Peacemaking Ideology in a Headhunting Society: Hudhud,
Women’s Epic of the Ifugao
"Peacemaking Ideology in a Headhunting Society: Hudhud,
Women’s Epic of the Ifugao." In: Hunters and Gatherers in the
Modern World. Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination.
Peter P.Schweitzer, Megan Biesele and Robert Hitchcock, eds.
pp.399-409. New York-Oxford: Berghahn Books. 2000.
I am most grateful to the
Wenner-Gren Anthropological Foundation for the Small Grant that
enabled me to update this paper during my field work in Ifugao
(January-August 1995). I am deeply indebted to Dr.Harold
Conklin who generously shared with me his encyclopedic knowledge of
Ifugao culture since 1978, long before the possibilities of field
work opened for Russian anthropologists. I also
owe a lot to Dr.Pierce Vitebsky of Cambridge
Univ. and to John Gillow of Cambridge, U.K.. I am grateful for help and
advice to Dr.Bion Griffin of the Univ. of Hawaii and Dr.Tom Headland of SIL, both of
whom I first met at CHAGS-7, and to Dr.Nicol
Revel of Centre de Recherche Sur L'Oralite. During my stay
in the Philippines I enjoyed friendly cooperation with Dr.Jesus
Peralta and Artemio Barbosa from the National
Museum and valuable help and hospitality of
Mrs.Rosario Guinid from the Ifugao
The Ifugao belong to a
group of mountain-dwelling peoples of the Cordillera Central,
Northern Luzon, the Philippines. Despite the differences in their ways
of subsistence (hunters, horticulturists, dry- and
wet-rice cultivators) all the highlanders were regarded
as of "similar grade of civilization" and opposed as such to the
lowland population. This distinction which is not based either
on linguistic or cultural criteria, dates back at least to the
end of the eighteenth century and results from the Spanish
colonial activities. Having conquered the coastal areas rather
easily, the Spaniards tried in vain to subjugate the mountain
peoples. As P.O.Afable puts it, "military assaults, in which men
from lowland Christian missions marched against their pagan
neighbors, ...permanently set the social and political boundaries
between lowlanders and highlanders in this Northern area" (Afable
1995, 13). In the opposition of "Christian" and "civilized" to
"savage" and "wild", still noticeable nowadays, headhunting is
the most sensational point. Although the Spanish records of the
sixteenth century are abundant in description of headhunting
in coastal areas (Afable, Ibid.), in popular opinion this
cultural trait is attributed exclusively to mountain-dwellers.
During my short stay in
Manila it struck me painfully that the image of "bloodthirsty
Igorot" is exploited in modern Philippine mass-media (movies, ballet
performances, etc.). Needless to say that in Ifugao family that
adopted me, as well as while hiking through different areas of
Ifugao, I felt much safer then in Manila. Besides, having studied the epic lore
as a genre, I can claim that the Ifugaos so
far are the only people in the world known to have developed
peacemaking ideology in that typically aggressive genre of oral
The rich literature on
epic traditions worldwide portrays a highly male-centered genre
of song glorifying heroic values and warlike acts. Ifugao male
epics represents aggressive ideology, which it shares with all
the corresponding genres from India to Iceland. But what is specific of the Ifugao
epic lore is that it contains two trends. The
/hudhud/, female epic tradition of the Ifugaos, is a unique
specimen of peacemaking, even pacifist ideology in epic form. It
is important to bear in mind that this ideology has developed in
the peak of headhunting period, i.e. it is genuine, not imposed by
the influence of other cultures as, for instance, the motives
of regret that appeared in Kalinga Ullalim under the
influence of Christianization and American "order".
