The fearsome arsenals used by ancient Filipino tribes for hunting and fighting are deceptively simple and ingeniously deadly. Weapons that pierce, poison and kill wild animals and humans in just a matter of minutes are also used in warfare and in the list of Filipino martial arts that are no longer practised today.
In this section, we will at deadly ancient Filipino arts that are very rarely practiced today but still known for their reputation as among the deadliest Filipino arts in history.
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List of Filipino Martial Arts that Are Rarely Practiced Today
1. Deadly Poisons
Concocting poisons as deadly weapons – now, unfortunately, a very rare art – was widely practiced in pre-colonial Philippines. The success of this deadly art among pre-colonial Filipinos is not unusual considering that the country – with its 7,107 islands – is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.
The ancient Filipinos can come up with strong poisons with equivalent antidotes out of animal, plant or insect extracts in Filipino martial arts history.
Among those who study and specialize in these stealthy skills are herbalists and so-called witches. Early chronicles by Spaniards state that the practice of these skills was tolerated as long as they don’t inflict any kind of danger, which certainly is hard to determine.
2. Deadly Darts and Arrows
In the olden days, the Filipinos commonly utilized poisons to boost the potency of their darts and arrows that they shoot using their blowguns.
In Fedor Jagor’s The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes (along with Chas. Wilkes, Tomas de Comyn, and Rudolf Virchow – the 1875 English translation from the original German edition), it is detailed that the Igorots (ancient Filipino tribes) use the meticulous method of poisoning darts and arrows.
In fact, I myself even saw how they prepared it. I did not happen to see the leaves or the blossoms but only the tree’s bark. The bark was beaten, pressed dry, damped, and pressed once more. This was carried out with the person’s bare hand, which did not even sustain injury. Thus the juice extracted appeared like pea-soup, and was heated in a clay container over slow fire. The process coagulated at the edges. This mass was dissolved again by stirring it into the boiling watery mass. When this had attained the consistency or viscosity or a cough syrup, a tiny amount was taken from the inner surface of the second bark, and its juice was squeezed into the container. The juice had a dark brown hue. When the mass had reached the consistency of jelly, it was then scraped out of the pot using a chip and was preserved on a leaf that was sprinkled with ashes. For poisoning an arrow, they utilize a piece as small as a hazelnut, which, after warming, is spread uniformly over a broad iron pot. This poison serves for many repeated use.
Davao’s Mandaya tribesmen employed a more or less similar technique but they utilized milk extracted from a particular tree trunk instead of using the same bark as a main ingredient for the poison. This technique was well documented in Fay-Cooper Cole’s “The Wild Tribes of Davao District, Mindanao,” published in 1913. According to the narrative of the author;
The poison is, according to the writer’s informant, prepared as follows: A long bamboo is cut and carried to a tree called camandag.The bamboo should be sufficiently long to reach the limit of the tree’s shadow to the trunk of the same tree, because the tree is extremely poisonous that it can sting you, even when you're just standing next to it. The bamboo has a sharp edge, which is spiked into the tree and milk that comes out of the cut. After many days, the bamboo is taken out and the contents are emptied into another bamboo, serving for a quiver or sheath for the arrows, which are being placed in it downwards. The slightest scratch will result to death.
A strange thing about the tree (where the poison is taken) is that the individual extracting should not only stay away from the tree but must only approach it from the windward because the effects of breathing the odour are dangerous and unpleasant.
3. Tools for Assassination
The awareness of the pre-colonial Filipinos in creating poisons was so intense that they can come up with solutions that can slay a person when touched as well as whose activation time can be predetermined. Certainly, this variety of poison is ideal for assassination. These tools for assassination are quite deadly as depicted by Filipino martial arts in movies.
“History of the Philippine Islands” Volume 2 by Dr. Antonio Morga has a long and remarkable entry on this matter, it states;
The natives of these islands quite commonly use as venoms and poisons the herbs of that class found throughout the islands. These people are so effective and dangerous that they come up with wonderful effects. A lizard that is commonly found in the homes, somewhat dark-green in hue, one palm long, and three fingers thick, is called chacon. The extractor puts this in a bamboo joint, and covers it up. This animal’s slaver during its imprisonment is then collected. It is a very strong poison – when introduced as previously stated, in the drink or food, in minute quantities.
