by: Christina Sianghio
The Ilongots are Indonesians who
inhabit the southern Sierra Madre and Caraballo Mountains, on the easterly central
part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. At the present time, there are about
2500 of them. The type measurements of the Ilongots are: stature, 156; forehead,
82; and shape of nose, 89.
These people tend to live near the streams which furnish them much of their livelihood and transportation. On account of long isolation and varied associations with the Ainu, Negritos, and other peoples, many different dialects and customs have developed, which divide the Ilongots into three distinct groups. Along the upper waters of the Cagayan River is the Italon group which exhibits some short Mongol mixture, especially to be seen among the women. The men wear long hair with a characteristic hair net over the forehead. The Egoñgut group lives on the Tabayon River; while the primitive Abaka group inhabits the Conwap River. In each of these main groups are localities each having its varied dialect and customs. However, the salient composite features of the ancient Ilongot culture can be described.
Although there is a larhe concentration of villages at the source of the Cagayan River, Illongot communities are generally scattered in the Southern Sierra Madre and Carballo mountains. Numerous rivers and dense tropical rain forests define Ilongot territory, covering Nueva Viscaya, and parts of Nueva Ecija and Quirino.
For mutual protection, aid and association, the people in each locality are banded into a group. The chief or head of a group is called a beganganat. There are usually about eleven or more houses in the group which is called an alipian. The chief has an assistant called a macatoy. They are chosen for their leadership, ability, and age. The chief’s word is absolute and he rules for life. After his death, the assistant takes his place and a new assistant is elected.
The common law enjoins that one must not:
(1) Kill his companions: for the murderer must support the family of the victim;
(2) Commit adultery: for the culprits are severely beaten;
(3) Lie: for the liar pays a fine to the chief;
(4) Work on each fifth day: for one who works pay a fine;
(5) Disobey her husband: for the disobedient wife is first scolded and may be punished more severely;
(6) Neglect to pay his debts; or
(7) Steal: for whatever one steals will turn to hurt.
In the more advanced settlements of Ilongots, the usual three social classes evolve: the wealthy, the middle class and the economic slaves. Each man endeavors to maintain the rank by his forefathers and also maternal ancestors, relationship and descent being reckoned on both the mother’s and father’s side. Blood ties are strong and the families of an offender are held responsible for his crime. Thus, criminal and civil cases are usually to be settled by the families concerned.
There are boundaries between each alipian beyond which the members of that alipian do not usually go except in foray after heads in order to: revenge a death, have a wedding, or upon the sickness or death of a man in the alipian. Peace-pacts at times are arranged between alipians. A prominent man is made holder of the peace-pact and is responsible for the safety of visiting members of the alipian. Peace-pacts have been ratified by human sacrifice and the ceremony of blood-brothership practiced. The end of the peace-pact is signified by placing arrows in the trail and sprinkling blood upon them. Warfare has started.
The principal occupation is hunting and fishing. The men run after wild pigs and deer with dogs. The kill is made with spears, or bows and arrows. They are also very clever in making various traps to catch the game. The warm streams are full of fish. These are caught in trap as well as nets. The forest, where roots, seeds and fruits can be obtained, is another source of their food.
In the areas where the tropical forests are dense, the men are skilled travelers in the trees. They carry forty foot lengths of rattan which have a loop on one end a hook on the other. The Ilongots can thus travel through the woods at a surprisingly rapid rate. The principal use now of this method is in passing from tree to tree in cutting off the branches while making a kaingin. The main trunks of the trees are left standing.
The kaingin system of farming is used. A clearing is made in the forest. The brush is burnt, and seeds planted in the ashes. A sharp stick is used to make a hole for the seeds. They raise camotes, camote-cahoy, camote-glano, gabi, squash, ubi, upland rice, corn, bananas, coconuts and sugarcane. The Ilongots are noted for making a very good quality of basi (wine) from sugarcane in only one day, by using a native yeast. The soil in the kaingin becomes hard and unfruitful in a couple of years; so a new one is started in the vicinity and a new house built near by.
