Igorot Warrior Headhunters of the Philippine Cordilleras
Head Hunting in the Philippine Cordilleras
In the Igorot head hunting practice, most heads of their enemies were cut off with a battle-axe even before the wounded man was dead. If one warrior at the scene had never taken a head, he would be allowed to cut this one from the body and thus be entitled to the head taker's distinct tattoo(Chaklag).
Philippine Head hunting in the Cordilleras was for religious purposes and the acquisition of magical powers.Reasons include the desire for abundant harvests of cultivated products,the desire to be considered brave and manly.The desire for exaltation in the minds of descendants,to increase wealth, to secure abundance of wild game and fish, to secure general health and favor at the hands of the women, and to promote fertility in women.
However, the individual possession of a freshly severed head had to be "activated" through proper ceremony and ritual before it would "release" it's spiritual and magical powers.
CONVENTION OF IGOROT WARFARE
The Igorots were a warlike people before the majority of them were Christianized
.A tribal war usually starts after a tribesman takes the head of a member from another tribe. Head taking was a rite of passage into manhood. It can be initiated also by a tribesman who intend to marry.
The offended tribe can demand retribution. If the one taking the head desires continued peace, Influential tribal leaders are sent to the other tribe to negotiate. Compensation is paid and the accord is sealed with an exchange of articles. If no agreement is reach then a war challenge is issued by the offended party.
Nearly all men from both sides will participate in the battle within a few days. They will appear at an opportune place shouting challenges at each other. Peace is still possible at this stage if one party decides to capitulate. A member is sent to the other camp with a peace offering usually a pig or a chicken. Friendship is restored if it is accepted. Else, if not all hell breaks loose.
Albert Ernest Jenks in his book "The Bontoc Igorot" published in 1905 has a vivid description of Igorots in the heat of battle
"Men go to war armed with a wooden shield, a steel battle ax and one to three steel or wooden spear. It is a man's agility and skill in keeping his shield between himself and his enemy that preserves his life. Their battles are full of quick and incessant springing motion. There are sudden rushes and retreats. Sneaking flank movement to cut the enemy off."
"The body is always in hand, always in motion.That it may respond instantly to every necessity. Spears are thrown with greatest accuracy and fatality up to thirty feet. And after the spears are discharged. The contest if continued is at arms length with the battle axe. In such warfare no attitude or position can be maintain except in the shortest possible time".
"Rocks are often thrown in battle and not infrequently a man's leg is broken or he is knocked senseless by the rock. Whereupon he loses his head to the enemy unless immediately assisted by his friends."
Such battles, lasting about 30- minutes to an hour often ceases after the taking of a single head by either side. But there were cases where fights last for half a day and a dozen or more heads taken.
The introduction of firearms greatly affected the Igorot way of warfare. There were more fatalities.
Modern warfare and weapons have proven to be more brutal and savage than the primitive arms of the "uncivilized natives"
The Old Warrior
An old man of quiet dignity
watches the children play
their happy and innocent laughter
paid for with so much blood and sorrow
His brown skin weathered by the sun
Bears the proud tattoos of a warrior
and the scars borne of many battles
a reminder of comrades in arms
now long gone but not forgotten
Many moons ago
On this same mountain ridge
a young warrior watch as
a column move upon his land
White men from across the sea
in one hand the Holy Bible
on the other a sword
Conquistadors who's only purpose
to fight for gold and the king's glory
ravaging the land of our ancestors
"I raise my battle axe
as the steady beat of gongs
echo the fervor and anger within"
"Drive them back from whence they came
let none despoil this sacred land
my forefathers fought and died for"
Sun bleached bones on my native soil
A warning to future invaders
that this land shall always be free
for the next and new generations
The Banaue Rice Terraces
The word "Igorot"
According to early 20th century historian Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, "golot" is an old bago tribe word meaning mountain ranges. and the prefix "I" means "dwellers in" When the Spaniards came, the name was anglicized into "Ygorrotte", to be spelled later as Igorot. It is a collective term use to describe six ethno-linguistic groups; Apayao(Isneg),Bontoc,Ibaloi,Ifugao, Kalinga and Kankana-ey
The Cordilleras is a chain of mountains, located in Norhtern Luzon, Philippines.The inhabitants of these mountain ranges are called "Igorots" which mean "people of the mountains".
