Monday, January 14, 2013

Isinay Country a Century Ago (Dupax)

ISINAY BIRD'S NOTE: This part of the travel report of of Lieutenant Colonel Cornelis De Witt Willcox took place on April 28-29, 1910. From Aritao, the team of American visitors from Manila, led by then Governor-General William Cameron Forbes and the Secretary of the Interior Dean C. Worcester, went to Dupax. Up until now, Forbes and Worcester are the highest-ranking American officials to ever visit Dupax. This particular segment of the series shows that even at the time, Isinays as well as Ilongots were already good hosts to visitors. According to a typescript of THE HISTORY AND CULTURAL LIFE OF DUPAX, the Presidente of Dupax then (1910-1911) was Don Marcelo Doctor. When I read this part of the travelogue, it was my first time to come across the word Campote, and for a while I thought it was not part of Dupax. But when I consulted the book THE ILONGOTS 1591-1994 by Fr. Pedro V. Salgado, I found out that the Ilongot community generously described here was not only a part of of the old Dupax but also that it “still exists today, along the road that leads to Belance”, a barangay of Dupax del Norte.

A SHORT RIDE through the charming, smiling country (part of it might have been France), over a really good road most of the way, brought us to Dúpax. On the way we were met by some of the American officials of the province, among them Mr. Norman Connor, Superintendent of Education (Yale, 1900), and by two Belgian priests, De Wit of Dúpax and Van der Maes of Bayombong. The natives met us, all mounted, with a band, so that we made a triumphant entrance, advancing in line to the presidente’s house, while the church-bell pealed out a welcome.

Dúpax must, like Aritao, have been a point of some importance in the past. It has a large brick church with a decidedly Flemish facade, and a detached pagoda-like belfry. Its streets are overgrown with fine soft grass, and its houses had somehow or other an air of comfort and ease. Here we made quite a stop, first of all quenching our thirst with bubud, beer, cocoanut milk, anything, everything, for we had ridden nearly all the way so far in the sun. We then sat down to an excellent breakfast, and smoked and lounged about until two, when fresh ponies were brought, and we set off on a side trip to Campote, where we were to have our first contact with the real wild man, the Ilongot.

These people, the Ilongots, although very few in number, only six thousand, stretch from Nueva Vizcaya to the Pacific Coast, inhabiting an immense region of forested and all but inaccessible mountains. Over these they roam without any specially fixed habitation. They have the reputation, and apparently deserve it, of being cruel and treacherous, as they certainly are shy and wild.

It was these people who killed Doctor Jones, of the Marshall Field Museum, after he had been with them eight or nine months. So recently as 1907 they made a descent on Dúpax, killing people and taking their heads. When they mean to kill a man fairly, according to their ideas, they hand him a fish. This is a signal that he must be on his guard: to refuse the fish is of no use, because by so doing one puts one’s self beyond the pale, and may be killed in any fashion. We heard a story here of a Negrito stealing a pig from two Ilongots who had a Negrito brother-in-law. Failing to recover the pig, they decided that they must have a Negrito head, and so took their brother-in-law’s.

Pig-stealing, by the way, in the mountain country is regarded much as horse-stealing used to be out West. Besides the spear and head knife, the Ilongots, like the Negritos, with whom they have intermarried to a certain extent, use the bow and arrow, and are correspondingly dreaded. For it seems to be believed in Luzon that bow-and-arrow savages are more dangerous than spear-and-ax-men; that the use of this projectile weapon, the arrow, induces craftiness, hard to contend against. An Ilongot can silently shoot you in the back, after you have passed. A spear-man has to get closer, and can not use an ambush so readily.

Now our Government in the Philippines, by and through and because of Mr. Worcester, had made repeated efforts to reach these Ilongots, to bring them in, as it were, and only recently had these efforts met with any success. For one thing, it is a very serious matter to seek them out in the depths of their fastnesses if only because of the difficulty of reaching them; many of them even now have never seen a white man, and would escape, if I recollect aright, on the approach of our people.

