Philippine Tribes: Apayao
They are considered as one of the most lighthearted among the indigenous tribes in the Philippines. The Apayaos are a river people. Their tribe’s name was derived from the warm waters of the Apayao River. They live in the Northwestern end of the island of Luzon from Abulog up to the Apayao River.
Their mountainous territory is rich in flora and fauna – typical of the rainforests in Asia.These virile people are said to have come to this region in two waves, a few thousand years ago; the Indonesians by way of Southeastern Asia, and the Mongolians by way of Central Asia. These two waves found a home in the northern end of the Cordillera Central Mountains.
Their cultures fused into a new one. Physically, the Indonesian strain dominated, males stand an average height of five feet and four inches, while the average height for females is five feet.The Apayaos are kind, hospitable and generous. They are highly aesthetic in temperament, self-reliant, and honest. If by some ill fate you drop something, even money, a member of the tribe will return it to you.
They believe that if a man steals, his wife will leave him; or, if they acquire money unfairly and buy rice with it, the rice will not give them strength.
They like a practical jokes. In fact, even accidents are taken as a laughing matter and the one who has been injured is the one who laughs the hardest!The Apayaos are courageous and freedom loving.
The Spaniards never conquered them, even the Americans had a difficult time establishing their government.The Common Law enjoins that man must not steal, tell false stories about others, court the wife of others, nor make trouble at a feast.
It further enjoins that man must respect the rights of individuals, give food to visitors, and parents shall teach the children the old legends and customs, as well as correct them that they could grow up properly. The Apayaos have a very complete system of social etiquette.They have no words meaning "thank you" in their dialect.
When one goes on journey, there is no word meaning "goodbye". One just walks away. When he returns, even after a long absence, there are no words of greeting, of welcome. The Apayaos are very modest about their persons. A woman must not allow her legs to spread when squatting to a sitting position, nor allow her tapis to go above her knees.
Even when there are no women around, while the men are bathing and swimming together, they keep their private parts covered with one hand while they are out of the water.They have a very simple government. In each family the man rules supreme and orders his woman what to do.
A group of 15 to 30 families is headed by one leader. They build their houses close to each other.
Community spirit in a barangay is strong. They have common interests and often work together in exchange of labor. When one builds a home, all the neighbors come to help.Each barangay is surrounded by a bamboo picket fence.
The bamboos are filled with little stones so that they cannot be easily cut. A peace pact called “budong” is often made with other tribes. Peace pact holders are appointed and held personally responsible to make sure that it is not broken.
Each barangay is held accountable for the acts of any of its members.During the first part of the Japanese occupation, Apayao was a place of refuge for fleeing Americans, and after the fall of Corregidor, Cabugao was made the headquarters of the USAFFE of Northern Luzon.
The Japanese were not able to establish themselves in these mountains until March, 1943, but the tribesmen hardly cooperated, so they left on August, 1944. When the Americans returned, almost every Apayao volunteered to help in defeating the Japanese.
The Apayaos depend a lot on the rivers and streams, even if they live on sides of a mountain for safety. Many of their communities are named after the names of the streams nearest to them. The rivers are their source of food and water to drink.The men are excellent in constructing boats and other wooden crafts.