“Many desperate acts of courage and heroism have fallen
under my observation on many fields of battlle in many
parts of the world. I have seen last-ditch stands and
innumerable acts of personal heroism that defy description,
but for sheer breathtaking and heart-stopping desperation,
I have never known the equal of those Igorots. Gentlemen,
when you tell that story, stand in tribute to these
gallant Igorots.” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Have you heard the word “Igorot or Igorota“? Have you ever meet an Igorot before? Yes you have… you meet ME. (LOL) How about Philippines? Let me share to you who are the Igorot people, and why are we called Igorot. Philippines, known as the Republic of the Philippines sovereign state Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. The Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila. Luzon is the largest Island in the Philippines. The island of Luzon contains 8 administrative regions of the Philippines. One of the 8 is Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). CAR was created in 1989, a special administrative region for the indigenous tribes of mountains. Its provinces are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.
The word “Igorot” is Tagalog for “mountain people” or “mountaineer. It is derived from the prefix i – “dweller of” and golot means “mountain range”. The word has been variously spelled during the Spanish colonial era as Igolot, Ygolot, and Igorrote. Before, some lives in the tropical forest of foothills, caves, but most lived in the rugged terrain zone. They are pagan people, living simple lives to appease their gods. Their rituals celebrate their daily lives – a good harvest, health, peace, war, and other symbols of living.
Deformed feet of Igorot men
The first group are the Nabaloi or Ibaloi, Kankanai, northern Kankanai, Bontoc, southern Kalinga, Tinggian nearly all live in populous villages, but one ethnic unit (the Ifugao) has small farmsteads of kinsmen dotted throughout the rice terraces. The second group are the Gaddang, northern Kalinga, and Isneg or Apayao.
Subdivided into five ethnic linguistic groups, the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Isneg (or Apayao), Kalinga, and the Kankanaey.
1. The Tribe of Bontoc
They speak the Bontoc language. They formerly practiced head-hunting and had distinctive body tattoos. The Bontoc describe three types of tattoos: The chak-lag′, the tattooed chest of the head taker; pong′-o, the tattooed arms of men and women; and fa′-tĕk, for all other tattoos of both sexes. Women were tattooed on the arms only. In the past, the Bontoc engaged in none of the usual pastimes or games of chance practiced in other areas of the country, but did perform a circular rhythmic dance acting out certain aspects of the hunt, always accompanied by the gang′-sa or bronze gong. There was no singing or talking during the dance drama, but the women took part, usually outside the circumference. It was a serious but pleasurable event for all concerned, including the children.Present-day Bontocs are a peaceful agricultural people who have, by choice, retained most of their traditional culture despite frequent contacts with other groups.
2. The Tribe of Ibaloi
They speak Ibaloi also known as Nabaloi, are one of the indigenous who live mostly in the southern part of , located in the Cordillera of northern Luzon. The Ibaloi people were traditionally an agrarian society. Many of the Ibaloi people continue with their agriculture and rice cultivation. The Ibaloi’ major feast is the Pesshet, a public feast mainly sponsored by people of prestige and wealth. The Pesshet feast can last for weeks and involves the butchering and sacrifice of dozens of animals. One of the more popular dances of the Ibaloi is the Bendiyan Dance, participated in by hundreds of male and female dancers.
Ibaloi beauty with her pretty smile
3. The Tribe of Isneg /Apayao
The Isneg, also Isnag or Apayao, live at the northwesterly end of northern Luzon, in the upper half of the Cordillera province of Apayao. The term “Isneg” derives from a combination of “is” meaning “recede” and “uneg” meaning “interior.” The Isneg’s ancestors are believed to have been the proto-Austronesians who came from South China thousands of years ago. Later, they came in contact with groups practicing jar burial, from whom they adopted the custom. They later also came into contact with Chinese traders plying the seas south of the Asian mainland. From the Chinese they bought the porcelain pieces and glass beads which now form part of the Isneg’s priceless heirlooms. Formerly known to be a headtaking OR HEAD HUNTERS society.
4. The Tribe of Kalinga
They speak Kalinga. They practice both wet and dry rice farming. They also developed an institution of peace pacts called Bodong which has minimized traditional warfare and headhunting and serves as a mechanism for the initiation, maintenance, renewal and reinforcement of kinship and social ties. The Kalinga are divided into Southern and Northern groups; the latter is considered the most heavily-ornamented people of the northern Philippines.
