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Philippine Kamagong, second half of the 20th Century

Here is an interesting and fairly unique chess set from the the Philippine island of Luzon.

It is made of Kamagong (or Philippine ebony). The chess set was hand-made by Emiliano Blass in the remote village of Batad. Emiliano builds about three such chess sets a year.

The Ifugao are represented in white. The rook is a native hut with the ladder going up the side and a chicken on top. The knight is the local deer. The king has a head about to be sliced off. The queen has a tarp on her back used for harvesting sweet potato (kamote); she is using it as a headdress against rain. The bishop is holding a bowl specifically designed for holding rice wine for the celebration after the head hunting.

The Bontoc are represented in black. The Bontoc king is holding a head about to be sliced off, as are all the pawns. The rook shows a typical native hut, but in this case, the ladder goes up the inside and through the floor as was characteristic of this tribe. It also has an owl on top which is more common in the Bontoc region. The knight is a carabao (a wild water buffalo), and the queen has a baby on her back.

The king is 14cm (5.5").

Comparable Ifugao & Bontoc chess sets are shown in Ned Munger, Cultures, Chess & Art, Vol. 3 Pacific Islands & Asia, p. 163-164 & figures 57 & 58.

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