Apologetics Index



A number of quasi-religious, cults of Christianity in the Philippines, are collectively called ''tadtad'' (to chop), so named because they hack their enemies to death in order to prevent them from attaining a ''second life.'' They fight Muslims and/or communists.

Tadtad members live in colonies and perform daily rituals such as prayers and meditation. They spend the rest of their time farming or other means of livelihood.

They are classified into two groups -- the Pulahan (red) and Putian (white) warriors. The Pulahan wear red turbans while the Putian wear all-white attires. Both groups carry bolos and knives as their basic weapon, which is used to chop victims to pieces to prevent them from attaining a "second life."

Aside from the bladed weapons, a lana or holy oil is always carried by Tadtad warriors to prepare them for battle.

Because of its members' supposed invulnerability to bullets, the Tadtad group has attracted many followers from the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Units. Many CAFGU members joined Tadtad and participated in paramilitary operations against communist rebels.
Tadtad cult a deadly mix of Christian faith, ancient rites, The Philippin Star (Philippines), Aug. 14, 2000

The Catholic God's Spirit group is one among dozens of ''tad-tad,'' or ''chop-chop,'' fanatical Christian groups in the southern Philippines, so named for their practice of hacking their enemies to death.

The cults mix Christian teaching with folklore, and believe in pagan rituals and amulets that supposedly protect them from all harm, including even bullet wounds.

Members' shirts carry magical inscriptions, and they chant prayers over their machetes to make them powerful.

Others steal kneecaps from graveyards to wear as protective amulets.

Tad-tad cults, known for their ferocity, first rose to prominence in the 1970s when they were used by the military to join offensives against Muslim separatist guerrillas in the south.

Many of their original members were Christian settlers from the central Philippines who migrated to the southern region of Mindanao, coming into conflict with the original Muslim inhabitants.

The Catholic God's Spirit sect was notorious for squatting on large parcels of farmland in Pangantukan and violently resisting attempts by owners and officials to expel them, officials said.

Many of the ''tad-tad'' sects have in recent years evolved into criminal gangs that engage in cattle rustling and illegal logging.
Manhunt on for remnants of Philippine Christian cult, Miami Herald/AFP, Aug. 13, 2000

Tad-tad cults, known for their ferocity, first rose to prominence in the 1970s in reaction to the armed Moro separatist campaign in Mindanao. Human rights advocates charge that the government used these cults as vigilante fighters, first against Moro guerrillas and then against communist insurgents and their suspected sympathizers.

Such cults mix Christianity with folk beliefs, such as wearing T-shirts with Latin prayers scrawled upon them which they believe grant them magical powers including invulnerability to bullets and the ability to hypnotize their enemies.

Some are known to use human kneecaps as magical amulets.

As the communist insurgency waned in the 1990s, some of the cults reportedly turned to criminal activities like cattle rustling and illegal logging.
20 killed as defiant cultists, cops clash, Philippine Daily Inquirer (Philippines), Aug. 13, 2000

Tadtad groups gained notoriety at the height of the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao in the late 60s and early 70s for their role as government mercenaries to help the military fight the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas.

The MNLF forged a peace treaty with the government in September 1996.

The cults were called tadtad because of their ritual of cutting their forearm with a sharp bolo as a test for total absolution after making a confession of sins with their high priest called Ama or Papa (Father) by his followers.

They believed that complete absolution would make them invulnerable to knife attacks.

If the knife leaves a wound on the forearm, it indicates that the devotee is not yet totally cleanse, and has to go through the same ritual all over again.
16 cultists killed in Bukidnon clash, Philippine Star (Philippines), Aug. 13, 2000

Starting in 1987 a new, unsettling element clouded civilmilitary relations: vigilante groups that hunted down suspected communists and other leftists. The first and most famous such group was Alsa Masa (Masses Arise), which virtually eliminated communist influence from the Agdao slum area of Davao City. The potential for civilians to accomplish what the military could not aroused official interest. Soon there were more than 200 such groups across the country, with names that hinted at their violent, cult-like nature: Remnants of God; Guerrero of Jesus; Sin, Salvation, Life, and Property; Rock Christ; and, the frightening Tadtad (Chop-Chop), which liked to pose its members for photographs with the severed heads of their victims. Vigilantes often carried magical amulets to ward off bullets, and their rituals were sometimes performed to loud rock music.

Domestic human rights groups, such as Task Force Detainees, and international monitors, such as Amnesty International, publicized incidents of torture. Amnesty International asserted that torture of communist rebels and sympathizers had become a common practice. One paramilitary group in 1988 responded to such criticism by shooting the Filipino regional chairman of Amnesty International. Six human rights lawyers were killed in the first three years of the Aquino government. More than 200 critics of the government were victims of extrajudicial executions. Many vigilantes carried pistols; others were skilled with long, heavy knives called bolos.

Despite many documented abuses, United States and Philippine government officials have spoken in support of some vigilante groups. Aquino cited Alsa Masa's success in Davao as a legitimate exercise of People's Power. Her secretary of local government, Jaime Ferrer, ordered all local officials to set up civilian volunteer organizations or face dismissal. Ferrer was gunned down on August 2, 1987, for this and other anticommunist activities. The government made a distinction between ad hoc vigilante groups and the civilian volunteer organizations. The latter, which included Nation Watch (Bantay Bayan), were to conform to the following guidelines set forth on October 30, 1987, by the Department of National Defense: membership in the organizations was to be voluntary, members would be screened by the police, the organizations were to be defensive, and they were to eschew identification with individual landowners or politicians. Ramos fully supported the civilian volunteer organizations. He described their relationship to the uniformed military as "synergistic" and in 1989 grouped all 20,000 civilian volunteer organizations together under an umbrella organization called the National Alliance for Democracy. In reality, the lines between official and unofficial vigilante groups are often blurred. Large businesses have donated money to the National Alliance for Democracy and used its members as strikebreakers to counter leftist unions.

Data as of June 1991

News Archive

Items added after August, 2002:
» Religion News Blog News Collection, various sources

Older Items:
» Database of archived news items
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database)