Monday, January 14, 2013

Isinay Country a Century Ago (Prologue)

QUITE OFTEN, in my search for references on the history, culture and language of the Isinays, I find myself acting like a miner. A small-scale miner, that is. Similar to (but not as fearless and hardy as) the ones on “isang kahig, isang tuka” mode that you find in ore-rich mountains of Benguet and Davao.

I’m not complaining, but this mining for Isinay “treasures” is not easy. To paraphrase the country singer John Denver: Some days are diamonds, most days are stones.

But, ah, like a real miner, when I do sniff a clue here and there on where I could possibly find something, I follow that trail or wriggle into the bosom of the hill, until I hit a vein if not a mother lode of gold ore.

This series on how Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax looked like a century ago is a sample of such search.

There is a little sutsur (story) on how I thought of coming out with this series. You see, one topic I lined up for this blogsite is the now almost forgotten fact that Isinay land used to be headhunting country. Yes, as in.

As if on cue, my fellow Irupaj and now Middle East-based Nelson Angat posted two photos of beheading on Facebook.

The photos are gory. But I thought it would be nice to include them in a post on headhunting one day soon. Besides, their captions intrigued me:  

Igorot execute chop Filipino criminal head off circa before World War 2” and “Victim of a Headhunter – He is going to be eaten – Philippine Cannibalism.”

So I fired Nelson this FB message in Isinay: “Wow! Sararatut an-anapo^ an letrato, Nelson. Nangeyam sitye?” His reply: “Uwa Charlz na-google ute lohom. Mari^ matandalan nu ande niloovaar.” 

And that was it. Before I knew it, I was already bent on my laptop excitedly reading the headhunting-related items that I Googled in the internet.

I have yet to find the said horrific photos, but still I was lucky to hit The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon From Ifugao to Kalinga by Cornelis De Witt Willcox.

Printed by the Franklin Hudson Publishing Company in 1912, the travelogue of sort was all of 99 pages that include a lot of photos and, fortunately, beautiful vignettes on Aritao, Dupax, and Bambang (including the other Nueva Vizcaya towns of Santa Fe, Bayombong, Solano and Bagabag).

It is fortunate that the re-publisher, The Project Gutenberg, has this kind note: "This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at"

The author Willcox was a Lieutenant-Colonel of the U.S. Army and a Professor and Officier d’ Academie of the United States Military Academy in Kansas City, Mo., U.S.A. How he became able to write the report is described in Chapter 1 of the book as follows:

Every year [Secretary of the Interior Mr. Dean] Worcester makes a formal tour of inspection through the Mountain Province to note the progress of the trails and roads, to listen to complaints, to hear reports, devise ways and means of betterment and in general to see how the hillmen are getting on. This tour is a very great affair to the highlanders, who are assembled in as great numbers as possible at the various points where stops are made; during the stay of the “Commission” (as Mr. Worcester is universally called by the highlanders) at the points of assemblage, the wild people are subsisted by the Government. 

The trip is long and hard, nor is it altogether free from danger. Preparations have to be made two months ahead to have forage for animals, and food for human beings, at the expected halts, while everything eaten by man or beast on the way must be carried by the cargadores (bearers) who accompany the column, since living off the country is in general impossible. Under these circumstances but very few guests can be invited. I was so fortunate as to be one of these in 1910; how fortunate, I did not realize until the trip was over. For although an American may ride alone unmolested through the country we visited, still he would see only what might fall under his eye as he made his way; whereas, on this official trip, thousands of people are brought together at designated points, and one can thus do and see in a month what it would take a much longer time to do and see under one’s own efforts.

This year (1910) the party was made up of Mr. Cameron Forbes, the Governor-General of the Philippine Islands; Mr. Worcester, Secretary of the Interior; Dr. Heiser, Director of Health; Dr. Strong, Chief of the Biological Laboratory; Mr. Pack, Governor of the Mountain Province; and of two officers besides myself, Captain Cootes, 13th Cavalry, Aide de Camp to the Governor-General, and Captain Van Schaick, 16th Infantry, Governor of Mindoro. General Sir Harry Broadwood, commanding His Majesty’s forces at Hong Kong, had been invited, but at the last moment cabled that his duties would prevent his coming. Unless he reads this book he will never know what he missed! As we passed through the various sub-provinces their respective governors and one or two officials would join us and ride to the boundary.

On account of the difficulties of supply and transportation, we were requested to bring no muchachos (boys – i.e., servants), so we had to shift for ourselves. Our baggage was very strictly limited; each man being allowed two parcels, one of bedding, and the other of clothes, neither to be more than could be easily carried on the back of a single cargador. Mr. Worcester took along for the whole party an ingenious apparatus of his own contrivance for boiling drinking-water, as all streams in the Philippines at a level lower than 6,000 feet have been found to contain amoebae, the parasitic presence of which in the intestines produces that frightful disease, amoebic dysentery. We were especially desired to leave our revolvers at home, and had no escort. 

As the book’s title The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon From Ifugao to Kalinga implies, Nueva Vizcaya might not have been specifically included in Cornelis De Witt Willcox’s target study sites for Head Hunters. In fact, from Baguio down to Tayug, Pangasinan via Benguet Road (renamed Kennon Road) he and his team mainly passed by Nueva Vizcaya on the way to Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Kalinga. But Willcox’s quite lengthy description of an Ilongot village in Dupax called Campote might indicate that the province, particularly the southern part where Isinays – and, yes, including headhunters – lived, was part of the itinerary after all.


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