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The Center for Southeast Asian Studies > Projects > Ub-ufok Ad Fiallig Overview > Teaching Modules > Module 3. Amfusnun: Headhunting and Honor

Module 3. Amfusnun: Headhunting and Honor


Amfusnun, Barlig’s hero-ancestor and forefather of many of today’s Ifiallig people, fell in love with a woman he was supposed to kill during headhunting. Instead of capturing her head, he asked for her hand in marriage. This is a tale of valor and deception derived from the narrative of village elder, Arfonso Nacleo, as passed on to him by Churay.

Tagalog Version | English Version

LESSON 1: Headhunting and the concept of Honor

Keywords: headhunting, honor, marriage, love, shame


Headhunting is an ancient ritual formerly practiced by various tribes in the mountains of Cordillera, Sierra Madre and Caraballo in the Ilocandia as well as the Cagayan Valley. The purpose of this activity varies among these communities.

In the words of Nid Anima, author of The Headhunting: Tribes of the Philippines, among the defined motivations of headhunting are:

  1. To seek vengeance over a fallen kin
  2. To right a wrong
  3. To carry out a tribe’s mandate
  4. For courtship and marriage
  5. To atone a wrongdoing
  6. To honor a beloved departed soul
  7. As a measure of bravery
  8. To qualify for succession to chieftainship
  9. To instill fear and terror
  10. As therapy for an ailing headman


  1. Students read or watch Amfusnun.
  2. Students discuss the story.

Guiding Questions

  1. What do you think of headhunting?
  2. Are there practices in your culture that is similar to head hunting?
  3. Why did the men plot to take the head of Inwayas at the spring?
  4. Do you think Amfusnun and Inwayas come from rival villages?
  5. Why do you think Inwayas’ brother harbor a deep resentment towards Amfusnun?
  6. What would you have done if you were Amfusnun?

Reflection: What does honor mean to me?

  1. Honor means “The quality of knowing and doing what is morally right” ( retrieved on May 7, 2018). Students discuss the term “honor.” What does it mean to them?
  2. Have the students read thefollowing excerpt from the story: 
    • Amfusnun’s brother-in-law was badly hurt, but in weak gasps he was able to say, “Please, carry me home. Let me explain to the village that this was all my doing. Hurry while I still draw breath.” So Amfusnun carried his brother-in-law back to their village. Struggling for every breath, he was able to communicate to his people, “Punish Amfusnun not, for this whole incident is my fault. I plotted on killing him and he had no choice but to defend himself. Please forgive me.”
  3. Question: Inwayas’ brother did the unexpected thing by insisting on telling the truth about what happened at Amfusnun’s farm. Would you have done the same thing? Why do you think he did that? How does Inwayas’ behavior speak about the Ifiallig idea of honor? How about Amfusnun’s decision to leave his village?

Critical Thinking: Linking the past to the present

Have students read, reflect and discuss the following paragraph:

The penetration of external religions jeopardized traditional Ifiallig belief systems. With the introduction of the Bible and the missionaries’ interpretation of the Word, an altered morality code was instituted within the community. Many of the traditional practices and beliefs of the Ifiallig were branded as evil. For example, headhunting, a prevalent practice among warrior societies in the old days, was damned as a sin against the laws of God and men. Thus, warriors who used to be looked up to as heroes and role models were suddenly considered criminals and societal offenders. The anitos, which were common figures in the ub-ufok were suddenly identified with the devil and malevolent spirits. In the process, since many of these beliefs and cultural practices emanated from the ator, the ator was suddenly considered as a place to be avoided by the faithful.

Dr. Pia Arboleda, University of Hawaiʻi


  • How did the introduction of western beliefs such as Christianity change the idea of honor among the Ifiallig?
  • What do you think are the consequences of these new ideas on the Ifiallig’s sense of self and identity?
  • Is the introduction of Christianity a good or a bad thing?

Culminating Activity

Students watch the movie, Mumbaki. They will compare and contrast Amfusnun and Mumbaki. Students will write a reflection essay and share with the class.

Consider the following questions as you watch Mumbaki.

  • How was honor shown in the film?
  • What cultural practices are portrayed in the film?
  • How do these practices show the Ifugao and Ifiallig culture?
  • What is the central conflict or problem in the movie? How does Joseph deal with this conflict?
  • How is the conflict resolved in the end? Do you agree or disagree with Joseph’s decision?
  • Was his decision honorable?

Library Resources on Headhunting at the University of Hawaiʻi

  1. “A Sampling of Philippine Kinship Patterns” by Richard E. Elkins and Gail R. Hendrickson (1984). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 E35 1984]
  2. “Ethnographic Art of the Philippines: An Anthropological Approach” by Eric Casiño (1973). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671 .P5 C38]
  3. “Filipino Tribal Religious Experience” II. Sickness, Death, and After-Death” edited by Henry W. Kiley (1994). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671 .P5 A57 1992]
  4. “Filipino Worldview: Ethnography of Local Knowledge” by F. Landa Jocano (2001). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 F55 2001]
  5. “Indigenous Psychology and National Consciousness” by Virgilio G. Enriquez (1989). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 E57 1989]
  6. “Kalinangan ng Ating mga Katutubo” by Pablo M. Cuasay (1975). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 C83]
  7. “The Cordilleras from Different Perspectives, Folio 1, Series 3” by Cordillera Studies Center (1984). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 C673 1984]
  8. “The Last Filipino Head Hunters” by David Howard (2000). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 H68 2001]
  9. “The Woman in Early Philippines and Among the Cultural Minorities” by Teresita R. Infante (1975). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 I54 1975]
  10. “Verbal Arts in Philippine Indigenous Communities: Poetics, Society, and History” by Herminia Meñez Coben (2009). UH Manoa: Asia Collection [GN671.P5 C63 2009]

To cite this module. Clariza, E. (2016). Module 3: Amfusnun: Headhunting and honor. Retrieved from

To cite the video. Arboleda, P. (Director). (2016). Amfusnun[Video file]. Retrieved from