But in 1908 some fifty of them did “come in,” and, gaining confidence, this number grew to one hundred and fifty in 1909. They, or some of them at least, now sent an invitation to Mr. Worcester to come and see them, and he accepted on condition of their making a trail, saying that they could not expect a man of his stature to creep through their country on his hands and knees. This trail they had built, and they had assembled at Campote, four hours from Dúpax, for this first formal visit. It was the desire of Mr. Worcester that this visit should be happy in all respects; for, if not, the difficulties of intercourse with this people, already great, would be so seriously increased as to delay the civilizing intentions of the Government for many years to come.

We rode off at about two o’clock, passing under numberless bamboo arches, on an astonishingly good road, built by Padre Juan Villaverde. About two miles out we left the road, turning off east across rice-paddies, and then followed a stream, which we crossed near the foot of a large bare mountain facing south. Up this we zigzagged four miles, a tiresome stretch with the sun shining full upon us. But at the top we had our reward: to the south reached a beautiful open valley, its floor a mass of green undulations, its walls purple mountains blazing in the full glory of the afternoon sun. At the extreme south, miles away, we could make out Las Salinas, Salt Springs, whose deposits sparkled and shone and scintillated and danced in the heated air.
Grateful as it would have been to rest at the top and enjoy the scene, we nevertheless had to turn our backs upon it, for we had yet far to go over an unknown trail, and it was most desirable to get in before dark. So we turned and now plunged into a forest of tall trees so thick overhead and so deeply buried in vines, and creepers and underbrush generally, that just as no light got in from above, so one could not see ten yards in any direction off the trail. This effect was no doubt partly due to the shades of evening, and to our being on the eastern slope of the mountain.

And that trail! The Ilongots, poor chaps, had done their best with it, and the labor of construction must have been fearful. But the footing was nothing but volcanic mud, laterite, all the worse from a recent rain. Our ponies sank over their fetlocks at every step, and required constant urging to move at all. Compared to the one I was riding, Bubud was a race-horse! Cootes, Strong, and I kept together, the others having ridden on.
As the day grew darker and darker, the myriad notes of countless insects melted into one mighty, continuous shrill note high overhead, before us, behind us, in which not one break or intermission could be detected. Anything faster than a walk would now have been unsafe, even if it had been possible, for at times the ground sloped off sharply down the mountain, the footing grew more and more uncertain, and part of the time we could not see the trail at all.

Indeed, Cootes’s pony stepped in a hole and fell, pitching Cootes clean over his head, and sending his helmet down the mountain-side, where Cootes had to go and get it. Soon after this, though, the forest thinned perceptibly, the trail grew better, and we met Connor, who had turned back to see how we were getting on, and who informed us we had only one-half hour more before us.

Going on, we were greeted by a shout of welcome from our first Ilongot, standing in the trail, subligate, or gee-stringed, otherwise stark naked, and armed with a spear, the sentinel of a sort of outpost, equally naked, with which we soon came up. They were all armed, too, spears and shields, and all insisted on shaking hands with every one of us. You must shake hands when they offer to, an unpleasant matter sometimes, when you notice that the man who is paying you this attention is covered with Toenia imbricata, or other rare tropical skin disease. Noblesse oblige, here as elsewhere; besides, a consideration for your own skin may require you to put aside your prejudices. The trail now turned down over a broad, cleared hog-back, at the flattened end of which we could see two shacks and a temporary shed for our mounts. Smoke was rising cheerfully in the air and people were moving about. This was Campote.

It was too dark by this time to see or do much. We had supper, looked up the place where we were to sleep, and then collected at the lower of the two shacks. Here we received visits, so to say, from as many Ilongots, grown men only, as could get into the place. In truth, we were as much objects of curiosity to them as they possibly could have been to us. To Mr. Worcester the occasion was one of business, explaining through interpreters why we had come, what the Government wanted, getting acquainted with the cabecillas (head men), and listening to what they had themselves to say. One of our visitors was a grandfather, remarkable, first, because of his heavy long beard, and, second, because his own grandfather was alive; five generations of one family in existence at the same time.

Campote, I may as well say it here as anywhere else, is merely a point where Connor has established a school for children, under a Christianized Filipino teacher. Some thirty children in all are under instruction, the average attendance being twenty-four. It is almost impossible, so Connor told us, to make these people understand why children should go to school, or what a school is, or is for, anyway. However, a beginning has been made. They all have a dose of “the three Rs”; the boys are taught, besides, carpentry, gardening, and rope-making, and the girls sewing, weaving, and thread-making from cotton grown by the boys on the spot. They ought to show some skill in all these arts; for the native rice-basket is a handsome, strong affair, square of cross-section, with sides flaring out, and about three feet high, and some of their weapons show great manual skill. The garden was on show the next morning, displaying beans, tomatoes, cotton, perhaps other things that I failed to recognize or have forgotten, anyway, a sufficient garden. There is besides an exchange here for the sale of native wares.

