Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 14:50:25 +0800
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From: Dr. Abe Padilla <>
Subject: The Bogkalut
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The Bogkalut

By Sabino G. Padilla, Jr. Ph.D., AnthroWatch, 11 September 1996

The government is deadset to build the Casecnan project that will affect the Bogkalut people of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Aurora and Nueva Ecija provinces according to an article by Dan Agoncillo (MChronicle 25 Aug 1996). This dam or just a water impoundment is a scaled down NIA version of a project of NAPOCOR. The three Cagayan Valley bishops: Msgr. Purugganan, Msgr. Villena and Talamayan are the leading oppositionist with support from NGOs and people's organization. However, it seems that the local government officials have given the project a go-signal to proceed with the construction.

Who are the Bogkalut people? The short article below perhaps can help. Observations are from my December 1994 field visit. At siyempre, if others wants to read further, Renato Rosaldo is the authority on Ilongot.

Early reports on the population of the area have refered to the people as Italon, Abaca, Ibilao and Ilongot. The term Bugkalot, although not mentioned in any early ethnographic reports is the self-designation of the people.

The homeland of the Bugkalot people is the headwaters of the Cagayan river, the vast area of eastern Sierra Madre shared by the borders of Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya and Aurora. The territory's southern limit is the Caraballo range that separates it from Nueva Ecija. In the historic past the Bugkalot territory have been penetrated by the spanish missionaries through Pantabangan in their effort to build a road system from Nueva Ecija to the Cagayan Valley.

In the 17th century Fray Casimiro Diaz, O.S.A., was one of the first who made reference to the Ilongot. He wrote that the Agustinians beyond their sixteen convents and doctrinas in the province of Pampanga, have a large missions in the hill country of warlike peoples who are being converted to our holy faith, called Italones, Abacaes, and Calonasas, and Ituries, and various others, who have been induced to settle in several villages. (BR 37:141) Diaz also briefly mentioned that the Igolots were different from the Abacaes and Italones. (BR 37:244)

Diaz again reported that in 1706, Fray Antolin de Alzaga one of the Agustinian apostolic missionary in the remote mountains of the province of Pampanga converted and instructed the warlike peoples of Italones, Ituries, and Abacas.(BR 42:254)

Antonio Mozo (BR 48:60-68;70-73) based on the Agustinian missions reports provided a detailed description of the Ilongot during the early contact period with the missions. He wrote that the Agustinians encountered two contiguous tribes: the Italons, a people fierce, brave, and bold; and the Abacas, who are somewhat less so. The Italon lengthily citing the report of Fray Alzaga:

...consists of fifty-six villages..., which lie on the shores of two deep rivers, toward the north. They have a general language which is entirely separate from those of the Tagalos and Pampanga; they have well kept villages, with high houses. They take great care of their fields, and keep their grain in tambobos, or granaries, thus anticipating times of sterility and sickness. The fishing also the hunting, is abundant and good; the climate is temperate; and there are many open plains, beutiful to see. The people are kindly, but very warlike and of courageous dispositions; they are quite ingenious, and are hospitable.

The Abaca tribe Alzaga added, consisted of ten villages and divided into two jurisdictions. The first of these is toward the north with six villages and extending to the boundaries of the Igorot. The second jurisdiction is the four villages of Caranglan. Alzaga reported that the Abaca has wars with the Italons in regard to certain murders and that they are alsmost of the same type as the Italons; but some of them have several wives, and this is not so liberal a people as the former one. the Abaca village contain over a hundred persons; and they speak a different language.

Mozo (BR 48:70-73) also dealt briefly on the headhunting practices of the Ilongot and lauded (BR 48:128-130) the success of the missions in converting and baptizing many infidels and reclaiming apostates who were hiding in the mountains.

In 1882, Blumentritt (1980:86-90) based on territory, physical built and cultural practices separately distinguished Abacas, Italonons, Ibilaos and Ilongots. However he pointed one similarity among the four, all of them were headhunters. A similar categorization also appeared in his Philippine Tribes and Languages (1916:141,150,151,152).

The Census of the Philippines, 1903 (459,471,472) states that the term Ibilao or Ibilaw was the term designated by the Isinay for the Ilongot while Italones or people of the mountains was the term used by the Gaddang speakers.

Worcester (1906:812) identified Ibilao, Italon and Ilongot however in 1913 (1207-1209) he gave Ibilao as the synonym for Ilongot and wrote that these headhunters were forest dwellers and many are semi-nomadic. They number not more than 6,000 people and have a mixture of negrito blood.

