As it has been through he centuries, Imbayah, a noble People’s Feast, is Banaue’s grandest cultural celebration marking the passage of one person and his family from common folk to nobility in the community. Imbayah comes from the word “bayah”, meaning rice wine. “Bumayah” or “ Imbayah” connotes nobility or abundance – an occasion were it is said that wine overflows from heirloom jars and the feast set for mortals and gods.
On the Imbayah’s festive days, the people done their full native regalia; fun games and sports that test strength and prowess are played; the epics are chanted; native songs mingle with the air of merry-making; and at the beating of the ancient gongs, dancing becomes-for the people, soulful communion. Ushering the communal feast are nine consecutive days “nabah”, during which the community gather together in the evenings to dance, sing and listen to stories.
Far more than the display of personal wealth and power, the performance of the Imbayah, bestow upon the clan and community as much honor and blessings reaped by the Bumayah. It is this symbolic acceptance of the community with other families and in valuing one’s customs and traditions that the household of the Ifugao deemed noble.
In these contemporary times, the Imbayah was transformed into a traditional community festival showcasing the colorful, the noble, and the best in Banaue’s cultural heritage. It highlights the continuing revival of the Ifugao culture. Events during this feast include traditional arts and craft presentation, dance and music competitions, ethnic games date back to the time of the forefathers of the Ifugao people. Other sports with the variation of arm, leg and body wrestling are also played.
Imbayah is being held to promote Preservation of the Ifugao Cultural Identity and Heritage. Incidentally, Banaue has been conferred “A WORLD HERITAGE SITE” BY UNESCO in 1995. It also aims to foster exchange between and among the Ifugaos, its lowland brothers and foreign as well as domestic tourists. It projects the true character and spirit of the Ifugao as reflected in his arts, songs, dances, and games and hopefully results in greater appreciation and recognition of an exotic and great people. It also promotes tourism development and draws attention to the socio-economic needs in the area and of the populace.
During the Imbayah celebrations, the village people put on their traditional wear. Bright colored “tapis” (skirt) jewelry and accessories adorn the ladies. The chieftains wear their traditional G-String with their headgear and other paraphernalia. Chewing betel nut is common as a form of socialization especially on big gathering like the Imbayah. Meat and wine is shared during the festivities.
To date, the Imbayah remains the most spectacular festival in Ifugao-drawing the largest number of local and foreign tourists to Banaue for the privilege to re-live the glory of crossing the path to Ifugao nobility.