Cowhide Armor, Tao (Yami) Tribe, Botel Tobago
58cm × 62cm
The people of Tao (Yami) Tribe of Botel Tobago (Orchid Island) are good at sailing. They had come by crossing the sea from the Batanes Islands at the northern end of the Philippines in groups, but hadn’t completely disconnected with their homeland. This kind of defensive leather armor was made of an entire sheet of cowhide with traces of tanning and folds, which was said to have been traded from Batanes islanders. It is quite formally similar to common fish-skin armors used by the tribesmen. The cowhide armor is very rare, which might result from the difficulty in acquisition due to a quick decline of Batanes Islands’ traditional culture during the Spanish rule. Before the Japanese period (the 20th century), there had been no cows in Botel Tobago, so the tribal people hadn’t developed the skill in making this kind of cowhide armor, which nonetheless directly demonstrates the cultural origin of the Tao people from the Batanes islanders of Philippines.