately bathe and cleaned our dirty faces and body due to the hike. Mind you, the water was really cold and there were no lights in the bathroom as well. So please do not expect any luxury place to stay when in Batad. My friend, out of his curiosity, touched a lot of things in the house. Including the old figurines and other stuff that looked really old. We were not aware of the Ifugao culture at that time.

After we cleaned up, we ate our dinner and had a bonfire below native house. We were really tired and exhausted, courtesy of the whole day trekking and hiking, but we also wanted to experience a bonfire. Well of course it’s the best thing to do when you’re at one of the coldest places in the country. So we lighted a bonfire and it felt really relaxing!

The nightmares..

As we decided to call it a night and sleep early, guess what happened? The 3 of us were not able to sleep well in spite of the cold weather and our drained bodied. What’s even worst is we all had our nightmares. I remembered waking up to the screams of my friend and I also remembered my partner waking me up because he said I was also having a bad dream. It was really a bad dream and a crazy nightmare!

In the morning, we told the owner about our experience and it was only then when she enlightened us about the culture and traditions of the Ifugao.. We were not aware that below the bonfire place is a grave. We were not aware that the dead body of the house owner is placed in a seated body position in front of the door. And we were especially not aware that the things inside the house are all possessions of all the families that lived there.

Here are friendly reminders when you choose a native house for an overnight stay:

  • DO NOT touch the things inside the house, especially the personal possessions of the people who lived there.
  • Pay respect to the place and the house.
  • DO NOT destroy things nor talk bad observations about the place.
  • Be humble at all times and respect the people

Best morning view

Although it was a long night of bad dreams and nightmares, our morning was welcomed by a beautiful view from outside of our window. Our accommodation is located in the middle of a mountain where you have an amazing view of the rice terraces. It was perfect! Check out our photo below!

Ifugao Native House
Ifugao Native House

Where to get Accommodation in Ifugao?

Batad, Banaue:

  • Ugay Lodge – Ate Maritess (0936 450 7336)
  • Ramon’s Homestay
  • Lhoren’s Inn and Restaurant
  • Highland Inn
  • Christina’s Main Village Inn

Tip: Don’t worry where to get accommodation in Batad. As you approach the village, there are lots of signage along the way where you can get accommodation. Lots to choose from.

Banaue proper, Ifugao:


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: