Gaddang people

Total population
30,000 (estimate)
Regions with significant populations
(Cagayan Valley, CAR)
Gaddang, Ga'dang, Ibanag, Ilocano, English, Tagalog
Christianity (Predominantly Roman Catholic, with a minority of Protestants)
Related ethnic groups
Ibanag, Itawis, Ilokano, other Filipino people

The Gaddang people are a linguistically identified ethnic group of related families sharing lengthy residence in the watershed of the Cagayan River in Northern Luzon, Philippines. Gaddang speakers are reported to number around 30,000,[1] plus another 6,000[2] genetically related Ga'dang speakers whose vocabulary is more than 80% identical.

These two groups are often depicted in historic and cultural literature as a single population; distinctions between (a) the Christianized "lowlanders" and (b) the non-Christian residents in the mountains appear to be ignored by many sources. There are both intriguing similarities and unreconciled differences in history, location, lifestyle and beliefs between these two related populations.

The Gaddang homelands

The Cagayan Valley is cut off from the rest of Luzon by ranges of high, rugged mountains to both the east and west, which meet at Balete Pass in the south near Baguio City (geographically within Benguet province). Mary Christine Abriza [3] reports

The Gaddang are found in northern Nueva Vizcaya, especially Bayombong, Solano, and Bagabag on the western bank of the Magat River, and Santiago, Angadanan, Cauayan, and Reina Mercedes on the Cagayan River for Christianed groups; and western Isabela, along the edges of Kalinga and Bontoc, in the towns of Antatet, Dalig, and the barrios of Gamu and Tumauini for the non-Christian communities. The 1960 census reports that there were 25,000 Gaddang, and that 10% or about 2,500 of these were non-Christian.

There is a barangay named Gaddang in Aparri (formerly Faru).

The evidence[4] is that Gaddang have occupied this vast protected valley, in proximity to Ibanag, Itawes, Yogad, Isneg, Malaweg, Bugkalot and Aeta peoples for many hundreds of years;[5] all these Cagayan Valley peoples share linguistic and cultural similarities, as well as much common history.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development published a study on Indigenous People's Issues in the Philippines in 2012;[6] they identified Gaddang in Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Mountain Provinces.


Between 200 B.C. and 300 A.D., colonizing expeditions of Austronesian peoples arrived along the northern coasts of Luzon.[5] They found the Cagayan River watershed sparsely occupied by long-established Negrito Atta (Aeta) peoples, while the hills were already populated by the more-recently arrived Igorot (thought to originate from Taiwan as late as 500 B.C [7]). Unlike either the Aeta hunter/gathers and Igorot terrace-agriculturists, the Indo-Malay colonists practiced swidden farming, and developed successful littoral and riparian societies as well; all economies which demand low population density.

Whenever there were population increases following economic success or continued in-migration, these Indo-Malays were forced to move. Over many generations they spread inland along the Cagayan River and its tributaries. As Gaddang occupy lands further away from the mouth of the river than most Indo-Malay groups, they may be considered likely to have been among the earliest to arrive.

The Indo-Malay arrived in separate small groups during this half-millennium, undoubtedly speaking different dialects, while over time distance promoted linguistic differences. Still, descendants of this 500-year-long migration share elements of language, genetics, practices, and beliefs. Over the last century ethnologists have recorded versions of a shared "epic" depicting describing the arrival of the heroes Biwag and Malana [8] (in some versions from Sumatra), their adventures with magic crocodiles and depictions of riverside life, among all the Cagayan Valley populations. Other cultural similarities include familial collectivism, dearth of endogamous practices, and marked indifference to conservation of assets. These behaviors tend to foster a high individual survival rate, but do relatively little to maintain cultural continuity.

Historic records

Spanish occupation

The Gaddang enter written history in 1608 when the Dominican order founded the mission of St. Ferdinand in the Gaddang community of Abuatan, Bolo (now Bangag, Ilagan City), nearly forty years after initial Spanish settlement in the Cagayan region (but only 100 miles away).[9] 1621 saw the Gaddang (or Irray) Revolt, led by Felipe Catabay and Gabriel Dayag. The Gaddang Revolt may have been spurred by the imposition of tribute, as was Magalat's rebellion in Tuguegarao a generation earlier.

Records say the residents burned their village and the church, then removed to the foothills west of the Mallig River. A generation later, Gaddang returnees at the invitation of Fray Pedro De Santo Tomas re-established the Bolo community, though now it was on the opposite side of the Cagayan river from the original village. The Gaddang Revolt effectively ended with the first mass that was held by the Agustinians on 12 April 1739 in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, the supposed final-stronghold of the Gaddangs.

We suggest this began the distinction between the "Christianized" and "non-Christian" Gaddang. Bolo-area Gaddang fled to seek refuge with mountain tribes who had consistently refused to abandon traditional beliefs and practices for Catholicism. The Igorots had killed Father Esteban Marin in 1601 and had subsequently waged a guerrilla resistance[10] after Captain Mateo de Aranada burned their villages in response. It is likely the mountain tribes accepted the Gaddang as allies against the Spanish; although the Gaddang refused to grow rice in terraces, the mountaineers taught the Gaddang to build homes in the trees (and possibly to participate in head-hunting). Many Gaddang eventually returned to the valley, however, and accepted Spain and the Church in order to reclaim the farming lifestyle.

The Catholic Church continued to forcefully proselytize in the Cagayan Valley, reaching the furthest 'uphill' point at Aritao (Ituy) by 1609[11]. The Ituy mission initially baptized Isinay and Ilongot, but by the 1630s services were being held for Gaddang in Bayombong. The Spanish administration of Governor Dasmarinas during this period sent several expeditions into the upper Magat valley to determine the value of the area's natural resources. The 1747 census of the mission of Paniqui included 470 residents of Bayombong and 213 from Bagabag, all said to be Gaddang or Yogad. The substantial size of the Magat Valley Gaddang population - more than 170 kilometers from present day Ilagan City - argues for a settlement that may have existed longer than the 120+ years since the Irray revolt. The Gaddang are mentioned in Spanish records again in connection with the late-1700s rebellion of Dabo against the royal tobacco monopoly; Ilagan City was by then the tobacco industry's financing and warehousing center for the Valley.[12]

Finally, a royal reform and re-organization of the Cagayan government and economy began in 1839 with the creation of Nueva Vizcaya province. In 1865, Isabela province was created from parts of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. The new administrations opened Cagayan Valley lands to large-scale agricultural concerns funded by Spanish, Chinese, and wealthy Central Luzon investors, attracting workers from all over Luzon. Today, descendants of those 19th-century immigrants (notably the Ilokano) outnumber the descendants of the Cagayan Valley's aboriginal Gaddang, Ibanag,and Yogad peoples by nearly seven-to-one.

American occupation

An early official reference to the Gaddang during the American Occupation directs the reader to "Igorot".[13] The writer discusses these "non-Christian" mountain tribes:

Under the Igorot we may recognize various subgroup designations, such as Gaddang, Dadayag, or Mayoyao. These groups are not separated by tribal organization... since tribal organization does not exist among these people. but they are divided solely by slight differences of dialect.[14]

He also catalogues populations of the Cagayan lowlands; he theorizes about the origins of the inhabitants, saying:

Ilokano have also migrated still further south into the secluded valley of the upper Magat, which constitutes the beautiful but isolated province of Nueva Vizcaya. The bulk of the population here, however, differs very decidedly from nearly all of the Christian population of the rest of the Archipelago. It is made up of converts from two of the mountain Igorot tribes, who still have numerous pagan representative in this province and Isabela. These are the Isanay and Gaddang. In 1632 the Spaniards established a mission in this valley, named Ituy and led to the establishment of Aritao, Dupax, and Bambang, inhabited by the Christianized Isnay, and of Bayombong, Bagabag, and Ibung, inhabited by the Christianized Gaddang. The population, however, has not greatly multiplied, the remainder of the Christianized population being made up of Ilocano immigrants.[15]

When the U.S. took the Philippines from the Spanish in 1899, they instituted what President McKinley termed a "benign administration".[16] Governance by the military energetically promoted improvements, many of which remain relevant today. The Army built roads, bridges, hospitals, and public buildings, improved irrigation and farm production, constructed and staffed schools on the U.S. model, and invited missionary organizations to establish colleges.[17]

Most important, these improvements affected the entire country, not just primarily the environs of the capital. The infrastructure improvements made great changes in the lives of the "Christianized" Gaddang in Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela, although they still had a much smaller effect on the Gaddang in the mountains.

In 1908, the Mountain Province administrative district was formed, incorporating the municipality of Natonin, and its barangay (now the municipality) of Paracelis on the upper reaches of the Mallig River, as well the Ifugao municipality of Alfonso Lista up hill from San Mateo, Isabela. These areas were the home of the Ga'dang-speaking Irray and Baliwon peoples, mentioned in the early Census as "non-Christian" Gaddang. A particular effort of the new province's administration was the suppression of head-hunting.[17]

In 1901, the U. S. Army began to recruit counter-insurgency troops in the Philippines. A number of Gaddang took advantage of this opportunity, and joined the Philippine Scouts through the late 1930s. The Scouts were deployed at the Battle of Bataan,[18] so most were not in their homelands during the Japanese Occupation. One Gaddang 26th Cavalry private, Jose P. Tugab, is said to have fought in Bataan, escaped to China on a Japanese ship, was with Chiang Kai-shek at Chunking and US/Anzac forces in New Guinea, and returned to help free his own Philippine home.

Japanese occupation

On December 10, 1941, elements of the Japanese 14th Army landed at Aparri, Cagayan and marched inland to take Tugueguarao. Hapless regular Philippine Army (PA) units surrendered or fled. The main Japanese force proceeded to Ilocos Norte along the coast, but they also deployed troops to administer the agriculturally-rich Cagayan Valley, facilitating Japanese expropriation of the food supplies. By the end of 1942 food and other commodities had become scarce for the native residents.[19]

Philippine Army escapees hid in the mountains or valley villages; many engaged in small-scale guerrilla actions against the Japanese. Americans Lt.Col. Martin Moses, & Lt.Col. Arthur Noble remained at large, and in October 1942 they attempted to organize a significant co-ordinated Northern Luzon guerrilla action. Communications failed, and the attacks were unsuccessful.[20] The Japanese occupying forces in the Cagayan Valley viewed this activity seriously; they imported thousands of troops now freed by the capture of Manila and Bataan to counter any resistance in a fierce and indiscriminate manner. "The leaders were killed or captured, civilians were robbed, tortured, and massacred, their towns and barrios were destroyed."[20]

Still, in these hard times for North Luzon, many individual Japanese sought to befriend Filipino residents, and married local women. The Manila government of President Laurel encouraged collaboration with the Japanese.

Unsurrendered American Capt. Russell Volckmann re-organized locals into the United States Army Forces in the Philippines, North Luzon (USA-FIP NL) in 1943, with a focus on intelligence. In the valleys, his native forces (including a number of Gaddang) were more effective at this new task, although they ran great risks,[21] and provided General MacArthur with important information about Japanese troop dispositions.

In 1945, the resistance also coordinated their activities with American invasion plans. Gaddang homelands actions in which local guerillas had a recognized impact included flank actions at Balete Pass (now Dalton Pass) to open the main drive down the Magat valley, the destruction of bridges on the Bagabag-Bontoc Road - which cut off supply for General Yamashita's forces in the mountains - and the drive from Cervantes to Mankayan which helped reduce the Japanese final stronghold at Kiangan.[22]


The Commonwealth of the Philippines was established as an independent nation by the Treaty of Manila on July 4, 1946. The population of the Philippines at independence was less than 18 million.

By 2014, the Philippine Census passed 100 million, and is forecast to grow to 200 million in the next forty years,[23] even after losing large numbers of Filipino permanent emigrants to other countries. This has had two effects on lowland Gaddang communities: (a) enormous numbers of people have relocated to the relatively uncrowded Magat/Cagayan valleys from other parts of the country,[24] overwhelming original populations and regionally-available resources to accommodate and integrate them; while (b) educated Gaddang have continued to emigrate and become permanent residents of Canada, the US (especially in California, Washington, and the Midwest), the EU, and other countries in South-East Asia.

