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?

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