Ifugao, are you (not) an Igorot?

>> Friday, February 19, 2021

Alfred P. Dizon

(Richard Kinnud who lives in our neighborhood writes this week’s piece)
    “Apay nga dakayo nga Ifugao ket madiyo nga maawagan nga Igorot?  Haanyo aya nga ammo nga ti kayatna nga sauwen ti Igorot ket tagabanbantay ket banbantay met ti Ifugao?  Wenno madiyo gapu ti Igorot ket kunada nga mammugot ti ulo, awanan adal, adda ipusna, kennu tadta nga panawen ket beggar?  Haan aya nga dakayo ket mammugot met laeng ti ulo, agwanwanes kayo met, ado met laeng ti adayo nga lugar idiay Ifugao nga awanan eskwelaan, ken ado met laeng ti beggar?”
    (“Why is it that you Ifugaos don’t like to call yourselves Igorot?  Don’t you know that the word Igorot means from the mountains and isn’t it that Ifugao is also mountainous? Or is it because they say that Igorots are known headhunters, uneducated, has tails, and in the present times beggars?  Is it not that you too are headhunters, you wear g-string, there are flung areas in your place that still don’t have schools, and a lot too are beggars?”)
    This was how a friend and fellow Cordilleran stunned me in the course of an otherwise friendly exchange of banters.  I felt the weightiness of every word that he uttered that even alphabets were afraid to come out of my mouth. 
    “Your first question was a complicated one,” I said softly after I managed to gather myself and minced some thoughts, “as not all Ifugaos do not like to be called Igorots.  You are talking to one who has since accepted the Igorot tag.” 
    However, I went further to tell him that even as several Ifugaos accept the Igorot label, it does not mean that every Ifugao should be compelled to be called Igorots.  I gave as an example my grandmother whom I asked once if the word “Igorot” or “Kaigorotan” rings to her mind and she said “no.”  This means that my grandmother whose place of travel was only limited up to Balingway or muyadna (which is how the folks use to refer to places far from home like Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino) never considered herself an Igorot.  What she only knows was that she is an i-huddokna (meaning from a hinterland) which in Ifugao was the general term used to refer to people from Hingyon and its surrounding villages being far from the Lagawe and Kiangan that were then the centers of government in the place.  On the other hand, writings say that Igorot is the generic term that the Spaniards used to refer to people in the upland during their conquest and so by this definition, my grandmother is an Igorot for she is from an upland.   But should I fault my grandmother for not calling herself an Igorot?
    The second question is accusatory,” I tried to rebuke my friend, “as you are trying to portray that by not accepting the Igorot tag, Ifugaos are denying that they are from a mountain area.”
    I went on to explain that the word “Ifugao” is similar in meaning to the word “Igorot.”  Books have it that  “Igorot” is formed from the prefix “i-“, meaning “dweller of”, and “golot”  meaning “mountain range.”   On the other hand, Ifugao is formed from the prefix “i-“ also and “pugo”.  Pugo is an Ifugao word referring to a flat land area extending from a hillside or mountainside.  Clearly, Ifugao also means mountain people.  I also stressed to my friend that a stark difference even is that “golot” is a Tagalog word while pugo is our own word.
    “As to the third question, your fourth question contradicts it,” I argued to him as I assured him that Ifugaos too do not like so much possible that the word Igorot or the word Ifugao be associated with being barbaric, uneducated and a beggar.
    I cited to him a movie in the nineties entitled “Mumbaki” which depicted the Ifugaos as savage even at modern times.  And there are a lot more write-ups that misrepresented the Ifugaos.  A lot of Ifugaos too are hanging around Wright Park and Botanical Garden in Baguio City and you’d know them by their language.  Thus it is pointless to say that Ifugaos are avoiding the Igorot tag because of negative connotation.
