The Gaddang (also known as Gadan, Ga'dang, Gaddanes, Iraya, Pagan Gaddang, Yrraya) live in the Northeastern Luzon island, especially in the southern portion of the Cagayan Valley. Gaddang refers to both the Christianized Gaddang who are now largely assimilated into Ilocano and the Pagan Gaddang.
The word "Gaddang" comes from the word ga meaning "heat" and dang meaning "burned"; this likely alludes to the fact that the Gaddang are generally darker of skin than other Cordillera people.
Many Gaddang live in the highlands of southeastern Kalinga-Apayao and eastern Bontok and Isabela provinces. Other groups have abide in the middle Cagayan Valley on the eastern side of the Cordillera, where tributaries of the river merge.
The Gaddang tribe was first discovered by the Spaniards in the early 1600's. An early Spanish report written in 1581 identified them as one of ten tribes in the mountains of Northern Luzon.
The Christianized, lowland Gaddang are now almost indistinguishable from the Ilocano and Ibanag people of the valley, but the highlanders still maintain a unique culture, including what is perhaps the most opulent attire on the island of Luzon, involving plentiful beads and precious stones. Settlements are located near streams and fields. Leadership is achieved based on bravery, skills, knowledge of customary law, and wealth, and usually in association with the status of mingal or great warrior. Peace pacts (pudon) are practiced as kolak trading partnerships. Religion is based on a dichotomy between earth world and afterworld, although the former is the major concern. Rituals are led by both male and female. The male prestige feast occurs once in a lifetime; wealth must be accumulated beforehand to finance the seven elaborate rituals.
The Gaddang live in the forested areas of Cagayan Valley where it was difficult for people to get to where they lived. Their houses are built off the ground on poles while some live in tree houses. This helped to keep them dry when it rained. They used bamboo to build their walls and thatched roofs. They lived near a stream for reliable water supply, and near their fields, which were usually on the slopes of a valley.
Traditionally, the Gaddang women wear a tapis, a lengthly piece of cotton cloth wound around the waistline down to he knees and a long sleeved, round-necked collarless and waist-length blouse. The women themselves weave these costumes and the cloth are dyed in bright natural colors. Gaddang women did not have upper garments except during festivities in the olden days.
The Gaddang men on the other hand wear G-string. The G-string is held by a girdle, whose flap is weighted on the hem by beaded tassles. An upper collarless, short garment may also be worn, together with headkerchiefs. Today, most Gaddang use skirts, trousers, and dress for everyday wear and reserve the traditional attire for ceremonies and other formal occasions.
Their headbands are called atifulan and their combs lagod, which are also lavishly tasseled and beaded. Tattooing is common to both men and women, with designs imprinted on their arms, legs, and fingers. The men have theirs on the breast. Being tattooed assures them passage to heaven. They used a sharp knife to cut the frontal hair about an inch above the eyebrows and continuing in a straight line back along each temple and terminating in the region above each ear. This kept the side locks from hanging down to the face, yet permitting the long strands at the back to fall down the shoulders.
Nanolay is considered as both the creator of all things and a culture hero for the non-Christian upland Gaddang. Other gods include Dasal, to whom the epic warriors Biwag and Malana prayed for strength and courage before going off to their final battle. The fathers of the two heroes were Bunag, the god of the earth, and Limat, the god of the sea.
Christianized Gaddang basically adhere to Christian norms of worship and ritual and no longer practice the rites of anitu. Pre-Christian undercurrents, however, continue to run in Christian devotions. The belief in God, for example, closely parallels the concept of Nanolay as the all-benevolent creator. The intercession of gods and spirits have been replaced by the veneration and appeal to saints. Particularly potent beings among the Gaddang are the Blessed Virgin Mary (as illustrated by her role in subduing the serpent of La Torre) and San Luis Beltran, patron saint of Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.
The Gaddangs acquire their food mostly through hunting, fishing, and gathering. Animals like deer, wild buffalo, pigs, civet cat, wild cat, python, iguana, cobra, and bats are hunted. Locust, crickets, and ants are also caught and eaten. Fish are caught in the rivers along with clams, minnows, eels, frogs, and snails.
In the 1960s, there were about 2,500 Pagan Gaddang and 25,000 Christian Gaddang. Their combined number in 1975 was estimated at 17,500, suggesting continuing assimilation into mainstream Filipino society. By 1980, their population grew to 20,850.