The Bontoc Igorot
Albert Ernest Jenks
Part 2 out of 8
the walls, is a post set in the ground and standing 6 feet 9 inches
high. The boards of the walls are tied to these corner posts, and the
greater part of the weight of the roof rests on their tops. Four other
posts, also planted in the ground and about as high as the corner
posts, stand about 4 feet inside the walls of the house equidistant
from the corner post and marking the corners of a rectangle about 5 1/2
feet square. They directly support the second story of the building.
There is no floor except the earth in the first story of the Bontoc
dwelling, and from the door at the front of the building to the two
rear posts of the four central ones there is an unobstructed passage
or aisle called "cha-la'-nan." At one's left, as he enters the door,
is a small room called "chap-an'" 5 1/2 feet square separated from
the aisle by a row of low stones partially sunk in the earth. The
earth in this room is excavated so that the floor is about 1 foot
lower than that of the remainder of the building, and in its center
the peculiar double wooden rice mortar is imbedded in the earth. It
is in the chap-an' that the family rice and millet is threshed. At the
left of the aisle and immediately beyond the chap-an', separated from
it by a board partition the same height as the outside walls of the
house, is the cooking room, called "cha-le-ka-nan' si mo-o'-to." It is
approximately the same size as the threshing room. There are neither
boards nor stones to cut this cooking room off from the open aisle of
the house, but its width is determined by a low pile of stones built
along its farther side from the outer house wall toward the aisle and
ending at the rear left post of the four central ones. In the face of
this stone wall are three concavities -- fireplaces over which cooking
pots are placed. Arranged along the outer wall, and about 2 feet high,
is a board shelf on which the water jars are kept.
At the right of the aisle, as one enters the building, is a broad
shelf about 12 feet long; in width it extends from the side wall
to the two right central posts. On this shelf, called "chuk'-so,"
are placed the various baskets and other utensils and implements of
everyday use. Beneath it are stored the small cages or coops in which
the chickens sleep at night. There are a few fay'-u in Bontoc in which
the threshing room and cooking room are on the right of the aisle
and the long bench is on the left, but they are very rare exceptions.
In the rear of the building is a board partition apparently extending
from one side wall to the other. The bench at the right of the aisle
ends against this partition, and on the left the stone fireplaces
are built against it. This rear section is covered over with boards
at the height of the outside wall, so that a low box is formed, 3 1/2
feet high and 4 1/4 feet wide. At the rear of the aisle a door 3 feet
high and 1 foot 4 inches wide swings into this rear apartment, which,
when the door is again closed, is as black as night. An examination of
the inside of this section shows it to be entirely walled with stones
except where the narrow door cuts it. By inside measure it is only
3 feet 6 inches wide and 6 feet 6 inches long. This is the sleeping
apartment, and is called ang-an'. As one crawls into this kennel he is
likely to place his hands among ashes and charred sticks which mark the
place for a fire on cold nights. The left end of the ang-an' contains
two boards or beds for the man and his wife. Each board is about 18
inches wide and 4 feet long; they are raised 2 or 3 inches from the
earth, and the head of the bed is slightly higher than the foot. A pole
is laid across the apartment at the lower end of the sleeping boards,
and on this the occupants rest their feet and toast them before the
small fire. At both ends of the ang-an', outside the store walls,
is a small hidden secret space called "kub-kub," in which the family
hides many of its choice possessions. During abundant camote
gathering, however, I have seen the kub-kub filled with camotes. I
should probably not have discovered these spaces had there not been
so great a discrepancy between the inside measure of the sleeping
room and width of the building.
I know of no other primitive dwellings in the Philippines than
the ones in the Bontoc culture area which are built directly on
the ground. Most of them are raised on posts several feet from the
earth. Some few have side walls extending to the ground, but even
those have a floor raised 2, 3, or more feet from the ground and
which is reached by means of a short ladder.
The second story of the Bontoc dwelling is supported on the four
central posts. On all sides it projects beyond them, so that it
is about 7 feet square; it is about 5 feet high. A door enters the
second story directly from the aisle, and is reached by an 8-foot
ladder. This second story is constructed, floor and side walls, of
boards. The side walls cease at about the height of 2 feet where a
horizontal shelf is built on them extending outside of them to the
roof. It is about 2 feet wide and is usually stored with unthreshed
rice and millet or with jars of preserved meats. Just at the left on
the floor, as one enters the second story, is an earth-filled square
corner walled in by two poles. On this earth are three stones --
the fireplace, where each year a chicken is cooked in a household
ceremony at the close of rice harvests.
Rising above the second story is a third. In the smaller dwellings
this third story is only an attic of the second, but in the larger
buildings it is an independent story. To be sure, it is entered through
the floor, but a ladder is used, and its floor is of strong heavy
boards. It is at all times a storeroom, usually only for cereals. In
the smaller houses it amounts simply to a broad shelf about the height
of one's waist as he stands on the floor of the second story and his
head and upper body rise through the hole in the floor. In the larger
houses a person may climb into the third story and work there with
practically as much freedom as in the second.
The 5-foot ridgepole of the steep, heavy, grass roof is supported
by two posts rising from the basal timbers of the third story. The
roof falls away sharply from the ridgepole not only at the sides
but at the ends, so that, except at the ridge, the roof appears
square. Immediately beneath both ends of the ridgepole there is a small
opening in the grass through which the smoke of the cooking fires is
supposed to escape. However, I have scarcely ever seen smoke issue
from them, and, since the entire inner part of the building from the
floor of the second story to the ridgepole is thickly covered with
soot, it seems that little unconsumed carbon escapes through the
smoke holes. The lower part of the roof, for 3 1/2 feet, descends at
a less steep angle, thus forming practically an awning against sun
and rain. Its lower edge is about 4 feet from the ground and projects
some 4 feet beyond the side walls of the lower story.
The kat-yu'-fong, the dwelling of the poor, consists of a one-story
structure built on the ground with the earth for the floor. Some such
buildings have a partition or partial partition running across them,
beyond which are the sleeping boards, and there are shelves here and
there; but the kat-yu'-fong is a makeshift, and consequently is not
so fixed a type of dwelling as the fay'-u.
Piled close around the dwellings is a supply of firewood in the shape
of pine blocks 3 or 4 feet long, usually cut from large trees. These
blocks furnish favorite lounging places for the women. The people
live most of the time outside their dwellings, and it is there that
the social life of the married women is. Any time of day they may be
seen close to the a'-fong in the shade of the low, projecting roof
sitting spinning or paring camotes; often three or four neighbors
sit thus together and gossip. The men are seldom with them, being
about the ato buildings in the daytime when not working. A few small
children may be about the dwelling, as the little girls frequently
help in preparing food for cooking.
During the day the dwelling is much alone. When it is so left one
and sometimes two runo stalks are set up in the earth on each side
of the door leaning against the roof and projecting some 8 feet
in the air. This is the pud-i-pud', the "ethics lock" on an Igorot
dwelling. An Igorot who enters the a'-fong of a neighbor when the
pud-i-pud' is up is called a thief -- in the mind of all who see him
he is such.
Bontoc families are monogamous, and monogamy is the rule throughout
the area, though now and then a man has two wives. The presidente of
Titipan has five wives, for each of whom he has a separate house, and
during my residence in Bontoc he was building a sixth house for a new
wife; but such a family is the exception -- I never heard of another.
Many marriage unions produce eight and ten children, though, since
the death rate is large, it is probable that families do not average
more than six individuals.
A woman is usually about her daily labors in the house, the mountains,
or the irrigated fields almost to the hour of childbirth. The child
is born without feasting or ceremony, and only two or three friends
witness the birth. The father of the child is there, if he is the
woman's husband; the girl's mother is also with her, but usually
there are no others, unless it be an old woman.
The expectant woman stands with her body bent strongly forward at
the waist and supported by the hands grasping some convenient house
timber about the height of the hips; or she may take a more animal-like
position, placing both hands and feet on the earth.
The labor, lasting three or four hours, is unassisted by medicines
or baths; but those in attendance -- the man as well as the woman --
hasten the birth by a gently downward drawing of the hands about the
During a period of ten days after childbirth the mother frequently
bathes herself about the hips and abdomen with hot water, but has no
change of diet. For two or three days she keeps the house closely,
reclining much of the time.
The Igorot woman is a constant laborer from the age of puberty or
before, until extreme incapacity of old age stays the hands of toil;
but for two or three months following the advent of each babe the
mother does not work in the fields. She busies herself about the
house and with the new-found duties of a mother, while the husband
performs her labors in the fields.
The Igorot loves all his children, and says, when a boy is born,
"It is good," and if a girl is born he says it is equally "good" --
it is the fact of a child in the family that makes him happy. People in
the Igorot stage of culture have little occasion to prize one sex over
the other. The Igorot neither, even in marriage. One is practically
as capable as the other at earning a living, and both are needed in
Six or seven days after birth a chicken is killed and eaten by the
family in honor of the child, but there is no other ceremony --
there is not even a special name for the feast.
If a woman gives birth to a stillborn child it is at once washed,
wrapped in a bit of cloth, and buried in a camote sementera close to
The Igorot do not understand twins, -- na-a-pik', as they say. Carabaos
have only one babe at a birth, so why should women have two babes? they
ask. They believe that one of the twins, which unfortunate one they
call "a-tin-fu-yang'," is an anito child; it is the offspring of an
anito. The anito father is said to have been with the mother of
the twins in her unconscious slumber, and she is in no way criticised
The most quiet babe, or, if they are equally quiet, the larger one,
is said to be "a-tin-fu-yang'," and is at once placed in an olla
and buried alive in a sementera near the dwelling.
On the 13th of April, 1903, the wife of A-li-koy', of Samoki, gave
birth to twin babies. Contrary to the advice and solicitations of the
old men and the universal custom of the people, A-li-koy' saved both
children, because, as he pointed out, an Ilokano of Bontoc had twin
children, now 7 years old, and they are all right. Thus the breaking
down of this peculiar form of infanticide may have begun.
Both married and unmarried women practice abortion when for any
reason the prospective child is not desired. It is usual, however,
for the mother of a pregnant girl to object to her aborting, saying
that soon she would become "po'-ta" -- the common mate of several men,
rather than the faithful wife of one.
Abortion is accomplished without the use of drugs and is successful
only during the first eight or ten weeks of pregnancy. The abdomen
is bathed for several days in hot water, and the body is pressed
and stroked downward with the hands. The foetus is buried by the
woman. Only the woman herself or her mother or other near female friend
is present at the abortion, though no effort is made at secrecy and
its practice is no disgrace.
Care of child in parents' dwelling
All male babes are called "kil-lang'" and all girl babes "gna-an'." All
live practically the same life day after day. Their sole nourishment is
their mother's milk, varied now and then by that of some other woman,
if the mother is obliged to leave the babe for a half day or so. When
the babe's first teeth appear it has a slight change of diet; its
attendant now and then feeds it cooked rice, thoroughly masticated
and mixed with saliva. This food is passed to the child's mouth
directly from that of the attendant by contact of lips -- quite as
the domestic canary feeds its young. The babes are always unclothed,
and for several months are washed daily in cold water, usually both
morning and night. It is a common sight at the river to see the mother,
who has come down with her babe on her back for an olla of water,
bathe the babe, who never seems at all frightened in the process,
but to enjoy it -- this, too, at times when the water would seem
to be uncomfortably cold. One often sees the father or grandmother
washing the older babes at the river.