A comparative study of
Philippine folk epics that I based on the criteria of the Russian
school of folklore studies (Propp 1976; Zhirmunsky 1979;
Meletinsky 1968; Putilov 1976) revealed that the female /hudhud/ tradition
of the Ifugao is a typical heroic epics with reminiscences of
mythological traits. Male Ifugao tradition and the Kalinga /Ullalim/
performed by male and female singers are mythological epics,
the /Ullalim/ being in transition to heroic one (Stanyukovich
Fr. Lambrecht, the major
publisher of the /hudhud/ texts (Lambrecht 1957, 1960,
1961, 1967) insists that the /hudhud/ is sung only for
entertainment and does not bear any connection to traditional belief and
ritual (cf. Lambrecht 1965). This statement seemed doubtful
to me from the very beginning. Close ritual ties are generally
characteristic of Philippine folk epics (Manuel 1963; Jocano 1964;
Demetrio 1979). In my opinion, this was the main reason why
rich epic literature of the lowland population disappeared
altogether in the course of Christianization 2*: being
an inseparable part of the native religious system, it was
wiped out just like the Ifugao epic forms that I studied in
the field are being wiped out nowadays. In my earlier works
(Stanyukovich 1981, 1982b) and in the first version of this paper I
claimed that /hudhud/ is a highly ritualized genre. Then
this claim was based on close examination of Lambrecht's own
materials, as well as of the data published by Amador Daguio (Daguio
1983), Roy Franklin Barton (Barton 1919, 1930, 1938, 1946, 1955)
and further supported by the study of unpublished field notes of
R.F.Barton deposited in the archive of our Museum (Archive) 3*.
By now I can prove it with the field data.
During my field research
it turned out that the term /hudhud/ extends beyond the heroic
epic known in publications to a larger group of female ritual
songs, including shamanistic narratives treating the journey of
the soul of the deceased to the abode of the dead. All the /hudhud/
texts published by far (including those three which are to
be published in Dr.N.Revel's "Nusantara epics project" (Revel in
prep.) appeared to belong to one and the same genre known in
North-Western areas of Ifugao as /hudhud di 'ani/ (/hudhud/ of the
harvest), or /hudhud di page/ (/hudhud/ of rice). This genre is a
form pattern of melody, poetic system and vocabulary for the two
newly-found /hudhud/ traditions: /hudhud di kolot/ (/hudhud/ of the
haircut) and /hudhud di nate/ (/hudhud/ of the
Although in my field
research I particularly concentrated on the study of these additional
/hudhud/ types, which have never been researched before, I have
also found a large variety of plots of the main type (/hudhud/ of
rice). All of them appeared to confirm the characteristics of
female ideology as peaceful solution of hereditary feuds without
While reading the
following, the reader must bear in mind that headhunting does not exist
in Ifugao any more. Early in the twentieth century "order"
was imposed by the American colonial administration. The main
goal was achieved by general-governor Gallman, a talented "white
apo", who acted within the framework of traditional Ifugao
culture and was loved and highly respected by them. He and his
successors, Tomlinson and Dosser, succeeded in decreasing considerably
the number of local killings and distant headhunting raids.
A new outburst of murders was installed by World War II.
The Ifugao Province was the area of most violent combats.
Practically the whole Kiangan poblacion was destroyed by bombing; even
the most distant areas of Asipulo became battlefields. It
was in Ifugao that General Yamashito has surrendered - which was
the final point of the World War II in the Philippines. It is
only natural that in such a situation headhunting has resumed,
as for instance, the custom of vendetta resumed recently in
Chechenia. Later on military tension was characteristic of the
Ifugao of the 1970s, during the martial law period. President Marcos
has endowed the military and Philippine Constabulary with such an
uncontrolled power that they aroused hatred in native
population. NPA (National People's Army) became very active in Cordillera;
though it was rather popular among the local people, it surely
meant additional military pressure. Anyway in late 1960s-
1970s headhunting in the mountainous areas of Northern Luzon ceased
altogether (cf. Rosaldo 1980).
Although I was lucky to
witness headhunting rituals on Good Friday of 1995 in Ifugao,
including war dance and /him-ung/ (ritual defining the
avenger for the killing), they were performed for a person
killed by "armelite" (machine gun) as a result of land dispute
that could occur in any peasant society anywhere in the world.