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Religious Beliefs and Practices
The gods of the Ilongots are Cain and Abal, two brothers who are the creators and guardian lords of all things. They are benevolent and their particular care is that of the people who live on earth. They are invincible and live in the sky, Taon, sometimes on the sun, Elag, or the moon, Dalan, or perchance some star, Pandac. Their messengers are called Binangunan or Cabuligian. Cain and Abal travel from place to place. Their road is called Keat (lightning). Kidu (thunder) follows the road.
In the beginning, Cain and Abal lived together in the sky; but they had a quarrel and separated, as Abal wanted to live on earth where he could herd his animals. He was the one who created the lowlanders, who have the use of his carabaos and other animals. Abal is stronger and more powerful than Cain and so there are more lowlanders than mountain people.
Cain created all the mountain people, including the Ilongots. He gave them their customs, which they have followed throughout the centuries. He was a killer and a head-hunter; so they are also.
The Ilongots pray to Cain and Abal and the Binangunan, asking them for help and inviting them to their feasts. At the beginning of each feast, a small table with four bamboo legs is erected near the house. A red cloth covers the table and on it are placed choice persons of the meats together with rice and basi. Then the priests stands and shouts to the gods saying: “You have helped us: so please come to our feast and be happy. Please help us with good health and abundant crops.”
Some of the Ilongots also worship the sun, moon and stars because they give life and growth; also the rain, Oden, for its life-giving water. This cult hold that these dieties all live in the sky. Elag (the sun) has a great, magnificent house in Gacay. When he gets tired giving light and goes into his house, it is night. Usually Elag and Delan (the moon) are congenial and take turns giving light; but sometimes they quarrel and Elag covers Delan more or less with a great, huge winnowing basket, biga-o. Thus we have the different phases of the moon.
The ancestors are also worshipped and their ways and wishes respected, for they can give help. They are called betang and sometimes come to a house. If you hear certain sounds like murmuring, you know that they are talking nearby. Fire too, is revered for the heat and comfort which it gives and is used in some ceremonies. When a party of men is starting on a hunt, they build a fire, take hold of the dogs and the weapons and pass them one by one through the smoke. The last dog to be passed through the smoke is the leader of the pack. After taking it out of the smoke, the owner spits on its face, and rubs the saliva down its back and sides. Meanwhile, he has been talking and shouting to Gemang, the guardian of wild beasts, saying: “Do not let our dogs get sick. You must give us one of your animals. Do not take the form of a wild beast so that the dogs chase you by mistake. If you will let the dogs catch one beast, then we will give you to eat and drink and likewise your wife.” Following this ceremony, the part starts out in a successful hunt. The Renewal of Fire Rite is also observed.
The Ilongots thus believe in lesser deities called anitos. Some anitos are good and some are evil spirited. There are also two classes of anitos. The Ayeg deal with the larger and more general affairs of men and are usually superior to the Palasekans (dwarfs), who guide one in his daily life and usually credited with all his successes and failures. The Ayeg are kindly and wish the Palasekans and the people to do right. They bring wealth when one is honest, kind, and industrious; and give sickness and death as punishment for sins. They order the Palasekans to give success in hunting, fishing, farming, and other industries. But the Palasekans do not always follow directions. The Palasekans are especially near in the early morning and evening. If you should happen to step on or spit on one, he will get angry and punish you; you may thus catch cold or get an infected foot. Sometimes one slaps you so that you have a swollen cheek. If you should hurt one in the evening, you may get a headache and a fever. You should always carry a light.
However, on the whole, the Palasekans are a kindly little people. They are invincible and when they talk, instead of pronouncing the words, they whistle the sound of them so that one can understand what they are saying. Sometimes they come foretelling some event or bringing a message from an absent relative. They may give warning of danger or indicate the best route to take on a journey. Sometimes a Palasekan likes a certain fortunate person and becomes attached to him. Then that lucky person has a good life, even to being helped physically. One man told me of how he visited a woman who had a Palasekan. There were quite a number of visitors; but the woman only cooked a small quantity of rice for them. However, they marveled to see that, as she ladled out the rice to them, the pot always remained full until they were all satisfied. It was good rice, too. Each priest has a Palasekan who advises him as to the diagnosis and treatments of his patients.