But in spite of these baths the Igorot babe, at least after it has
reached the age of six or eight months, when seen in the pueblo is
almost without exception very dirty; a child of a year or a year and
a half is usually repulsively so. Its head has received no attention
since birth, and is scaly and dirty if not actually full of sores. Its
baths are now relatively infrequent, and its need of them as it plays
on the dirt floor of the dwelling or pabafunan even more urgent than
when it spent most of its time in the carrying blanket.
Babes have no cradles or stationary places for rest or sleep. A babe,
slumbering or awake, is never laid down alone because of the fear that
an anito will injure it. At night the babe sleeps between its parents,
on its mother's arm. It spends its days almost without exception
sitting in a blanket which is tied over the shoulder of one of its
parents, its brother, or its sister. There it hangs, awake or asleep,
sitting or sprawling, often a pitiable little object with the sun
in its eyes and the flies hovering over its dirty face. Frequently a
child of only 5 or 6 years old may be seen with a babe on its back,
and older children are constant baby tenders. Babes may be found in
the fawi and pabafunan where the men are lounging (Pl. XXXII), and
the old men and women also care for their grandchildren. Grown people
quite as commonly carry the babe astride one hip if they have an empty
hand which they can put around it, and often a mother along the trail
carries it at her breast where it seemingly nurses as contentedly as
when in the shade of the dwelling.
Children are generally weaned long before they are 2 years old,
but twice I have seen a young pillager of 5 years, while patting
and stroking his mother's hips and body as she transplanted rice,
yield to his early baby instinct and suckle from her pendant breasts.
After the child is about 2 years of age it is not customary for it to
sleep longer at the home of the parents; the girl goes nightly to the
olag, and the boy to the pabafunan or the fawi. However, this is not
a hard-and-fast rule, and the age at which the child goes to the olag
or fawi depends much on circumstances. The length of time it sleeps
with the parents doubtless depends upon the advent or nonadvent of
another child. If a little girl has a widowed grandmother or aunt she
may sleep for a few years with her. During the warmer months one or
two children may sleep on the stationary broad bench, the chukso, in
the open part of the parents' house. It is safe to say that after the
ages of 6 or 7 all children are found nightly in the olag, pabafunan,
or fawi. I have seen a group of little girls from 4 to 10 years old,
immediately after supper and while some families were still eating,
sitting around a small blaze of fire just outside the door of their
olag. The Igorot child as a rule knows its parents' home only as a
place to eat. There is almost an entire absence of anything which
may be called home life.
The Igorot has no definite system of naming. Parents may frequently
change the name of a child, and an individual may change his during
maturity. There are several reasons why names are changed, but there
is no system, nor is it ever necessary to change them.
A child usually receives its first personal name between the years
of 2 and 5. This first name is always that of some dead ancestor,
usually only two or three generations past. The reason for this is
the belief that the anito of the ancestor cares for and protects its
descendants when they are abroad. If the name a child bears is that
of a dead ancestor it will receive the protection of the anito of the
ancestor; if the child does not prosper or has accidents or ill health,
the parents will seek a more careful or more benevolent protector in
the anito of some other ancestor whose name is given the child.
To illustrate this changing of names: A boy in Tukukan, two hours from
Bontoc, was first named Sa-pang' when less than a year old. At the
end of a year the paternal grandfather, An-ti'-ko, died in Tukukan,
and the babe was named An-ti'-ko. In a few years the boy's father died,
and the mother married a man in Bontoc, the home of her childhood. She
moved to Bontoc with her boy, and then changed his name to Fa-li-kao',
her dead father's name. The reason for this last change was because the
anito of An-ti'-ko, always in or about Tukukan, could not care for the
child in Bontoc, whereas the anito of Fa-li-kao' in Bontoc could do so.
The selection of the names of ancestors is shown by the following
5 A. Kom-ling'
5 B. Ta-kay'-yeng
5 C. Teng-ab'
5 D. Ka-weng'
Mang-i-lot' (4) is the baby name of an old man now about 60 years old;
it was the name of his great-grandfather (1). Numbers 5 A, 5 B, 5 C,
and 5 D are the sons of Mang-i-lot' (4), all of whom died before
receiving a second name. The child Kom-ling' (5 a) was given the
name of his paternal grandfather (3). Ta-kay'-yeng (5 B) bears the
name of his maternal great-grandfather. Teng-ab' (5 C) and Ka-weng'
(5 D) both bear the names of uncles, brothers of the boy's mother. The
present name of Mang-i-lot' (4) is O-lu-wan'; this is the name of a
man at Barlig whose head was the first one taken by Mang-i-lot'. A
man may change his name each time he takes a head, though it is not
customary to do so more than once or twice.
Girls as well as boys may receive during childhood two or three names,
that they may receive the protection of an anito. In Igorot names there
is no vestige of a kinship group tracing relation through either the
paternal or maternal line.
The people are generally reticent about telling their names; and when
they do tell, the name given is usually the one borne in childhood;
an old man will generally answer " am-a'-ma," meaning simply "old man."
Most boys are circumcised at from 4 to 7 years of age. The act of
circumcision, called "sig-i-at'," occurs privately without feasting
or rite. The only formality is the payment of a few leaves of tobacco
to the man who performs the operation. There are one or two old men
in each ato who understand circumcision, but there is no cult for
its performance or perpetuation.
The foreskin is cut lengthwise on the upper side for half an
inch. Either a sharp, blade-like piece of bamboo is inserted in
the foreskin which is cut from the inside, or the back point of a
battle-ax is stuck firmly in the earth, and the foreskin is cut by
being drawn over the sharp point of the blade.
The Igorot say that if the foreskin is not cut it will grow long,
as does the unclipped camote vine. What the origin or purpose of
circumcision was is not now known by the people of Bontoc. The
practice is believed to have come with them from an earlier home;
it is widespread in the Archipelago.
The life of little girls is strangely devoid of games and
playthings. They have no dolls and, I have never seen them play with
the puppies which are scattered throughout the pueblo much of the
year -- both common playthings for the girls of primitive people. It
is not improbable that the instinct which compels most girls, no
matter what their grade of culture, to play the mother is given full
expression in the necessary care of babes -- a care in which the
girls, often themselves almost babes, have a much larger part than
their brothers. Girls also go to the fields with their parents much
more than do the boys.
Girls and boys never play together in the same group. Time and
again one comes suddenly on a romping group of chattering, naked
little boys or girls. They usually run noiselessly into the nearest
foliage or behind the nearest building, and there stand unmoving,
as a pursued chicken pokes its head into the grass and seems to think
itself hidden. They need not be afraid of one, seeing him every day,
yet the instinct to flee is strong in them -- they do exactly what
their mothers do when suddenly met in the trail -- they run away,
or start to.
Several times I have found little girls building tiny sementeras with
pebbles, and it is probable they play at planting and harvesting the
crops common to their pueblo. They have one game called "I catch
your ankle," which is the best expression of unfettered childplay
and mirth I have ever seen.
After the sun had dropped behind the mountain close to the pueblo,
from six to a dozen girls ranging from 5 to 10 or 11 years of age came
almost nightly to the smooth grass plat in front of our house to play
"sis-sis'-ki" (I catch your ankle). They laid aside their blankets
and lined up nude in two opposing lines twelve or fifteen feet
apart. All then called: "Sis-sis'-ki ad wa'-ni wa'-ni!" (which is,
"I catch your ankle, now! now!"). Immediately the two lines crouched
on their haunches, and, in half-sitting posture, with feet side by
side, each girl bounced toward her opponent endeavoring to catch
her ankle. After the two attacking parties met they intermingled,
running and tumbling, chasing and chased, and the successful girl
rapidly dragged her victim by the ankle along the grass until caught
and thrown by a relief party or driven away by the approach of superior
numbers. They lined up anew every five or ten minutes.
During the entire game, lasting a full half hour or until night settled
on them or a mother came to take home one of the little, romping, wild
things -- just as the American child is called from her games to an
early bed -- peal after peal of the heartiest, sweetest laughter rang
a constant chorus. The boys have at least two systematic games. One is
fug-fug-to', in imitation of a ceremonial of the men after each annual
rice harvest. The game is a combat with rocks, and is played sometimes
by thirty or forty boys, sometimes by a much smaller number. The game
is a contest -- usually between Bontoc and Samoki -- with the broad,
gravelly river bed as the battle ground. There they charge and retreat
as one side gains or loses ground; the rocks fly fast and straight,
and are sometimes warded off by small basket-work shields shaped like
the wooden ones of war. They sometimes play for an hour and a half
at a time, and I have not yet seen them play when one side was not
routed and driven home on the run amid the shouts of the victors.
The other game is kag-kag-tin'. It is also a game of combat and of
opposing sides, but it is not so dangerous as the other and there are
no bruises resulting. Some half-dozen or a dozen boys play kag-kag-tin'
charging and retreating, fighting with the bare feet. The naked foot
necessitates a different kick than the one shod with a rigid leather
shoe; the stroke from an unshod foot is more like a blow from the fist
shot out from the shoulder. The foot lands flat and at the side of
or behind the kicker, and the blow is aimed at the trunk or head --
it usually lands higher than the hips. This game in a combat between
individuals of the opposing sides, though two often attack a single
opponent until he is rescued by a companion. The game is over when
the retreating side no longer advances to the combat.
The boys are constantly throwing reed spears, and they are fairly
expert spearmen several years before they have a steel-bladed spear
of their own. Frequently they roll the spherical grape fruit and
throw their reeds at the fruit as it passes.
Here, there, and everywhere, singly or in groups, boys perform the
Igorot dance step. A tin can in a boy's hands is irresistibly beaten in
rhythmic time, and the dance as surely follows the peculiar rhythmic
beating as the beating follows the possession of the can. As the
boys come stringing home at night from watching the palay fields,
they come dancing, rhythmically beating a can, or two sticks, or
their dinner basket, or beating time in the air -- as though they
held a gangsa. The dance is in them, and they amuse themselves
with it constantly.
Both boys and girls are much in the river, where they swim and dive
with great frolic.
During the months of January and February, 1903, when there was much
wind, the boys were daily flying kites, but it is a pastime borrowed
of the Ilokano in the pueblo. Now and then a little fellow may be
seen with a small, very rude bow and arrow, which also is borrowed
from the Ilokano since the arrival of the Spaniard.
Puberty is reached relatively late, usually between the fourteenth
and sixteenth years. No notice whatever is taken of it by the social
group. There is neither feast nor rite to mark the event either for
the individual or the group.
