Oppression Of The Igorots Icon

April 30, 2022


Tue Ysaróg (pronounced Issaró) rises up in the middle of Camarínes, between the bays of San Miguel and Lagonóy.

While its eastern slope almost reaches the sea, it is separated on its western side by a broad strip of inundated land from the Bay of San Miguél. In circumference it is at least twelve leagues; and its height 1,966 metres.* Very flat at its base, it swells gradually to 16°, and higher up to 21° of inclination, and extends itself, in its western aspect, into a flat dome-shaped summit. But, if viewed from the eastern side, it has the appearance of a circular chain of mountains rent asunder by a great ravine. On Coello’s map this ravine is erroneously laid down as extending from south to north ; its bearing really is west to east.

Right in front of its opening, and half a league south from Goa, lies the pretty little village of Rungus, by which it is known. The exterior sides of the mountain and the fragments of its large crater are covered with impenetrable wood. Respecting its volcanic eruptions tradition says nothing.

The higher slopes form the dwelling-place of a small race of people, whose independence and the customs of a primitive age have almost entirely separated them from the inhabitants of the * From my barometrical observations,

m. Goa, on the northern slope of the Ysaróg. . . . 32 Uaclóy, a settlement of Ygorrotes . . . . . 161 Ravine of Basira . . . . .

. . . 1,134 Summit of the Ysaróg. . . . . . . . 1,966

plain. One or two Cimarrons might occasionally have been attracted hither, but no such instance is remembered. The inhabitants of the Ysaróg are commonly, though mistakenly, called Ygorrotes ; and I retain the name, since their nationality has not yet been accurately determined ; they themselves maintaining that their ancestors always dwelt in that locality. There are some who, in the opinion of the pastor of Camarines, speak the Bícol language in the purest manner. Their manners and customs are very similar, in many respects, to what they were on the arrival of the Spaniards; and sometimes they also remind one of those prevailing among the Dyaks of Borneo at the present day.* These circumstances give rise to the conjecture that they may be the last of a race which maintained its independence against the Spanish rule, and probably also against the little tyrants who ruled over the plain before the arrival of the Europeans. When Juan de Salcedo undertook his triumphal march round North Luzon he found everywhere, at the mouths of the rivers, seafaring tribes living under many chieftains who, after a short struggle, were slain by the superior discipline and better arms of the Spaniards, or submitted voluntarily to the superior race; but he did not succeed in subduing the independent tribes in the interior; and these are still to be found in all the larger islands of the Philippine group.

Similar conditions are found in many places in the Indian Archipelago. The Malays, carrying on trade and piracy, possess the shore, and their language prevails there; the natives being either subdued by them, or driven into the forests, the inaccessibility of which ensures to them a miserable but independent existence.† In order to break down the opposition of the wild races, the Spanish Government forbade its subjects, under the penalty of one hundred blows and two years of forced labour, “ to trade or to have any intercourse with the heathens in the mountains who pay no tribute to his Catholic Majesty, for although they would exchange their gold, wax, &c., for other necessaries, they will never change for the better.”

  • The skull of a slain Ygorrote, as shown by Professor Virchow’s investigation, has a certain similarity to Malay skulls of the adjoining islands of Sunda, especially to the skulls of the Dyaks.

† Pigafetta found Amboyna inhabited by Moors (Mohammedans) and heathens : “ but the first possessed the seashore, the latter the interior.” In the harbour of Brune (Borneo) he saw two towns; one inhabited by Moors, and the other, larger than that, and standing entirely in the salt-water, by heathens. The editor remarks that Sonnerat (" Voy, aux Indes”) subsequently found that the heathens had been driven from the sea, and had retired into the mountains.

Probably this law has for centuries directly contributed to save the barbarians, notwithstanding their small numbers, from complete extermination; for free intercourse between a people existing by agriculture, and another living principally by the chase, speedily leads to the destruction of the latter.

The Ygorrote population of the Ysaróg has been much reduced by deadly battles:

  • between the different ranchos, and
  • by the annual marauding expeditions by the commissioners of taxes against the tobacco fields of the Ygorrotes to preserve the Government monopoly

A few have “pazifizirt” (converted to Christianity and tribute). This obliged them to establish themselves in little villages of scattered huts, where they can be occasionally visited by the clergyman of the nearest place; and, in order to render the change easier to them, a smaller tax than usual is temporarily imposed upon such newly-obtained subjects.