    When my friend and I ran out of words to say to each other, we realized nga bisin mi laeng (it was just our hunger).  So we decided to proceed to that restaurant where we used to go that serves boiled kinuday (smoked and salted pork), a truly Igorot delicacy, topped with tungsuy, a locally grown vegetable.  While eating, we both agreed that our previous discussion mixed up several issues.  It ranges from the choice of an individual on how he/she be referred to up to how to erase the negative stigma attached to different ethno-linguistic groups not just in the Cordillera but in the entire Philippines.  There is also the issue on what collective term should apply to every citizen of the Cordillera especially that we are now identified as one region and Philippine Congress is moving towards autonomy of this region.  Finally, we agreed that our discussion which was the result of our hunger at that present moment did not really solve anything.
    The next day, I went into the trouble of trying to find out what the books have on why Ifugaos are not Igorots.  I peeked into “The Ifugao World” by Mariano Dumia, whom I know to be a true-blooded Ifugao from Mompolia, Hingyon and had some answers.
    I learned that there was a bill filed by the representative to Congress of then the lone district of Montanosa (old Mountain Province) that “sought to prohibit the use of the ‘Moro’ and ‘Igorot’ in all laws and books and instead use the name of ‘muslim’ and ‘highlander.’”  This was not passed into law of course but speaks of a fact that even some Igorots would not like to be referred to as Igorots.
    The book also quoted another author who disagreed with classifying as one all inhabitants of the mountainous region.  Dumia quotes the book "The Non-Christian Tribes of Northern Luzon" published in Manila in 1906 by Dean C Worcester as follows:
    “Any classification which unites such strikingly different people in the peace-able, industrious, and highly civilized Tinguians of Abra; the long-haired war-like headhunting peoples of Banawe, Silipan, and Mayaoyao (all town in Ifugao); and the fierce and wild Kalinga in one ethnological group seem to be fundamentally wrong.”
    I also peered into the “The Discovery of the Igorots” by William Henry Scott published in Manila in 1974 and found this:
“Filipinos born on the Gran Cordillera Central are generally known as Igorots, though they might more accurately be referred to by the names of six ethnolinguistic  groups into which they can be divided – Isneg, Kalinga, Bontoc, Ifugao, Kankanay, and Ibaloi.”
    Scott has also noted that there was a time when even the Spaniards referred to Ifugao as “Ifugao” for the place and “pugao” for the people.  They were however in later Spaniard reports referred to also as Igorottes.  It is to be observed though that the Spaniards were only able to occupy only portions of Kiangan and Mayaoyao.
    Scott also noted an ethnographic note Guia de las Islas Filipinas dated 1842 by Galvey that had the following classification:
Igorots – principally from the twons of Benguet, Apaiao, Bokod, Lutab, Kabayan, Kapangan, Tepiteb, Lumia, Tamorong, Amlimay, Buguias, Acupan, etc.
    Buriks – principally from Bakun, Lamagam, Culili, Palina, Bagubatan, Silipil, Maguiaanay, Pandayan, Banaao, etc.
    Busaos – principally from Payeo, Besao, Kaagitan, Agawa, Balabalasanng, Sagada, Malitep, Ambukilan, Bataran, Tublo and Luyen
    Itetepans – from Itamaan, Amkilen, Ibungan, Banguing
    Guinaanes – from Gacdaning, Mabuntoc, Pageng, Guinaang, Simadeng, Mainit, Besinang, Bukiangen.
    Ifugao – from Kiangan, Mayoyao, Burney, Baunton, Ipan, Inapu, Babatu, Kawan, Umbo, Gaviang, Nungabu, Venlas, Bulo,     Cananas, Pantucan, Lumaban, Ambabag, Tipuc, Ibuang, Pundiga, Yanol, Dugon, Magulang, Bagumbon, Mantabian, Anopol, Dacagan etc.
    Apayao – between the mountainous region of Ilocos Norte and Cagayan.
    Scott also wrote that people that inhabit Kalinga were simply referred by the Spaniards as pagans.
    These write-ups just show that there are bases on why Ifugaos, and other ethno-linguistic group such as the Kalingas, and those from Abra and Apayao should not be referred to as Igorots.  It remains however that there is logic in looking for a term that would take as one the people of the region.  And “Igorot” is an option.  This of course can not just be resolved by mere street-talk but political, including the media and academic institutions can help much.  It also remains a responsibility of everyone to put away “Igorot” and any of other names referring to a Cordillera inhabitant from the negative connotations such as being savage, wild, tailed, and mendicant by showing that the Igorot and any other Cordillera inhabitant are not these.


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