This nonobservance of the fact of puberty would be very remarkable,
since its observance is so widespread among primitive people,
were it not for the fact that the Igorot has developed the olag --
an institution calculated to emphasize the fact and significance
Life in olag
Though the o'-lag is primarily the sleeping place of all unmarried
girls, in the mind of the people it is, with startling consistency,
the mating place of the young people of marriageable age.
A common sight on a rest day in the pueblo is that of a young man
and woman, each with an arm around the other, loitering about under
the same blanket, talking and laughing, one often almost supporting
the other. There seems at all times to be the greatest freedom
and friendliness among the young people. I have seen both a young
man carrying a young woman lying horizontally along his shoulders,
and a young woman carrying a young man astride her back. However,
practically all courtship is carried on in the o'-lag.
The courtship of the Igorot is closely defined when it is said that
marriage never takes place prior to sexual intimacy, and rarely
prior to pregnancy. There is one exception. This is when a rich and
influential man marries a girl against her desires, but through the
urgings of her parents.
It is customary for a young man to be sexually intimate with one, two,
three, and even more girls at the same time. Two or more of them may
be residents of one o'-lag, and it is common for two or three men to
visit the same o'-lag at one time.
A girl is almost invariably faithful to her temporary lover, and this
fact is the more surprising in the face of the young man's freedom
and the fact that the o'-lag is nightly filled with little girls
whose moral training is had there.
Young men are boldly and pointedly invited to the o'-lag. A common form
of invitation is for the girl to steal a man's pipe, his pocket hat,
or even the breechcloth he is wearing. They say one seldom recovers
his property without going to the, o'-lag for it.
When a girl recognizes her pregnancy she at once joyfully tells her
condition to the father of the child, as all women desire children and
there are few permanent marriages unblessed by them. The young man,
if he does not wish to marry the girl, may keep her in ignorance of
his intentions for two or three months. If at last he tells her he
will not marry her she receives the news with many tears, it is said,
but is spared the gossip and reproach of others, and she will later
become the wife of some other man, since her first child has proved
her power to bear children.
When the mother notices her condition she asks who the father of the
child is, and on being told that the man will not marry her the mother
often tries to exert a rather tardy influence for better morals. She
says, "That is bad. Why have you done this?" (when the chances are
that the unfortunate, girl was born into a family of but one head);
"it will be well for him to give the child a sementera to work." About
the same time the young man informs his mother of his relations with
the girl, and of her condition, and again the maker of a people's
morals seems to attempt to mold the already hardened clay. She says,
"My son, that is bad. Why have you done it? Why do you not marry
her?" And the son answers simply and truthfully, "I have another
girl." Without attempt at remonstrance the father gives a rice
sementera to the child when it is 6 or 7 years old, for that is the
price fixed by the group conscience for deserting a girl with a child.
It is not usual for a married man to go to the o'-lag, though a
young man may go if one of his late mates is still alone. He is
usually welcomed by the girl, for there may yet be possibilities
of her becoming his permanent wife. A man whose wife is pregnant,
however, seldom visits the o'-lag, because he fears that, if he does,
his wife's child will be prematurely born and die.
The o'-lag is built where the girls desire it and is said to be
commonly located in places accessible to the men; this appears true
to one going over the pueblo with this statement in mind.
The life in the o'-lag does not seem to weaken the boys or girls
or cause them to degenerate, neither does it appear to make them
vicious. Whereas there is practically no sense of modesty among the
people, I have never seen anything lewd. Though there is no such
thing as virtue, in the modern sense of the word, among the young
people after puberty, children before puberty are said to be virtuous,
and the married woman is said always to be true to her husband.
According to a recent translator of Blumentritt that author is
made to say (evidently speaking of the o'-lag):
Amongst most of the tribes [Igorot] the chastity of maidens is
carefully guarded, and in some all the young girls are kept together
till marriage in a large house where, guarded by old women, they
are taught the industries of their sex, such as weaving, pleating,
making cloth from the bark of trees, etc.
There is no such institution in Bontoc Igorot society. The purpose of
the o'-lag is as far from enforcing chastity as it well can be. The
old women never frequent the o'-lag, and the lesson the girls learn
there is the necessity for maternity, not the "industries of their
sex" -- which children of very primitive people acquire quite as a
young fowl learns to scratch and get its food.
The ethics of the group forbid certain unions in marriage. A man may
not marry his mother, his stepmother, or a sister of either. He may
not marry his daughter, stepdaughter, or adopted daughter. He may
not marry his sister, or his brother's widow, or a first cousin by
blood or adoption. Sexual intercourse between persons in the above
relations is considered incest, and does not often occur. The line of
kin does not appear to be traced as far as second cousin, and between
such there are no restrictions.
Rich people often pledge their small children in marriage, though,
as elsewhere in the world, love, instead of the plans of parents, is
generally the foundation of the family. In February, 1903, the rich
people of Bontoc were quite stirred up over the sequel to a marriage
plan projected some fifteen years before. Two families then pledged
their children. The boy grew to be a man of large stature, while the
girl was much smaller. The man wished to marry another young woman, who
fought the first girl when visited by her to talk over the matter. Then
the blind mother of the pledged girl went to the dwelling, accompanied
by her brother, one of the richest men in the pueblo, whereupon the
father and mother of the successful girl knocked them down and beat
them. To all appearances the young lovers will marry in spite of the
early pledges of parents. They say such quarrels are common.
If a man wishes to marry a woman and she shares his desire, or
if on her becoming pregnant he desires to marry her, he speaks
with her parents and with his. If either of her parents objects,
no marriage occurs; but he does not usually falter, even though
his parents do object. They say the advent of a babe seldom fails
to win the good will of the young man's parents. In the case of the
girl's pregnancy, marriage is more assured, and her father builds or
gives her a house. The olag is no longer for her. In her case it has
served its ultimate purpose -- it has announced her puberty and proved
her powers of womanhood. In the case of a desire of marriage before
the girl is pregnant she usually sleeps in the olag, as in the past,
and the young man spends most of his nights with her. It is customary
for the couple to take their meals with the parents of the girl, in
which case the young man gives his labors to the family. The period
of his labors is usually less than a year, since it is customary for
him to give his affections to another girl within a year if the first
one does not become pregnant.
In other words their union is a true trial union. If the trial is
successful the girl's father builds her a dwelling, and the marriage
ceremony occurs immediately upon occupation of the dwelling. The
ceremony is in two parts. The first is called "in-pa-ke'," and at
that time a hog or carabao is killed, and the two young people start
housekeeping. The kap'-i-ya ceremony follows -- among the rich this
marriage ceremony occupies two days, but with the poor only one
day. The kap'-i-ya is performed by an old man of the ato in which
the couple is to live. He suggestively places a hen's egg, some rice,
and some tapui in a dish before him while he addresses Lumawig,
the one god, as follows:
Thou, Lumawig! now these children desire to unite in marriage. They
wish to be blessed with many children. When they possess pigs, may
they grow large. When they cultivate their palay, may it have large
fruitheads. May their chickens also grow large. When they plant their
beans may they spread over the ground, May they dwell quietly together
in harmony. May the man's vitality quicken the seed of the woman.
The two-day marriage ceremony of the rich is very festive. The parents
kill a wild carabao, as well as chickens and pigs, and the entire
pueblo comes to feast and dance. It is customary for the pueblo to
have a rest day, called "fo-sog'," following the marriage of the
rich, so the entire period given to the marriage is three days. Each
party to the, marriage receives some property at the time from the
parents. There are no women in Bontoc pueblo who have not entered
into the trial union, though all have not succeeded in reaching the
ceremony of permanent marriage. However, notwithstanding all their
standards and trials, there are several happy permanent marriages
which have never been blessed with children. There are only two men
in Bontoc who have never been married and who never entered the trial
stage, and both are deaf and dumb.
The people of Bontoc say they never knew a man and woman to separate
if a child was born to the pair and it lived and they had recognized
themselves married. But, as the marriage is generally prompted because
a child is to be born, so an unfruitful union is generally broken in
the hope that another will be more successful.
If either party desires to break the contract the other seldom
objects. If they agree to separate, the woman usually remains in their
dwelling and the man builds himself another. However, if either person
objects, it is the other who relinquishes the dwelling -- the man
because he can build another and the woman because she seldom seeks
separation unless she knows of a home in which she will be welcome.
Nothing in the nature of alimony, except the dwelling, is commonly
given by either party to a divorce. There are two exceptions --
in case a party deserts he forfeits to the other one or more rice
sementeras or other property of considerable value; and, again,
if the woman bore her husband a child which died he must give her a
sementera if he leaves her.
If either party to a marriage dies the other does not remarry for
one year. There is no penalty enforced by the group for an earlier
marriage, but the custom is firmly fixed. Should the surviving person
marry within a year he would die, being killed by an anito whose
business it is to punish such sacrilege. The widowed frequently
remarry, as there are certain advantages in their married life. It
is quite impossible for a man or woman alone to perform the entire
round of Igorot labors. The hours of labor for the lone person must
usually be long and tiresome.
Most of the widowed live in the katyufong, the smaller dwelling
of the poor. The reason for this is that even if one has owned the
better class of dwelling, the fayu, it is generally given to a child
at marriage, the smaller house being sufficient and suitable for the
lone person, especially as the widowed very frequently take their
meals with some married child.
Orphans without homes of their own become members of the household of
an uncle or aunt or other near relative. The property they received
from their parents is used by the family into whose home they go. Upon
marriage the children receive the property as it was left them,
the annual increase having gone to the family which cared for them.
If there are no relatives, orphans with property readily find a home;
if there are neither relatives nor property, some family receives the
children more as servants than as equals. When they are married they
are usually not given more than a dwelling.
There are few old and infirm persons who have not living
relatives. Among these relatives are usually descendants who have
been materially benefited by property accumulated or kept intact by
their aged kin. It is the universal custom for relatives to feed and
otherwise care for the aged. Not much can be done for the infirm,
and infirmity is the beginning of the end with all except the blind.
The chances are that the old who have no relatives have at least a
little property. Such persons are readily cared for by some family
which uses the property at the time and falls heir to it when the owner
dies. There are a very few blind persons who have neither relatives nor
property, and these are cared for by families which offer assistance,
and two of these old blind men beg rice from dwelling to dwelling.
Sickness, disease, and remedies
All disease, sickness, or ailment, however serious or slight, among
the Bontoc Igorot is caused by an a-ni'-to. If smallpox kills half a
dozen persons in one day, the fell work is that of an a-ni'-to; if a
man receives a stone bruise on the trail an a-ni'-to is in the foot and
must be removed before recovery is possible. There is one exception to
the above sweeping charge against the a-ni'-to -- the Igorot says that
toothache is caused by a small worm twisting and turning in the tooth.
Igorot society contains no person who is so malevolent as to cause
another sickness, insanity, or death. So charitable is the Igorot's
view of his fellows that when, a few years ago, two Bontoc men died
of poison administered by another town, the verdict was that the
administering hands were directed by some vengeful or diabolical
As a people the Bontoc Igorot are healthful. It is seldom that an
epidemic reaches them; bubonic plague and leprosy are unknown to them.