I had deferred the ascent of the mountain until the beginning of the dry season of the year; but I learned in Nága that my wish was hardly practicable, because the expeditions against the ranchos of the mountain, which I have already mentioned, usually occurred about this time. As the barbarians could not understand why they should not cultivate on their own fields a plant which .

had become a necessity to them, they saw in the Cuadrilleros, not functionaries of a civilised State, but robbers, against whom they were obliged to defend themselves by force; and appearances contributed no less to confirm them in their error; for they did not content themselves with destroying the plantations of tobacco, but the huts were burnt to the ground, the fruit-trees hewn down, and the fields laid waste. Such forays never occurred without bloodshed, and often developed into a little war which was carried on by the mountaineers for a long time afterwards, even against people who were entirely uninterested in it-Indians and Europeans.

The expedition this year was to take place in the beginning of April. The Ygorrotes consequently were in a state of great agitation, and had, a few days previously, murdered a young unarmed Spaniard in the vicinity of Mabotobóto, at the foot of the mountain, by striking him to the earth with a poisoned arrow, and afterwards inflicting 21 wounds with the wood-knife.

Fortunately, there arrived soon after a countermand from Manila, where the authorities seemed to have been gradually convinced of the harmful tendency of such violent measures. It could not be doubted that this intelligence would quickly spread amongst the ranchos; and, acting upon the advice of the commandant (upon whom, very much against his inclination, the conduct of the expedition had devolved), I lost no time in availing myself of the anticipated season of quiet.

The Government have since adopted the prudent method of purchasing the tobacco, which is voluntarily cultivated by the Ygorrotes, at the ordinary rate, and, where practicable, encouraging them to lay out new fields, instead of destroying those in existence.

The next day at noon I left Nága on horseback. The pueblos of Mogaráo, Canáman, Quipayo, and Calabánga, in this fertile district follow so thickly upon one another that they form an almost uninterrupted succession of houses and gardens. Calabánga lies half a league from the sea, between the mouths of two rivers, the more southerly of which is sixty feet broad and sufficiently deep for large trading vessels.*

The road winds round the foot of the Ysaróg first to the northeast and then to the east. Soon the blooming hedges cease, and are succeeded by a great bare plain, out of which numerous flat hillocks raise themselves. Both hills and plain, when we passed, served for pasturage; but from August to January they are sown with rice; and fields of batata are occasionally seen.

The Belfry of Calabánga. [A similar Mexican structure is engraved in Oviedo y Valde’s “Hist. gen. y nat., de las Indias.”]

After four hours we arrived at the little village of Maguíring (Manguírin), the church of which, a tumble-down shed, stood on an equally naked hillock; and from its neglected condition one might have guessed that the priest was a native.

This hillock, as well as the others which I examined, consisted

  • On Coello’s map these proportions are wrongly stated.

of the débris of the Ysaróg, the more or less decomposed trachytic fragments of hornblende rock, the spaces between which were filled up with red sand. The number of streams sent down by the Ysaróg, into the bays of San Miguel and Lagonoy, is extraordinarily large. On the tract hehind Maguíring I counted, in three-quarters of an hour, five considerable estuaries, that is to say, above twenty feet broad; and then, as far as Goa, twenty-six more; altogether, thirty-one: but there are more, as I did not include the smallest ; and yet the distance between Maguiring and Goa, in a straight line, does not exceed three miles. This accounts for the enormous quantity of steam with which this mighty condenser is fed. I have not met with this phenomenon on any other mountain in so striking a manner. One very remarkable circumstance is the rapidity with which the brimming rivulets pass in the estuaries, enabling them to carry the trading vessels, sometimes even ships, into a main stream (if the expression may be allowed), while the scanty contributions of their kindred streams on the northern side have scarcely acquired the importance of a mill-brook. These waters, from their breadth, look like little rivers, although in reality they consist of only a brook, up to the foot of the mountain, and of a river’s mouth in the plain ; the intermediate part being absent.

