Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Tenth Ray

By Carl Cariño Taawan

The senate agreed to include a ninth ray on the Philippine flag's sun to symbolize the courage, bravery and integrity of Muslim Filipinos who fought for the nation's independence. Shouldn't the senate also include the mountain people who sacrificed so many lives to fight oppression?

Under the leadership of Bonifacio, the Filipino people started fighting the Spaniards in the late 1800's. But the Igorot people had been fighting these invaders for the 333 years they colonized the Philippines. The conquerors were not able to fully establish a foothold in the Igorot territories.

One of the biggest battle recorded by the Spaniards was in 1760s in Tonglo, part of the modern Tuba. In this particular battle, most of the Ibaloi warriors were united to battle the Spanish-led armada of lowland soldiers. It was during this battle that many of the brave Ibaloi warriors were killed and the town of Tonglo, one of the biggest communities of Igorots in Benguet was erased on the map.

It was only in 1846 after so many battles and so many sacrificed lives that Colonel Guilermo de Galvey was able to establish a rancheria in Benguet and named the capital La Trinidad after his wife.

In the Spanish records, when their historians first arrived in La Trinidad, there were more than 100 houses in the valley. However, in the later remarks, there were only about 30 huts. The continuous battle has decimated the population of Igorots in the territories closest to the enemies.

Colonel Galvey also attacked deeper in the Cordilleras into the Mountain Provinces and Ifugao but he wasn't able to establish a permanent stronghold. Until the time the Americans bought the Philippines from the Spaniards, most of the Igorot territories are free from the foreign invaders. Practically speaking, they were not conquered by the Spaniards.

When the Americans came, the Igorots also were the last to be conquered after many bloody battles. Most of these battles were of course not recorded or in a term used by their historian William Henry Scott, these records were whitewashed by the Americans. There was a story of American soldiers who eradicated a whole community of Igorots in Ifugao. After so many battles and many more lives were sacrificed did the Americans started sending teachers to educate remnants of these brave Igorot warriors.

Of course, the Americans won't be that interested in these so-called wild men of the Philippines if they will not benefit from their lands. Like the Spaniards, they were after one thing, resources. The Igorot land was rich with gold and timber. After their conquest, they started harvesting lumbers and mining the gold. Thankfully, even after robbing them of their riches, the Americans were able to educate these wild men and up to the present, they were among the well-educated people in the Country. Another good thing about the Americans is they know how to replant the felled trees and many of those seen in Baguio today were planted by them.

So the Americans taught the Igorots a more peaceful way to live and the humbled fierce warriors abandoned their shields and spears. They now relied upon the American government for protection.

After 40 years of the American invasion came another oppressor, The Japanese imperial army. After fighting so many battles with the Spaniards and Americans, and after being abandoned by the people who promised them protection if they lay down their arms, the Igorot people were easily humbled by these new invaders. However, after witnessing so much cruelty, the Igorots once again rose to fight and they created a legend that the Japanese army came to fear and the Americans came to respect, the 66th infantry battalion.

When the Americans came back to fulfill their promise, the Igorot battalion fought hand in hand with them. They were able to drive the Japanese army out of Baguio and the enemy's number dwindled after they were chased away deeper into the Cordillera Mountains. Until finally with the 66th infantry on their tail their foremost General Yamashita, the conqueror of Malaya surrendered in Kiangan, Ifugao. The Japanese armies were fearful of the 66h infantry to the end that they have chosen to surrender to the Americans.

After the war, the Americans granted the Philippines "freedom" (or should we say, partial freedom since the Americans continue to share with the country's wealth) and the Igorot people were free to govern themselves. The Igorots has now adjusted to modern living and they have migrated to the different part of the globe providing services of their respective skills. Visiting the Cordilleras now, one would notice the American-educated communities where English is understood and spoken.

The plight of the Igorot people is unknown to many Filipino people. Their name is used as a derogatory term by some. But they were people who valued their freedom like the rest of the Filipinos. They fought for it like the Filipino heroes written in history books. Are their sacrificed thousands of lives fighting for independence and exploited resources not enough to be part also of the Country's symbol?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Motion Emotion.

I was trying to shoot motions but no matter how small the aperture and very low the ISO, the speed is still fast. I tried to use my sunglasses and I got this shot. Background is not so neat to look at but I was able to capture the motion.


Baguio's longest Longanisa parade on September 19, 2009

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