Ibaloy braves 1

>> Friday, July 11, 2014

Roger D. Sinot

ASIN HOT SPRINGS, Tuba, Benguet -- In the Augustinian account of 1755, William Henry Scott mentioned in his research work that “refuge in the mountains did not make the Igorots immune to Spanish attack. Tonglo, a village in what is now Tuba, was a wealthy community of around 300 Igorots whose chieftain’s personal fortune was elevated at P5,000. It was almost a day’s hike from the Spanish camps on the La Union coast. When the Igorots threatened to stone Father Pedro de Vivar, the first Spanish friar to reside unarmed in an Igorot village, for destroying their idols, they must have known that they were risking military retaliation.”

           “Four years later in 1759, the attack came. Three separate detachments that took three weeks to reach Tonglo, subjected it to five hours of artillery and rifle fire, razed it so perfectly that no trace of its location can be found today. The Igorots survived the battle but neither surrendered nor submitted. They simply retreated deeper into the Cordillera. This was the standard Igorot response to the standard Spanish tactics of applying the torch to thatched houses and ripening grain. The official term was enter with fire and blood”

            Scott continued his research and appreciated the Igorots saying, “the Igorots paid for their freedom. When Galvey found 500 houses in La Trinidad Valley in 1829 and burned 180, Carl Semper in 1861 found Agno Valley full of stonewalls overgrown with cogon grass. He wrote, today, most villages bear the stamp of misery and deprivation. Their fields are badly maintained, the stonewalls around the houses are dilapidated and the great rancherias that existed in Galvey’s time have been deserted. The Igorots paid for their liberty.”

            “Dr. Jose Rizal may have estimated Spanish and Igorot valor when he sarcastically assured General Salamanca “the only objection to seating Igorots in the courts might be their smell of gunpowder.” He analyzed it, the people accustomed to bondage would not defend them against the invader nor would fight; for the people it was just a change of masters.”

            Teodoro Agoncillo said, “ the phenomenon may be ascribed; first, to the paramount influence of the Spanish friars over the natives who blindly followed anything their spiritual counselors told them to do; and second, to the Spanish policy of divide and rule.”  

            The pagans of Tonglo only put up with Father Vivar’s preaching and idol-smashing for six months before they told him, “It’s no easier for the people to give up what he believes.” The Ibaloy mambunong (priestess) looked him straight in the eye and said coolly, “If you’re the priest of the Christians, so am I of the Igorots. And if you have your god, I have mine!” And went on with her business.

            “In 1762, the Igorots by force of arms prevented Fray Manuel Alvarez from ministering to the pagans. In 1755, Father Cristobal Rodriguez tried to pass through the mountains near Kayapa, Nueva Viscaya and was turned back by Igorots who said their gods did not want him to go through because they would die if they let him through, although they did reluctantly let him through a month later on condition that there be no baptizing.”

            “The traditional Igorot arsenal consisted of wooden shields, bamboo lances and highly effective stakes planted along grassy trails at ankle height, rarely bows and arrows, and only later such weapons as iron-headed spears, two-edged bolos and head axes. Their defensive tactics include blockades in mountain and river passes where they could roll down stones and logs, till the invaders lowered their guards, or outright offer to surrender to be followed by ambush on the retiring forces, and a conspiracy of secrecy about their trails and villages. Those who came down are only men in whom their chieftains have confidence, not women or children or slaves, according to Father Antolin in 1789, when he killed an Igorot who guided a Spanish friar into the mountains in 1755.”

            The bravery of the Ibaloy weighed through their loyalty to the master and their belief interpreted by their priests and priestesses. Sir Morr Pungayan shares the character of the Maksil ni Ibaloy next time. Happy trails to fellow Ibaloys, and Cancer-born folks, the “rainy day people.”   


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