The country here is strikingly similar to the remarkable mountain district of the Gelungúng, described by Junghuhn ;* yet the origin of these rising grounds differs in some degree from that of those in Java. The latter were due to the eruption of 1822, and the great fissure in the wall of the crater of the Gelungúng, which is turned towards them, shows unmistakably whence the materials for their formation were derived ; but the great chasm of the Ysaróg opens towards the east, and therefore has no relation to the numberless hillocks on the north-west of the mountain. Behind Maguiring they run more closely

  • “Java, its Formation.” II. 125

together, their summits are flatter, and their sides steeper; and they pass gradually into a gently inclined slope, rent into innumerable clefts, in the hollows of which as many brooks are actively employed in converting the angular outlines of the little islands into these rounded hillocks. The third river behind Maguíring is larger than those preceding it; on the sixth lies the large Visita of Borobód ; and on the tenth, that of Ragáy. The rice fields cease with the hill country, and on the slope, which is well drained by deep channels, only wild cane and a few groups of trees grow. Passing by many villages, whose huts were so isolated and concealed that they might remain unobserved, we arrived at five o’clock at Tagúnton; from which a road, practicable for buffalo carts, and used for the transport of the abacá grown in the district, leads to Goa ; and here, detained by an attack of diarrhoea, I hired a little house, in which I lay for nearly four weeks, no other remedies offering themselves to me but hunger and repose.

During this time I made the acquaintance of some newly converted Ygorrotes, and won their confidence, except that I had some difficulty subsequently in attaining my purpose of climbing the mountain, and seeking out their kindred confederates in the ranchos.* When, at last, I was able to quit Goa, my friends conducted me, as the first step, to their settlement; where, having been previously recommended and expected, I easily obtained the requisite number of attendants to take into their charge the animals and plants which were collected for me.

On the following morning the ascent was commenced. Even before we arrived at the first rancho, I was convinced of the good

  • An intelligent mestizo frequently visited me during my sickness. According to his statements, besides the copper already mentioned, coal is found in three places, and even gold and iron were to be had. To the same man I am indebted for Professor Virchow’s skull of Caramúan, referred to before, which was said to have come from a cavern in Umang, one league from Caramúan. Similar skulls are also said to be found at the Visita Paniniman, and on a small island close to the Visita Guialo.


report that had preceded me. The master of the house came towards us and conducted us by a narrow path to his hut, after having removed the foot-lances, which projected obliquely out of the ground, but were dexterously concealed by brushwood and leaves.* A woman employed in weaving, at my desire, continued her occupation. The loom was of the simplest kind. The upper end, the chain-beam, which consists of a piece of bamboo, is fixed to two bars or posts; and the weaver sits on the ground, and

to the two notched ends of a small lath, which supplies the place of the weaving beam, hooks on a wooden bow, in the arch of which the back of the lath is fitted. Placing her feet against two pegs in the ground and bending her back, she, by means of the bow, stretches the material out straight. A netting-needle, longer than the breadth of the web, serves instead of the weaver’s shuttle, but it can be pushed through only by considerable friction, and not always without breaking the chains of threads. A lath of hard wood (caryota), sharpened like a knife, represents the trestle, and after every stroke it is placed upon the edge; after which the comb is pushed forward, a thread put through, and struck fast, and so forth. The web consisted of threads of the aback, which were not spun, but tied one to another.

  • They are formed of bamboos.

A young lad produced music on a kind of lute, called baringbau ; consisting of the dry shaft of the scitamina stretched in the form of a bow by means of a thin tendril instead of gut. Half a cocoa shell is fixed in the middle of the bow, which, when playing, is placed against the belly, and serves as a sounding board; and the string, when struck with a short wand, gave out a pleasing humming sound, realising the idea of the harp and plectrum in their simplest fórms.

Others accompanied the musician on Jews’-harps of bamboos, as accurate as those of the Mintras on the Malay Peninsula ; and there was one who played on a guitar, which he had himself made, but after a European pattern. The hut contained no utensils besides bows, arrows, and a cooking pot.

The possessor of clothes bore them on his person. I found the women as decently clad as the Indian Christian women, and carrying, besides, a wood knife. As a mark of entire confidence, I was taken into the tobacco fields, which were well concealed and protected by foot-lances; and they appeared to be carefully looked after.