Therefore for the purpose of the present paper I shall use the
materials on headhunting that date back to the beginning of the
Having said this, I shall
return to the problem of transforming violence in women's epics,
as opposed to glorifying it in male epic lore, i.e. to the
aspects that characterize the relevant male and female
The separate inner worlds
of male and female epic traditions can be compared to each other
and to the "objective" world of epic singers. Let me give a
brief sketch of these three realities by concentrating on the
following points: division of space into friendly and hostile
zones; reasons for headhunting; the way warfare is performed;
desirable male traits; final aims and perspectives of
According to the classic
definition of R.F.Barton, the "objective" world of the
Ifugao was divided into three main zones: home region,
neutral zone and zone of warfare. Even within the home zone it was only
the relatives who were considered to be real allies. The affines,
not to mention neighbors, might be sources of danger, as
representatives of a different kinship group. In neutral zone
relatives were outnumbered by non-relatives. In hostile
zone all the inhabitants were regarded as potential killers and
victims. Besides, every kinship group had also hereditary
enemies of their own. The reasons for headhunting, apart from
vendetta, were "evening the score" after funerals, getting access
to higher grades in the rank system, and curing
Most of killings were
initiated by surprise attack of a headhunting group through
ambush in hostile territory. A boy who went to the forest to get
firewood or a woman gathering food-plants might be
ambushed, killed and beheaded. After the attack headhunters would
flee at full speed to the home region. As R.F.Barton puts it,
"the Ifugao has no pride against admitting fear and running away when
there is danger - provided he does not abandon a kinsman" (Barton
1955, 21). In a way, it can be said that headhunters were
seen as ordinary hunters, not as warriors. The victim was regarded
more as a game than as an adversary. Bravery was not so much
appreciated but rather regarded as foolish. The key words in
the native discourse regarding headhunting were "deceit"
or "fraud". The Ilongot, neighboring headhunting people
discussed in classical works of Michell and Renato Rosaldo, designate
the internal killings by the term /ka'abung/ - "by
deception"(M.Rosaldo 1980, 6). The name of Manahaut, the supreme war
deity of the Ifugao, means "Deceiver". Often the whole class of
gods of war and sorcery is called "the Deceivers" (Barton 1946,
38). The real headhunting thus gave no hint of the ethics of the
Ifugao history of the
period of headhunting could not be divided into periods of war and
peace. Headhunting was a constant part of everyday life. According
to dominant ideology the whole kinship group, men and women,
benefited from a headhunting raid. General aim of headhunting could
be defined as keeping world in harmony and order, that gave no
perspective of cutting short the cycle of reciprocal revenge
How is that reality
reflected in epic songs?
In male epic traditions -
the Ifugao /Galidu/ (Barton 1955, 46-79) 3* and the Kalinga
/Ullalim/ (Billiet 1970) the friendly and hostile zones overlap.
There are no strict boundaries between them, or rather they are
very flexible: from inside of the home village to the boundaries
of the human-inhabited world. Enemies might differ from
playmates of a young hero up to giants whose residence is in the
Upstream or Downstream cosmological areas, beyond the boundaries of
The reasons for killing
are either vengeance (vendetta or just a reaction to an insult) or
the struggle with an adversary in order to win girl's
The fight often takes a
form of a duel in which the adversaries demonstrate their valour,
fighting skill and magic power. The song ends usually with a
scene of a massacre during which all the enemy's kin or even the
whole population of the hostile region is killed. As it was already
mentioned, some versions of the /Ullalim/, performed in
the period of "peacetime" present the scenes of hero's regret
for being so bloodthirsty.
Highly appreciated male
characteristics, demonstrated by heroes in male epics, are
ferocity, valour, fighting skills and magic powers. However, the
criterion of bravery is introduced and cowardliness is
depreciated. Just like male mythological texts, male oral epics define the
result of hero's warlike activities by internally contradictory
formula: "he slaughtered them all, including the infants, and
made a peace-pact with the rest of them". In the Galidu it
goes like this:
"...Balitok, He sees the sons of
Ambalitayon Tumbled heels over
head. Their sleeping place is
their weapons, There is left of them no
remainder, They're as if to skeletons
crumpled... The new-made
widows And the mourning-band
wearers and fasters..., Becoming some like kindred
to them, Becoming like uncles the
others" (Barton 1955,
That is to say that the
enemies are weakened by massacre and pacified by magic and
peace-pact, but as vengeance is always to be retaliated, the
perspective of the conflict is preserved.
