An Ethnography of Ibanag Warfare and Weaponry Based on Spanish Colonial Records



Ibanag, warfare, weaponry, pre-colonial, culture


The Ibanag of Cagayan Valley in Luzon are among the many lowland-dwelling ethnic groups in the Philippines who were heavily acculturated during the Spanish period, adopting foreign customs, religion, and material culture. As such, many native Ibanag practices and technology went extinct and became forgotten in the modern era such as weaving, goldworking, headhunting, and the forging of weaponry. However, through the pioneering effort of historian William H. Scott, as seen in his work, Barangay, a general glimpse of Ibanag pre-colonial culture and society is now accessible. However, this ethnography on the Ibanag is largely expandable, serving as a foundation for the continued reintroduction and visualization of specific aspects of lost Ibanag culture, such as the conduct of warfare.
It is then the goal of this paper to broaden what Scott had depicted, particularly about Ibanag warfare and weaponry in a separate ethnography, to provide an extensive portrayal of related native practices, concepts, materials, and worldviews inherent among the Ibanag that became obsolete due to adoption of Western culture and religion.
The study involved perusing references used by Scott such as Jose Bugarin’s Diccionario Ybanag-Español, Diego Aduarte’s Historia de la Provincia del Sancto Rosario de la Orden de Predicadores, and the Boxer Codex. Information from these primary sources were melded and triangulated with various supplemental texts, along with comparisons to similar documented customs, extant material culture, and terminologies present in proximate ethno-linguistic groups. This, along with analyses and proposals on martial concepts were necessary in the composition of the ethnographic narrative.
The paper was limited to employing key references that are only available to the researchers, all of which are Spanish colonial period texts. As such, the study itself, like Scott’s ethnography on the pre-colonial Ibanag, is expandable until other potentially significant sources can be accessed.
Keywords: Ibanag, warfare, weaponry, pre-colonial, culture

Author Biographies

Jan Karl C. Coballes, University of the Philippines Diliman

Jan Karl Calubaquib Coballes, an Ibanag from Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP), and is currently finishing his master’s degree in Anthropology in the same institution. He was able to present and publish papers on the archaic features of the Ibanag language, as well as an assessment of the language’s use in the MTB-MLE program in 2015, the latter of which was published by the Ibanag Heritage Foundation, Inc. As a practitioner of Filipino Martial Arts, he has been training since 2012 under UP Anthropology professor Felipe P. Jocano, Jr., Punong-Guro of the Tellu Bituun Bagani arnis system, and is currently a guro candidate.

He is also an alumnus of the ethnic-fusion dance and music troupe, Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino, based in UP. As a musician who plays indigenous instruments, he represented the Philippines in a presentation featuring traditional ASEAN music and unity during the 2021 Chingay Festival in Singapore. In his spare time, he contributes various research articles on Ibanag culture and history, as well as Ibanag poetry for the Ibanag Facebook page, while also encoding colonial period Ibanag texts into digital format using modern orthography.

Harold S. dela Cruz, Cagayan State University

Harold Sibayan dela Cruz is an Indigenous People’s Education researcher and a licensed professional teacher from Amulung, Cagayan. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Education at the Cagayan State University. He worked as an educator and a consultant at the Municipal Cultural Office of Benito Soliven and Echague towns in Isabela, where he provided key research for the reconstruction of traditional Yogad textiles in the latter. He was also able to publish papers and conduct webinars that revolve around various topics including Kalinga and Yogad practices, Cagayan ethno-history, and Ibanag and Itawit textile research.

Apart from his academic endeavors, he is a bearer of intangible indigenous culture among the Itawit and Ilokano of Amulung. He is one of the very few young performers of traditional Ibanag chants like the vinunga, salomon, and pasion among others. Moreover, he is well-versed in the conduct of local Itawit healing rituals such as the tolu, atang-atang, and ananud in his community.




How to Cite

Coballes, J. K., and H. dela Cruz. “An Ethnography of Ibanag Warfare and Weaponry Based on Spanish Colonial Records”. TALA: An Online Journal of History, vol. 4, no. 1, June 2021,