The result of my familiarity with this people, both before and after this opportunity, may be briefly summed up.

They live on the higher slopes of the mountain, never, indeed, below 1,500 feet ; each family by itself. It is difficult to ascertain how many of them there may now be, as but little intercourse takes place amongst them. In the part of the mountain belonging to the district of Goa, their number is estimated at about fifty men and twenty women, including the children: but twenty years before the population was more numerous. Their food consists principally of batata, besides some gabi (caladium). A little maize is likewise cultivated, as well as some ubi (dioscorea), and a small quantity of sugar-cane for chewing.

In laying out a batata field, a wood is partially cleared, the earth loosened with the blunt wood knife, and the bulbs or layers then planted; and within four months the harvest begins, and continues uninterruptedly from the time the creeping plant strikes root and forms tubers. After two years, however, the produce is so much diminished that the old plants are pulled up, in order to make room for new ones obtained from the runners.

The field is then changed, or other fruits cultivated thereon, but with the addition of manure. A piece of land, fifty brazas long, and thirty wide, is sufficient for the support of a family. Only occasionally in the wet season does this resource fail, and then they resort to gabi, which appears to be as easily cultivated on wet as on dry ground, but is not so profitable as batata. The young shoots of the gabi are planted at distances of a vara, and if consumed in a proper manner, ought not to be cropped till after a year. Each family kills weekly one or two wild hogs. Stags are rare, although I obtained a fine pair of horns; and they do not use the skin. Bows and arrows are used in hunting ; some poisoned, and some not. Every rancho keeps dogs, which live principally on batata, and also cats to protect the fields against rats; and they

introduced into the Philippines by the Spaniards, are seldom, if

also have poultry, but no game cocks; which, having been first

Bows and Arrows of the Ygorrotes of the Ysaróg.

The arrows (pana) consist of a shaft (gaho), 1 to 1 m. 8 c. in length, of cane, and a head (buchi). In A, D, F the whole of the head is of caryota wood, in B, E only the base, which is made fast to the shaft, and in which a bamboo lance is rather loosely fixed. O has three heads of caryota, to each of which the whip-like tail of a calamus, armed with sharp hooks, is attached. G, a bow of caryota; the string of abaca 3 mm. thick. The arrows have particular names; A, bulóg. B, boló, C, serápong, D, garaigai, E=B. Besides the weapons here represented they also use lances (pica) with (bought) iron points of 42 cm., and a total length of 2 m, 27 c. ; round shields (kalásag) of wood, covered at the edge with rattan, 1 m. 7 c. in circumference; and wood knives.


ever, wanting in the huts of the Indians; but the inhabitants of the Ysaróg are as yet free from this passion.

The few products of a more advanced civilisation which they · require, they obtain by the sale of the spontaneous productions of their forests, chiefly wax and resin (pili),* apnik, dagiangan (a kind of copal), and some abaca.

Wax is in demand for church solemnities. It fetches half a dollar per katti. Resin averages half a real per chinanta.

Business is transacted very simply. The lowlanders, having intercourse with the Igorots, make a contract with them. They collect the products and bring them to a place previously agreed on, where the lowlanders receive them after paying down the stipulated price.

Physicians and magicians, or persons supposed to be possessed of secret powers, are unknown; every one helps himself.

In order to arrive at a clear understanding of their religious views, a longer intercourse would be necessary. But they certainly believe in one God, or, at least, say so, when they are closely questioned as to Christ. They have also loosely acquired several of the external practices of Catholicism, which they employ as spells.

Hunting and hard labour constitute the employments of man in general, as well as in the Philippines.

The hair is somewhat curled. They employ women as beasts of burden—which, although it exists among many of the peoples of Europe, for example, the Basques, Wallachians, and Portuguese, is almost peculiar to barbarous nations, — seems to have been unknown in the Philippines ‘as far back as the time of its discovery by the Spaniards; and even among the

  • The fruit of the wild pili is unfit for food.

barbarians of the Ysaróg, the women engage only in light labour, and are well treated.