One of our party had ridden a white pony, and was much amused, as were all of us, to receive an offer for his tail! There is nothing else the Ilongots hold in higher estimation than white horse-hair, and here was a pony with a tail full of it! But the offer was refused; the idea of cutting off the tail was not to be entertained for one moment. Certainly, he might keep its tail: what they wanted was the hair. Would he sell the hair? No; that was only a little less bad than to sell the tail itself.

On our way back to the shack in which some of us were to sleep (the school-house it was) we noticed an admiring crowd standing around the pony, tethered under the house, and all unconscious of the admiration he was exciting, most rudely presenting his hind-quarters to his admirers. But that was not his intention; the crowd – half women, by the way – wanted to be as close to the tail as possible. We left them gesticulating and pointing and commenting, much as our own women might while looking at crown jewels, but not so hopelessly; for the next morning, when we next saw the pony, nearly all the hair had been pulled out of his tail, except a few patches or tufts here or there, tougher than the rest, and serving now merely to show what the original dimensions must have been.

While we were undressing in came a little maiden, who marched up to every one of us, shook hands, and said, “Good evening, sir.” We were pretty well undressed, but our lack of clothes looked perfectly natural to her, perhaps inspired her with confidence. She said her name was Banda, that she was thirteen, but of this she could not know, as all these children had had ages assigned to them when they entered the school; after greeting us all, and airing her slight stock of English, she withdrew as properly as she had entered. A trifling incident, perhaps not worth recording, but in reality significant, for it marked confidence, especially as she had come in of her own accord. We all agreed that she was very pretty.

The next morning we turned out early, and got our first real “look-see.” Campote is completely surrounded by mountains, the hogback dropping off into the valley below us. About four or five hundred people had assembled, men, women, and children. As a rule, they were small and well built, but not so well built as the tribes farther north. The men were fully armed with spears, bows and arrows, shields, and head-knives; gee-strings apart, they were naked. Some of them wore on the head the scarlet beak of the hornbill; these had taken heads. Quite a number, both men and women, had a small cross-like pattern tattooed on the forehead; the significance of this I did not learn. The shield is in one piece, in longitudinal cross-section like a very wide flat V open toward the bearer, the top terminating in a piece rising between two scoops, one on each side of the median line.

The women had on short skirts and little jackets (like what, I am told, we call bolero jackets), the bosom being bare. Around the waist they wore bands of brass wire or of bamboo stained red and wound around with fine brass wire. These bamboo bands were pretty and artistic. You saw the children as they happened to be; the only thing to note about them being that they were quite bright-looking. What the men lacked in clothes they made up in their hair, for they wore it long and some of them had it done up in the most absolute Psyche knots. Such earrings as we saw were worn in the upper cartilage of the ear. It may be remarked, too, that the women had a contented and satisfied air, as though sure of their power and position; we found this to be the case generally throughout the Mountain Country.

The purpose of the visit being to cultivate pleasant relations with and receive the confidence of these shy people, the real business of the day was soon opened. Mr. Worcester took his place in the shade of his shack, and proceeded to the distribution of red calico, beads, combs, mirrors, and other small stuff, the people coming up by rancherías (settlements or villages); none of the highlanders seem to have any conception of tribal organization, a condition no doubt due to the absence of communications. A cabecilla, or head man, would receive two meters, his wife one, and others smaller measures. This sort of thing was carefully studied out, so far as rank was concerned, for it would never do to give a common person even approximately as much as a cabecilla. One ranchería would take all red beads, another white, another blue, and so on. Not once did I see a trace of greediness or even eagerness, though interest was marked. The whole thing was conducted in the most orderly fashion, the various rancherías awaiting their turn with exemplary patience.

