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”.