The Palasekans enjoy the same things that people do. Sometimes they come and ask for food or drink. One man told me that once a party of men were drinking basi in the house when they heard a whistling in the roof, which they understood to say that the Palasekans wished to have a drink. So one man poured a basi into a coconut shell cup and placed it outside. When he went for it a little later, it was empty.
The Palasekans know everything and cannot be fooled. One Iloacona school teacher told me of a modern instance illustrating this. He said that it happened during an evening study period. They heard the sound of whistling and the pupils reported that the Palasekans would like to have the phonograph played. The teacher did not want the phonograph to be played and so he told the pupils to tell the Palasekans that his wife had the key. The Palasekans know everything and cannot be fooled. When the pupils replied that the teacher’s wife had put the key in her suit-case under the bed, the Palasekans said that they would play it themselves. The teacher said: “All right, go ahead.” He was amazed to see the phonograph playing by itself soon after: and so he was shamed into going and winding it up and playing it for them.
Another anito is Lampong, the dwarf shepherd of the wild animals. One hunter related to me how he was out one night hunting with a bright light. Two brilliant eyes showed up and he shot between them. He heard a kind of groaning and knew that he had hit a deer; but when he went to the spot, the deer was not there. Soon agintwo brilliant eyes shone in his light and he fired again. He heard the deer thrashing around; but could not find it. This thing happened again and again. On the sixth time he glimpsed the light fur of a white deer. Then immediately it was changed and the hunter saw standing there, a little dwarf about two feet high. It had on only a tall two-peaked black cup and a long white beard reaching to the knees. Its eyes were very brilliant. It stood there beckoning to the hunter; but just then the rest of the hunting party came up and spied the dwarf. Much frightened they cried out: “It is Lampong,” and ran away. The first hunter of course ran with them. It was said that, if he had stayed, Lampong would have shown him where he was pasturing a large herd of deer.
The anitos are worshipped at the balete trees where they live. These trees are sacred. Children are not allowed to play round them and they are not cut down. Caves are also sacred as being where the agi-mñg and also the spirits of the dead live. No one dares to enter a cave.
The crocodile, boaya, the siren, pungitand, and the python, bigkat, are given some worship to prevent them from doing inquiry. A small portion of the chicken in a coconut shell may be placed near the river. Then one calls: “Crocodile, come and eat”: and goes away.
Amulets, charms, and a special little bag (containing an assortment of magical articles) are also worn to please the anitos.
Auguries are by means of the actions of birds and animals. If a man starts out to go to some place and a certain small bird, veche-veche, flies across in front of him, it is a bad omen and the man must return home. Omens and divination play an important part in the daily lives of the Ilongots. Omens are sought for every important enterprise.
The religious teaching and observances are led by a priest, magnigput, who communicates with the gods and anitos, and knows all their characteristics. There is one in each community. His is an honored position which, upon his death, is passed on by inheritance to his eldest son or nearest male kin. The priest prays at the beginning and end of each feast, including weddings and funerals, counsels the people, and officiates at such rites as consecrations.
All the feasts are purportedly religious in their character in order to give happiness to some spirit that it may be influenced either to give help or to cease from doing harm. These feasts are of various kinds. The buni is a day’s feast given at the time of birth, in case of sickness, upon building a house, or some such occasion. Chickens, pigs, deer, or wild pigs may be killed and eaten together: and there may be dancing. The damiti is a week’s thanksgiving feast after harvest; while the baleleong is a great feast given once in a life-time by well-to-do families in order to establish their social standing. The family spends months preparing great quantities of rice, meat, and basi. All the people attend and the primary feast lasts for about a week, then intermittently for maybe a year- whenever a group of people take a notion to go there and have a good time. It is very expensive; but a happy way to worship the gods.
It is at the baleleong that the babies and small children are anointed and consecrated following an ancient ritual. Wreaths formed of leaves, are hung in the rafters- one for each child. With the wreath is a dish which the child will use in the meal following the ceremony. The priest holds in his arms the little male child with the wreath on his head. Then he raises his face to the sky and prays to Abel. After praying he takes some of the blood of a pig and makes a cross on the forehead. A hole is also made in the lobe of each ear. The rites are secret. If the priest makes a mistake in the ritual, the child will have a short life. The males are anointed separately and no females are allowed to be present. Likewise no male is present when a female is anointed. So an old woman officiates; boiled spring water being used in the place of blood. Only fish and rice are given to the female child in the subsequent meal.
