Monday, June 25, 2012

"Amu da...Igorot Ka"

“…amoy Igorot!”

“…Ang pangit ng mga Igorot!”

“Mamumugot ng tao ang mga Igorot!”

“Para kang Igorot…so barbaric!”

“Asan yung buntot mo? Buti alam mong gumamit ng computer?”

This will sound familiar to us mountain people, and also to those who have been here in the social media for quite some time.  Such irresponsible and ignorant comments have surfaced, and resurfaced almost every quarter in Facebook and in blogs. Unsurprisingly coupled with such expressed thoughts are the comments and replies containing more or less the following:

“..Pugutan ka ti ulo nu Makita ka!”

“ Pangit ka, Magaganda at Gwapo ang mga Igorot”

“Matay ka koma!”

“Awan ti amamum ignorante nga bitch/pangit/gago (insert any demeaning noun)”

“Haan mi nga padpada dakau…educated ken mestizo/mestiza ti igorots…haan nga kasla kanyau!”

We can also acknowledge that we have the tendency to give any of these reactions. It is perhaps a natural backlash from offending a person, or in this case a whole group. It is grounded on a very ancient philosophy of “reaping what you sow”, or “pain begetting pain, and goodness begetting good things”.

However, this cycle has been going on and on in a sickening phase. A chapter stuck in the pages because actions and reactions remain to be the same to a degree where emotions are vent only to satisfy the urge of defending pride and belongingness. Perhaps, we must move on. 

In my Sociology 1 class, one of my essay questions for my students’ is; “ Do you believe that Igorots are better than other ethnic groups?” As I am confident that I have taught them the dangers of Ethnocentrism and highlighted how it built Hitler and the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or the White Supremacists, and even the Chinese leader’s world view that they are the center of the world, I asked it anyway as a give-away question. To my surprise, only 2 out of the class of 32 were able to answer in the negative – a student from Manila, and one from La Trinidad.  Almost everyone answered, “Yes, Igorots are BETTER than other ethnic groups”.

Their reasoning is further revealing to the tendency leaning to discrimination. Say, the following:

“ Igorots are better because it is where I belong to…”

“Igorots are not just better but the best in the world because we are unique…”

See what I mean?

I am not saying that such simple answers to an essay question to a smallest population of a group is conclusive to criticizing the whole Igorot population’s tendency towards discrimination. However, it can neither be underestimated as a mere natural reaction. It is actually a testimony to one disturbing inquiry: “….Do we deserve every bit of prejudice and hate when we practice the same bigotry and discrimination that we 'hypocritically' want to prevent?

To further understand my point, let me be the devil’s advocate (again). Let me ask the following:

1.    If we say that Igorots are good looking, fair skinned (mestizas/mestizas) etc., then does it mean that those who are not good looking, or not fair skinned, are not Igorots? (adi pay haanak nga igorot ta haanak nga mestizo?)

2.    If we say that Igorots are “stronger and better’ (as, ‘awan makin kaya ti igorot’ , lampa ti taga-baba etc.) are we not also discriminating other groups? What if, for instance, one lowlander or “taga-baba” is stronger than an Igorot in a physical sport, will the Igorot lose its identity because all Igorots are supposed to be strong?

3.    If we say “pugutak tupay ulom!!”, are we not suggesting that we are, indeed ‘barbarbaric’. Or, when you say discriminatory slurs against other groups, will you also accept curses as retaliation on your person?

Yes, to decipher our backlash includes the simplest study of our reaction’s logic. In this case, first, in our frequent use of illogical connections, or worse, absent logic itself. How can we say ‘Igorots are better because it is where I belong’ and believe it to be true in itself. Second, why are we replacing argument with personal attacks and expect people to be enlightened. True, it is easier to say ‘patayen ka koma nga ignorante ka!”, but will it support your clarification that ‘igorots are civilized’?