By far the majority of deaths among them is due to what the Igorot
calls fever -- as they say, "im-po'-os nan a'-wak," or "heat of the
body" -- but they class as "fever" half a dozen serious diseases,
some almost always fatal.
The men at times suffer with malaria. They go to the low west coast as
cargadors or as primitive merchants, and they return to their mountain
country enervated by the heat, their systems filled with impure water,
and their blood teeming with mosquito-planted malaria. They get down
with fever, lose their appetite, neither know the value of nor have
the medicines of civilization, their minds are often poisoned with
the superstitious belief that they will die -- and they do die in
from three days to two months. In February, 1903, three cargadors
died within two weeks after returning from the coast.
Measles, chicken pox, typhus and typhoid fevers, and a disease
resulting from eating new rice are undifferentiated by the Igorot --
they are his "fever." Measles and chicken pox are generally fatal to
children. Igorot pueblos promptly and effectually quarantine against
these diseases. When a settlement is afflicted with either of them it
shuts its doors to all outsiders -- even using force if necessary;
but force is seldom demanded, as other pueblos at once forbid their
people to enter the afflicted settlement. The ravages of typhus and
typhoid fever may be imagined among a people who have no remedies
for them. The diseased condition resulting each year from eating new
rice has locally been called "rice cholera." During the months of
June, July, and August -- the two harvest months of rice and the one
following -- considerable rice of the new crop is annually eaten. If
rice has been stored in the palay houses until it is sweated it is
in every way a healthful, nutritious food, but when eaten before it
sweats it often produces diarrhea, usually leading to an acute bloody
dysentery which is often followed by vomiting and a sudden collapse --
as in Asiatic cholera.
In 1893 smallpox, ful-tang', came to Bontoc with a Spanish soldier
who was in the hospital from Quiangan. Some five or six adults and
sixty or seventy children died. The ravage took half a dozen in a day,
but the Igorot stamped out the plague by self-isolation. They talked
the situation over, agreed on a plan, and were faithful to it. All the
families not afflicted moved to the mountains; the others remained to
minister or be ministered to, as the case might be. About thirty-five
years ago smallpox wiped out a considerable settlement of Bontoc,
called La'-nao, situated nearer the river than are any dwellings
About thirty years ago cholera, pish-ti', visited the people, and
fifty or more deaths resulted.
Some twelve years ago ka-lag'-nas, an unidentified disease, destroyed
a great number of people, probably half a hundred. Those afflicted
were covered with small, itching festers, had attacks of nausea,
and death resulted in about three days.
Two women died in Bontoc in 1901 of beri-beri, called fu-tut. These
are the only cases known to have been there.
About ten years ago a man died from passing blood -- an ailment
which the Igorot named literally "in-is'-fo cha'-la or in-tay'-es
cha'-la." It was not dysentery, as the person at no time had a
diarrhea. He gradually weakened from the loss of small amounts of
blood until, in about a year, he died.
The above are the only fatal diseases now in the common memory of
the pueblo of Bontoc.
It is believed 95 per cent of the people suffer at some time, probably
much of the time, with some skin disease. They say no one has been
known to die of any of these skin diseases, but they are weakening and
annoying. Itch, ku'-lid, is the most common, and it takes an especially
strong hold on the babes in arms. This ku'-lid is not the ko'-lud
or gos-gos, the white scaly itch found among the people surrounding
those of the Bontoc culture area but not known to exist within it.
Two or three people suffer with rheumatism, fig-fig, but are seldom
confined to their homes.
One man has consumption, o'-kat. He has been coughing five or six
years, and is very thin and weak.
Diarrhea, or o-gi'-ak, frequently makes itself felt, but for only one
or two days at a time. It is most common when the locusts swarm over
the country, and the people eat them abundantly for several days. They
say no one, not even a babe, ever died of diarrhea.
Two of the three prostitutes of Bontoc, the cast-off mistresses of
Spanish soldiers, have syphilis, or na-na. Formerly one civilian was
afflicted, and at present four or five of the Constabulary soldiers
have contracted the disease.
Lang-ing'-i, a disease of sores and ulcers on the lips, nostrils,
and rectum, afflicted a few people three or four years ago. This
disease is very common in the pueblo of Ta-kong', but is reported as
never causing death.
Goiter, fi-kek' or fin-to'-kel, is quite common with adults, and is
more common with women than men.
Varicose veins, o'-pat, are not uncommon on the calves of both men
Many old people suffer greatly with toothache, called "pa-tug' nan
fob-a'." They say it is caused by a small worm, fi'-kis, which wriggles
and twists in the tooth. When one has an aching tooth extracted he
looks at it and inquires where "fi'-kis" is.
They suffer little from colds, mo-tug', and one rarely hears an
Headache, called both sa-kit' si o'-lo and pa-tug' si o'-lo, rarely
occurs except with fever.
Sore eyes, a condition known as in-o'-ki, are very frequently seen;
they doubtless precede most cases of blindness.
The Igorot bears pain well, but his various fatalistic superstitions
make him often an easy victim to a malady that would yield readily
to the science of modern medicine and from which, in the majority of
cases, he would probably recover if his mind could only assist his
body in withstanding the disease.
One is surprised to find that sores from bruises do not generally
The Igorot attempts no therapeutic remedies for fevers, cholera,
beri-beri, rheumatism, consumption, diarrhea, syphilis, goiter, colds,
or sore eyes.
Some effort, therapeutic in its intent, is made to assist nature in
overcoming a few of the simplest ailments of the body.
For a cut, called "na-fa'-kag," the fruit of a grass-like herb named
la-lay'-ya is pounded to a paste, and then bound on the wound.
Burns, ma-la-fub-chong', are covered over with a piece of bark from
a tree called ta-kum'-fao.
Kay-yub', a vegetable root, is rubbed over the forehead in cases
Boils, fu-yu-i', and swellings, nay-am-an' or kin-may-yon', are
treated with a poultice of a pounded herb called ok-ok-ong'-an.
Millet burned to a charcoal, pulverized, and mixed with pig fat is
used as a salve for the itch.
An herb called a-kum' is pounded and used as a poultice on ulcers
For toothache salt is mixed with a pounded herb named ot-o'-tek and
the mass put in or around the aching tooth.
Leaves of the tree kay'-yam are steeped, and the decoction employed
as a bath for persons with smallpox.
Death and burial
It must be said that the Bontoc Igorot does not take death very
sorrowfully, and he does not take it at all passionately. A mother
weeps a day for a dead child or her husband, but death is said not to
bring tears from any man. Death causes no long or loud lamentation,
no tearing of the hair or cutting the body; it effects no somber
colors to deaden the emotions; no earth or ashes for the body --
all widespread mourning customs among primitive peoples. However,
when a child or mature man or woman dies the women assemble and sing
and wail a melancholy dirge, and they ask the departed why he went
so early. But for the aged there are neither tears nor wailings --
there is only grim philosophy. "You were old," they say, "and old
people die. You are dead, and now we shall place you in the earth. We
too are old, and soon we shall follow you."
All people die at the instance of an anito. There have been, however,
three suicides in Bontoc. Many years ago an old man and woman hung
themselves in their dwellings because they were old and infirm, and
a man from Bitwagan hung himself in the Spanish jail at Bontoc a few
The spirit of the person who dies a so-called natural death is called
away by an anito. The anito of those who die in battle receive the
special name "pin-teng'"; such spirits are not called away, but the
person's slayer is told by some pin-teng', "You must take a head." So
it may be said that no death occurs among the Igorot (except the rare
death by suicide) which is not due directly to an anito.
Since they are warriors, the men who die in battle are the most
favored, but if not killed in battle all Igorot prefer to die in
their houses. Should they die elsewhere, they are at once taken home.
On March 19, 1903, wise, rich Som-kad', of ato Luwakan, and the oldest
man of Bontoc, heard an anito saying, "Come, Som-kad'; it is much
better in the mountains; come." The sick old man laboriously walked
from the pabafunan to the house of his oldest son, where he had for
nearly twenty years taken his food, and there among his children
and friends he died on the night of March 21. Just before he died a
chicken was killed, and the old people gathered at the house, cooked
the chicken, and ate, inviting the ancestral anitos and the departing
spirit of Som-kad' to the feast. Shortly after this the spirit of
the live man passed from the body searching the mountain spirit land
for kin and friend. They closed the old man's eyes, washed his body
and on it put the blue burial robe with the white "anito" figures
woven in it as a stripe. They fashioned a rude, high-back chair with
a low seat, a sung-a'-chil (Pl. XLI), and bound the dead man in it,
fastening him by bands about the waist, the arms, and head -- the
vegetal band entirely covering the open mouth. His hands were laid
in his lap. The chair was set close up before the door of the house,
with the corpse facing out. Four nights and days it remained there
in full sight of those who passed.
One-half the front wall of the dwelling and the interior partitions
except the sleeping compartment were removed to make room for those
who sat in the dwelling. Most of these came and went without function,
but day and night two young women sat or stood beside the corpse
always brushing away the flies which sought to gather at its nostrils.
During the first two days few men were about the house, but they
gathered in small groups in the vicinity of the fawi and pabafunan,
which were only three or four rods distant. Much of the time a blind
son of the dead man, the owner of the house where the old man died,
sat on his haunches in the shade under the low roof, and at frequent
intervals sang to a melancholy tune that his father was dead, that
his father could no longer care for him, and that he would be lonely
without him. On succeeding days other of the dead man's children,
three sons and five daughters, all rich and with families of their
own, were heard to sing the same words. Small numbers of women
sat about the front of the house or close in the shade of its roof
and under its cover. Now and then some one or more of them sang a
low-voiced, wordless song -- rather a soothing strain than a depressing
dirge. During the first days the old women, and again the old men,
sang at different times alone the following song, called "a-na'-ko"
when sung by the women, and "e-ya'-e" when by the men:
Now you are dead; we are all here to see you. We have given you all
things necessary, and have made good preparation for the burial. Do
not come to call away [to kill] any of your relatives or friends.
Nowhere was there visible any sign of fear or awe or wonder. The
women sitting about spun threads on their thighs for making skirts;
they talked and laughed and sang at will. Mothers nursed their babes
in the dwelling and under its projecting roof. Budding girls patted
and loved and dimpled the cheeks of the squirming babes of more
fortunate young women, and there was scarcely a child that passed in
or out of the house, that did not have to steady itself by laying a
hand on the lap of the corpse. All seemed to understand death. One,
they say, does not die until the anito calls -- and then one always
goes into a goodly life which the old men often see and tell about.
In a well-organized and developed modern enterprise the death of
a principal man causes little or no break. This is equally true in
Igorot life. The former is so because of perfected organization --
there are new men trained for all machines; and the latter is true
because of absence of organization -- there is almost no machinery
to be left unattended by the falling of one person.