In October 1997, the national legislature passed the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act; the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) recognizes the Gaddang as one of the protected groups.[25] Initially there was uncertainty about which peoples were included,[26] however in May 2014 the Gaddang were recognized as "an indigenous people with political structure" with a certification presented by NCIP commissioner Leonor Quintayo.[27] Starting in 2014 the process of 'delineation and titling the ancestral domains" will be undertaken; the claims are expected to "cover parts of the municipalities of Bambang, Bayombong, Bagabag, Solano, Diadi, Quezon and Villaverde".[28]



Although consistently identifying the Gaddang as a distinct group, historic sources have done a poor job of ethnography. Early Spanish records make little mention of customs of the Ibanagic and Igaddangic peoples, being almost entirely concerned by events and Government/Church efforts at replacing the culture with a colonial model.[29] In the 1901 Philippine Commission Report states: "From Nueva Vizcaya the towns make the common statement that there are no papers preserved which relate to the period of the Spanish government, as they were all destroyed by the revolutionary government."[30] American occupation records are often more descriptive and more readily available, but most correspondents were also pursuing an agenda for change and consequently performed only cursory discovery of existing behaviors and historic customs. Father Godfrey Lambrecht, rector of St. Mary's High School & College 1934-56, documented a number of linguistic and cultural behaviors in published articles.

Highlands culture

Many popular writers on culture are enamoured of the more-exotic highlands Gaddang culture, and pay little attention to the more-numerous "assimilated" Christianized families.[31] This follows the initial American assumption that the lowland Gaddang originated with the highlands groups who were subsequently Christianized and then settled in established valley communities. Many of the writers also seem to distinguish these residents of Ifugao and Apayo from other mountain tribes primarily by their dress customs.[32] This has not been the case with Professor of Anthropology Ben J. Wallace (Dedman College, Southern Methodist University) who has lived among and written extensively about highland Gaddang since the 1960s.[33]

Both men and women lead and participate in religious and social rituals.[34] Some traditional highlands Gaddang men practice a ritual similar to potlatch in order to bring prestige to their family.

Economy & occupation

There does not seem to have been a Cagayan Valley analogue of the wealthy Central Luzon landowner class until the agricultural expansion of the late nineteenth century; most of those wealthy Filipinos were of Ilokano or Chinese ancestry. Present-day Gaddang don't keep a memory of a dependent-class (although the strong tradition of bringing unfortunate relatives into a household places a reciprocal geas on beneficiaries to "earn their keep"). Records do show many Gaddang names as land and business owners.

The Catholic church also offered career opportunities. Gaddang residents of Bayombong and Bagabag enthusiastically availed themselves of the expanded education opportunities in the early 20th century, producing a number of doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers and other professionals by the mid-1930s. A number also enlisted in the U.S. military service as a career (the U.S. Army Philippine Scouts being considered far superior to the Philippine Army).

Status of women

Among lowlands Gaddang, women regularly own and inherit property, they run businesses, pursue educational attainment, and often serve in public elected leadership roles. Well-known and celebrated[35] writer Edith Lopez Tiempo was born in Bayombong of Gaddang descent. As mentioned above, there appear to be no prevailing rules of exogamy or endogamy which affect women's status or treatment. Both men and women acquire status by marriage, but there are acceptable pathways to prestige for single women in the Church, government, and business.


As has been documented with other Indo-Malay peoples,[36] Gaddang kin relationships are highly ramified and recognize a variety of prestige markers based on both personal accomplishment and obligation (frequently transcending generations).[37]

Funerary practice

Modern Christian Gaddang are most commonly entombed in a public or private cemetery, following a Mass celebration and a procession (with a band). A wake is held for several days, allowing family members and friends travel-time to view the corpse. Mummification is not usually practiced.


The Gaddang language is related to Ibanag, Yogad, Itawis, Malaueg and others.[38] It is distinct in that it features phonemes (the "f","v","z" and "j" sounds) not present in many neighboring Philippine languages. There are also notable differences from other languages in the distinction between "r" and "l", and the "f" sound is a voiceless bilabial fricative, and not the fortified "p" sound common in many Philippine languages (but not much closer to the English voiceless labiodental fricative). The Spanish-derived "J" sound (not the "j") has become a plosive. Gaddang is noteworthy for common use of doubled consonants (e.g.: Gad-dang instead of Ga-dang).