The /hudhud/ - the women's
epic - differs greatly in its ideology and in the way of
depicting warfare both from reality and from the world of the male
There is no hostile
territory in /hudhud/ of rice. Its topography presents doubled home
region. It is centered in a home village with outskirts, surrounded
by Kadaklan (the Big River), which serves as a /huhdud/
analogy of a mythological river in the waters of which human
Earth floats. In other words, the whole universe is reduced to the
limits of the female home space. No danger awaits the hero
while he travels through the "empty space" that is outside his home
region. Having crossed it the hero comes to a duplicate of his home
region, which is also surrounded by Kadaklan. It is the
marginal place /pantalan/ (the river bed), either near home region or
its duplicate, that is the only place of danger. Here the
character might be ambushed from the river reeds. But even /ad
pantalan/ no death or injury ever occurs.
Actually there is no
category of enemy in /hudhud/, despite the fact that the words
/ngayaw/ (headhunting) and /buhol/ (enemy) are widely used. The
personages are organized into family groups. Each one consists of a
hero, his sister and their parents. The plot is based on the
interaction of two families, initially depicted as being in
hereditary feud. By moral characteristics and behavior, as well as
by appearance and conduct, the members of these families
absolutely duplicate each other. That is to say, the main hero is an
absolute copy of a young man from the other family, his sister
is a copy of another man's sister, etc. Members of both families
are endowed with highly positive traits.
Some versions of /hudhud/
are more complicated. There the third family group appears.
Members of the this additional family are characterized negatively
and treated with contempt. They do not pose any danger for the
heroes. Being inferior from every point of view, they are no
rivals to real heroes and therefore no enemies. They are always
losers. A youngster from an unworthy family tries to win one of
the girls - sisters of positive heroes. He never succeeds.
His own sister is sometimes depicted as an unworthy wife of one
of the positive heroes. She is usually sent back to her parents
as soon as a better bride appears in the scene 5*. The home region
of the third group, which is a third copy of the hero's home
region, is not really a hostile territory. Besides, the
positive hero never visits it. The negative personages are
eliminated without being killed or wounded. Therefore no feud
or conflict results in the future.
The main intrigue revolves
around the relationships of two positive heroes. The
initial episodes introduce the hero as an aggressive youth. He plays
dangerous games with his playmates, he nearly destroys through
carelessness the precious jewels, hereditary sacred fortune
of his family. He disobeys his parents: they want him to marry,
but he instead declares that he starts a head-hunting raid. When
asked about the name of their hereditary enemy, the old father
gives it with the following noteworthy words:
"Exceedingly great is our
feud with the Old man, Old man of old, Pangaiwan... I tell you, bring only joy
and happiness into their house... In Bilibil." (Lambrecht 1957,
Or as it goes in the other
version of the same text, published by A.Daguio:
"Why not find a girl to
bring to Iken, A beautiful daughter of
Pangaiwan... That the tribal feud be
forgotten Between your father and
Pangaiwan?" (Daguio 1983,
The two sides of the story
are thus given from the very beginning. The hero
pretends to go headhunting while his actual aim is to marry the
daughter of his father's enemy and so to put an end to the old feud. In
other words, hero's aggressiveness is only
Having reached the village
of his "enemy" the hero once again shows his aggressive
inclinations. He destroys all the rice in the fields of his "enemy".
