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Negotiating Anger among the Ilongot Headhunters

Categories: Anger

Headhunting among the Ilongot of Northern Luzon served as the bedrock of their society. The underlying principle of the Ilongot’s headhunting tradition is to remove the burden carried by the headhunters. The act of throwing the head relieves that person of his burden. Throwing the head symbolically throws the burden away. The headhunting ritual among the Ilongot plays a big part in the life cycle of man. Though men and women are relatively equal, by means of headhunting tradition men could achieve a form of transcendence not available to women (Rosaldo 1980).

Headhunting generates several consequences: it thus creates tensions and conflict among the group involve during the raid. While it spawns conflicting society it also build solidarity within the aggrieved party. Some structural functionalist viewed conflict as abnormal and rare while conflict theorist such as Max Gluckman emphasized the importance of conflict in maintaining the state of equilibrium within the society. “Social life breeds conflict, and societies by their customary arrangements’…accentuate conflicts.

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The conflicts in wider ranges compensate one another to produce social cohesion” (Barret 1997). Which leads us to the aim of this paper that is to probe on the function of headhunting tradition among the Ilongot. How do the Ilonggot negotiate anger and conflict? Is there a need for a mediator to solve the crisis? Are there any rules to follow in solving the particular case of misunderstanding? Are these rules a distinct Ilongot custom vis a vis universal to all? How does language plays an important role in bargaining conflict among the Ilongot? Is conflict imperative Ilongot society?

Do Ilongot society reflects bargaining and/or settlement culture of the Philippines?


Ilongot people are tribal society who inhabits the hills of Northern Luzon, primarily in the Nueva Vizcaya region.

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The Ilonggot’s conception of men and women are represented in the imagery of hunting and horticultural magic. `Women,’ she said, cannot “reach” a man’s “anger”; look at the way they climb trees and carry huge logs; do you think we could garden if men did not go before clearing the forest…” (Rosaldo 1980). Men in the tribe clear the forest for gardens, fished and hunt.

Deer and wild boars are the most sought after source of protein. Both are ideal complement to rice for their daily consumption. Hunting dogs, bows and arrows were use during their chase. Whereas the women do most of the garden works. They tilt the land. Rice is the most abundant source of carbohydrates. They also grew sweet potatoes, taro yams, tobacco and bananas. Ilongot traces their relatives through a bertan1. They perceive it as timeless and discrete collections of related persons who share an origin from unknown common ancestors who once lived together.

Ilongot viewed themselves as essentially egalitarian in their way of life. Family plays a significant role in the Ilongot society. Its primary responsibility is to provide for the needs of their unmarried children as well as their socialization. They called their family as – tan tengeg2 or sometimes they called it matambe yek3. The Ilongot people prescribe a universal rule of uxorilocal type post marital residence. But with few exemptions married sisters, parents and/or daughters can live within one local cluster but this is not agreeable to the case of married brothers and/or sons.

The name of the local cluster can signify a name of a river or any other things. These groupings are fused together largely by the male within the society. Mainly because they engage themselves in the hunting game intended for their subsistence. There are no clear settlement boundaries. Individuals may come and go as well as visitors and guests (Rosaldo 1980).


Ilongot people began practicing headhunting since 1919, people within the tribe desire even more to behead someone, this mostly happen between different bertan.

This however resulted into a more complicated situation. Feuding among neighbors marked this era. During 1923 there are troops who entered the Ilongot territory it is also believed that a certain Ilongot from the perimeter of their territory lead these troops. The primary motive of this Ilongot man is to take vengeance of previous beheading. Much violence took place between 1919 to 1928. Retaliation resulted from these beheading. It seemed to be a vicious cycle among the Ilongot. Near the beginning of 1929 not far off from1935 the practice of headhunting come to an end.

In fact many men married without taking a head. Despite the fact that many people are eager to take heads, no heads were taken during this time. Peasant uprising took place in the lowlands between 1936 and 1941. The Ilongot people took advantage of this situation; they carry out raids within the lowland communities. Several headhunting raids were executed during this period. When the Japanese soldiers landed on the Philippine shores many Ilongot were forced to move to the interior to part of the mountain.

These also serve as a chance for the Ilongot tribesmen to have strength in numbers. According to historical facts, Ilongot headhunting reached its peak during this year. Feuds broke up and beheadings took place. Peace probably came about at some point in 1974. Though headhunting didn’t stop all together during this time relative peace was experienced. Not until the rumors of firing squad began Ilongot bring to an end their headhunting practices.


That ritual itself is a symbolic performance which actually unite the members of a category of people in a shared pursuit that speaks of, and to, their basic values or that creates or confirms a world of meanings shared by all of them alike, in this case it pertains to the Ilongot people (de Coppet 1992). “ Ilongot see headhunting as the product not just of vengeance, but of desire – the goal of hopeful youths whose numbers were increasing and who, through tears and songs or constant sulking, indicated that their hearts were ‘twisted up’ with liget4 and anxious to ‘reach’ the violent feats attained by ‘fathers’ in the past” (Rosaldo 1980).

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Negotiating Anger among the Ilongot Headhunters. (2017, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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