My worse encounter with the headhunter cannibals
When I was young, the place where I was born was inhabited were patrolled by headhunters; the Ilongot tribe often referred to themselves as Bugkalot. The Bugkalot is a minority tribe that occupies the eastern part of Luzon more specifically through the borders of Sierra Madre mountain Range. There are two minority tribes that inhabits the said place before, first I the Bugkalot or Ilongot, and the second is the Dumagat. Ilongot or Bugkalot are fair skinned, nose are perfectly shaped roman like nose, with eyes deep and tantalizing. They really are a good looking tribe. The Dumagat on the other hand, are Black, having Lenin nose (much like an inverted triangle) with flared nostrils, and a blonde heavily curled hair. Dumagats are like Ita (aeta) except that their height is exceptional. An average Dumagat’s height is around 5’8” tall (an exceptionally tall for native Filipinos) .
As a minority tribe, they wore bahag (a piece of cloth tied between their legs to cover their genitals) for men and tapis (a huge cloth, smaller than a blanket wrapped around the body above the breast area of women) for women. During normal times, this tribe is a peaceful, hospitable, and happy tribe as far as I remember. My grandparents used to visit them on their place often, and that my grandparents spoke their dialects fluently. Their chieftain is a dear friend of my Baing (Grandmother) and my Laking (Grandfather). There some times when some of the Ilongot tribes pass through our home (Kubo or a house made out of Cugon and wood), I sometimes heard saying warnings to my grandparents saying that it’s nearing harvest of May. When I was a kid, I never care about the term “Nearing Harvest of May”, not until I saw with my own eyes what that really means.
Both tribes are friends of my grandparents while they are mortal enemies of each other. Often, my uncles go hunting wild boars and deer with the Ilongots of with the Dumagats. Dumagats a exceptionally skilled in Bow and arrow, while the Ilongot’s skill with spear is unmatched.
I heared many times from the Dumagat’s chieftain (Whose name is Kuntawa), that we must beware of the Ilongots during the month of May, which my Laking always replied “Haankamadanagan ta nakasaganakami nu madanon ti kastangatiempo” (Don’t worry because we are always ready every time that comes). Being a small child, I never care about that warningKuntawa always telling us. All I knew is that Ilongots never bother to fight the Dumagats Face to Face because they are an excellent camouflage. Funny as it may turn to you (Readers) but it is true. When Dumagats took cover on Talahib grasses or Cogon Grasses, you can hardly tell if it’s a Dumagat or a burned wood. Funny but true.
I seem no problem getting along with either Dumagat, and with Bugkalots, until one day when my worse encounter with Bugkalots happened about ten kilometers away from our Kubo (House made up of Wood and Cugon Grass). One day, my grandparents went with the Dumagats hunting. My grandmother went too because Lydia, the wife of Kuntawa came over and asked her to come. She asked to bring me with them, and their eldest son Igor (pronounced as ee–geor) will take care of me. Since they are a family’s friend, my grandparents agreed.While on our way to the hunting place, Kuntawa reminded my Laking that it was the day the Harvest of May Begins because the tree (I don’t know the name of that tree) begun to bloom. That said tree was planted at the center of the Ilongot’s tribe and when that tree blooms (a neon red colored flower), the so-called May Harvest begins. But what is that May Harvest? It was then the men of Ilongot tribe went down the hill, hunt humans for their heads, and bring home some flesh to eat. It was their tradition that he who brought home the most human head will be treated as a hero and the most respected warrior.
When we arrived at the hunting site, men set up a camp at the river (Cagayan River). I asked my Uncle to carry me on his back because I want to go with them hunting. My uncle murmured but because I was a spoiled brat, he carried me on his back. Dumagat’s men were laughing at us, and my Uncle laughed too. We went down the river. Some of the women came too, so with my grandmother. There five women and 7 children left at the camp. The women are well equipped with bows and arrows (they too are a good archers) and Buneng (Bolo).
About two kilometers from the camp, the men crossed the river, women and me stayed on the other side. After about less than an hour, the men rushing to cross the river noisy and in a real rush. Women asked why and Kuntawa answered “The water smells like blood; let’s rush up the river, to the camp”. We all rushed, to the camp. And when we get near the camp, my grandfather held my grandmother’s arm and command us no to get closer. My grandmother covers my eyes while the Dumagat men cried out loud. The women and children were beheaded. Some of the headless bodies have missing parts thighs and breast.
I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so afraid of the sight of headless people scattered around the camp. The following day, my Auntie went to the town to sell tapa (Dried deer meat), she was six months pregnant at that time. The place was very remote, that in order to get to town, you need to walk seven kilometers of vast jungle. Night passed and my Auntie never returns. Early in the morning, my two Uncle ready their rifles and went looking for my Auntie. It was another horror when they got back after lunch. My Uncle carrying a sack soaked with blood. I never saw my Aunty’s dead body but they say she was beheaded, slashed her belly, took out the baby from her womb and beheaded too. That was the time when my grandmother explained where the name PinapPagan came from. Pinappagan was an area near ours (about seven kilometers away) and was named after the term “PinapatayngmgaPagano”, a tagalog phrase translated as “Being Killed by Pagans”.
My Uncle decided to take revenge. My grandparents can’t stop him because he is too thirsty for vengeance. He talked to the chieftain Kuntawa and agreed to his plans. They went out hunting animals every day. Dumagat’s with their Bows and arrow, and my uncle with his rifle. Once a week, they hunt not for dear but for human; member of Bugkalot Tribe. I heard from Igor that my Uncle was too savage in killingIlongots. Knowing my Uncle as a peace loving, and God fearing citizen, I didn’t believe him until one day, a fact happened which stopped the Ilongots from visiting us. A woman, an Ilongot woman with his child crossing the river saw us and waved at us smiling. My Uncle unsheathed his bolo and attempted to cut the woman and her child. My grandfather swiftly held his arms while grandmother accidentally dropped me and embraces his son, begging to stop. My grandfather shouted to the woman to run from us and she did. I saw my Uncle’s face turned red. I looked at him as a demon at that time and I was so afraid of him. He sat down and after a few minutes, he grabbed me and embraces me. He said “Son, I’m sorry, you know what they did to your Aunty”. I nodded but as a child, I don’t exactly understand what really is happening until I had grown up.
Whenever I recall those facts. I now fully understand my Uncles rage. Now, my Uncle’s gone. He died in August 1985 while fighting with Ilongots. Kuntawa at that time is very old. Igor used to say things about the greatness of my Uncle in combat. Igor, who is fifteen years older than me always go with my uncle huntingIlongots. And he said that my Uncle killed more than a hundred Ilongots, men, women and children. He died in a trap set by Ilongots while he was hunting them.
Today, Ilongots are now civilized. They are not anymore doing headhunting, and were so dedicated to Jesus Christ. Yes, they are a very religious tribe. In fact, the mayor of Nagtipunan, Quirino province for a very long time is an Ilongot.