The issue over, dancing began. In this only men and boys took part, to the music of small rude fiddles, tuned in fifths, played by the men, and of a queer instrument consisting of two or three joints of bamboo with strings stretched over bridges, beaten with little sticks by the women. The fiddles must be of European origin. The orchestra, seven or eight all told, sat in the shade, surrounded by an admiring crowd. Among them was a damsel holding a civilized umbrella over her head, whereof the stick and the rib-points were coquettishly decorated with white horse-hair tied in little brushes, doubtless furnished by our white pony.

The dancing at once fixed our attention. Two or three men, though usually only two, took position on the little terreplein below the shack, and began a slow movement, taking very short, formal, staccato steps in a circle against the sun. Keeping back to back and side to side, they maintained the whole body in a tense, rigid posture with the chest out, head up and thrown back, abdomen drawn in, right hand straight out, the left also, holding a shield, eyes glazed and fixed, knees bent forward. Between the steps, the dancers would stand in this strained, tense position, then move forward a few inches, and so on around the circle.

After a little of this business, for that is just what it was, the next part came on, a simulation of fighting: and, as everything before was as stiff, strained, and rigid as it was possible to be, so now everything was light, graceful, agile, and quick; leaps forward and back, leaps sideways, the two combatants maneuvering, as it were, one around the other, for position. It was hard to realize that human motions could be so graceful, light and easy. Then head-knives were drawn, and cuts right, and cuts left, cuts at every part of the body from the head to the ankles, were added to the motion; the man on the defensive for the moment making suitable parries with his shield.

The dance completed, the dancers would advance and face Mr. Worcester, put their heels together in true military fashion, hold their arms out right and left, and make a slight inclination of the head, a sort of salute, in fact, to the one they regarded as the principal personage of the party.

We saw much dancing later on in our trip, but none that equalled this in intensity and character, apart from its being of a totally different kind, Heiser managed, with some difficulty, to take a photograph of the tense phase of one of the dances; it gives a better idea of the phase than my imperfect description.

The dancing was followed by archery, the target being a small banana stem at some thirty paces. This calls for no especial comment, except that many hits were made, and many of the misses would have hit a man.

More interesting was an ambush they laid for us, to show how they attacked. While collecting for it, to our astonishment the entire party suddenly ran in all directions at top speed and hid behind whatever offered. On their return, in four or five minutes, they explained that a spirit had suddenly appeared among them, and that they had had to run. On our asking how they knew a spirit had turned up, they asked if we had not noticed leaves and grass flying in a spiral. As a matter of fact, some of us had, a very small and very gentle whirlwind having formed for a second or two. They had seen it, too, and that was the spirit.

It was now mid-day; we had tiffin, and began preparations for our departure. The various arms, shields, and other things we had bought were collected to be cargadoed back to Pangasinán. Among them, alas! were not two beautiful head-knives, which their wearers had absolutely declined to part with on any terms whatever. They resisted the Governor-General even. I give a photograph here of a knife and scabbard that Connor sent me on later. It is a handsome one, but not as handsome as those two jewels!

Our last performance was to look at the garden and to see the school at work, making thread and rope, weaving mats, and so on. I take it that this school was really the significant thing at Campote, apart from the significance of the occasion itself. We spent but little time over it, however, our interest in the arts of war having left us only a few minutes for those of peace. Nevertheless, here is a beginning that will bear fruit, and in the meantime Connor rides alone and in safety among these wild people, which proves a good many things, when you select the right man to do your hard work.

Mr. Worcester, as we rode off, expressed the liveliest satisfaction with the meeting. These people, returning to their rancherías, he said, would talk for a year of their treatment at the hands of the Americans, of the gift of palay (rice) to four hundred people, for two days, to say nothing of two vacas (cows) and of other gifts. Next year, he hoped, half of them would come in; besides, the start made was good; the presence of so many women and children was a good sign.

And equally good was the total absence of old women. For these are a source of trouble and mischief with their complaints of the degeneracy of the times. They address themselves particularly to the young men, accusing them of a lack of courage and of other parts, taunting them with the fact that the young women will have none of them, that in their day their young men brought in heads, etc. Thus it has happened, especially when any native drink was going about, that trouble has followed. It is the practice, therefore, of our Government when arranging these meetings to suggest that the old women be left at home, and if so left, it is a good indication.
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Source: Cornelis De Witt Willcox, 1912. The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon From Ifugao to Kalinga Franklin Hudson Publishing Company. [2005 by The Project Gutenberg Ebook]


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