They are the people who build one of the eight wonders of the world, the Banaue Rice Terraces.They were also headhunters.
The Philippines was ruled by foreign powers for almost four centuries.First by Spain then by the United States.
During the colonial times,The fiercely independent mountain tribes resisted these foreign invaders and were never fully conquered. As headhunters they were feared by their enemies for their ferocity in battle. Igorots however are peace-loving people who value their freedom and their way of life.
During the Spanish rule,the biggest battles recorded was in the 1760s in Tongio,now a part of modern Tuba.It was during these battles that many Igorot warriors were killed and the town of Tongio,one of the biggest communities of Igorots in Benquet erased off the map.
However,It was only in 1846 when Spain was able to establish a foothold in Benguet,but was not able to penetrate deeper into the Mountain provinces or establish a permanent stronghold.
Until the time the United States bought the Philippines from the Spaniards, most of the Igorot territories remained free of foreign invaders.
When the Americans came after Spain ceded the Philippine territories, the Igorots were also the last to be conquered after many bloody battles.
Most of these battles were not recorded or in a term used by the historian William Henry Scott, these records were whitewashed by the Americans. Like the former Spanish colonizers before them, the Americans were after one thing. Natural resources.The Igorot land was rich with gold and timber.
After 40 years of American colonization, It was the turn of the Japanese imperial army.
Witnessing the many atrocities committed by the invaders, Igorots join the war against the Japanese and were form into the 66th infantry battalion of the USAFIP-NL operating as a resistance force in the Cordilleras.
Although it was outlawed, many Igorot warriors occasionally forgot about the legalities and lapse into traditional tendencies lopping off the heads of Japanese soldiers.Their courage and fierceness in battle gain them the respect of their American allies and struck fear into the Japanese.
"Those Gallant Igorots"
A War Department communique was reported by Time magazine during the last days before the fall of Bataan in the Philippines.
With his battle-weary and outnumbered troops facing imminent collapse under the ever-increasing and ferocious Japanese onslaught, Gen. MacArthur in his weekend communique included the dramatic story of non-christian Igorot native tribesmen who after stopping an attack in hand to hand combat with the enemy,counterattack by riding atop the tanks to guide the American drivers inside.
Hampered by the dense undergrowth and lost in the confusing maze of bamboo thickets,vines and creepers, the tankers would have been impotent had it not been for the aid of the Igorot troops of the 2nd Battalion, 11th infantry.
Hoisted to the top of the tanks where they were exposed to enemy fire The Igorots chopped away the entangling foliage with their bolos and served as eyes for the American tank crew,firing with their pistols while guiding the drivers.
"When the attack was over,"said the General, "the remnants of the tanks and of the Igorots were still there, but the 20th Japanese Infantry Regiment was completely annihilated...
"Many desperate acts of courage and heroism have fallen under my observation on many fields of battle in many parts of the world. I have seen forlorn hopes become realities. I have seen last-ditch stands and innumerable acts of personal heroism that defy description. but for sheer breathtaking and heart stopping desperation, I have never known the equal of those Igorots riding the tanks. Gentlemen, when you tell the story stand in tribute to those gallant Igorots." _Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
When Gen. MacArthur return to the Philippines, Gen. Yamashita's army retreated into the Cordilleras for their final stand.The Igorot soldiers of the 66th joint up with the 121st,14th and the 15th infantry regiments under the command of Col. Russel Volkman.With the help of the US Air Force and Artillery Fire,the Tiger of Malaya finally surrendered in Kiangan, Ifugao. Formal surrender took place on September 3, 1945 at Camp John Hay in the city of Baguio.
Head hunting in the Cordilleras at present
Headhunting ritual continues with a wooden substitute for a real human head, attempts to achieve the cosmological benefits of agricultural fertility without the violence long since outlawed by national laws.
Among the northern Kankana-ey, the Dongtoy ritual is a headhunting rite held every ten years or so (with a substitute head) in order to ensure the fertility of the rice crop.
The last trophy heads cut off by Igorot headhunters of the Cordilleras was supposedly in the late 70's.
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