The Ifugao

The Igorot (or mountain people) inhabit the interior highlands of northern Luzon in the Philippines and may be further subclassified into at least six distinct tribal groups which share many cultural traits. One of these is the Ifugao.  

Ifugao originates from the word “I-pugaw”, which loosely translates into “inhabitants of the earth”.

Ifugao Edged Weapons: Bulul dagger-1, dagger-2, dagger-3, Hinalung dagger, Pinahig

The Ifugaos, immortalized by their magnificent rice terraces, inhabit the rugged terrain of the extensive Cordillera Mountain ranges of Central Northern Luzon. They have developed and maintained a distinct culture which until recently has resisted outside" influences. Until modern times ended their isolation, the only world they knew was their environment of towering mountain ranges, rolling hills, windy plateaus, warm valleys, shallow but swift rivers, dense forests, innumerable rice paddies, and kainginon the mountainsides.  

Despite the ongoing effort by both church and government to assimilate and convert the Ifugao, they have remained remarkably unchanged. The Ifugao, who number approximately 120,000, live in widely scattered groups over some 750 square miles of rugged, precipitous terrain where heavy rainstorms are frequently followed by slides, flash floods and washouts. They are an agrarian people deeply involved with the growing of rice, the ritual and magic which surrounds it, and in maintaining the ways of the revered ancestors.

Bound strongly by family ties and the need to be near their fields, the Ifugao live in small, loosely confederated settlements of identical thatched roofed houses. Many years ago, fierce rivalry and constant inter-valley feuding caused villages to be bunched in relatively inaccessible but easily defended locations.

The Igorot are known as fearsome warriors, as the following account attests:

“On the 25th [June 1747], Don Cuarto began the attack, but was soon put out of action himself by two rocks which struck him in the head. Apparently directing the defense forces was a sort of amazon priestess in their midst, naked to the waist, who kept inciting the Ipituys to fever pitch with her shouts and taunting the enemy with her invective and challenging them to shoot her, and although she was a frequent target, no ball found its mark -- a circumstance analyzed in the friar report of the battle as a sure sign of direct covenant with the Devil. The Igorots fought with such fury and war cries they literally foamed at the mouth, causing their enemies to suspect they had chewed some narcotic root to provide a suicidal intoxication."

- WH Scott, The Discovery of the Igorots: Spanish Contacts with the Pagans of Northern Luzon (1974).