Every family supports its aged and those unfit for labour. Headaches and fevers were stated to me as the prevalent maladies. They cured it by using burnt rice, pounded and mixed to a pap with water, is taken as a remedy. In case of severe headache, they make an incision in the forehead of the sufferer.

Their prevalence is explained by the habit of neutralising the ill effects of drinking water in excess, when they are heated, by the consumption of warm water in large doses. The rule holds with regard to cocoa-water; the remedy for immoderate use of which is warm cocoa-water.

Their muscular power is small. They are unable to carry more than 50 pounds weight to any considerable distance.

Besides the hunting and agriculture, their occupations are restricted to:

  • the manufacture of extremely rude weapons, for which they purchase the iron, when required, from the lowlanders,
  • the coarse webs made by the women, and
  • wicker work.


Every father of a family is master in his own house, and acknowledges no power higher than himself.

In the event of war with neighbouring tribes, the bravest places himself at the head, and the rest follow him as long as they are able. There is no deliberate choosing of a leader.

On the whole, they are peaceful and honourable towards each other, although the idle occasionally steal the fruits of the fields. If a thief is caught, the person robbed punishes him with blows of the rattan, without being under any apprehensions of vengeance in consequence.

If a man dies, his nearest kinsmen go out to requite his death by the death of some other individual, taken at random. The rule is strictly enforced.

For a dead man, a man must be killed. For a woman, a woman. For a child, a child.

Unless, indeed, it be a friend they encounter, the first victim that offers is killed.

But due to the unusual success attained by some of them in representing the occurrence of death as an unavoidable destiny, this custom was abandoned. The relatives do not exact the satisfaction.

This was easy in the case of the deceased being an ordinary person ; but, to the present day, vengeance is required in the event of the death of a beloved child or wife. If a man kills a woman of another house, her nearest kinsman endeavours to kill a woman of the house of the murderer; but to the murderer himself he does nothing; and the corpse of the victim thus slain

Ygorrote Girls.

as a death-offering is not buried, nor is its head cut off ; and her family, in their turn, seek to avenge the death by murder. This is reckoned the most honourable course. Should the murderer, however, be too strong to be so overcome, any weaker

person, be it who it may, is slain in retaliation; and hence, pro· bably, the comparatively small number of women.

Polygamy is permitted. But even the most courageous and skilful seldom or never have more than one wife. A young man wishing to marry commissions his father to treat with the father of the bride as to the price; which latterly has greatly increased :

but the average is ten wood knives, costing from 4 to 6 reales, and about 12 dollars in cash ; and the acquisition of so large a sum by the sale of wax, resin, and abaca, often takes the bridegroom two years. The bride-money goes partly to the father, and partly to the nearest relations; every one of whom has an

equal interest. If there should be many of them, almost nothing remains for the father, who has to give a great feast, on which occasion much palm-wine is drunk.

Any man using violence towards a girl is killed by her parents. If the girl likes him, and the father hears of it, he agrees upon a day with the former, on which he is to bring the bride’s dowry; which should he refuse to do, he is caught by the relations, bound to a tree, and whipped with a cane. Adultery is of most rare occurrence; but, when it does take place, the dowry is returned either by the woman, who then acquires her freedom, or by the seducer, whom she then follows. The husband has not the right to detain her, if he takes the money, or even if he should refuse it: but the latter contingency is not likely to arise, since that sum of money will enable him to buy for himself a new wife.

In the afternoon we reached a vast ravine, called “ Basira,” 973 metres above Uaclóy, and about 1,134 metres above the sea, extending from south-east to north-west between lofty, precipitous ranges, covered with wood. Its base, which has an inclination of 33°, consists of a naked bed of rock, and, after every violent rainfall, gives issue to a torrent of water, which discharges itself violently. Here we bivouacked; and the Ygorrotes, in a very short time, built a hut, and remained on the watch outside. At daybreak the thermometer stood at 13.9° R.