But as soon as the battle begins, all the signs of aggression
Adversaries are depicted
as valiant knights. Their battles (always three in number)
are epically long. Needless to say that they have nothing to do
with real headhunting practices. Much more important is the fact
that /hudhud/ battles have no analogies in epic
literature. Using the /hudhud/ vocabulary we can call them "war dances",
the typical formula being "as if dancing they are, two youths in
the battlefield". During the many-year-long battles the
heroes show their skills, bravery, valour, but also
politeness and good manners. They address each other exclusively with the
appellation /biyawku/ ("my friend"). Local girls who watch the
battle from the village slope nudge their hero and induce him
to cut off the adversary's head "that it may have fresh air at
the door of our house". But the hero defends the dignity of his
"Soften your cries, lovely
ladies, For worthy as an opponent
is Aliguyun, He is as good as
I." (Daguio 1983,
It is worth pointing out
that in /hudhud/ it is a male warrior who is idealized, whereas
women are depicted as violent sex. They induce killings and are
pacified by men. From that point of view /hudhud/ can be compared
to European medieval romances that created idealized image of
a fair lady (cf. Stanyukovich 1996).
Both heroes fight with all
their strength. They sweat and breath hard. They clench their
teeth with effort - but one can not help feeling that they are only
pretenders, good actors, not warriors.
Another important trait
characteristic of all the positive personages is that both
heroes and their sisters are ready to feel ashamed. The formula
"very much ashamed I am" is sometimes used as a label quite out
of context. It may be used when a new character is introduced
and it is important to point out that he or she is a positive
actor. Unworthy rivals and unworthy wives never feel
/Hudhud/ heroes, as all
epic heroes, are endowed with magic power.
After a series of three
battles in which no one is killed or wounded, the positive
characters trade sisters and celebrate a double marriage. Thus the
aim and result of the hero's activities is total elimination of
enmity. The next generation will have no enemies.
To sum it up, we can
easily see the difference between male and female ideologies as
expressed in their epic lore. It emerges that while the male epic
concentrates on violence expressed through the system of headhunting
based on rage, enmity and vengeance, the female epic
represents a tradition of heroic exploit in which no blood
is spilt whatsoever.
The treatment of space
undergoes radical changes in /hudhud/. The picture of a tiny home
region surrounded by big hostile world is replaced by the
universe reduced to small "female" space of the home village. It can be
doubled or tripled, but never loses its dominant characteristics
/Hudhud/ transforms the
image of the headhunter, that is of a hunter whose game is a
human being, into a valiant knight. The women's epic introduces a
new character. He is brave but pitiful, generous, polite and
modest. His aggressive intentions are dangerous only to
inanimate objects like jewels, tops, foodbaskets etc. With the
introduction of this new image comes the idea of peacetime as a
As an expression of female
ideology, the /hudhud/ has much in common with woman's
literature of much later period. It demonstrates both strong
and weak points of it, the latter including simplification,
varnishing of reality and substitution of false conflicts for
real ones. /Hudhud/ can also be regarded as a kind of unconsciously
dissident literature that keeps to the formal rules of a dominant
male ideology, but fills stealthily the canonical form with
* Symbol "/" identifies
italics. 1* The only other sample
of peacemaking solution of conflicts can be found in /tuitak/
Ainu female epics (Philippi 1979). This tradition shows
similarities to /hudhud/ in some other aspects, including plot formation
and ritual use (cf.Stanyukovich 1982a).
2* There are examples when
conversion into Christianity (e.g. of the Russians) did not
result in the abandonment of the traditional epic songs, as
they were not evidently and directly linked to pre-Christian
3* R.F.Barton worked in
the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, St.Petersburg
(then Leningrad) from 1930-1940. Before leaving Russia he donated
his library, a number of unpublished manuscripts and field
notes (cf. Stanyukovich 1979). Barton's manuscripts and notes are
deposited in the archive of our Institute (referenced here
4* This text, called
"Galidu, or Virgin birth" by Barton, appeared to be well-known
in my home Ifugao village. It was used some 30 years ago in
hagoho sorcery rights designated to settle land dispute between two
families. Both families in question performed rituals using
this text, and a family from my village was defeated: a number of
small children from this family died, and the rice field became
property of their adversaries.
5* There is, however, an
exception to the rule. In the /hudhud/ "Dinulawan and Bugan at
Gonhadan" (Lambrecht 1967) negative heroine remains the wife
of the hero, Aliguyun. It happens because of unusual
characteristics of Bugan, Aliguyun's usual bride, in this particular
version: here she is depicted as a female warrior.
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