On the third day the numbers increased. There were twenty-five or
thirty men in the vicinity of the house, on the south side of which
were half a dozen pots of basi, from which men and boys drank
at pleasure, though not half a dozen became intoxicated. Late in
the afternoon a double row of men, the sons and sons-in-law of the
deceased, lined up on their haunches facing one another, and for half
an hour talked and laughed, counted on their fingers and gesticulated,
diagrammed on their palms, questioned, pointed with their lips and
nodded, as they divided the goodly property of the dead man. There
was no anger, no sharp word, or apparent dissent; all seemed to know
exactly what was each one's right. In about half an hour the property
was disposed of beyond probable future dispute.
There were more women present the third day than on the second,
and at all times about one-third more women than men; and there were
usually as many children about as there were grown persons. In all
the group of, say, 140 people, nowhere could one detect a sign of the
uncanny, or even the unusual. The apparent everydayness of it all to
them was what struck the observer most. The young women brushing away
the flies touched and turned the fast-blackening hands of the corpse
to note the rapid changes. Almost always there were small children
standing in the doorway looking into that blackened, swollen face,
and they turned away only to play or to loll about their mothers'
necks. Always there were women bending over other women's heads,
carefully parting the hair and scanning it. Women lay asleep stretched
in the shade; they talked, and droned, and laughed, and spun.
During the second day men had succeeded in catching in the mountains
one of the half-wild carabaos -- property of the deceased -- and this
was killed. Its head was placed in the house tied up by the horns
above and facing Som-kad', so the faces of the dead seemed looking
at each other, while on the third day the flesh, bones, intestines,
and hide were cooked for the crowd. During the third and fourth days
one carabao, one dog, eight hogs, and twenty chickens were killed,
cooked, and eaten.
On the fourth day the crowd increased. Custom lays idle all field
tools of an ato on the burial day of an adult of that ato; but the
day Som-kad' was buried the field work of the entire pueblo stood
still because of common respect for this man, so old and wise, so
rich and influential, and probably 200 people were about the house
all the day. By noon two well-defined groups of chanting old women
had formed -- one sitting in the house and the other in front of
it. Wordless, melancholy chants were sung in response between the
groups. The spaces surrounding the house became almost packed --
so much so that a dog succeeded in getting into the doorway, and the
threatenings and maledictions that drove it away were the loudest,
most disturbed expressions noted during the four days.
Before the house, which faced the west, lay the large pine coffin lid,
while to the south of it, turned bottom up, was the coffin with fresh
chips beside it hewn out that morning in further excavation. Children
played around the coffin and people lounged on its upturned
bottom. Near the front of the house a pot of water was always hot
over a smoldering, smoking fire. Now and then a chicken was brought,
light wood was tossed under the pot, the chicken was beaten to death
-- first the wings, then the neck, and then the head. The fowl was
quickly sprawled over the blaze, its feathers burned to a crisp, and
rubbed off with sticks. Its legs were severed from the body with the
battle-ax and put in the pot. From its front it was then cut through
its ribs with one gash. The back and breast parts were torn apart,
the gall examined and nodded over; the intestines were placed beneath
a large rock, and the gizzard, breast of the chicken, and back with
head attached dropped in the pot. During the killing and dressing
neither of the two men who prepared the feast hurried, yet scarcely
five minutes passed from the time the first blow was struck on the
wing of the squawking fowl until the work was over and the meat in
the boiling pot. The cooking of a fowl always brought a crowd of boys
who hung over the fragrant vessel, and they usually got their share
when, in about twenty minutes, the meat came forth. Three times in
the afternoon a fowl was thus distributed. Cooked pork was passed
among the people, and rice was always being brought. Twice a man went
through the crowd with a large winnowing tray of cooked carabao hide
cut in little blocks. This food was handed out on every side, people
tending children receiving double share. The people gathered and ate
in the congested spaces about the dwelling. The heat was intense --
there was scarcely a breath of air stirring. The odor from the body
was heavy and most sickening to an American, and yet there was no
trace of the unusual on the various faces.
New arrivals came to take their last look at Som-kad', now a black,
bloated, inhuman-looking thing, and they turned away apparently
unaffected by the sight.
The sun slid down behind the mountain ridge lying close to the pueblo,
and a dozen men armed with digging sticks and dirt baskets filed along
the trail some fifteen rods to the last fringe of houses. There they
dug a grave in a small, unused sementera plat where only the old,
rich men of the pueblo are buried. A group of twenty-five old women
gathered standing at the front of the house swaying to the right,
to the left, as they slowly droned in melancholy cadence:
You were old, and old people die. You are dead, and now we shall
place you in the earth. We too are old, and soon we shall follow you.
Again and again they droned, and when they ceased others within
the house took up the strain. During the singing the carabao head
was brought from the house, and the horns, with small section of
attached skull, chopped out, and the head returned to the ceiling of
Presently a man came with a slender stick to measure the coffin. He
drove a nursing mother, with a woman companion and small child,
from comfortable seats on the upturned wood. The people, including
the group of old women, were driven away from the front of the house,
the coffin was laid down on the ground before the door, and an unopened
8-gallon olla of "preserved" meat was set at its foot. An old woman,
in no way distinguishable from the others by paraphernalia or other
marks, muttering, squatted beside the olla. Two men untied the bands
from the corpse, and one lifted it free from the chair and carried
it in his arms to the coffin. It was most unsightly, and streams of
rusty-brown liquid ran from it. It was placed face up, head elevated
even with the rim, and legs bent close at the knees but only slightly
at the hips. The old woman arose from beside the olla and helped lay
two new breechcloths and a blanket over the body. The face was left
uncovered, except that a small patch of white cloth ravelings, called
"fo-ot'," was laid over the eyes, and a small white cloth was laid
over the hair of the head. The burden was quickly caught up on men's
shoulders and hurried without halting to the grave. Willing bands
swarmed about the coffin. At all times as many men helped bear it
as could well get hold, and when they mounted the face of a 7-foot
sementera wall a dozen strong pairs of hands found service drawing
up and supporting the burden. Many men followed from the house one
brought the coffin cover and another the carabao horns -- but the
women and children remained behind, as is their custom at burials.
At the grave the coffin rested on the earth a moment while a few
more basketfuls of dirt were thrown out, until the grave was about 5
feet deep. The coffin was then placed in the grave, the cover laid on,
and with a joke and a laugh the pair of horns was placed facing it
at the head. Instantly thirty-two men sprang on the piles of fresh,
loose dirt, and with their hands and the half dozen digging sticks
filled and covered the grave in the shortest possible time, probably
not over one minute and a half. And away they hurried, most of them
at a dogtrot, to wash themselves in the river.
From the instant the corpse was in the coffin until the grave was
filled all things were done in the greatest haste, because cawing
crows must not fly over, dogs must not bark, snakes or rats must not
cross the trail -- if they should, some dire evil would follow.
Shortly after the burial a ceremony, called "kap-i-yan si na-tu'," is
performed by the relatives in the dwelling wherein the corpse sat. It
is said to be the last ceremony given for the dead. Food is eaten
and the one in charge addresses the anito of the dead man as follows:
We have fixed all things right and well for you. When there was no rice
or chicken for food, we got them for you -- as was the custom of our
fathers -- so you will not come to make us sick. If another anito seeks
to harm us, you will protect us. When we make a feast and ask you to
come to it, we want you to do so; but if another anito kills all your
relatives, there will be no more houses for you to enter for feasts.
This last argument is considered to be a very important one, as all
Igorot are fond of feasting, and it is assumed that the anito has
the same desire.
The night following the burial all relatives stay at the house lately
occupied by the corpse.
On the day after the burial all the men relatives go to the river
and catch fish, the small kacho. The relatives have a fish feast,
called "ab-a-fon'," at the hour of the evening meal. To this feast
all ancestral anito are invited.
All relatives again spend the night at the house, from which they
return to their own dwellings after breakfast of the second day and
each goes laden with a plate of cooked rice.
In this way from two to eight days are given to the funeral rite,
the duration being greater with the wealthier people.
Only heads of families are buried in the large pine coffins, which
are kept ready stored beside the granaries everywhere about the
pueblo. As in the case of Som-kad', all old, rich men are buried in a
plat of ground close to the last fringe of dwellings on the west of
the pueblo, but all other persons except those who lose their heads
are buried close to their dwellings in the camote sementeras.
The burial clothes of a married man are the los-a'-dan, or blue
anito-figured burial robe, and a breechcloth of beaten bark, called
"chi-nang-ta'." In the coffin are placed a fa'-a, or blue cotton
breechcloth made in Titipan, the fan-cha'-la, a striped blue-and-white
cotton blanket, and the to-chong', a foot-square piece of beaten bark
or white cloth which is laid on the head.
A married woman is buried in a kay-in', a particular skirt made for
burial in Titipan, and a white blue-bordered waistcloth or la-ma. In
the coffin are placed a burial girdle, wa'-kis, also made in Titipan,
a blue-and-white-striped blanket called bay-a-ong', and the to-chong',
the small cloth or bark over the hair.
The unmarried are buried in graves near the dwelling, and these are
walled up the sides and covered with rocks and lastly with earth;
it is the old rock cairn instead of the wooden coffin. The bodies are
placed flat on their backs with knees bent and heels drawn up to the
buttocks. With the men are buried, besides the things interred with
the married men, the basket-work hat, the basket-work sleeping hat,
the spear, the battle-ax, and the earrings if any are possessed. These
additional things are buried, they say, because there is no family
with which to leave them, though all things interred are for the use
of the anito of the dead.
In addition to the various things buried with the married woman,
the unmarried has a sleeping hat.
Babes and children up to 6 or 7 years of age are buried in the
sementera wrapped in a crude beaten-bark mantle. This garment is
folded and wrapped about the body, and for babes, at least, is bound
and tied close about them.
Babies are buried close to the dwelling where the sun and storm
do not beat, because, as they say, babes are too tender to receive
For those beheaded in battle there is another burial, which is
described in a later chapter.
Under the title "Economic life" are considered the various activities
which a political economist would consider if he studied a modern
community -- in so far as they occur in Bontoc. This method was chosen
not to make the Bontoc Igorot appear a modern man but that the student
may see as plainly as method will allow on what economic plane the
Bontoc man lives. The desire for this clear view is prompted by the
belief that grades of culture of primitive peoples may be determined
by the economic standard better than by any other single standard.
It would be impossible for the Bontoc Igorot at present to subsist
themselves two weeks by natural production. It is doubtful whether
at any time they could have depended for even as much as a day in a
week on the natural foods of the Bontoc culture area. The country
has wild carabaos, deer, hogs, chickens, and three animals which
the Igorot calls "cats," but all of these, when considered as a
food supply for the people, are relatively scarce, and it is thought
they were never much more abundant than now. Fish are not plentiful,
and judging from the available waters there are probably as many now
as formerly. It is believed that no nut foods are eaten in Bontoc,
although an acorn is found in the mountains to the south of Bontoc
pueblo. The banana and pineapple now grow wild within the area, but
they are not abundant. Of small berries, such as are so abundant in the
wild lands of the United States, there are almost none in the area. On
the outside, near Suyak of Lepanto, there is a huckleberry found so
plentifully that they claim it is gathered for food in its season.
