Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/July 1891/The Quianganes of Luzon

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THE Quianganes of Luzon, Philippine Islands, live for the most part in small settlements in the mountain districts; but they have larger colonies in the more level regions, where they can cultivate rice. Their homes are all built after the same type, of wood or reeds, with wooden floors, about twelve feet square, resting about a yard above the earth on posts. They cultivate rice wherever the supply of water will permit it, and, as their land is rarely level, they lay it out in terraces, which they call pilapil. If the slope is moderate, they make them of earth; if steep, they strengthen them with walls of stone, the height of which is largely governed by the inclination. Having no plows, they till the soil by main strength with wooden shovels. The watering is very laborious, and sometimes, when in dry seasons the springs fail, their labor is lost. In consideration of the unending vigilance and work exacted by the rice crop, a high value is set upon it.

The men go out to the fields in groups of from six to twenty persons, relatives or friends. They work a day for one, a second day for another, and so on, till each one is given his turn—the owner of the field cultivated for the day having to board the whole company. There are also day-laborers who work for the wealthy, and besides their board receive wages in chickens or rice. Their industry is not much developed. Their smiths make of iron axes, lance-heads, knives for cutting rice, and short wood-knives. Their best lance-heads and their gansas—a kind of guitar, mounted with bronze and copper—come from the valley of Japao. They make a flute of a reed, which they blow with their nostrils.

The Quianganes recognize the classes of nobles and plebeians. Nobility is a personal character and not hereditary. He is noble who is rich, and among these again those are most eminent who have distinguished themselves as head-hunters; for the Quianganes are a head-hunting tribe. But wealth alone is not sufficient to make any one noble; it is necessary also to go through a certain established ceremonial. The newly rich plebeian who would enter the aristocratic class notifies the people of his own and the neighboring villages of his intention, whereupon a general rejoicing prevails in anticipation of the feasting and drinking that are to come. The finest tree is selected from the wood and felled, and from it is hewn a figure that looks as much as anything else like an animal set erect, from which the legs have been cut off. All the guests work upon this figure, while they are entertained at the expense of the candidate for noble honors. When the statue is finished, it is left lying in the woods, and the company return to their homes. After the end of the field-work, the company go again to the woods for the statue, which is called Tagabi, to take it to the candidate's village; a task which is attended by numerous ceremonies. The train joins in a festal march, on which the host strews the road with rice. The transportation of the Tagabi is not accomplished in a single day, for the party all go back to their ranches after the first feast; and it is not till the third day that the ceremonial entry of the statue into the village takes place. The figure is deposited under the house of the candidate, and the grand feast follows by which he is received into the caste of the nobles; but to remain there only as long as he is wealthy: wherefore the nobles, to preserve the recognition of their rank, are obliged to give from time to time ocular demonstration of their ability to hold it, by feasting the plebeians and the poor. In this way they often fall into the hands of usurers; and they rarely keep their wealth together long enough to leave it, with its accompanying nobility, to their sons. The sons, nevertheless, even if they have become plebeians, believe that they are honored, and have a special pride in calling themselves sons of nobles.

Old people are greatly esteemed among the Quianganes, chiefly because they can serve as priests and have a special knowledge of religious doctrines and usages. In war, they readily follow the lead of the bravest. Women are highly respected, and, with children, are spared when blood feuds are prosecuted; for the vengeance of the Quianganes is executed only on grown men.

In marriage, the bride is bought from her uncle, or, if she has no uncle, from her brothers or cousins. On the death of his wife, or in case of divorce, the husband must return to her relatives the gifts he has received with her, and a buffalo in addition, especially if he intends to marry again. As he has also to make the usual presents to the relatives of his new bride, and is further expected to provide the wedding feast, a second marriage is a costly affair. Divorces are frequent. With the great irritability of the people, a harsh word is often enough, and the pair go apart. But there is usually a more serious cause than this. Children are spoiled. They are allowed to do as they please, and even to resist their parents, without correction. For a parent to chastise a child insures the condemnation of his tribesmen. In sharp contrast to this extreme neglect of their children is the mutual support of one another by adults. A personal assault demands unconditional blood-vengeance; a scornful word or gesture will not be borne. It is especially dangerous to excite their jealousy in the slightest degree. For this reason intercourse with them is not easy. They are themselves carefully on their guard against hurting the feelings of another, and demand that others shall do the same with them. Blood vengeance is a sacred law with the Quianganes. If one plebeian is killed by another, the matter is settled in a simple manner by killing the murderer or some one of his family who is likewise a plebeian. But if a prominent man or noble is killed by a plebeian, vengeance on the murderer, a mere plebeian, is not enough; the victim of the sin-offering must be an equivalent in rank. Another nobleman must fall for the murdered noble, for their doctrine is, What kind of an equivalent is it to kill some one who is no better than a dog? Hence the family of the slain noble looks around to see if it can not find a relative of the murderer to wreak vengeance upon, who is also a noble; while the murderer himself is ignored. If no noble can be found among his relatives, the family of the murdered man wait patiently till some one of them is received into the noble's caste; then the vendetta is prosecuted, although many years may have elapsed.

When the blood-feud is satisfied a reconciliation of the contending factions takes place. In all the feuds the heads of the murdered champions are cut off and taken home, and the headhunters celebrate the affair festally. The skulls are fixed to the front of the house.

They believe that the souls of those who die a natural death go to a land called Kadungayan, or the northern region, where they dwell, all gathered in a wood in their special trees, which appear as trees in the daytime, but are changed at night into huts like those of the Quianganes; and that these souls have plantations of sweet potatoes and other food-plants, and live on the invisible substance (or souls) of the animals, rice, and other provisions which their friends left behind offer up for them. Those who have committed robbery and murder on earth without justification receive suitable punishment in Kadungayan. If a murderer dies a natural death, his soul is pierced in that shadow-land by a resident spirit.

