July 2007
Alien Nation

Headhunter country

THE story of the Bugkalot, the last of the Philippine headhunting tribes, is a chronicle of loss. Like many indigenous peoples in many parts of the world, they have been dispossessed of their land, their culture destroyed, and the forests from which they derive sustenance exploited by outsiders.

Overwhelmed by settlers from the Cordillera, the once-feared Bugkalot are now a minority in the Caraballo mountain range which they call their ancestral home. But since the 1970s, many of them have been reduced to being sharecroppers or farm workers of the more affluent Igorot settlers. Today, what little they have left is threatened to be devastated by a mining company.

In 2002, the PCIJ released a documentary and a book on indigenous Filipinos which featured the Bugkalot and Igorot of Nueva Vizcaya, the Tagbanua of Coron, Palawan, and the Manobo of Mount Apo. In the places the PCIJ crew visited, the spectacle was one of impoverished peoples ranged against forces much more powerful than them — mining in Nueva Vizcaya, mass tourism in Palawan, a geothermal plant on Mount Apo.

But beyond their economic and cultural dislocation, the PCIJ saw tribal communities engaged in a robust struggle to preserve their land and their way of life. Katutubo: Memory of Dances looks at them as victors rather than as victims, and gives voice to the hopes of indigenous peoples that they will “relive the memory of their dances not on a video screen or a museum but with the soles of their feet firmly touching the sacred ground that has been the homeland of their ancestors since time immemorial.”

Excerpted from Katutubo: Memory of Dances
Director: Antonio Jose Pérez
Scriptwriter/Supervising Producer: Luz Rimban
Producer: PCIJ

(If you want to order your copy of the Katutubo: Memory of Dances book and documentary, kindly email admin@pcij.org.)