There were many times when an ethnic-discriminatory remark slipped,  and soon, 'over-reacting' kakailyans swarmed that person, or institution - declaring war against the world, even in the internet - challenging people from different ethnicity, race, and tribes. When was the last time? KC Concepcion's photo with Aetas in an Igorot costume? As we imply, or even boast that we are better looking than our dark-skinned friends? Because Igorots are supposedly light-complexioned and more handsome? Was that our basis of beauty? Or was it that poor girl who was bullied in the internet; some even threatened to cut her head off? Hundred messages and write-ups verbally mauled her, because we think that we are better “people”? Or that highschool who must have missed history class? Have we not said some comments about other tribes or groups as well? 

Let me repeat: “This cycle has been going on and on in a sickening phase. A chapter stuck in the pages because actions and reactions remain to be the same to a degree where emotions are vent only to satisfy the urge of defending pride and belongingness. Perhaps, we must move on.”

What do I mean by moving on?

In social sciences, a tendency to discriminate by a once discriminated group is a natural consequence in an effort to heal a tragic past. However, dwelling to it can also resurrect a bygone era. It is likened to opening up a wound in an effort to heal it. The danger of internalizing it as people, will make it permanent. For instance, a white person who, even innocently, mentions “black guy” may be regarded by an African American as a racist. That is the effect of internalizing the tragic past for too long. Such group will always feel wronged and prejudiced to an extent that they become  exceedingly reactive. We must move on.

The first step is acceptance. We accept that history may not have been good to us. I will not dwell on the past Philippine law that banned Igorots from getting drunk (hehe). Similarly, I will accept that our warrior tribes, who practiced mutilation both us punishment and as an act of war, may have been viewed as ‘barbaric’, by other cultures. And that we were once exhibited in a foreign country to press such image.

The second step is changing our mindset or our world view. There is only one race, and that is the human race. There is a danger in priding ourselves with a name that may seek to alienate, insult, or degrade other groups. I’m not saying that it is wrong to be proud that we are Igorot People, Kankana-ey People, Ibaloy, or what have you, but false pride promotes discrimination, especially when we do not understand our culture, and the essence of it in our lives. Let the term remain and be defined by how we show the world who we are.

Related to this is relinquishing our tendency of entitlement if we really want to promote equality and harmonious co-existence. Igorot hero Jose Dulnuan had stated it perfectly: "I am an Igorot. Let me be treated as I deserve—with respect if I am good, with contempt if I am no good, irrespective of the name I carry. Let the term, Igorot, remain, and the world will use it with the correct meaning attached to it."

Last is, living and practicing our ideal impression of an Igorot –Educated, Humble, Peaceful and Honest Citizen. That is the only way which can show and educate the world of what we are as people and, in a manner which we can really be proud of. I bet that we will not be proud of a ‘kailyan’ who is a criminal; a swindler, drug pusher, kidnapper, robber, murderer etc. Inherent to it is the preservation of the positive values and culture as people. In doing so, we must be reminded that “Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures” (Chavez).

The following are just proposed steps from an observer. Amuk Igorot ka. Igorotak met. That is why I wish for us to move on.

Note: Should you find my conclusions offensive, please understand that I really am an Igorot: Part Ibaloi, Bontok, Kankana-ey, ( and even drops of Ifugao), among others.


  1. Thank you for this article.i learned a lot. I hope other articles would be posted...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Having read this I thought it was really enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

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  4. wow! very enlightening article

  5. Thank you Sir, this article has just made my day. An article worth reading and sharing.

  6. awesome article...yes i was absolutely enlighten and a must to be share..if you are true igorot let us read this hehe...

  7. Very nice article!

  8. Thumbs up to the writer... very true...

  9. koodos to you sir,very true,,

  10. An article worth reading. I also made an article about Igorot's discrimination but it's not very powerful like this one, you can follow this link:

    1. I've checked your article...nice writings!

    2. Thanks for checking, I will continue to follow your articles. Reading good blogs/articles is also a way to improve my writing.

  11. thanks guys for clearing my throat,and in helping us igorot people to be not that types of influential words from those scrupulous mouths of them.I'm overwhelmed that some people don't believe those things that we (igorots) and my folks do not have tails and those tails they were refering to us is the "baag" being worn by our men.thank you so much guys....


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