Skip to main content »

Headhunting in the Cordilleras

 |  2 min read

The truth behind the infamous Igorot headhunting practice in the Cordilleras.

The truth about the Igorot headhunting practice in the Cordilleras
The truth about the Igorot headhunting practice in the Cordilleras

Warning: This article contains material that you may find disturbing, offensive, or repulsive.

The headhunting in the Cordilleras was not done by the Igorot ancestors randomly, for various reasons, a broken peace agreement, a serious personal slight, a dispute involving rape, murder, or theft caused by a visitor or rivals from other tribes. A vendetta is declared and retribution becomes a matter of honor to the tribe and the individual.

Other factors include the desire for a bountiful harvest of cultivated products, the desire for greatness in the minds of the descendants, to increase wealth, to ensure the abundance of wild game and fish, to ensure the general health and favor in the hands of women, and to promote fertility in women.

Igorot holding his trophy (1909)
Igorot holding his trophy (1909)

Usually, practice is a ritual or test of manhood. For example, in an ethnolinguistic group, men could only marry after they had beheaded a man. But they did not just cut off anyone's head, instead, they did it in a contest. Beheading a competitor means they are "graduates" from childhood and are skilled enough to protect a wife and family.

Bontoc Igorot with "Chaklag" (chest Tattoo)
Bontoc Igorot with "Chaklag" (chest Tattoo)

In Igorot's headhunting practice, most of their enemies' heads were cut off by a battle-ax even before the wounded man dies.

If a fighter in the scene never gets a chance to behead someone, he will be permitted to cut off the head from a deceased body and thus be eligible for a unique headtaker tattoo called "Chaklag".

Igorot headhunting axe
Igorot headhunting axe

However, the possession of a freshly cut head should be "activated" by proper ceremony and ritual before it can "unleash" its spiritual and magical powers.

To try to stop the practice of headhunting, the Americans began to organize sporting events in the Cordilleras. You'll find lots of tug-of-war photos, relay races, and baseball games going on - an attempt to stop the ongoing killings taking place across the region.

Igorot boy burrows for coins in a pan of flour. Bontoc 1908
Igorot boy burrows for coins in a pan of flour. Bontoc 1908

The Igorots stopped practicing headhunting and there was no concrete evidence of cannibalism in the region.



Igorot headhunting Cordillera Practice headhunters

Sharing is caring, kailian!

We do hope you find something great in this story. If you find this helpful, please do share it with the people you care about.


Igorotage is a social networking site — all contents are user-generated. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Igorotage.

Except as otherwise noted, the content of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Join the discussion

Sign in to share your thoughts. No account yet?

What to learn next?

You might also like to read these related articles.

Dayas: An Igorot Cultural Drama Short Film (ft. Carrot Man)

"Dayas" (Sine Cordillera) is a short film that aims to showcase the Igorot culture and local talents. (Featuring Carrot Man)

Bornoc in General

Feb 24 · 4 min read

Three Igorots Promoted to Police Brigadier General

Three Igorots from the Cordilleras have been promoted to Police Brigadier General.

Peanut in People

Apr 23, 2020 · 2 min read

Igorot Oral Tradition v. The Latest Wave Migration Theory

The early Igorots are the ancestors of all non-Negrito Filipino tribes, as well as the ancestors of the Malaysians, Indonesians, and Oceanians.

Dakopi in Culture

Apr 2 · 4 min read

Jeffry Taynan: Igorot SWAT in Texas, USA

Jeffry B. Taynan, a proud Igorot, is a Deputy Constable and a member of the SWAT unit of Fort Bend County in Texas, USA.

Justice in People

Jan 6 · 3 min read

Igorot Police hottie gets Highest Standard Leadership Award

Man of the World Igorot Police gets the Highest Standard Leadership Award in VIP Security and Protection Course.

Axel in People

May 5, 2020 · 1 min read

Igorot seafarer donates another P50K for Kabayan, Benguet

This Igorot seafarer has now donated a total of P100,000 worth of rice to the people of Kabayan, Benguet.

Magnus in People

May 10, 2020 · 1 min read

BGEN Noel T. Baluyan PA: Igorot from Kalinga promoted to Army Brigadier General

BGEN Noel T. Baluyan PA, an Igorot from Pinukpuk, Kalinga, has been promoted to Brigadier General of the Philippine Army.

Darryl in People

Jul 30, 2020 · 3 min read

Bukidnon PPO under Igorot Leadership awarded Best Provincial Police Office of the Year

The Bukidnon Police Provincial Office headed by Igorot PCOL ROEL L LAMI-ING has been awarded the Best Provincial Police Office of the Year.

Ezra in People

Aug 6, 2020 · 2 min read

Sapata: An Igorot Lie Detector

One the most unique culture of the Igorot is a justice system called the "Sapata". Such practice varies from one ethnic group to the other.

Samoda in Culture

Sep 14, 2020 · 3 min read

BGEN Milton Beset: Igorot Philippine Army Signal Regiment Commander

Brigadier General Milton Y. Beset, Igorot Army General from Mountain Province, is the commander of the Philippine Army Signal Regiment (ASR).

Domenico in People

Sep 15, 2020 · 2 min read
Explore

Browse more stories by category or jump to a random article.

History Surprise me