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Visual Arts and Crafts
Ilongot men wear a loincloth held around the waist by a cagit of either brass wire or rattan. Gabed, a piece of bark cloth, is wrapped around the legs and tied at the front and back with a string belt. Metal bands clasp the left arm, and several rings adorn the fingers. A handy bag containing arrowheads, flint, crocodile teeth, betel nut, and other articles usually complete the male apparel. The boys are set apart from the men by a boiset band around one of their leg calves.
Ilongot women use bark cloth fro their agde, which are drawn about their bodies like above-the-knee length skirts. These are matched with blouses which expose the midriffs. Although the Ilongot do not weave cloth, the women embroider skillfully and make cotton tassles which they tie on their horsehair ornaments. They also wear panglao (beaded necklaces), kalipan (earrings), brass arm bands, and small bell accessories.
The women do not weave cloth; but the inner bark of certain trees provides soft material having much the feel of chamois skin. Men wear a string cagit, women of either rattan or brass wire, wrapped five or more times around the waist. A piece of bark cloth, gabed, is passed between the legs to cover the privates, and is secured in front and back to the string belt. A neat bag contains the betel nut, lime, flint, tinder, and other small articles. Youths wear a band, bosiet, around the calf of the leg.
The women wear a bark tapis or sarong, agde, covering their bodies from the waist to the knees. The costume is completed with a string of beads, panglao, around the neck together with the earrings, calipan, and spirals of brass wire on the arms. Before the age of puberty, the children go around without clothing.
Filed and blackened teeth are considered aesthetically pleasing, and long hair preferred by both sexes. Prepubescent children are often unclothed.
Fancy headgear identifies a successful headhunter. A rattan frame is decorated with brass wire, and red yarn and shells. On the projected front part of this frame is placed the large red bill of a kalaw bird. An era pendant represents a man’s first kill. Notches are added either on the bill or the earlobes to indicate subsequent successes.
HORNBILL. A severed head was once a symbol of status and maturity for the male Ilngot.
The successful headhunter wore a headdress incorporating the beak of a hornbill.
(Philippine Journal of Science 1912, National Libarary Collection).
Until very recently, the people built their houses in the trees, where they slept at night in order to obtain security from their enemies. Most of the roofs of the present house are reminiscently pyramid in shape. The framework is bamboo tied with rattan and covered with about four layers of anahao leaves. The floor is of split bamboo. The low walls are sided with runo stalks placed close to each other.
For cooking, an iron pot is suspended by a rattan line over the fire-box in one corner. If there is more than one family in the house, each has its own fire-place. Cups and plates are made of anahao leaves. Fingers are used as forks. Skulls of animals are the main decoration of the houses. Sleeping mats are used without a pillow. The bark tapis of a woman is used at night to partially cover the man and wife.
The Ilongots use kaingin system of farming. The general utility tool is a long knife with a curved cutting edge. It is called an ilayao. The weapons are: barbed spear, gayang, bow and arrow, and a large, blunt, wide bladed ilayao which is called a sinamongan. They never go unarmed. The warrior carries a wooden, rectangular shield with its long edges scalloped and a round boss. Mats and baskets are woven from tubeng. Both the checker and twilled processes are used. Water-proof packed bags are formed from the whole skin of fawns, merely sun-cured.
The men procure rattan, honey, basewax, gums and other forest products, which they trade to lowlanders for salt, cloth, brasswire, shells, pots, steel, and other necessities.
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Folk stories, dimolat, are interesting and valuable not only for the pleasure received from the hearing of a tale; but also as a portrayal of the customs and ideals of the people. Thus, a study of a complete collection arranged chronologically, of the folk stories of a certain people would likely give their cultural history as well as throw side lights on their political history. For instance, some Ilongot stories unfold bits of ancient Hindu epics or are patterned on Hindu examples-thus indicating some contact with India.
