Monday, September 3, 2012

A Glimpse of the Igorot Way of Life

by: Felisa Daskeo

Igorotsare Filipinos who live in the northern mountain provinces in the Philippines but they have their own culture that is a little different from the other Filipinos. Known as very hardworking Filipinos, the Igorots have long been admired worldwide for the work of art they have built in the mountains. The rice terracesthat have stood harsh times for thousands of years are still being built today by the Igorots because this is part of their culture.

In this modern age when most people are using the latest methods of farming, the Igorots are still rooted in the primitive method of farming where they use crowbars and hoes to excavate the mountains in order to terrace them so that they could plant crops of different kinds.

One of the unique characteristics of the Igorots is their skill in building stonewalled rice terraces. In their expertise with the craft, the rice terraces have stood earthquakes and typhoons without being eroded.  Most of the rice terraces have not changed since they were built by the Igorot ancestors, and they are still beautifully crafted around the mountains up to this day.

The Igorots are one of the most versatile people around that you can see.  Known as uncivilized, ignorant and tailed people to some Filipinos, the Igorots take the discrimination lightly and instead take it as a challenge.  

Although Igorots still embrace their culture, their lifestyle today has switched to different flow and follows a modern way of life.  The young generations are not anymore keen on observing the traditions, practices, and beliefs.  They are now modernized and live a life just like the other Filipinos.

Except for the rice terraces and some primitive practices, the new Igorot generation has blossomed into the new world and transitioned to a modern lifestyle.   You could go around the Igorot communities and find the new generation using the latest model iPhone, iPod, cellphone, and laptop.  And to top it all; in every household, you can find diplomas crowding the walls.

The Igorots are one of the groups of Filipinos who can speak the English language very well. And what’s very surprising, the old men and women speak better English than their Filipino language.

It seems ironic that the Igorots who are often branded by other people as the ignorant and primitive have the knack of the English Language and to top it all, the elderly people have a more understanding of the English Language than the Filipino Language. My grandfather, who was born in the late “1880s and died in 1971, loved to read books. I could still clearly remember how he used to sit at the foot of our ten-step stairs holding an English pocketbook and reading it while we played with grasses, flowers and other things available around. That was in the 1960s and ‘70s. My father’s uncle who died at the age of more than a hundred in the mid ‘90s was still a puzzle in my mind. Although he could not read books and magazines, he loved holding them and scanning them.

While Igorots are discriminated up to this modern day, they could gladly say that they have a lifestyle that they can proudly expose to the world.  The knowledge that Igorots have are far wider than what other people know.  They are educated, learned and modernized.

And I am reminded of my late father and I smile when I think that in the middle of the rice fields where he used to work, my father used to bring with him an English magazine that he read when he had his lunch break from excavating the mountain to build the rice terraces.  And this was not the year 2012, but in the 60s.

Copyright 2012 Felisa Daskeo

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