Kalinga society is very kinship-oriented, and relatives are held responsible for avenging any injury done to a member. Disputes are usually settled by the regional leaders, who listen to all sides and then impose fines on the guilty party. These are not formal council meetings, but carry a good deal of authority. Known also to be a headtaking OR HEAD HUNTERS society since recorded history.
Kalinga woman with her colorful and beautiful custom and priceless heirlooms
Fang-od giving a tattoo to a local tourist from Manila. She uses a thorn from a pomelo tree which is attached to a piece of bamboo. The bamboo that the thorn is attached to is then hit with a piece of wood to drive the ink into the skin. The ink she uses is the soot that collects on the bottom of the cooking pans she uses at home.
5. The Tribe of Kankanaey
They speak Kankanaey. Womens skirt or tapis which is mostly called bakget and gateng. The men wore a g-string as it is called but it is mainly known as wanes for the Kanakaney’s of Besao and Sagada. The design of the wanes may vary according to social status or municipality. Kankanaey’s major dances include tayaw, pattong, takik, a wedding dance, and balangbang. The tayaw is a community dance that is usually done in weddings it maybe also danced by the Ibaloi but has a different style. Pattong, also a community dance from Mountain Province which every municipality has its own style. There are also some other dance that the Kankanaey’s dance like the sakkuting, pinanyuan (wedding dance) and bogi-bogi (courtship dance). Kankanaey houses are built like the other Igorot houses, which reflect their social status.
Kankanaey lass from Mountain Province and her pageant custom
6. The Tribe of Ifugao-
It is named after the term “i-pugo” which means “i” from/people and “pugo” (hill), thus it means people of the hill. The Ifugao inhabit the most rugged and mountainous part of the country, high in the Central Cordillera in northern Luzon. Ifugao religious beliefs are expressed in the numerous rites and prayers (baki) that comprise the main body of Ifugao myths. Commonly grouped into three: the Tuwali, the Ayangan, and the Kalanguya or Kallahan. The bulol or Ifugao rice god is a carved human figurine into which are kept in the house granary, and are usually made in pairs. A consecrated bulol is bath through pig’s blood, chants are made in front of the god, and received offerings of wine, ritual boxes and rice cakes.
bulol- Ifugao gods
Lagawe, Ifugao -It is the capital municipality of Ifugao. Ifugao became the center of warfare in the last year of World War II when Gen. Yamashita launched his last stand against the American and Philippine Commonwealth forces at Mount Napulawan. He informally surrendered to Captain Grisham of the 6th US Army in the Philippines based in Kiangan, Ifugao before he was flown to Camp John Hay where he formally surrendered.
Ifugao people are well known of their excellent quality carvings of wood. You can see their unbeatable wood carvings in the entire village of Asin Road, Baguio City. The long tradition of wood carving was said started in the town of Hungduan, Ifugao barrio of Hapao. (pictures not available yet.)
A. DANCES OF IGOROTS: (There is a lot of Igorot dances but I only posted the famous ones. )
1. One of the interesting dance of Igorots is performing COURTSHIP DANCE and wedding dance. Here, the couple raise and wave their arms and hands like the wings of a bird in flight. The use of blankets depicting colorful plumes to attract her. The man’s movements resemble those of a fighting cock in the preening, strutting, and flying-off-the-ground gestures. A set of four gongs accompanies this dance.
2. WAR DANCE. This dance is part of the headhunting and war ceremonials inciting feelings of strength and courage as the warriors prepare to stalk their enemy. Much of the movements are improvised; two camps of warriors are usually featured pursuing each other, culminating in a melee where a fighter from one tribe kills one of his opponents.
Igorot warriors dance in a canao, a feast to celebrate either victory in war, a bountiful harvest, or a wedding.
***For centuries the tribesmen of the Cordillera stalked their enemies, lopped off their heads and took them home. Trophy heads, turned into skulls, won the head-taker the respect of his fellows and the admiration of women. Of the six tribes that took heads only the Ifugaos displayed them in works of assembled sculpture. Head-hunting raids, sanctioned and carried out by entire villages, toke place until 1913, the year when American Forces who governed the mountain tribes after the Spanish-American War of 1898, finally persuaded village leaders to give up communal decapitating. But unsanctioned head-taking by individuals continued until well after 1950.