A large pile of rocks stands like a compact fortress on the mountain
horizon to the north of Bontoc pueblo. Here a ceremony is observed
twice annually by rich men for the increase of ay-ya-wan', the wild
carabao. It is claimed that there are now seventeen wild carabaos in
Ma-ka'-lan Mountain near the pueblo. There are others in the mountains
farther to the north and east, and the ceremony has among its objects
that of inducing these more distant herds to migrate to the public
lands surrounding the pueblo.
The men go to the great rock, which is said to be a transformed
anito, and there they build a fire, eat a meal, and have the ceremony
called "mang-a-pu'-i si ay-ya-wan'," freely, "fire-feast for wild
carabaos." The ceremony is as follows:
Ay-ya-wan ad Sa-ka'-pa a-li-ka is-na ma-am'-mung is-na.
Ay-ya-wan ad O-ki-ki a-li-ka is-na ma-am'-mung is-na.
Fay-cha'-mi ya'-i nan a-pu'-i ya pa'-tay.
This is an invitation addressed to the wild carabaos of the Sakapa
and Okiki Mountains to come in closer to Bontoc. They are also asked
to note that a fire-feast is made in their honor.
The old men say that probably 500 wild carabaos have been killed by
the men of the pueblo. There is a tradition that Lumawig instructed
the people to kill wild carabaos for marriage feasts, and all of those
killed -- of which there is memory or tradition -- have been used in
the marriage feasts of the rich. The wild carabao is extremely vicious,
and is killed only when forty or fifty men combine and hunt it with
spears. When wounded it charges any man in sight, and the hunter's
only safety is in a tree.
The method of hunting is simple. The herd is located, and as cautiously
as possible the hunters conceal themselves behind the trees near the
runway and throw their spears as the desired animal passes. No wild
carabaos have been killed during the past two years, but I am told
that the numbers killed three, four, six, seven, and eight years ago
were, respectively, 5, 8, 7, 10, and 8.
Seven men in Bontoc have dogs trained to run deer and wild boar. One
of the men, Aliwang, has a pack of five dogs; the others have one
or two each. The hunting dogs are small and only moderately fleet,
but they are said to have great courage and endurance. They hunt out
of leash, and still-hunt until they start their prey, when they cry
continually, thus directing the hunter to the runway or the place
where the victim is at bay.
Not more than one deer, og'-sa, is killed annually, and they claim
that deer were always very scarce in the area. A large net some 3
1/2 feet high and often 50 feet long is commonly employed in northern
Luzon and through the Archipelago for netting deer and hogs, but no
such net is used in Bontoc. The dogs follow the deer, and the hunter
spears it in the runway as it passes him or while held at bay.
The wild hog, la'-man or fang'-o, when hunted with dogs is a surly
fighter and prefers to take its chances at bay; consequently it is
more often killed then by the spearman than in the runway. The wild
hog is also often caught in pitfalls dug in the runways or in its
feeding grounds. The pitfall, fi'-to, is from 3 to 4 feet across,
about 4 feet deep, and is covered over with dry grass.
In the forest feeding grounds of Polus Mountains, between the Bontoc
culture area and the Banawi area to the south, these pitfalls are
very abundant, there frequently being two or three within a space
one rod square.
A deadfall, called "il-tib'," is built for hogs near the sementeras
in the mountains. These deadfalls are quite common throughout the
Bontoc area, and probably capture more hogs than the pitfall and the
hunter combined. The hogs are partial to growing palay and camotes,
and at night circle about a protecting fence anxious to take advantage
of any chance opening. The Igorot leaves an opening in a low fence
built especially for that purpose, as he does not commonly fence in the
sementeras. The il-tib' is built of two sections of heavy tree trunks,
one imbedded in the earth, level with the ground, and the other the
falling timber. As the hog enters the sementera, the weight of his
body springs the trigger which is covered in the loose dirt before
the opening, and the falling timber pins him fast against the lower
timber firmly buried in the earth. From half a dozen to twenty wild
hogs are annually killed by the people of the pueblo. They are said
to be as plentiful as formerly.
Bontoc pueblo does not catch many wild fowls. Fowl catching is an
art she never learned to follow, although two or three of her boys
annually catch half a dozen chickens each. The surrounding pueblos, as
Tukukan, Sakasakan, Mayinit, and Maligkong, secure every year in the
neighborhood of fifty to one hundred fowl each. The sa'-fug, or wild
cock, is most commonly caught in a snare, called "shi'-ay," to which
it is lured by another cock, a domestic one, or often a half-breed or
a wild cock partially domesticated, which is secured inside the snare
set up in the mountains near the feeding grounds of the wild fowls.
The shi'-ay when set consists of twenty-four si'-lu, or running loops,
attached to a cord forming three sides of an open square space. As the
snare is set the open side is placed against a rock or steep base of
a rise. The shi'-ay is made of braided bejuco, and when not in use. is
compactly packed away in a basket for the purpose (see Pl. XLIV). There
are also five pegs fitted into loops in the basket, four of which are
employed in pegging out the three sides of the snare, and the other
for securing the lure cock within the square. Only cocks are caught
with the shi'-ay, and they come to fight the intruder who guides them
to the snare by crowing his challenge. As the wild cock rushes at the
other he is caught by one of the loops closing about him. The hunter,
always hiding within a few feet of the snare, rushes upon the captive,
and at once resets his snare for another possible victim.
A spring snare, called kok-o'-lang, is employed by the Igorot in
catching both wild cocks and hens. It is set in their narrow runways
in the heavy undergrowth. It consists of two short uprights driven into
the ground one on either side of the path. These are bound together at
the tops with two crosspieces. Near the lower ends of these uprights is
a loose crosspiece, the trigger, which the fowl in passing knocks down,
thus freeing the short upright, marked C, in fig. 1. When this is freed
the loop, E, at once tightens around the victim, as the cord is drawn
taut by the releasing of the spring -- a shrub bent over and secured
by the upper end of the cord. This spring is not shown in the drawing.
Fig. 1. -- Spring snare, Kok-o'-lang. (A,
Kok-o'-lang; B, I-pit' C,
Ting'-a; D, Chug-shi'; E,
Bontoc has two or three quadrupeds which it names "cats." One of these
is a true cat, called in'-yao. It is domesticated by the Ilokano in
Bontoc and becomes a good mouser. The kok-o'-lang is used to catch
this cat. Pl. XLVI shows with what success this spring snare may be
employed. The cat shown was caught in the night while trying to enter
a chicken coop. He was a wild in'-yao, was beautifully striped like
the American "tiger cat," and measured 35 inches from tip to tip. The
in'-yao is plentiful in the mountains, and is greatly relished by the
Igorot, though Bontoc has no professional cat hunters and probably
not a dozen of the animals are captured annually.
The Igorot claim to have two other "cats," one called "co'-lang,"
as large as in'-yao, with large legs and very large feet. A Spaniard
living near Sagada says this animal eats his coffee berries. The other
so-called "cat" is named "si'-le" by the Igorot. It is said to be
a long-tailed, dark-colored animal, smaller than the in'-yao. It is
claimed that this si'-le is both carnivorous and frugivorous. These
two animals are trapped at times, and when caught are eaten.
During the year the boys catch numbers of small birds, all of which
are eaten. Probably not over 200 are captured, however, during a year.
The ling-an', a spring snare, is the most used for catching birds. I
saw one of them catch four shrikes, called ta'-la, in a single
afternoon, and a fifth one was caught early the next morning. Pl. XLVII
shows the ling-an' as it is set, and also shows ta'-la as he is caught.
The kok-o'-lang is also employed successfully for such birds as
run on the ground, especially those which run in paths. The si-sim'
is another spring snare set on the open ground. Food is scattered
about leading to it, and is placed abundantly in an inclosure, the
entrance to which is through the fatal noose which tightens when the
bird perches on the trigger at the opening to the inclosure.
When the palay is in the milk a great many birds which feed upon it
are captured by means of a broom-like bundle of runo. As the birds fly
over the sementeras a boy sweeps his broom, the ka-lib', through the
flock, and rarely fails to knock down a bird. The ka-lib' is about 7
feet long, 2 1/2 inches in diameter at the base, and flattened and
broadened to 14 or 15 inches in width at the outer end. What the
ka-lib' really does for the boy is to give him an arm about 9 feet
long and a long open hand a foot and a quarter wide.
The only water available to Bontoc pueblo for fishing purposes is the
river passing between it and her sister pueblo, Samoki. In the dry
season, where it is not dammed, the river is not over six and eight
rods across in its widest places, and is from a few inches to 3 feet
deep. All the water would readily pass, at the ordinary velocity of
the stream, in a channel 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep.
Three methods are employed in fishing in this river -- the first,
catching each fish in the hand; the second, driving the fish upstream
by fright into a receptacle; a third, a combined process of driving
the fish downstream by fright and by water pressure into a receptacle.
The Igorot seems not to have a general word for fish, but he has
names for the three varieties found in the river. One, ka-cho', a
very small, sluggish fish, is captured during the entire year. In
February these fish were seldom more than 2 inches in length, and
yet they were heavy with spawn. The ka-cho' is the fish most commonly
captured with the hands. It is a sluggish swimmer and is provided with
an exterior suction valve on its ventral surface immediately back of
the gill opening. This valve seems to enable the fish to withstand the
ordinary current of the river which, in the rainy season, becomes a
torrent. This valve is also one of the causes of the Igorot's success
in capturing the fish, which is not readily frightened, but clings to
the bed of the stream until almost brushed away, and then ordinarily
swims only a few inches or feet. Small boys from 6 to 10 years old
capture by hand a hundred or more ka-cho' during half a day, simply
by following them in the shallow water.
The ka-cho' is also caught in great numbers by the second or driving
method. Twenty to forty or more men fish together with a large,
closely woven, shovel-like trap called ko-yug', and the operation is
most interesting to witness. At the river beach the fishermen remove
all clothing, and stretch out on their faces in the warm, sun-heated
sand. Three men carry the trap to the middle of the swift stream, and
one holds it from floating away below him by grasping the side poles
which project at the upper end for that purpose. The two other men,
below the trap at its mouth, put large stones on their backs between
the shoulder blades, so they will not float downstream, and disappear
beneath the water. As quickly as possible, coming up a dozen times to
breathe during the process, they clear away the rocks below the trap,
piling them in it over its floor, until it finally sinks and remains
stationary on the cleared spot of sandy bed. Their task being ended,
the three trap setters come to shore, and sprawl on the hot sands to
warm their dripping skins, while the sun dries and toasts their backs.
