The Gran Cordillera Central of Northern Luzon is a jumbled mass of lofty peaks and plummeting ravines, of small fecund valleys cleaved by rainfed, boulder-strewn rivers, and of silent, mist-shrouded, moss-veiled forests wherein orchids in their deathlike beauty unfold like torpid butterflies. Within the rugged confines of this natural bastion live the Ifugao, an independent and conservative people who have for over three hundred years stubbornly resisted the cross and sword of the proselytizing Spanish, the cultural arrogance and monetary clout of American administration and the continuous drive by the independent government of the Philippines toward westernization and acculturation. Progress and modernization may be the order of the day in the capital city of Manila (a harrowing eight hours by road to the south) but the majority of the Ifugao retain their identity and live their lives in accordance with the beliefs and mores of their sacred ancestors. The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago of some 7,000 islands that range from tiny low-lying sand-ringed coral atolls to the large main islands which are mountainous, heavily wooded and lushly fertile. The first people to arrive in these islands approximately 100,000 years ago were primitive hunters and gatherers who lived off the land's basic resources. Many thousands of years later (around 9000 BC), diverse groups from insular and mainland Asia arrived with advanced agricultural skills and a sophisticated social structure. From this complex intermingling of peoples and cultures the infrastructure of a civilization was created and the Philippines as an entity was born.