KASAMA Vol. 10 No. 3 / July-August-September 1996 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

16th Century Filipinos Also Wore Long Hair

By Frank Cimatu
Northern Dispatch

Baguio City (NORDIS) - The difference between the hair of a pre-Spanish Filipino and a lead singer of a Pinoy thrash rock band is a rubber band. Not because our ancestors lacked scissors or whatever to cut it. The Filipinos in the 1500s gathered it all up with a headcloth. The Bontoks in northern Cordillera still cut their hair by resting it on a block of wood and chopping it with their headaxe. Thus, the distinctive coconut husk (lampaso) cut. They also guillotined their enemies heads that way.

The Filipinos then, especially the Visayans, loved to display their long hair. "Anong paki mo sa long hair ko (What business do you have with my long hair)," a young rock band would sing now, but way back then to have cropped your hair meant you were promdi (from the province) or a Tagalog. "Inalotan ka! (you close-cropped *$#@)," was a curse then.

Even as they wore long hair, sixteenth-century Filipinos did not have beards. They used tweezers or a pair of clam shells to trim these.

The late historian William Henry Scott, or Scotty, said the Spaniards were to blame for the short hair. "Only where Spanish influence was greatest did Filipinos cut their hair short, a change Father Alcina considered a part of "taming their ancient ferocity with the gentleness of the Gospel," Scotty wrote in his last book, Barangay.

The late President Ferdinand Marcos like the Spanish frailes also ordered all Filipino men at the onset of the Martial Law in the early 1970s to cut their shoulder-length hair as part of the "taming of their revolutionary spirit with the gentleness of the New Society or Halo Shampoo or something."

The late Zamboanga Mayor Cesar Climaco wore his hair long in open defiance over Martial Law. When he was finally gunned down, his white hair reached his waist.

Maybe that's why Scotty, an anti-Marcos activist who was also jailed during Martial Law, never cut his own hair until he died in 1994 in Manila. The mortician there shaved his beard and gave him a military haircut. Scotty's adopted sons and daughters in his adopted town of Sagada were horrified. He looked just like he did in the 1950s when he first arrived in Sagada as an Episcopalian lay minister.

No one should forget Macario Sakay, the anti-American revolutionary, who together with his forces decided not to cut their hair to announce their revolutionary fervor. But then when director Raymond Red decided to film Sakay, he had no choice but to cast artists mostly from Baguio for the said roles. Few aktibistas with the exception of singer Jess Santiago and poet Fidel Rillo wear their hair long nowadays.

Way way back, to cut your hair was a sign of punishment or deep mourning. The Ifugao son whose father was murdered would not cut his hair until he himself had sought vengeance.

The women also wore their hair long and, according to Scotty, if a man touched a woman's hair without her permission, it was a terrible transgression. But for women to pull each other's hair was so common they already had a Visayan term for it: sampolong.

Visayan men were vain with their hair, coming out with combinations of flowers, ambergris, civet, musk, sesame seed and coconut oil to groom it.

The epics then attest to this. "Datung Sumanga, the hero of a lost Visayan epic, only manages to overcome stubborn Princess Bubung Humasanun of Bohol by threatening to come and personally tear off her panta. In the Manuvu cycle of the Cotabato-Davao border region, Tuwaang combs her warrior husband's long hair before he sets out on his adventures, braiding it into several kinds of knots. In the Subanon epics, a hero's locks are oiled by his sister and wound into tight coils which should not come undone except in the hands of his sweetheart, and Chief Sindayo of Tubig Lisayan goes forth to battle, armed with two victory charms plaited into his hair - one for the enemy and the other for ladies," Scotty wrote.

The Ilocano epic playboy, Lam-ang decided to wash his hair with burnt rice stalks in the Amburayan River polluting it so much the fish decided to take a hike. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources should take note of this in their report.