Friday, May 15, 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.

As far as the meaning of the word Igorot itself is concerned, Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, eminent Tagalog scholar at the turn of the century 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.”

It probably has the same use with the old tagalog word "golod" found in a 1613 Tagalog dictionary. 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 decendants of the igorots. To people who just arrived from the Cordillera Provinces some would still say “Nagapodad Golot” – They came from golot.

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. But they did not call themselves by any other one name either.

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 identify.

Presently, some people from the Cordillera Region refuse to use Igorot as their own identity. 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 to identify the culture as unique. Igorot therefore is still the perfect word to call these distinctive people of these mountain ranges or “golot”.


  1. I was in Kayapa recently to cover their Owag Shi Kayapa fiesta (after 10 years of not celebrating it) and the mayor had the same explanation about the word Igorot. It simply means he says "people of the mountains." I don't think this is a derogatory remark.

    In our case in Batanes, we call the people of Vasay (Basco) "Ivasay,' the people of Sabtang 'Isabtang' etc. . . to refer to the dwellers from those places.

  2. i hope u saw d news lately about candy pagilinan's joking remark "tao ako, di ako igorot". so degrading. now, she is a "persona non grata" in baguio. btw, may I repost this on my site? thanks.

  3. Actually the reason I re-posted this article in my multiply and facebook account is because of that issue. You can post this anywhere pls just don't forget to write me as the author. Byline in our work is our only consolation.

    I've already linked my facebook in Candy Pangilinan's site. Hope she read my postings.

  4. definitely sir, thats etiquette. thank you.

  5. Carl,
    I was so taken by your scholarly research. For one, I am a mountain boy born in Baguio City. Although my parental lineage come from Davao and Madrid, I am an Igorot by Jus Solis. I grew up with Igorots, and have very fond memories. I am also one of the many Folksingers that Baguio is noted for...I played with Judy Carino, The Carantes clan of Loakan, Conrad Marzan, Caloy and David Medina, Johnny Chan, Bubut Olarte,to name a few...I am now based in Los Angeles.
    Sometime ago, I wandered in the internet in search of Igorots, I was so disappointed to find a blog from the San Diego Association of "Mountain Province" people...the blog writes: " I am not an Igorot, I would like to be referred to as "BAGUENO" ? Who are they kidding?....not even this Jus Solis Igorort would buy that...

    Apay Izu,
    Alan Del Rosario

  6. I know those singers you mentioned. Conrad is a relative by affinity.

    I do believe people don't want to use the word because they still don't know what it means. It simply means "taga bantay" or highlander or mountain people in the "Bago" tribe dialect.

    I'll be writing more articles about us Igorots. Many has been written in the past by foreigners who came to settle in the Cordilleras, but I believe more should be written for today's generation.

  7. I am proud to be called an IGOROT.

  8. I am an igorot too, nothing to be ashamed of....i h8 labeling so what qng ilokano,tagalog,cebuana etc....we were all born naked...

  9. hi

    may i know if you have email or cell of judith carino, my longest time high school classmate

    the igorots named by outsiders, have their own tribal names

    from cursory look, i think they are related to taiwan natives, maybe even siberians, mongols

  10. I am proud to be called Igorot because it is who I am and it is where I belong!... Matagu-tagu taku ay IGOROTS!!!

  11. i am proud to be an Igorot, born in Benguet.. there is no race like Igorot....

  12. Iam a proud igorot, who kept my Igorot identity and also educated others of my culture in my new adopted country of Canada.

    to my point igorot means place of refuge, our proud igorot tradition is the embodiment of philipino independence against spanish colonisation and oppression. in short any philipino from any region who lived and grew up in the cordellera are automatically called "igorot". in essence igorots are a collection of independent, proud, rebellious philipinos who wants to keep their pre-colonial indegenoius culture. historical reference show, igorots are decended from an ancient kingdom of caboloan circa 1200-1579. this kingdom encompass the region of pangasian, corderllera mountains,tarlac,la-union and viscaya. historical records of this kingdom is documented by the famous arab historian and scholar, ibn battuta,1400s records from the emperor of china 1460-61. a real reference of this ancient kingdom is the historical exploits of the reign of the famous igorot warrior princess "urduja" her kingdom 1359-1400 was rich and powerful.with gold and silver from the cordellera mountains and salt from pangasinan. with this gold and silver she traded with china,japan, India and beyond. the spaniards tried to erase this historical facts, however today the Igorot kept it alive by its Igorot traditions and their armed resistance to the spaniards for 4 centuries. today you can find Igorot names as Ducaja in sagada or in benguet names like urdaxah, the provincial capital house of pangasinan is called princess urduja palace. she became a filipino folklore made famous by hollywood and disney movies.that said you can summarise that the igorots were keepers of the gold of princess urduja. and approriate name for the igorots should be "balitokan" and igorot term for "golden people"