Indigenous Warfare

Dry agriculture tribes in Luzon were located on the border of the Cagayan valley which divided the northern region. The Apayao and Kalinga were strong hunters and fighters who engaged in open warfare and defeat was taken in good spirit. Their weapons: spears, knives, head axes, and blow guns showed great ability and artistry. Pits and traps were used in warfare as well as small bamboo spikes saoñag were left in the ground. 

Ifugao community territory was separated into three zones — neutral, feudal, and war — according to trade relations with neighbouring tribes. The neutral zone allowed for trade and marriage arrangements between tribes. The feudal zone was reserved as a place of war between family enemies. The war zone was for warfare and beheading rituals. Igorot communities would offer peace pacts with other tribes to allow for people to cross into their territory. Pacts would last a few years however once expired anyone who crossed the boundary line was attacked. Certain places of worship were held in respect such as the ifugao granary which was a significant religous place for the community. If someone offended the spirits grievously by tresspassing without proper ritual and consent they were speared through the back.

“Turning his body sideways to the enemy, the warrior crouches behind his shield, keeping up a continuous capering, rushing forward or dancing backward, seeking for an opening but seldom coming to close quarters. Arrows and spears are glanced off with the shield. An attack is usually initiated by the throwing of spears, then, if the enemy is at a disadvantage or confused, the warriors rush in to close combat. For this purpose they rely entirely on their knives, and as fencers they are unexcelled. They are but indifferent shots with the bow and arrow, and that weapon is but little used in actual combat. It has been frequently stated that these arrows are poisoned but I was unable to discover a single specimen so prepared.” (Fay-Cooper Cole, The Wild Tribes of Davao District, 1913)

Gahat was to fight on land and mangayaw to war by sea. During times of warfare known as Digma Indigenous warriors in the northern region preferred to ambush their enemies and fight from concealment. Several ambush tactics habon, saghid, hoom, and pool were employed. Warriors would hide themselves by lying flat across the earth waiting for the enemy to approach and finally attack once they were in range. Some warriors would purposely expose themselves to lure enemies into their trap. Warriors who were fleeing their enemy were sometimes ordered pinaorihiyan — to turn around and spear their pursuer. Sayang occured if men passed by hidden enemies unaware. Nga kamatayan referred to warriors who chose to fight to their death and mangin matay were warriors who were desperate to die in battle.

 © 2017-2020 Louella Esguerra De Guzman

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