Thursday, September 3, 2009

Igorots in Motion

They were once mighty people of the earth and mountains. They carved the mountainsides to create big stairways of rice fields reaching up to the skies. They have braved the rough terrains and adjusted to the kind of living the mountains have to offer. They protected the treasures from invaders. When their efforts failed and their trees were harvested by invaders, they changed the sculpture of the bald mountains by creating vegetable farms that can supply the needs of the national capital region. They were called by their lowland brothers in the outskirts of the mountains Igolots.

According to early 20th century historian Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, golot is an old Bago tribe word meaning “mountain chain” or “mountain ranges” and the prefix “i” means “people of” or “dwellers in.” Igolot was the term the early people of the lowlands describe these mountain dwellers that came to trade goods with them. When the Spaniards came, the name was anglicized into Ygorrotte, to be spelled later as Igorot.

Although many of the people of the Cordillera don’t want to be called as such for some reasons. Many don’t like the negative connotations associated to the name. Some say they weren’t called by their ancestors with that name so it’s not appropriate to use it for their tribes and opted to use their own tribe’s name. Some have chosen to be called Cordillerans, although the term cordillera is of Spanish origin and is a common term in every country colonized by the Spaniards.

However, many people in the Cordillera Region of the Philippines already accepted the name given to them by their lowland brothers. They still use their tribe’s name such as Ibalois, Kankanaey, Ibontoc and such but accepted the Igorot term as their collective name.

From the first worldwide exposure of the Igorots as live exhibits in St. Louis Fair in Missouri in 1904, the Igorot people continue to migrate to different lands and countries. Nowadays Igorot communities have spread throughout the globe. Igorot online organizations are springing up and effort to clear the negative connotation of the name continue to spread.

The Igorots always help each other. It was the nature of their old culture. They made use of the internet as a means to expedite material aids when someone needs assistance especially when disaster strikes home. When disaster affected their lowland brothers, they too make extra effort to extend help. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted and thousand of people including the Aetas were displaced from their homes, truckloads of vegetables were sent as aids and the following famous quote came out: “Aetas very hungry, Igorots in a hurry.”

Yes, the Igorots are always in motion. They are respected worldwide and they are not ashamed of their name. Some of them may not be able to speak their local dialects anymore, but the values of their ancestors will always stay with them. After all, the Igorot way is about honor and respect.

Last April 2010, the online communities of Igorots met and created the Cordillera Global Network. It is an organization that involved not only the Igorot people but every person who became part of the Cordillera Region. The purpose is to help the new generations learn and appreciate their own culture and to shine as lights to other people to make them understand the history that brought wonders to these mountainous lands. A fitting organization to reunite them after decades of adventures that shaped their modern culture.

By Carl Carino Taawan

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