The Ilongots tell their stories in two ways. The short way is used at such times as when they happen together, or are resting for a while. It is a simple narration of events.
The long way is used when time hangs rather heavily during the confinement of the torrential tropical rains, or in the long evenings. These story hours are much enjoyed and are the principal amusement of the people. An old woman or man, steeped in the lore of the past, makes the best story teller. He draws a slight line between anitos, people and animal characters. He spins out his tale in a certain pleasing tune which at times is rather monotonous and other times becomes excitingly thrilling according to the drift of the story. In order to follow the tune, he often draws out the end of some words or adds meaningless syllables. There are many repetitions of action and thought as well as inconsequential happenings. Incongruities of action and sudden transitions of scene often occur. Once in a while the narrative is broken by some ludicrous incident as clowning in a drama. The pleasure is not so much in following the development of the plot of the story as it is in the delightful manner of telling. Yet the plot is interesting, being based on one of the practical jokes, of which the people are especially fond. Listening to such a story is really a very happy way to spend an otherwise dull time. But, if one wrote down every word or sound which the story teller uttered, he would have a book very few people would care to read.
Therefore, the folktales in this little collection is narrated in the short way. Here are some examples of Ilongot folktales.
How We Became Ilongots (Ma Nanggapuan Min Ilongot, Bua River Dialect)
A long time ago god (Cain) created two persons. One was a man and the other was a woman. These two persons were in the mountains. As they were thriving in the mountains, they were considering what they should do. The following morning the couple agreed to marry. After their marriage, they erected their hut. After five months of living together, the woman became pregnant. While the woman was in her family way, the man felt very happy. The husband thanked god because he had given him his wife as his companion. The time cam when the woman delivered. They were very happy. They hoped to have another child. Their wish was granted. Their next child was a girl, while the first one had been a boy. When their children were woman and man, the parents urged them to marry. They therefore agreed to marry. They built their own huts also. This process was repeated right along. Year after as they increased in number, each family becoming nomadic.
In the completion of this story, we Ilongots have followed the same way as our forefathers did.
Rock - A Boy (Yapugo-Sita Ulissi, Bua River Dialect)
Yapugo was the name of a baby boy Ilongot. He was called Cacad Yapugo for he belonged to that place. He lived in Pugo in the center of the big forest at the source of the river. From birth until boyhood, he had never seen a lowlander. He always stayed in the forest day and night with his ilayao, bow and arrow. Everything which he saw, he shot at with his bow and arrow and always hit it.
Yapugo became a big man, strong and alert and quick of movement. Some peaceful Ilongots called, Benabe, feared Yapugo because he was a good shot. Yapugo belonged to the Ilongot Cacaddengan. The Benabe and Cacad were often at war. This is the reason that the Benabe were afraid of Yapugo for being a good shot.
For many days, none of the Benabe made war with the Cacaddengan.
The Origin of the Monkey (Sayma Nag-gapuan Ma Bulangan, Bua River Dialect)
Long time ago there lived a rich man who had many properties. He had a large farm. He had many helpers on his farm to do the work. This man was so selfish that he fed his laborers only once a day.
There were so many workers so he had some make a kaingin. After cutting the small trees under the big ones, they went to the forest to get rattan which could be made into tagiboc. When they returned from the forest, it was already mid-day. After their return, they were very hungry. Being so hungry, they began to climb the big trees to cut the branches and even the twigs. As they were so hungry and there were no means of obtaining food, they became faint. They took the rattan and placed it between their legs. Finally, it was connected to their anus, and thus became their tails.
Not long after, the rich man went to the farm to see the workers. Upon his arrival, he was surprised because his laborers were not around. Instead, he found monkeys jumping and running among the trees. He called to them: but not one listened to him. They ran away.
The rich man went home and was wondering where his laborers had gone. He didn’t know at first that his laborers has turned into monkeys; but on the following night he dreamed that his workers were the monkeys which he had found in the farm.
That is the origin of the monkey.