Beyer (1918:920-921) categorized the Ilongot in terms of racial origin. He postulated that western Ilongot were Indonesians of Type A while the central and eastern Ilongot were Type B.

Settlement Pattern

The Bogaklut lies between 16o N to 16o 15' N latitude and 121o 15' E to 121o 40' E latitude. It occupies around 325 squaremiles of rolling hills and drained by the Kasignan river. The region is shared by around 13 named, localized group called bertan, each made up of several settlements composed of 4-9 households with a mean population of 180 or a range of 64-307 individuals. Residential houses (kamari) are built near the rivers which is their main source of water. There are also field houses (qabun) maintaine near their swidden fields.

Bogkalut communities are widely dispersed and far from the nearest lowland settlements, usually 2-3 days hike. these have been due partly to their warfare and headhunting practices. Symbiotic relationship with lowland settlements and outsiders are confine to trading transaction. In the recent past conflicts between the Bogkalut people and the lowlanders have occured.

Subsistence Strategies

The Bogkalut people have been in these region for centuries subsisting mainly from their rice based swidden fields and hunting. The degradation of the environment has not been extensive compared with other areas in the Cagayan Valley but remain critical. This can be seen on the quality of water of Taang, Abaca, Kasignan and Denip rivers. Pressure on the environent by the current Bogkalut population will remain minor due to its relatively small size which range between 100-200 individuals per community. Economic activities of the Bogkalut are closely adapted to their natural resources. They reveal an extensive knowledge based on long obervation and practice. Market exchange has been confined to honey and rattan gathering and has not penetrated other economic activities

Traditionally, the Bogkalut concept of land utilization is usufructu or land belongs to those who clear it. Shifting dry rice cultivation (swidden farming) is the main economic undertaking. This is augmented by hunting, fishing and gardening.

Shifting cultivation continue to dominate the Bogkalut economic life, although irrigated agriculture is slowly being adopted as we observed in Pelaway, Bongabon, and Lapugan. This new phenomenon is a result of the nearby Igorot settlers influence.

Rice growing season in the Bogkalut region is normally between November and February. Field selection starts from December to January. the horticultural task of cutting and clearing of debris in the first year swiddens are exclusively the task of males while the women plant and maintain fields. Labor is primarily organized in the household level although occasionally work teams are organized particularly to cut off the branches and leaves of larger trees.

Tobacco is planted in January and harvested by women in April. Gardens are planted in May and June with vegetables, sugarcane, bananas and corn. These supplants sustenance during the lean months before the harvest.

Hunting in the forest has been declining in recent years due to logging activities in the past. The protein source of the people will primarilly come from the rivers, a few domestic animals such as chicken or pigs, and vegetables.

The critical condition of the environment in the Bogkalut region hae resulted in the depletion of animal resources fromt he forest. Extensive logging in the area with the use of chainsaw have been pointed by the people as the culprit. Noise from these machines have scared the animals and hae retreated far into the forest. Wild pig (Sus celebensis), deer (Cervus rusa) are occasionally hunted but now the harvest is nil. Hunting expeditions by the Bogkalut can be collective or individual and with or without dogs. The dry months of late February to May is the season for hunting. Meat from communal hunts are for immediate consumption and shared equally among all the members of the hunting party. Individual hunts are personal property and may be shared with guests and neighbors.

Fishing is another source of Bogkalut protein. Nets and the use of fish traps are their common methods of gathering fish in their rivers and streams. Small streams are also dammed and the water course is diverted, an endeavor that needs collective labor. At tpresent the most common form of fishing is the use of antipara (goggles) and spear guns. During night fishing, gas lamp or flashlights are used to attract the fish.

With the current government project to divert the flow of Kasignan and Taang rivers by constructing a tunnel to augment the water level of Pantabangan dam, the people firmly believe that their traditional activities will be curtailed by the project. The people of Pelaway are very much concerned for these are their main sources of water and protein They cannot imagine how can this be possible in one's own land. As one elder declared in our group discussion, Maari ba kaming Bogkalut ang pumunta sa Maynila at gumawa ng proyekto tapos ay pagbawalan kayong tagaroon na maghanapbuhay?

Political Structure

Warfare and headhunting have been the form of resolving conflicts between Bogkalut villages. Peace pacts are also observed to end hostilities. Traditionally there are no full time leaders in the Bogkalut society. The elders occupy a higher social status but he village orators (purun) who are males are important because they can manipulate the outcome of village meetings and consensus. The purun also act as the mediators in peace pacts and discusions in inter-villages deliberations.