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Old 30th January 2005, 12:59 AM   #28
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Default Taiwan - Northern Philippines ...

... suggested by Jim. Definitely worth careful consideration since both areas were home to head hunting groups that were active well into the 20th C. The US presence in the Philippines during the first half of the 20th C. did much to reduce the practice there, and the Japanese had a similar influence in Taiwan.

We actually have quite a wealth of information already on the old Forum that can help with discussion of this region. On a relationship between the Taiwanese aboriginal groups and the various tribal groups in northern Luzon, our colleague "Cy" had these comments in an earlier thread (found here

“FYI Taiwan formerly Formosa Island the indigenous inhabitants were made up of several Austronesian tribes commonly called the Paiwan. Of these tribes, 9 are currently recognized. It is speculated by a number of Anthropologists that the Paiwan were the forefathers/ancestors of all of the races of Austronesian people, i.e., the hill tribes of Northern Luzon, the Dayaks of Borneo, and other peoples across the Indonesian Archipelago.

The weapons are not just a factor but similarities in customs, you see the Paiwan and other tribes of Taiwan/Formosa were headhunters. Some even used the tattoo in a similar manner as the Kalinga and Bontoc of Luzon, as well as the Dayaks of Borneo.

I can go on and state various other similarities, etc., but I do not want to be accused of going off on a subject. The tribes of Taiwan: Atayal, Paiwan, Saisiat, Ami, Rukai, Tsou, Yami - of Orchid Island: Puyuma, Bunun.”

The knives and swords of the Taiwanese aboriginal groups were also discussed and illustrated in several topics on the old Forum, of which these had the most material:

Some time ago, I wrote quite a lengthy piece on the various edged weapons of the main Taiwanese native populations (, with illustrations and text taken from an excellent reference: Material Culture of the Formosan Aborigines by Dr. Chen Chi-Lu, Taiwan Museum:Taipei, 1968. This reference also provides details of the dress, textiles, tools, and much of the other materials of daily living used by the various tribal groups of Taiwan.

In the lexicon of knives and swords presented by Dr. Chen, there is nothing that resembles the heavy-bellied chopper that appears at the head of this topic. Nor is there a resemblance to the scabbard above.

I have just read through Dr. Chen's discussion of the dress of men of these various tribes, and they did use a breechclout quite commonly (which is the attire of the gentleman in the picture above). However, the predominant material was black cloth, and many men wore a short "skirt" over the breechclout, neither of which matches the picture above. The Atayal tribe was particularly fond of making belts and beads of threaded shells, and I think the man in the photograph has a narrow belt of threaded somethings, perhaps small shells but could be bone or teeth. Shell belts are not unique and may be found elsewhere in SE Asia, so this may not be a very helpful observation.

I have looked also at the line drawings of the various tribal peoples in Dr. Chen's book, and they really do not look much like the man in the picture above. I have not searched the web for pictures of the various groups, but someone might like to do that to judge the similarity or otherwise of facial features.

Bottom line, however, is that there is no record I can find of a fat-bellied bolo being used by any of the Taiwanese aboriginal groups, while the knives and swords that are documented are very different in style and construction.

Tribal groups of northern Luzon are numerous and diverse. With the exception of the Ilocanos, who are quite tall, the majority of "Igorotes" are small and dark skinned. The shortest are probably the Aete, who can be found on the Bataan Peninsula. There are many pictures and old post cards of the various hill tribes of northern Luzon. They are much darker skinned than the man in the photo above and have different facial features altogether. Many of the men wear breechclouts, but dissimilar to the one worn by the man above.

Of the various northern Luzon groups, the Aete do have a short, fat bellied bolo but nowhere near as massive as the one carried by the man in the photo or illustrated in the two examples above.

Other hill tribes, of which there are many (Ifugao, Bontoc, Kalinga, etc.), use heavy knives, some of which have quite a wide belly. Elsewhere on this site there is discussion of the hinalung and pinahig (, and it is the hinalung that sometimes has a fat belly. However, even in its fat-belly form, the spine of the blade is flat and never upcurving (as in the pictures above). Moreover, the style of rattan bindings is quite different, and many of the Igorot scabbards are open faced.

Another tribal group of northern Luzon is the Ilongot, very notable head hunters into the second half of the 20th C. There is an excellent book about this relatively small tribal group and its head hunting practices: Ilongot Headhunting 1883-1974: A study in society and history, by Renato Rosaldo, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1980. The traditional knife of the Ilongot is distinctive and separate from those of the Igorotes, but is not of the heavy fat-belly form that we seek and the scabbard is totally different, being closed and adorned with thin wires on which there are tiny colored beads strung and small pieces of mother of pearl at the end. [I have several of these knives and will post pictures when I can again upload from my digital camera. ]

Once again, there are virtually no data to support an association between the tribes of northern Luzon and the bolo that is the subject of this discussion. The man in the photo shows few, if any, physical features to suggest he might come from this region. There is an old article by Dean Worcester entitled Headhunters of Northern Luzon in the September, 1912 National Geographic that has many pictures of the tribal groups that live in the mountainous areas of this region. Another article by the same author, The Non-Christian People of the Philippine Islands, provides further photographs of many other Filipino tribal groups. While the text is dated and somewhat "paternalistic," the photographs are a good historical record of the times, and are helpful to the present discussion.

A lot of the thoughts on this thread have been by analogy rather than based on data. Our friend, Ruel, would urge us to be more critical in our thinking on this subject. I don't wish to stifle people's comments, but what we need now is reliable information in the form of historical records or direct observation. Saying what we have not seen, or what other people have not found, only takes us so far.

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