August 3, 2011

Hari Ragat: Other Peoples

The Vijadesans are not the only humans on the Jangalan Isles.  When the ten founding datus and their followers arrived, they soon encountered earlier human settlers.  Most notable among these were the Orang Bakawan, the Taglawa and the Dimalupi Highlanders.

Orang Bakawan
The Orang Bakawan (mangrove people) are a short, dark-skinned race of hunter-gatherers living a nomadic life along the coasts of most Jangalan islands. They are renowned for their archery and stealth, and for using poisoned arrows.

Orang Bakawan live in loose family groups of up to thirty or forty individuals, migrating with the seasons – to the lowlands in the dry season to fish and gather shellfish, to the highlands in the wet season to hunt and avoid the seasonal floods. 

The Orang Bakawan have a love-hate relationship with the proud Vijadesans, sometimes warring against them, sometimes fighting for them as mercenaries, but increasingly dependent upon them for iron weapons, pottery, cloth, and agricultural produce.  The Vijadesans in turn have sometimes enslaved Dumagats or demand tribute of them, but at the same time fear them – for as good as the Vijadesans are at jungle warfare, the Orang Bakawan are even better.

Despite their reputation however, the Orang Bakawan are a gentle people, preferring to avoid conflict as much as possible. Among themselves they have no true leaders or government, but defer to their elders.  If they cannot resolve a dispute among themselves, the dissidents simply split off from the group and go live elsewhere.

The Taglawa, or Lake People, are a race akin to the Vijadesans found on the island of Namaya, the largest in the Jangalan archipelago.  They live on and around Lake Inangbuan, a great lake lying between the Bontok and Kalinga mountain ranges.  Many Taglawa dwell in villages built on stilts out on the shallows of the lake, partly because they are fishers, and partly for protection against the Dimalupi headhunters. They grow rice on the swampy lakeshores and farm fish in pens on the lake.

Taglawa legends hint at their mysterious origin, for they say they are descended from people carried off by the raksasas long ago and made to farm and fish the lake for them.  A family of giants would come every year to demand a heavy tribute of fish and rice, this practice ceasing only after the Taglawa joined the Vijadesans in the Raksasa Wars and destroyed their oppressors.  The Vijadesan and Taglawa languages are very similar, as is their caste structure, so most now believe that the Taglawa’s ancestors came from Arundwipaya, the ancient Vijadesan homeland.

The Taglawas are divided into three kingdoms – Nilad, Sabag, and Kaboloan.  The Vijadesan rajas have made treaties with these inland kingdoms, recognizing their power and wealth, and there have been several royal intermarriages.  The Taglawas also control a major source of wealth – the rich gold veins of the Malawin and Alamid mountains.  They trade with the Dimalupi for gold, which they then trade down the Pasai River to the Vijadesans for ceramics, spices, and cloth.

Dimalupi Highlanders
The name Dimalupi comes from the Vijadesan word for ‘unconquerable,’ as they have never been able to subdue these fiercely independent tribes.  They dwell among the Malawin and Alamid mountains on the island of Namaya, from where they often raid the Taglawa kingdoms and the Vijadesan settlements on the coast.  Vijadesans know them as the People of the Axe, for they prefer axes to swords, and as the Mountain-Hewers, for they have carved great swathes of their mountain range into terraces for farming.

The greatest reputation of the Dimalupi, however, is as headhunters.  Head-taking is a central aspect of the Dimalupi religion; the mountain gods are constantly leaching away their spiritual power, so they must replenish it by acquiring more heads.  Often hot-headed young warriors, eager for a trophy to prove themselves – for taking a head has been made a prerequisite to marriage – will cause the breaking of the latest treaty.

Treaties are particularly difficult to enforce among the Dimalupi, for they have no set leaders or government.  Instead they have a rough sort of democracy, where elders, renowned warriors and the best orators are free to try to sway their people in council meetings.  As is usual in a democracy, the loudest clamor wins – and the usual clamor is for war. 

On the other hand, the Dimalupi are not very particular about whose head they take – unlike the Vijadesan practice, which is to concentrate on the heads of enemy leaders and heroes.  This has led to a curious practice among the Taglawa: instead of executing their criminals, the Taglawa usually sentence them to exile into the mountains, for the Dimalupi to find and ‘harvest.'  And if within a year not enough criminals are exiled, the kings of Pasai, Sabag and Kaboloan will exile a number of slaves as well. 

The Dimalupi say they were settled in the mountains by the raksasas, who picked them up and put them there to grow rice for them.  The Dimalupi fought on the side of Raja Lawana, the raksasa king, during the Raksasa Wars; however after Lawana’s defeat, they joined with the Taglawas in extirpating the oppressive giants. 

The Dimalupi have a curious custom of mummifying their dead by smoking them before a fire.  The mummies are then laid up in deep caves high in the mountains.  These caves will be sources of strong magic.


  1. I like that capital punishment thing. Great opportunity for criminals to be pronounced 'as good as dead' then reappear later.

  2. Or have an oops moment and realize the exile was innocent after all - now the heroes have to find him or her before the headhunters do!


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