There are different herbs known and collected by the natives for similar use. A few of them are used dry, while others green, and some are also to be mixed with food, and others even breathed in. Some can kill by just touching them with the feet or fingers, or even by sleeping on them.
These natives are so skilled in creating compounds from these materials, that they combine and use them in such a way that they come into effect immediately, or at a specific time– short or long, whenever they want – even after a year.
A lot of people usually pass away wretchedly by this manner – particularly Spaniards, who lacked foresight, and who were hated and tactless due to their ill-treatment inflicted upon the natives with whom they encounter, either in their tributes or in other ways wherein they use them, without any remedy or antidote for it.
Certainly, there are poisonous herbs or plants, with which they collect them, carry, and act as antidotes. In Bohol, there’s one herb or plant of similar nature where the natives approach it from windward side whenever they cut from its shrub; because the very air itself that blows through the herb is poisonous.
Although nature didn’t leave this danger with no remedy, for roots and other herbs are found in this island, of great efficacy that they correct or destroy the poison and injury of the others, and are utilized when required.
For that reason, when one is aware what poison has been given to him, it isn’t hard to cure it, by providing the antidote herb that reverses such poison. It has sometimes occurred that pressure has been placed upon the individual suspected of having done the evil deed to bring back the antidote, by which it’s been treated.
Moreover, there are other all-purpose antidotes, both for protection against poison as well as for mitigating the poison’s effects that have been administered. However, the most obvious and effective antidotes are certain species of insects or small flies, of a purple hue, found in certain bushes in Pintados islands.
These are enclosed in a clean bamboo and concealed. In there, they mate and multiply. The creator puts round rice with them, and there, they exist thereon. They are checked and visited weekly while the old rice is removed and new ones are placed in. They’re kept alive in that way.
The creator takes six of these in a spoonful of water or wine (as they do not emit a bad odour, and they taste like cress) they create a pleasing effect. Even when folks go to dinners or banquets where there’s suspicion, they already take with them these solutions to guarantee and protect themselves from any danger of venom and poison.
4. Breath of Death
But the highest likely expression of this ancient art is the method that can only be labelled as “breath of death.” In a Spanish document entitled “General History of the Philipinas” authored by Fray Juan de La Concepcion (also included in Morga’s work), it was portrayed that the Filipino natives were generally very savage, and depicted even more cruel customs and more stupidity than the populations of the other islands.
They know about herbs. Especially in Paragua, there are several extremely poisonous ones. They utilize them to bewitch fellow tribesmen and even kill them. There’s one of uncommon deathliness, that if it was chewed, and if the outbreaths from it was directed gently toward any individual whom it’s meant to kill, his or her life will be taken away fast. I heard that some who’ve had intercourse with the Dapit’s Negroes, understand it more and use it very easily.
One way to conquer those deadly effects is to bring along the effective remedy with herbs or roots in it. The evil breath drops all its power, and the herb or root is a guaranteed antidote for its fatality.
Moreover, another chronicle by a Spanish priest confirmed that this deadly skill existed among ancient Filipinos even further. Fray Luis de Jesus’ “General History of the Discalced Religious of St. Augustine” reads that;
In confirmation of this assertion, it happened, according to the recital of one of our ministers that while he was preaching to a great assembly one Indian went to another, and breathed against him with the intent of killing him. The breath did not reach the Indian’s face, but an instrument he was bringing along – the cords of which fast leapt out wildly – while the man was left uninjured.
The philosophy of this is that the killer took in the mouth the poisonous herb which the devil gave him, and brought along another antidote for his own protection and defence. Then, breathing out in this way, he deprived someone of life whenever he wanted.
They made use of arrows with poison, which they got from the fangs of poisonous snakes. They wounded and murdered, by shooting these arrows through their blowpipe, hidden between their fingers with great concealment and blowing these so that they tapped the flesh of their enemy.
Through their baylans (shamans), they practised meeting with the devil to establish natural causes, particularly in their illnesses and diseases.
Consequently, they were very great herbalists, knowing above all the preservatives from the poisons with which they attacked one another on slight occasions—especially the women, who are the more passionate and more easily aroused by these kali martial arts techniques.
We hope you enjoyed this post. You may also be interested in these distinctly Filipino dishes that would satisfy your taste buds – Distinctly Filipino Dishes.