Then the drivers or beaters enter the river and stretch in a line from
shore to shore about 75 feet below the trap. Each fellow squats in
the water and places a heavy stone on his back. One of the men calls,
and the row of strange, hump-backed creatures disappears beneath
the water. There the men work swiftly, and, as later appears,
successfully. Each turns over all the bowlders within his reach
as large or larger than his two fists, and he works upstream 4 to
6 feet. They come up blowing, at first a head here and there, but
soon all are up with renewed breath, waiting the next call to beat
up the prey. This process is repeated again and again, and each
time the outer ends of the line bend upstream, gradually looping
in toward the trap. When the line of men has become quite circular
and is contracting rapidly, a dozen other men enter the river from
the shore and line up on each side of the mouth of the trap, a flank
movement to prevent the fish running upstream outside the snare. From
the circle of beaters a few now drop out; the others are in a bunch,
the last stone is turned, and the prey seeks covert under the rocks
in the trap, which the flankers at once lift above the water. The
rocks are thrown out and the trap and fish carried to the shore.
In each drive they catch about three quarts of fish. These are dumped
into baskets, usually the carrying basket of the man, and when the
day's catch is made and divided each man receives an equal share,
usually about 1 pound per household. A procession of men and boys
coming in from the river, each carrying his share of fish in his
basket hat in his hand and the last man carrying the fish trap,
is a sight very frequently seen in the pueblo.
The ka-cho' is also caught in a small trap, called ob-o'-fu, by the
third method mentioned above. A small strip of shallow water along the
shore is quite effectually cut off from the remainder of the stream
by a row of rocks. The lower end of this strip is brought to a point
where the water pours out and into the upturned ob-o'-fu, carrying
with it the ka-cho' which happen to be in the swift current, the fish
having been startled from their secure resting places by the fishermen
who have gradually proceeded downstream overturning the stones.
A fish called "li'-ling," which attains a length of about 6 inches,
is also caught by the last-described method. It is not nearly so
plentiful as the ka-cho'.
One man living in Bontoc may be called a fisherman. He spends most
of his time with his traps in the river, and sells his fish to the
Ilokano and Igorot residents of the pueblo. He places large traps
in the deep parts of the stream, adjusts them, and revisits them by
swimming under the water, and altogether is considered by the Igorot
boys as quite a "water man." He catches each year many ka-cho' and
li'-ling, and one or more large fish, called "cha-lit." The cha-lit
is said to acquire a length of 3, 4, or 5 feet.
Women and small children wade about the river and pick up quantities of
small crabs, called "ag-ka'-ma," and also a small spiral shell, called
"ko'-ti." It is safe to say that every hour of a rainless day one or
more persons of Bontoc is gathering such food in the river. Immediately
after the first rain of the season of 1903, coming April 5, there
were twenty-four persons, women and small children, within ten rods
of one another, searching the river for ag-ka'-ma and ko'-ti.
The women wear a small rump basket tied around the waist in which they
carry their lunch to the rice sementeras, and once or twice each week
they bring home from a few ounces to a pound of small crustaceans. One
variety is named song'-an, another is kit-an', a third is fing'-a,
and a fourth is lis'-chug. They are all collected in the mud of
All materials for timbers and boards for the dwellings, granaries,
and public buildings, all wood for fires, all wood for shields, for
ax and spear handles, for agricultural implements, and for household
utensils, and all material for splints employed in various kinds of
basket work, and for strings (warp and woof) employed in the weaving
of Bontoc girdles and skirts, are gathered wild with no effort at
cultural production. There are three exceptions to this statement,
however. One small shrub, called "pu-ug'," is planted near the house
as a fiber plant, and is no longer known to the Igorot in the wild
state. Much of the bamboo from which the basket-work splints are made
is purchased from people west of Bontoc. And, lastly, there is no
doubt that a certain care is taken in preserving pine trees for large
boards and timbers and for coffins; there is a cutting away of dead
and small branches from these trees. Moreover, the cutting of other
trees and shrubs for firewood certainly has a beneficial effect upon
the forest trees left standing. In fact, all persons preserve the
small pitch-pine trees on private lands, and it is a crime to cut
them on another's land, although a poor man may cut other varieties
on private lands when needed.
In all of Igorot culture the most apparent and strikingly noteworthy
fact is its agriculture. In agriculture the Igorot has reached his
highest development. On agriculture hangs his claim to the rank of
barbarian -- without it he would be a savage.
Igorot agriculture is unique in Luzon, and, so far as known, throughout
the Archipelago, in its mountain terraces and irrigation.
There are three possible explanations of the origin of Philippine
rice terraces. First, that they (and those of other islands peopled
by primitive and modern Malayans, and those of Japan and China) are
indigenous -- the product of the mountain lands of each isolated area;
second, that most of them are due to cultural influences from one
center, or possibly more than one center, to the north of Luzon --
as influences from China or Japan spreading southward from island
to island; third, that they, especially all those of the Islands --
excluding only China -- are due to influences originating south of
the Philippines, spreading northward from island to island.
Terracing may be indigenous to many isolated areas where it is
found, and doubtless is to some; it is found more or less marked
wherever irrigation is or was practiced in ancient or modern
agriculture. However, it is believed not to be an original production
of the Philippines. Certain it is that it is not a Negrito art,
nor does it belong to the Moro or to the so-called Christian people.
Different sections of China have rice terraces, and as early as the
thirteenth century Chinese merchants traded with the Philippines,
yet there is no record that they traded north of Manila -- where
terracing is alone found. Besides, the Chinese record of the early
commerce with the Islands -- written by Chao Jukua about 1250 it is
claimed -- specifically states that the natives of the Islands were
the merchants, taking the goods from the shore and trading them even
to other islands; the Chinese did not pass inland. Even though the
Chinaman brought phases of his culture to the Islands, it would not
have been agriculture, since he did not practice it here. Moreover,
whatever culture he did leave would not be found in the mountains
three or four days inland, while the people with whom he traded were
without the art. The same arguments hold against the Japanese as the
inspirers of Igorot terraces. There is no record that they traded
in the Islands as early as did the Chinese, and it is safe to say,
no matter when they were along the coasts of Luzon, that they never
penetrated several days into the mountains, among a wild, head-hunting
people, for what the agricultural Igorot had to sell.
The historic cultural movements in Malaysia have been not from the
north southward but from Sumatra and Java to the north and east; they
have followed the migrations of the people. It is believed that the
terrace-building culture of the Asiatic islands for the production
of mountain rice by irrigation during the dry season has drawn its
inspiration from one source, and that such terraces where found to-day
in Java, Lombok, Luzon, Formosa, and Japan are a survival of very early
culture which spread from the nest of the primitive Malayan stock and
left its marks along the way -- doubtless in other islands besides
these cited. If Japan, as has Formosa, had an early Malayan culture,
as will probably be proved in due time, one should not be surprised
to find old rice terraces in the mountains of Batanes Islands and
the Loo Choo Islands which lie between Luzon and Japan.
Building the sementera
It must be noted here that all Bontoc agricultural labors, from the
building of the sementera to the storing of the gathered harvest,
are accompanied by religious ceremonials. They are often elaborate,
and some occupy a week's time. These ceremonials are left out of this
chapter to avoid detail; they appear in the later chapter on religion.
There are two varieties of sementeras -- garden patches, called
"pay-yo'" -- in the Bontoc area, the irrigated and the unirrigated. The
irrigated sementeras grow two crops annually, one of rice by irrigation
during the dry season and the other of camotes, "sweet potatoes," grown
in the rainy season without irrigation. The unirrigated sementera
is of two kinds. One is the mountain or side-hill plat of earth,
in which camotes, millet, beans, maize, etc., are planted, and the
other is the horizontal plat (probably once an irrigated sementera),
usually built with low terraces, sometimes lying in the pueblo among
the houses, from which shoots are taken for transplanting in the
distant sementeras and where camotes are grown for the pigs. Sometimes
they are along old water courses which no longer flow during the dry
season; such are often employed for rice during the rainy season.
The unirrigated mountain-side sementera, called "fo-ag'," is built by
simply clearing the trees and brush from a mountain plat. No effort
is made to level it and no dike walls are built. Now and then one is
hemmed in by a low boundary wall.
The irrigated sementeras are built with much care and labor. The earth
is first cleared; the soil is carefully removed and placed in a pile;
the rocks are dug out; the ground shaped, being excavated and filled
until a level results. This task for a man whose only tools are sticks
is no slight one. A huge bowlder in the ground means hours -- often
days -- of patient, animal-like digging and prying with hands and
sticks before it is finally dislodged. When the ground is leveled
the soil is put back over the plat, and very often is supplemented
with other rich soil. These irrigated sementeras are built along
water courses or in such places as can be reached by turning running
water to them. Inasmuch as the water must flow from one to another,
there are practically no two sementeras on the same level which
are irrigated from the same water course. The result is that every
plat is upheld on its lower side, and usually on one or both ends,
by a terrace wall. Much of the mountain land is well supplied with
bowlders and there is an endless water-worn supply in the beds of
all streams. All terrace walls are built of these undressed stones
piled together without cement or earth. These walls are called
"fa-ning'." They are from 1 to 20 and 30 feet high and from a foot
to 18 inches wide at the top. The upper surface of the top layer of
stones is quite flat and becomes the path among the sementeras. The
toiler ascends and descends among the terraces on stone steps made
by single rocks projecting from the outside of the wall at regular
intervals and at an angle easy of ascent and descent (see Pl. LIII).
These stone walls are usually weeded perfectly clean at least once
each year, generally at the time the sementera is prepared for
transplanting. This work falls to the women, who commonly perform it
entirely nude. At times a scanty front-and-back apron of leaves is
worn tucked under the girdle.
In the Banawi district, south of the Bontoc area, there are terrace
walls certainly 75 feet in height, though many of these are not stoned,
since the earth is of such a nature that it does not readily crumble.
It is safe to say that nine-tenths of the available water supply of
the dry season in the Bontoc area is utilized for irrigation. In some
areas, as about Bontoc pueblo, there is practically not a gallon of
unused water where there is space for a sementera.
A single area consisting of several thousand acres of mountain side
is frequently devoted to sementeras, and I have yet to behold a more
beautiful view of cultivated land than such an area of Igorot rice
terraces. Winding in and out, following every projection, dipping
into every pocket of the mountain, the walls ramble along like running
things alive. Like giant stairways the terraces lead up and down the
mountain side, and, whether the levels are empty, dirt-colored areas,
fresh, green-carpeted stairs, or patches of ripening, yellow grain,
the beholder is struck with the beauty of the artificial landscape
and marvels at the industry of an otherwise savage people.
By irrigation is meant the purposeful distribution of water over soil
by man by means of diverting streams or by the use of canals in the
shape of ditches or troughs for conveying and directing part of a
water supply, or by means of some other man-directed power to raise
water to the required level.
The Igorot employ three methods of irrigation: One, the simplest and
most natural, is to build sementeras along a small stream which is
turned into the upper sementera and passes from one to another, falling
from terrace to terrace until all water is absorbed, evaporated,
or all available or desired land is irrigated. Usually such streams
are diverted from their courses, and they are often carried long
distances out of their natural way. The second method is to divert a
part of a river by means of a stone dam. The third method is still more
artificial than the preceding -- the water is lifted by direct human
power from below the sementera and poured to run over the surface.
