THERE used to be tribal in-fighting among the Cordillerans in the northern part of the Luzon island. Bontocs fought against the Kalingas and Ifugaos due to territorial rights and historic conflicts and sometimes nobody even remembers the cause. Even the Ifugao sub-tribes fought against each other until after the Second World War when the United States Army helped in their pacification. The advantage of the Americans was their more superior weapons and their status as winners against the Spaniards in World War One and the Japanese in World War Two.
There were conflict resolution methods used among these tribal people that are still practiced by a few traditionalists today. The bodong system of the Bontocs and Kalingas is a good example. The hidit or hijit system among the Ifugaos is also still practiced up to the present.
Bodong and hijit are basically peace pacts between two conflicting parties. After the two antagonists agree with the terms mediated by elders, which is usually accompanied by a ritual, they both eat some prepared food and/or exchange and chew betel quid together, and the conflict is settled.
In the Ifugao tribe, the hijit ritual is performed after a person is murdered, death of an in-law, or after settling a dispute. The purpose of the ritual and hijit is to protect the living descendants from a particular ailment call nabvo’nan (enlargement of the stomach). It is believed that when the hijit is not performed, the ailment will occur when you eat food or chew betel quid that is offered by your enemy or a relative of your dead spouse. An enemy is called bvinuhur in Ifugao.
Like any healing ritual, there are taboos, called mapanito in Ifugao, to be observed during and after a hijit. The common taboo is the avoidance of eating vegetables or fish for a number of days. Also, profanity is to be avoided during rituals. The taboo on food is usually observed by the mumbaki (shaman) and the host family.
The other form of peacemaking among the Ifugao tribe that is not practiced anymore but is worth sharing is the bvayo system. In this case, two warring villages who already desire to become friends will set a date wherein one village prepares rice wine and food and invites the other villagers to partake and vice versa. Again, sharing betel quid is part of the friendship process. There are terms that are verbally agreed upon between the two villages.
The village’s host is called pochon. Once they are bvayo or friends, for example, any member from one village is protected when he/she visits the other village. Also, if there is a member from one village who happens to die while visiting the other village, the host village will help the bereaved family by contributing goods or offering their services for free. In addition, once the two villages become friends, they share their natural resources like trees from their communal forest for making houses.
I asked Apu Nihhar, my oldest Ifugao teacher if we still need our traditional peacemaking process today in addition to our court system. He said, “the question you should ask is what works fairly?” I said there are many conflicts settled in court. He said, “Yes, and those without money lose.”