The Quianganes believe that the souls of the departed sometimes return from Kadungayan to the members of their families. Bearing upon this is the following story: There once thus came a spirit with his wife to his people, who fed the pair with the finest rice-meal. When this became too expensive to the relatives, they seated the couple in a canoe and turned it toward the mountains of the Mayoyaos, where the spirits landed. The man sat down upon a stone under the shadow of a tree. A bird in the tree dropped some excrement on the head of the spirit, who did not move. There grew from this a great tree which gradually inclosed within itself the whole of the sitting Quiangane. This tree is called balisé (it is identical with the banyan); and the Quianganes still make their breech-cloths from its bark. The souls of men who die a violent or sudden death, and the souls of women who die in childbirth, go to the heaven of the gods. By this are meant the stars, particularly the sun.

The feasts of the dead are of two kinds, according as the deceased has died a natural or a violent death. In the former case the survivors spend all their means, and even go in debt, to procure a sufficient number of swine and buffaloes for the spirit, who will have to subsist in Kadungayan on the "substances" of the offered beasts. The unburied corpse remains, in a sitting position, underneath the house, for at least three days, while the exhibition is sometimes extended to fifteen days, and even more. The more wealthy and prominent the dead man had been, the longer the feasting and exhibition. But if the man has been killed or has fallen a victim to the head-hunter, only one pig is slaughtered, and it is eaten by the old men of the village. For they say, "Wherefore slaughter beasts, when the dwellers in the sky have no use for them?" Opposed to this is the precept that the substances of the animals which are consumed at the victory-feast of a returned head-hunter will come to the benefit of the souls of those whose heads he has cut off.

The Quianganes say that the souls of the dead do not go at once to their destination, but abide for some time near the house of death. They climb from rock to rock, and clamber from tree to tree, subsisting upon such stuff as they can gather up, and trying by night to get back into the house. They do this in order, if possible, to possess the person most closely connected with them, or his soul. Thus, for example, the deceased husband wants to take his wife, the wife her husband, the son his parents, etc., into the other world with him. They consequently believe that serious illness is caused by the efforts of a dead relative to entice the soul out of the body.

As soon as the doctor has come into the hut of the sick man a young hen is offered him, which he slaughters in honor of the venerable ruler of the death kingdom of Kadungayan. He examines the fowl's entrails and then pronounces his diagnosis, but not before he has made himself acquainted with the condition of the patient, saying something like this: "The soul of the patient, having looked upon his grandfather's (or his son's, etc.) soul, is at such a place. It is necessary, in order to bring him back, to slaughter so many swine and a buffalo," etc. At the same time he takes the guitar already spoken of and makes a terrible racket on it; then declares, "Behold the sick man's soul has taken leave of the soul of his dead grandfather" (or whatever relative it may be) "to return—it is already nearing the patient." If the patient has a turn for the worse, the medicine-man is called a second time, and declares that his soul has gone away again; that it is restrained by this or that spirit; that it seems to be already at home in the other life, or is about to unite with the spirit of the deceased relative. More pigs, more buffaloes, must be killed to move the soul to come back. Many well persons participate in the consumption of the sacrificed animals, and the sacrificing priest manages to convey the lion's share of the meat to his own house. The families of patients often become heavily indebted in consequence of these offerings.

The Quianganes believe in the reality of dreams, particularly if they relate to the life beyond. Thus a sick man told that he dreamed that his soul had gone up to the sky, where it had feasted itself and drunk to intoxication. The other souls, which lived in houses built in the Quiangane style, did the same. He also observed that Quianganes whose heads had been cut off in battle with the Mayoyaos had new heads, but very small ones. The pleasant belief prevails that the "substance" of the wine called bubud prepared by them is peculiarly enjoyed by the spirits and demons. The belief furnishes them with convenient excuses for indulgence. The occasions for the most profuse consumption of bubud are the beginning of field-work, when cattle according to the means of the farmer are also slaughtered, in cases of illness as described above, and on the return from a head-hunting expedition. On the last occasion the victor celebrates an imposing feast, at which many animals are slaughtered in honor, not of the victor, but of his victim, whose head, raised up on the point of a lance, is the center of the orgies. The "substance" of the viands consumed on the occasion and of the liquors is good for the soul of the beheaded man, and for that reason the head-hunter is put to the expense of the feast. For the same reason the vengeance-hunting relatives of the murdered man do not disturb the feast, although it would be easy for them to fall upon the stupefied participants and thus easily satisfy their vendetta. Other occasions are the beginning of the rice-harvest; the end of the harvest, when, all the crop having been gathered in, the principal festival occurs; on a special festival of general drunkenness; and as a protection against being struck by lightning—for lightning loves bubud beyond measure, and spares those who by their own intoxication consecrate much of the bubud substance to it.

The future is divined from the livers of animals. When they apprehend illness or danger from the lance of an enemy, before a journey, or when they hear a bird singing or see a rainbow while working in the field, they kill an animal, in order to ask its liver concerning the future. If the prognostication is unfavorable, another animal is killed, and another, and so on, till an animal is found with a lucky liver.

The Quianganes count on their fingers to ten, and repeat the operation as often as it is necessary. They also use a cord, in which they fix the number by knots. They count the years by harvests, the months by moons. They have no special names for the days of the week, and fix the time of day by the height of the sun.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from Das Ausland.

  1. From the missionary report of the Dominican Père Villaverde.