The first method is the most common, since the mountains in Igorot land
are full of small, usually perpetual, streams. There are practically no
streams within reach of suitable pueblo sites which are not exhausted
by the Igorot agriculturist. Everywhere small streams are carefully
guarded and turned wherever there is a square yard of earth that may
be made into a rice sementera. Small streams in some cases have been
wound for miles around the sides of a mountain, passing deep gullies
and rivers in wooden troughs or tubes.
Much land along the river valleys is irrigated by means of dams, called
by the Igorot "lung-ud'." During the season of 1903 there was one dam
(designated the main dam in Pl. LVII -- see also Pls. LV and LVI)
across the entire river at Bontoc, throwing all the water which did
not leak through the stones into a large canal on the Bontoc side of
the valley. Half a mile above this was another dam (called the upper
dam in Pl. LVII) diverting one-half the stream to the same valley,
only onto higher ground. Immediately below the main dam were two low
piles of stones (designated weirs) jutting into the shallow stream
from the Bontoc side, and each gathering sufficient water for a few
sementeras. Within a quarter of a mile below the main dam were three
other loose, open weirs of rocks, two of which began on a shallow
island, throwing water to the Samoki side of the river. In the stream
a short distance farther down a shallow row of rocks and gravel turned
water into three new sementeras constructed early in the year on a
gravel island in the river.
The main dam is about 12 feet high, 2 feet broad at the top, 8 or
10 at the bottom, and is about 300 feet long. It is built each year
during November and December, and requires the labor of fifteen
or twenty men for about six weeks. It is constructed of river-worn
bowlders piled together without adhesive. The top stones are flat on
the upper surface, and the dam is a pathway across the river for the
people from the time of its completion until its destruction by the
freshets of June or July.
The upper dam is a new piece of primitive engineering. It, with its
canal, has been in mind for at least two years; but it was completed
only in 1903. The dam is small, extending only half way across the
river, and beginning on an island. This dam turns water into a canal
averaging 3 feet wide and carrying about 5 inches of water. The
canal, called "a'-lak," is about 3,000 feet long from the dam at A
in Pl. LVII to the place of discharge into the level area at B. For
about 530 feet of this distance it was impossible for the primitive
engineer to construct a canal in the earth, as the solid rock of
the mountain dips vertically into the river. About fifty sections
of large pine trees were brought and hollowed into troughs, called
"ta-la'-kan," which have been secured above the water by means of
buttresses, by wooden scaffolding, called "to-kod'," and by attachment
to the overhanging rocks, until there is now a continuous artificial
waterway from the dam to the tract of irrigated land.
Considerable engineering sense has been shown and no small amount of
labor expended in the construction of this last irrigating scheme. The
pine logs are a foot or more in diameter, and have a waterway dug
in them about 10 or 12 inches deep and wide. These trees were felled
and the troughs dug with the wasay, a short-handled tool with an iron
blade only an inch or an inch and a half wide, and convertible alike
into ax and adz.
There seems to be a fall of about 22 feet between A at the upper
dam and B at the discharge from the troughs. This fall in a
distance of about 3,000 feet seems needlessly great; however, the
primitive engineer has shown excellent judgment in the matter. First,
by putting the dam (upper dam) where it is, only half the stream had
to be built across. Second, there is a rapids immediately below the
dam, and, had the Igorot built his dam below the rapids, a dam of the
same height would have raised the water to a much lower level; this
would have necessitated a canal probably 10 or 12 feet deep instead
of three. Third, the height of the water at the upper dam has enabled
him to lay the log section of the waterway above the high-water mark
of the river, thus, probably, insuring more or less permanence. Had
the dam been built much lower down the stream the troughs would have
been near the surface of the river and been torn away annually by
the freshets, or the people would be obliged each year to tear down
and reconstruct that part of the canal. As it now is it is probable
that only the short dam will need to be rebuilt each year.
All dams and irrigating canals are built directly by or at the expense
of the persons benefited by the water. Water is never rented to persons
with sementeras along an artificial waterway. If a person refuses
to bear his share of the labor of construction and maintenance his
sementeras must lie idle for lack of water.
All sementera owners along a waterway, whether it is natural or
artificial, meet and agree in regard to the division of the water. If
there is an abundance, all open and close their sluice gates when they
please. When there is not sufficient water for this, a division is made
-- usually each person takes all the water during a certain period of
time. This scheme is supposed to be the best, since the flow should
be sufficient fully to flood the entire plat -- a 100-gallon flow in
two hours is considered much better than an equal flow in two days.
During the irrigating season, if there is lack of water, it becomes
necessary for each sementera owner to guard his water rights against
other persons on the same creek or canal. If a man sleeps in his house
during the period in which his sementeras are supposed to receive
water, it is pretty certain that his supply will be stolen, and, since
he was not on guard, he has no redress. But should sleep chance to
overtake him in his tiresome watch at the sementeras, and should some
one turn off and steal his water, the thief will get clubbed if caught,
and will forfeit his own share of water when his next period arrives.
The third method of irrigation -- lifting the water by direct human
power -- is not much employed by the Igorot. In the vicinity of Bontoc
pueblo there are a few sementeras which were never in a position to be
irrigated by running water. They are called "pay-yo' a kao-u'-chan,"
and, when planted with rice in the dry season, need to be constantly
tended by toilers who bring water to them in pots from the river,
creeks, or canals. On the Samoki side of the valley during a week or
so of the driest weather in May, 1903, there were four "well sweeps,"
each with a 5-gallon kerosene-oil can attached, operating nearly all
day, pouring water from a canal into sementeras through 60 or 80 feet
of small, wooden troughs.
Turning the soil
Since rice, called "pa-ku'." is the chief agricultural product of
the Igorot it will be considered in the following sections first,
after which data of other vegetable products will be given.
Turning the soil for the annual crop of irrigated rice begins in the
middle of December and continues nearly two months. The labor of
turning and fertilizing the soil and transplanting the young rice
is all in progress at the same time -- generally, too, in the same
sementera. Since each is a distinct process, however, I shall consider
each separately. Before the soil is turned in a sementera it has given
up its annual crop of camotes, and the water has been turned on to
soften the earth. From two to twenty adults gather in a sementera,
depending on the size of the plat, of which there are relatively few
containing more than 10,000 square feet. They commonly range from
30 square feet to 1,500 or 2,000. The following description is one
of several made in detail while watching the rice industry of the
The sementera is about 20 by 50 feet, or about 1,000 square feet,
and lies in the midst of the large valley area between Bontoc and
Samoki. It is on the Samoki side of the river, but is the property of a
Bontoc family. There are two groups of soil turners in the sementera --
three men in one, and two unmarried women, an older married woman, and
a youth in the other. At one end of the plat two, and part of the time
three, women are transplanting rice. Four men are bringing fertilizer
for the soil. Strange to say, each of the men in the group of three is
"clothed" -- one wears his breechcloth as a breechcloth, and the other
two wear theirs simply as aprons, hanging loose in front. Three of the
men bringing fertilizer are entirely nude except for their girdles,
since they ford the river with their loads between the sementera and
Bontoc and do not care to wet their breechcloths; the other man wears
a bladder bag hanging from his girdle as an apron. One of the young
women turning the soil wears a skirt; the other one and the old woman
wear front-and-back aprons of camote vines; the youth with them is
nude. The three transplanters wear skirts, and one of them wears an
open jacket. Besides these there are three children in and about the
sementera; one is a pretty, laughing girl of about 9 years; one is
a shy, faded-haired little girl of 3 or 4 years; and the other is a
fat chunk of a boy about 5 years. All three are perfectly naked. It is
impossible to say what clothing these toilers wore before I went among
them to watch their work, but it is certain they were not more clothed.
Let us watch the typical group of the three women and the youth:
Each has a sharpened wooden turning stick, the kay-kay, a pole about
6 feet long and 2 inches in diameter. The four stand side by side
with their kay-kay stuck in the earth, and, in unison, they take one
step forward and push their tools from them, the earth under which
the tools are thrust falling away and crumbling in the water before
them. While it is falling away the toilers begin to sing, led by the
elder woman. The purport of the most common soil-turning song is this:
"It is hard work to turn the soil, but eating the rice is good." The
song continues while the implements are withdrawn from the earth
and jabbed in again in a new place, while the syllable pronounced
at that instant is also noticeably jabbed into the air. Again they
withdraw their implements and, singing and working in rhythmic unison,
again jab kay-kay and syllable. The implements are now thrust about
8 inches below the surface; the song ceases; each toiler pries her
section of the soil loose and, in a moment, together they push their
tools from them, the mass of soil -- some 2 feet long, 1 foot wide,
and 8 inches deep -- falls away in the water, and the song begins
again. As the earth is turned a camote, passed by in the camote
harvest, is discovered; the old woman picks it up and lays it on
the dry ground beside her. The little girl shyly comes for it and
stores it in a basket on the terrace wall with a few dozen others
found during the morning.
After a section of earth 10 or 15 feet square has been turned the
rhythmic labor and song ceases. Each person now grasps her kay-kay
with one hand at the middle and the other near the sharpened end and
with it rapidly crumbles and spreads about the new-turned soil. Now
they trample the bed thoroughly, throwing out any stones or pebbles
discovered by their feet, and frequently using the kay-kay further
to break up some small clod of earth. Finally a large section of
the sementera is prepared, and the toilers form in line abreast and
slowly tread back and forth over the plat, making the bed soft and
smooth beneath the water for the transplanting.
It is a delightful picture in the soil-turning season to see the acres
of terraces covered by groups of toilers, relieving their labors with
almost constant song.
I saw only one variation from the above methods in the Bontoc area. In
some of the large sementeras in the flat river bottom near Bontoc
pueblo a herd of seventeen carabaos was skillfully milled round and
round in the water, after the soil was turned, stirring and mixing
the bed into a uniform ooze. The animals were managed by a man who
drove them and turned them at will, using only his voice and a long
switch. It is impossible to get carabaos to many irrigated sementeras
because of the high terrace walls, but this herd is used annually in
the Bontoc river bottom.
After each rice harvest the soil of the irrigated sementera is turned
for planting camotes, but this time it is turned dry. More effort is
needed to thrust the kay-kay deep enough into the dry soil, and it
is thrust three or four times before the earth may be turned. Only
one-half the surface of a sementera is turned for camotes. Raised
beds are made about 2 feet wide and 8 to 12 inches high. The spaces
between these beds become paths along which the cultivator and
harvester walks. The soil is turned from the spaces used as paths
over the spaces which become beds, but the earth under the bed is
not turned or loosened.
Bontoc beds are almost invariably constructed like parallel-sided,
square-cornered saw teeth standing at right angles to the blade of the
saw, which is also a camote bed, and are well shown in Pl. LXII. In
Tulubin this saw-tooth bed also occurs, but the continuous spiral
bed and the broken, parallel, straight beds are equally as common;
they are shown in figs. 2 and 3.
Fig 2. -- Parallel camote beds.
Fig 3. -- Spiral camote beds.
The mountain-side sementera for camotes, maize, millet, and beans is
prepared simply by being scratched or picked an inch or two deep with
Back to Full Books