Thursday, May 28, 2009

Igorots: The People Behind the Name

In many parts of the country, the word Igorot is used as a derogatory term for idiots. In 1958, Even the former representative Luis Hora of the Third District of the Old Mountain sought to prohibit the use of Igorot in a house bill he presented. But what does the word really mean and who are these people who are proud to be called as one.

Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, a Tagalog scholar in the early 1900s, stated that it was composed of the root word golot, meaning “mountain chain” or “mountain ranges” and the prefix i, meaning “people of” or “dwellers in.”

The fact that golot is a place has still survived in the speech of those “Bagos” living in the outskirts of the Ilocos provinces who are believed to be related to the Igorots. We still hear people say “Nagapodad Golot” (They came from golot) when people arrive from the mountains.

"The word Igolot, therefore, appears to be perfectly indigenous Filipino origin, and it is in this form that it first appeared in Spanish records. The substitution of R for L in the word did not become popular until the 18th century when Antonio Mozo used the word in his 1763 Noticia Historico Natural changing the letter ‘L’ into letter ‘R’".

There is no record if the people in question called themselves Igorots (or Igolots) in the olden days. It would be more likely that this is what they were called by non-mountaineers in the lowlands. We have no idea if they ever have a collective term than can identify the highland tribes.

The name was imposed on the mountaineers by American Authority in the present century in accordance with the American ethnological surveys. The people of the old Mountain Province (namely Bontok, Ifugao, Benguet, Apayao and Kalinga) started using the term as their unique identity.

Presently, some people from the Cordillera Region refuse to use Igorot as their own identity for they argue that they were never called as such by their ancestors in the first place. And another reason is the derogatory meaning that lowland people associated with the name. Some wanted to be called Cordilleran instead. However, the word Cordillera is not an indigenous but a foreign (Spanish) term. It would then defeat the purpose of identifying the uniqueness of the distinct culture and people.

Igorot is the closest local term to call these unique people. However, even the people it seeks to define are divided. In this writer's opinion, if they, therefore, can't agree with this name as their collective name, they should find a local terminology that they are all comfortable to use.

So what should be the perfect name to call these distinctive people of these mountain ranges or “golot”?

To learn more about the Igorot Culture, contact this writer for your tour around Cordillera.