3. EAGLE DANCE. It was believe by the Igorot ancestors that eagle has the power to control thunder and rain and believe its ability to fly high to reach the gods. Traditionally performed the eagle dance when divine intervention was needed for rain believing the eagle would carry up their requests to the gods. Eagle dances is performed by the brave Igorot hunters symbolizes heroism, no fear, and unconquered spirited tribe. Originally practiced in Mt. Province, Philippines and eventually adopted by other tribes.
B. CUSTOMS AND JEWELRIES. Authentic customs and jewelries of the tribes of Igorots.
***Our ancestors just wore the bahag or g-string only during their time. For modern Igorot men, wear their vest and the bahag.
***bontoc attire for women
***This is worn on the waist. It is made up of a long piece of fabric, usually of very coarse raw cotton, sewn together at the sides with a space in the middle to hold jewelry which are part of the akon. Akon are family heirlooms such as inherited earrings and beads that should not be sold and must always be kept in a safe place such as the akkos. Both ends of the cloth are passed through several medium sized cone shells. (Conus Litteratus). Sometimes coiled brass wire or ivory rings are incorporated. The shells and brass coils serve as the lock because they have to be removed before the jewelry can be taken out. The heirloom girdle is worn around the waist above the wrap-around skirt or tapis by older women. In certain villages, the akosan is worn beneath the skirt, producing a bustle effect.
***Lakay Wa-aw is one of the older Kankanaey men still around and at 92 he has nine children and over 30 grandchildren. The two water buffalo horns above him are from two of his children’s weddings. His necklace is centuries old and has been passed down from generation to generation. It is made of wild bore tusks and crocodile teeth from the Visayas.
***Igorota Snake Bone Headdress.
“SHY KAMI MANGO“- Commonly word to describe a shy Igorot men and women. Ibaloi word “shiyay” means here. Most of the Igorota women before were very shy. So during ceremonies or any gatherings, they prefer to stay in the corner because the are shy. Some modern Igorotas overcome this behaviour.
C. LIVELIHOOD: Weaving, hunting and farming
***Loom weaving is part of the cultural and traditional practices among the Igorot natives.Weaving was done by our ancestors and elders to produce blankets and their traditional clothing.The blankets were used for rituals, specifically for wrapping their dead kin and for the bones of their previously deceased loved ones.
***Known as the “Rice Terraces of Banaue ” – Commonly referred to by Filipinos as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand. I called it stairway to heaven because it looks like a long stairs going to heaven. Historical creation of Ifugao people.
D. CHANTS: This is done during the waking nights/ days of the vigil. This is to give respect to the dead and keep the time and people awake during the vigil. Giving tribute. Word for a song or chant to the dead. It is sung purely vocal, spontaneously composed in a story telling prose where words are led by one elder and being followed into a chorus to the end of the sentence/song. The deliverance of voices and the sound it creates is captivating to fear but the actual message really relies on the words. It can either tell a sad or happy experience of the life of dead.
E. BURIAL CEREMONIES: There are many ways on how different tribes bury their deads before. Here is one example; the tribe in Mt. Province hang their deads in the caves.
Coffins found in Sagada,Mt. Province.
Mummified body of Apo Anno, whose tattoos record that he was a warrior and a hunter as do the elaborate tattoos from the top of his forehead and soles of his feet. Preserved for 400 years and currently in the National Museum of the Philippines.
F. FOOD/wine and DRINKS. Sipping of tapey or tapuy ( rice wine). The people are prayerful and ritualistic and with a jar or glass of tapey when offered , they pray for peace,prosperity and abundance. Sharing tapey in the same cup with visitors after it had been offered to Kabunyan is a symbol of hospitality and friendship. As guest, take a sip not to offend the host but do not take much. Lol, you might get drunk.
Bubod use to make Tapey or rice wine
Note that the jars in front of these Igorot men are jars of tapey or rice wine. Igorot people loves to drink their tapey or rice wine during ceremonies(wedding, burial, or Igorot any gatherings)
“KILLING ME SOFTLY CHICKEN” -Pinikpikan. In reality, its preparation is a ritual performed by Igorot tribes to determine the appropriate courses of action and their fate. It takes hours of careful work to prepare an authentic Pinikpikan. The chicken is ‘battered’ to keep the blood inside the chicken. If it is beaten properly, the chicken will not be bloody when it is cut. None of the bones should be broken during the beating or even the slicing. The process of light beating or “pikpik” is where Pinikpikangets its name.”
battered chicken- “killing me softly “
a picture of my brother after battering the chicken, remove the blood by cutting chicken’s throat and drain it. Ready to burn the chicken in fire.
