Image Credit: Collectors Desk
Barrows writes on Igorots, the tribe of Philippines that it is the customs of all these tribes to chop off the head of the victims in battle or murder and carry them home as trophies, where they form the object of feasting and celebrations.
The Igorots (Philippines tribe) are grouped into six ethno-linguistic groups like Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isneg (Apayao) Kankanaey and Kalinga. The ethno-linguistic groups of Igorots like Bontoc, Isneg and Kalinga were well known for their Headhunting like the Nagas in India. The Nagas carried home the chop off head of the victims as trophies and celebrated with other people in the village. The practice of headhunting was based on the belief that great power lies in human head.
It was also believed that when the headhunter brought the head of their enemy – it brings fertility and bumper crops in their fields. The warriors or headhunters who brought the heads of the victim were highly respected in the society in those days. Headhunting was gradually changed with the advent of Christianity to Igorots and Nagas. The tradition and custom of the Igorots tribe in Philippines is very similar to the Naga tribes in India in many aspects. Some of the similarities in their tradition and customs are given below as –
“The Bontoc live in the bank of the Chico River. It used to be a group that was known because of its Headhunting practices. Present day Bontocs are peaceful agricultural people who have, by choice retained most of their contacts with other people…The Isneg inhabits in the banks of the Apayao River and its tributaries in Northern Luzon. Like most erstwhile Headhunters. The Kalingas are noted for their strong sense of tribal awareness and the peace pacts they have made among themselves. They practice both wet and dry rice farming and they have developed an institution of peace pacts which has minimized traditional warfare and Head-hunting.”
The headhunting practiced was reported in Philippines by Martin de Rada in 1577 and this practiced was abandoned formally by Kalingas group of Luzon only in the beginning of the 20th century.
Headhunting in Naga Hills virtually ceased soon after the British commenced to control over in many Naga villages, though it continued in Tuensang areas and some other villages where British interference is ineffective. The last headhunting in Naga Hills was reported and recorded in 1958.
The Morung (Nagas Dormitory) system practiced in olden days was same with those Igorots. The young Naga boys and girls slept in their Morungs (dormitories) in ancient time. In those days, the Morung was the center of education to learn many things in their lives. Different kinds of training were carried out in Men’s Morung. In every village there were two or three Morungs both for boys and girls.
The young men and women continue to live in Morung till they are married. The boys go to girls Morung but the girls were not permitted to enter in boys Morung. After the advent of Christianity in Naga Hills – Morungs were vanished from the village. The Bontoc and Kankanaey groups of Igorots were also well known for their dormitory system. The Bontoc,
“Traditionally, young men and women lived in dormitories and ate meals with their families. This gradually changed as with advent of Christianity…Two famous institutions of the Kankana-ey Mountains province are the Dap-ay the men’s dormitory and civic center, and the Ebgan, the girl’s dormitory where courtship between young men and women took place.”
During the time of dormitory system prevailed in Naga society – the courtship between young men and women took place in girls’ dormitory. Still some young boys used to sleep together in a house in some villages but the Morung system is no more existing where courtship is carried out like in the olden days. The young men going to girls’ house to have fun together or courtship is still very common in some Naga villages.
The Ibaloi and Ifugao groups are also well known for their prestige feast of the wealthy. This kind of feast is quite similar to the Nagas’ Feast of Merits. During the Naga’s Feast of Merit, the host or donor of the feast offer to kill lots of Mithun (Buffaloes), Cows etc and distributed to the villagers. The host also freely provided abundant of rice beer to the villagers. The Feast of Merit continues for 4-5 days in many tribes but the number of days of feast varies from one tribe to another tribes.
“The Ibalois’s feast is the Pesshet, a public prestige feast of the wealthy, that could last for weeks and involving the butchering and sacrifice dozens of animals…The Ifugao’s highest prestige feast are the “Hagabi” for the most wealthy, and the “Uyauy” a feast for those immediately below the wealthiest.”
The Naga people also have the similar system of feast like Hagabi and Uyauy for the rich and very rich people. The amount of distribution of meats and offering rice beer is depended on the donor of the Feast of Merit (Zhosou) according to his richness. In Naga society – a wealthy person repeats the Feast of Merit a number of times. The wealthy people treated the Feast of Merits more than one village, while the less wealthy people treated the feast only in their village. It also depends on richness of the donor to butcher how many animals for the villagers.
One of the Naga Scholars late Shimray wrote, “The philosophy behind the performance of feast of merit is that the performer is honoured when he alive and remembered after death. The deeper philosophy involved is, however, the sense of generosity and the warm heartedness towards the poor people who are fed on the occasion.”
The last Feast of Merit in Poumai Naga tribe was held in January 2004 at Liyai Khullen village and another Feast of Merit was held in 1999 in Koide village (My native village). The Feast of Merit is hardly reported in 21st century in many Naga villages since most of the Nagas adopted Christianity. The heathens also seem giving less important in Feast of Merit due to influence of the Christianity.
The Ifugao and Kalingas groups are good in terrace rice cultivation and their type of terrace farming is similar with the Nagas. “The country of the Ifugao in the southern part of the Cordillera region is best known for its famous rice terraces, which in modern times have become one of the big tourist attractions of the Philippines… The Kalingas…practice both wet and dry rice farming…The Kankan-ey built showing terraces to maximized farm space in the rugged terrain of the Cordilleras”
W.C. Smith an authority of Nagas also pointed out the similarities between Nagas and Dayaks of Kalimantan (Borneo) in rice terrace cultivation. There are lots of similarities between the Nagas and the tribes of Igorots in Philippines in terrace cultivation. All the Naga tribes practiced terrace fields cultivation especially in Poumai Naga areas, where there is no much shifting cultivation in present context.
About the disputes in Naga village, some of the leaders (elders) in the village deals all kind of disputes arise in the village. Naga society is a democratic society; all the people involved in any disputes depending on the seriousness of the problem. But the leaders in the villages settle the disputes, which do not need to take the voices of the public. The kind of dispute settlement by the Naga leaders is parallel to those Kalinga societies. The Kalinga society, “Disputes are usually settled by the regional leaders, who listen to all sides and then impose fines on the guilty party. There are the formal council meetings but carry a good deal authority.”
R.B. Thohe Pou
Via E-Pao Net