The road to the summit was very difficult on account of the slippery clay earth and the tough network of plants; but the last 500 feet were unexpectedly easy, the very steep summit being covered with a very thick growth of thinly leaved, knotted, mossy thibaudia, rhododendra, and other dwarf woods, whose innumerable tough branches, running at a very small height along the ground and parallel to it, form a compact and secure lattice-work, by which one mounted upwards as on a slightly inclined ladder. The point which we reached, as may be seen by the illustration, was evidently the highest spur of the horse


shoe-shaped mountain side, which bounds the great ravine of Rungus on the north. The top was hardly fifty paces in diameter, and so thickly covered with trees that I have never seen its like; we had not room to stand. My active hosts, however, went at once to work, though the task of cutting a path through the wood involved severe labour, and, chopping off the branches, built therewith, on the tops of the lopped trees, an observatory, from which I should have had a wide panoramic view, and an opportunity for taking celestial altitudes, had not everything been enveloped in a thick mist. The neighbouring volcanoes were visible only in glimpses, as well as the Bay of San Miguel and some lakes in the interior. Immediately after sunset the ther. mometer registered 12.5° R.:

On the following morning it was still overcast; and when, about ten o’clock, the clouds became thicker, we set out on our return. It was my intention to have passed the night in a rancho, in order next day to visit a solfatara which was said to be a day’s journey further; but my companions were so exhausted by fatigue that they asked for at least one day’s rest.

On the upper slope I observed no palms, with the exception of calamus; but polypodies were very frequent, and orchids surprisingly abundant. In one place all the trees were hung, at a con. venient height, with flowering aërids; of which one could have collected thousands without any trouble. The most beautiful plant was a Medinella, of so delicate a texture that it was impos. sible to preserve it. .

Within a quarter of an hour north-east of Uaclóy, a considerable spring of carbonic acid bursts from the ground, depositing abundance of calcareous sinter. Our torches were quickly extinguished, and a fowl covered over with a cigar-box died in a few minutes, to the supreme astonishment of the Ygorrotes, to whom these phenomena were entirely new.

On the second day of rest, my poor hosts, who had accompanied

me back to Uaclóy, still felt so weary that they were not fit for any undertaking. With naked heads and bellies they squatted in the burning sun in order to replenish their bodies with the heat which they had lost during the bivouac on the summit; for they are not allowed to drink wine. When I finally left them on the following day, we had become such good friends that I was compelled to accept a tamed wild pig as a present. A troop of men and women accompanied me until they saw the glittering roofs

of Maguíring, when, after the exchange of hearty farewells, they returned to their forests.

The Indians whom I had taken with me from Goa had proved so lazy and morose that nearly the whole task of making the path through the forest had fallen upon the Ygorrotes. From sheer laziness they threw away the drinking water of which they were the porters ; and the Ygorrotes were obliged to fetch water from a considerable distance for our bivouac on the summit. In all my troublesome marches, I have always done better with

Cimarrons than with Indians. Cuadrillero.

The former I have found An armed escort fully equipped (hat, shirt, drawers, obliging, trustworthy, active

and acquainted with localities, while the latter generally displayed the opposite qualities. It would, however, be unjust to form a conclusive opinion as to their comparative merits from these facts; for the barbarians are at


home when in the forest; what they do is done voluntarily, and the stranger, when he possesses their confidence, is treated as a guest. But the Indians are reluctant companions, Polistas, who, even when they receive a high rate of wages, consider that they are acting most honourably when they do as little as possible. At any rate, it is no pleasure to them to leave their village in order to become luggage-porters or beaters of roads on fatiguing marches in impracticable districts, and to camp out in the open air under every deprivation. For them, still more than for the European peasant, repose is the most agreeable refreshment. The less comfort any one enjoys at home, the greater is the reluctance with which he leaves it; and the same thing may be observed in Europe.

As the Igorots were not permitted to have coconut palms to make wine, vinegar and brandy, so that they might not infringe the hacienda’s monopoly.

They showed me a petition asking me for my commments. The document was put together by an native writer in so ludicrously confused a manner that I give it as a specimen of Philippine clerkship.*

At all events, it had the best result, for the petitioners were accorded twice as much as they had prayed for.

The south-west monsoon lasts in this region (district of Goa) from April to October. April is very calm (navegacion de señoras). From June to August the south-west winds blow steadily;

March, April, and May are the driest months. There are shifting winds in March and the beginning of April; while from October to December is the time of storms; “ S. Francisco (4th October) brings bad weather.” Rice is planted in September and reaped in February