Gaddang is declensionally, conjugationally and morphologically agglutinative, and is characterized by a dearth of positional/directional adpositional adjunct words. Temporal references are usually accomplished using agglutinated nouns or verbs.[39]

Folk traditions

Three hundred years of Spanish cultural domination have effectively eradicated any useful pre-colonial artistic or musical legacy of the lowland Cagayan peoples, including the Gaddang. Although the arts of the Cordillerans and the islanders south of Luzon are well-researched, even sixty years of strong national and academic interest has failed to uncover tangible pre-Spanish Cagayan valley traditions in music, plastic, or performing arts.[40] That understood, there does exist considerable documentation of Gaddang interest and participation in Luzon-wide colonial traditions, such as pandango si ilaw, cumparsasa, and pasyon.[34]

(The article's author draws on nearly 40 years of close experience with Magat-valley Gaddang for the following:) Most Gaddang seem fond of riddles and puns, and keep their dialect alive with traditional songs (including many harana composed in the early parts of the 20th century). Stories of ghosts and witchcraft are also popular, with the tellers most often relating them as if these were events in which they themselves had participated.

Finally, the Christian Gaddang retain a strong traditional belief in illness with a supernatural origin, and some families practice healing traditions which were documented by Father Godfrey Lambrecht, CICM, in Santiago during the 1950s.[41]

Indigenous religion

The Gaddang believe in a variety of deities, including:

  • Nanolay - Is both creator of all things and a culture hero. In the latter role, he is a beneficent deity. Nanolay is described in myth as a fully benevolent deity, never inflicting pain or punishment on the people. He is responsible for the origin and development of the world.
  • Ofag - Nanolay's cousin.
  • Dasal - To whom the epic warriors Biwag and Malana prayed for strength and courage before going off to their final battle.
  • Bunag - The god of the earth.
  • Limat - The god of the sea.[42]


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  2. "Ga'dang". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  3. Philippine Peoples: Gaddang
  4. Maria Luisa Lumicao-Lora, Gaddang Literature, 1984, ISBN 971-10-0174-8
  5. 1 2 roy v aragon. "Province of Cagayan Website :: HISTORY". Retrieved 2013-04-28.
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  13. Index, Census of the Philippine Islands, Vol I; United States Bureau of the Census, Joseph Prentiss Sanger, Henry Gannett, Victor Hugo Olmsted, United States Philippine Commission (1899–1900)
  14. Page 456, Census of the Philippine Islands, Vol I; United States Bureau of the Census, Joseph Prentiss Sanger, Henry Gannett, Victor Hugo Olmsted, United States Philippine Commission (1899–1900)
  15. Page 449, Census of the Philippine Islands, Vol I; United States Bureau of the Census, Joseph Prentiss Sanger, Henry Gannett, Victor Hugo Olmsted, United States Philippine Commission (1899–1900)
  16. "Manifest Destiny, Continued: McKinley Defends U.S. Expansionism". 1903-01-22. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
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  18. "PSHS". The Philippine Scouts. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
  19. Diary of Rammon A. Alcarez,
  20. 1 2 The Intrepid Guerillas of Northern Luzon, Bernard Norling ISBN 978-0-8131-2118-5
  21. Romulo Ludan,
  22. Reports of General MacArthur, The Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, Volume I United States Army
  23. "Statistics - Population and Housing". NSCB. 1995-02-23. Archived from the original on 2012-07-04. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
  24. Abayao, Leah. "Pilot Study on Data Disaggregation and Indigenous Peoples in Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines | Leah Abayao". Retrieved 2013-05-03.
  25. "The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997". Opapp.Gov.Ph. 2011-10-24. Archived from the original on 2012-12-29. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  26. "Philippines: Gaddang Tribe Eyes Awarding Of Ancestral Domain Claims - Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources". 2011-11-11. Archived from the original on 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  28. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. William Henry Scott; Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippines Culture and Society, page 3, Ateneo de Manila Press, 1994
  30. Report of the Philippine Commission to the Secretary of War, 1901 Part 2, page 510
  33. ISBN 1577667875
  34. 1 2 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  36. "The Javanese family". Retrieved 2013-04-26.
  37. geripit (2010-04-30). "Abante Ka - No. 28 PartyList: Who is Romulo Lumauig - Family background". Retrieved 2013-05-03.
  39. Kodachi
  41. 'Lambrecht: Anitu Rites Among the Gaddang,
  42. 'Lambrecht: Anitu Rites Among the Gaddang,
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