Oppression Of The Igorots Icon

February 22, 2022

The 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.

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, 5 considerable estuaries over 20 feet wide.

Then, as far as Goa, 26 more; altogether, 31.

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

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.