Get to know Ifugao’s traditional wrestling


Seventeen-year-old Roldan Bokdol threw down his rival with all his might to win the Bultong competition of the first Philippine Sports Commission Gender and Development Indigenous Games in Lagawe, Ifugao.

It was quickly over when Bokdol used blinding speed to flip his opponent, Joseph Umlano , to the ground.

Everything happened so fast after Bokdol wasted no time in pushing Umlano away from the makeshift fight circle and throwing his foe to the ground.

The referees were off-duty policemen of the municipality, awarded him the medal.

“Tinutulak tulak ko lang siya,” said Bokdol in Ifugao dialect. Bokdol is a Tuwali tribesman studying at Lagawe Extension High School.

If Japan has sumo and the US has freestyle wrestling, the Ifugaos are proud of Bultong, their traditional form of belt wrestling

Bokdol went on to complete a three-game sweep of the Bultong competition’s round robin contest.

Bultong  is the Ifugao name for their sport of traditional wrestling and it is played in the Cordillera region.

It falls under the international classification of “belt wrestling”.  Belt wrestling is a form of wrestling that is one of the oldest historically recorded sports.

To win in the game,  contestants must try  to knock each other over by grappling with a belt.

It is different from Greco-Roman wrestling where the wrestlers are scored for their performance in two three-minute periods, which can be terminated early by a pin (or fall).

It is also different from freestyle wrestling, where a wrestler use skills in tripping to take an opponent to the ground and or grabbing the opponent’s leg.

“Dito, kailangan ay humawak sa string at wag kang bibitaw,” said SPO3 Benjamin Gotia jr., who is one of three off-duty police officers who acted as referees.

It was a rare display of the old art and sport in a two-day festival featuring ethnic Ifugao sports.

Close to 450 elementary and high school boys and girls displayed delight and enthusiasm as they took part in the competition.

 The two-day event was supported by the Ifugao provincial government led by Gov. Pedro Mayam-o. Similar tribal games were also held in Davao, said PSC commissioner Charles Maxey.

“We have done similar competitions of ethnic sports in Davao and were planning one for Mindanao until the Marawi crisis happened.”

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