Watwat- traditional way of distributing meat in any Igorot ceremonies. “Men distributing meat to all of the people who helped cook and prepare the wedding food. As a token for their help different size chunks of meat are given out depending on what the persons role was during the preparation (in addition to being fed). I was even given two bags of meat for being there, apparently photographers have an important role as well. I saw more than 20 pigs killed and a carabao (water buffalo) just to give you an idea of the amount of food being prepared and I wasn’t there the whole time.” from Jacob M.
Kamote(Sweet Potato)- aside from rice, one of the favorite food of Igorot people is Kamote.
Etag / Innasin/ Keniing – also known as Igorot smoked meat. Some foreigners call this as Igorot ham. It refers to salted pork and is cooked best with pinikpikan, legumes, or plain vegetables. It can also be deep fried and then eaten with vinegar or hot sauce. Yum. Igorot ancestors hang their to meat to dry and preservation even now a days.
G. MODE OF TRANSPORTATION: Kayabang, aksiw, pasiking
Kayabang for women.
People in the Southern part of the Philippines call igorot women “IGOROTA” and for men, just “IGOROT”. My parents are both from the tribe of Ibaloi. I’m proud to say that most of the Filipinos can speak at least 3-7 languages. I speak 5 languages, namely Ibaloi which is my own tribal dialect, Kankanaey, Ilokano, Tagalog and lastly English. I can dance a simple “tayaw” and eagle dance but not as good as others. I remember when I was little, part of the ritual ceremonies of our family was to put blood on our foreheads. Blood on the forehead is the sign that our family did the sacrifice. My parents grandparents and my parents before, believed that when you sacrifice lots of animals its a way of calling good luck, wealth and blessings from the gods and ancestors.
Canao – The canao is a socio-religious ceremony or feast of the Igorots that is held for a variety of reasons— as thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, to signal the start of another planting season, as part of a wedding ceremony, or to celebrate the birth of a new member of the community, among others. There is much eating, drinking, singing, and dancing during a canao. The Igorots also offer food to their gods during the ceremony.
***Sacrifice of animals like cows, carabaos, pigs and other animals is one way of calling the spirits of ancestors and gods to bless the family. When there is a sick member of the family the parents who are concerned are force to sacrifice everything just for the leader of the tribe to call in the gods, spirits of your ancestors to heal the sick family member, because that was the belief that we knew. Im thankful that despite our false beliefs and sacrifices to pagan gods, that the one true God still loves the tribes of Igorots. He didnt forget us, but instead He saved us. He sent people who had compassion to face the different tribes of Igorots. We used to worship false gods and spirits, but now we are free from them! Others still hold onto the old practices but I know in God’s perfect timing, our fellow Igorots will realize that we should offer our salibao, gongs, dances, food and ourselves to the one and only living God.
What I am trying to say is that we became known as Igorots because of the historical braveness of our ancestors. It is because of them that made us the tribes of Igorot, which are different from the other tribes.The reason why I respect our ancestors it that its because of them that we are being called the “INDIGENOUS PEOPLE”. I believe in my heart that we are special,unique people, that is why the invaders and foreigners who came to the Philippines gave us the name “Igorot”.
General MacArthur acknowledged our fearless ancestors and leave a footprints of braveness to fight our freedom by voluntarily attacking the Japanese invaders. We, Igorots were part of the Philippine History.
***Taken in Mines View, Baguio City, Philippines 2008. (Its me )
Thanks to Jennifer Gomez-Basco for helping me explain the eagle dance. Thanks to Jacob Maentz from United States, for allowing me to post some of his photographs of our people.I encourage you my fellow Igorots and readers to check his inspiring experience when he encountered our people and culture. Thank you Jag Fernando for allowing me to use one of your picture collection of your great great grandpa Baltazar Acop Fernando (Cosalan) canao for my blog. Thank you very much to all my fellow Igorots in Facebook for your inspiration, insights and pictures to help me make this blog post possible. To my loving husband Adam Pence, who never stop encouraging me to make more blog post and check my grammar. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
For more pictures please visit my gallery:
This entry was posted in About Me, Featured Posts and tagged Igorot, Igorot People, Indigenous, Mountaineers by Rudelyn