The Dog and the Rooster (Ma Ato ay Den Ma Panggase, Cagayan River Dialect)
Once upon a time, there was a dog and a rooster. They went to the forest. By the time they reached where they were going, it was growing dark. Then the rooster said: “Let us stay here the whole night.” I will sleep on this tree top, said the rooster, while you may friend can sleep in the hollow tree. So they went to sleep were each liked to sleep. And in the morning the rooster begabe to crow. The dog heard him crowing and he said: “That is the rooster crowing.” And so he said to himself, “He must be lost in the forest. I will eat him for breakfast . Then he looked up and soon he spied the rooster on top of the tree. Then the dog thought: “What fine food I will have this morning? I must make him come down from the tree.” So the dog said to the rooster: “What a fine rooster you are. Will you come home and eat your breakfast.” Then the rooster said: “I will come, if my friend will come with me.” “Yes,” said the dog. So they went home together. When they reached home, the dog fed the rooster. So the rooster ate his breakfast. While the rooster was eating, the dog sprang on top of him, and he ate the rooster there.
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Ilongot rituals and feasts, marked by song and dance, are performed to solicit the blessings and protection of the gods. Moreover, daily livelihood tasks as well as the life cycle- courtship, marriage, parenthood, and death- present other venues for the Ilongot performing arts.
Ilongot musical instruments produce strange and unusual sounds. Such instrumnets can be classified into two: those played only to provide rhythm for dances, and those for other purposes. The only recorded example of the first type is the ganza or brass gong ensemble, which is probably not native to the group. Examples of the second type include the bamboo or brass jew’s harp, the kuliteng or bamboo guitar, the bamboo zither (which can be either plucked or tapped), the bamboo or bark-and-skin violin, and the nose flute.
Ilongot vocal music is often shouted or sung during ritual dances. Other types are performed on their own, like the baliwayway (lullabies), cradle songs and love songs.
When a child has grown bigger, he/she may be put to sleep with a cradle song, such as this one (Wilson 1967:107-108):
A Small Boy (Otoyo, Cagayan River Dialect, an example of a cradle song )
Otoyo nappalindo walaan canman
Tay asimpogong noy kinnolayab noy lambong.
Imepat a nakigeb. Noy saguet.
Ipipian nong o
Mam’bintan ka ñgomka manibil
no umuwit inam
Gimat’ amam nanganBekeg ma talabacon inam
Ta kagamakan de no unka muka sumikan’
Tano we kadedege ma Apo sin Diot,
Ta iya’dan na ka no madukem biay’mo
Ta bukod no sumikan ka
Sika po, manalima mad bugan’gat ta.
A small boy who plays with flowers-
With his small cloth he climbs the yellow bell-flower.
It bends over and breaks. He falls.
So you had better sleep soundly;
Then cry when mother comes.
Father went out to hunt deer for you,
In addition to mother’s work;
With the purpose of making you grow.
And if our sire grants his help to you,
And permits you to have a long life,
When you grow old,
It’s then your duty to support your parents.
BOY. Babies are put to sleep with cradle songs, which are replaced with other lullabies
as the child grows bigger. Note the child's handkerchief, knife and kneelets.
(National Geographic Magazine 1912, GCF Books Collection).
Love songs are sung among the youth who have reached adolescence. Following is the love song of a girl to her suitor (Wilson 1967:110-111):
Love Song of a Girl (Cagayan River Dialect)
Kadiapot otog bilao,
Bilao dipo alandeden.
Gapuca ñgo upad longot,
Aduan toy sulimpat;
Admo deken weningweng.
Wait for me, wait for me,
There were you cut trees. And let’s go and gather oranges.
We will eat them on the grass, The grass where our houses are.
You have been in the forest,
And you didn’t get any bean-shooter;
You didn’t bring anything for me.
Ilongot dances are relatively free from foreign influences. Their headhunting dances, for instance are emotionally powerful in a way that is typically Ilongot. The movements are strenous and betray internal stress. The tagem or postheading dance is still executed according to custom. While the women play the kolesing, or bamboo zithers counterpointed by the sticks and the litlit or guitar with the human hair strings, the men dance with their weapons, moving in vigorous and trancelike manner. The women later join the men and dance with equal intensity.
DANCES. Ilongot dances typify strength and agility. A pair of warriors dance to a
crowd to the rhythm of bamboo string instruments. (National Geographic Magazine
1912, Lopez Museum Collection).
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