Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Way we Were as Igorots



by: Felisa Daskeo

If you live in the mountains surrounded by rich nature; you will not think of anything else but toil the land to earn a living and live a simple life that you are content with. What makes the Igorots live the way they live is the geographical setting of their place plus the traditions they had inherited from their ancestors.


Igorot villages called barrios or barangays are built away from their places of work. I remember when I was a little girl in the sixties; my parents woke up as soon as the cocks around crowed. When the cocks crowed, every house came alive because they had to cook breakfast early so that they could go to work before sunrise. Rice fields and farms were kilometers away from home and it took the workers some time to trek their way to work. Work included digging the earth to build the rice terraces, planting, weeding, and other farm works.

My father and mother used to go to the farm with my elder siblings very early in the morning. I was left with my younger siblings at home. Another elder sister helped me take care of our younger siblings while the other members of the family went to work on the farm. It was only when I was about nine when I experienced helping on the farm.  And when I did, I enjoyed every bit of it when we weeded the crops, planted rice, corn, peanuts, and bananas and gathered them too when it was harvest time.

My family owned a few heads of cows and goats when we were kids plus a good number of rice fields scattered in a few places. That was a good enough life for an Igorot family in those olden times. I learned life the hard way, ; although we were still very lucky because we never experienced hunger of any kind during those days because we had more than enough crops to last the whole year-round. I remember the first story of our house that was used as a storage room; this room was always full of rice and other harvested crops from our farm. I couldn’t remember how my parents earned money to buy our other necessities, but my guess was that they sold cows or goats. I wasn’t sure. I could still remember the coconut shell that my parents had used as a piggy bank. It was full of old coins and I couldn’t even lift it when mother used to bring it out if she wanted to get something from the old trunk. I’m sure the coins were very valuable.  

My father who used to work in the mines also knows gold panning.  When we went to the farm or to the field, he would stop by a river and try to check the sand if there was an indication of gold presence.  I don’t know how he did it but after some time; we saw some small pieces of gold that he already cooked and was kept in the trunk. 

Igorots are very hard-working people because they had been used to working from dawn ‘til sunset. When we were kids, our parents woke us up before the sunrise. It was considered a sin to wake up at sunrise, and worst if we woke up after sunrise unless we were not feeling well or we were sick. We weren’t allowed to sleep early in the morning except for nap time but even nap time was not a practice of the people in my hometown before.

Igorots love the simple and frugal way of life and the simple things that go with life but they always want a sturdy house and something durable. They do not cater to fashion, arts and anything they consider is just a whim. But where education is concerned, parents could afford to go without shoes or new clothes just to let their kids go to school and finish a degree in universities.

The priority of Igorots is education, a good enough sturdy house, food on the table and land to till. Although land in the mountain provinces is nothing compared to what the lowlanders own; the small piece of land that an Igorot family has is considered a treasure.  This is because our place is mountainous and the narrow terraces were very precious.


There is no doubt that Igorots are one of the most hard-working and frugal people. Although of course, the young generation has now a new lifestyle that they follow. They are already influenced by a lot of factors and they have a life of their own that sometimes go against the old Igorot traditions.

Copyright 2012 Felisa Daskeo

2 comments:

Unknown said...

as I go around the pages of your blogs, I was enlighten more about the culture and way of life of Igorot. I was once a person who looked down on your minority group when I was a kid and I feel deeply sorry for that...now that I think I'm grown up, I appreciate more your group,not only because we are both human but I am amazed and awed by your deeply rooted characteristics and attitude towards life. I want to thank you for creating this blog and for the informations you shared to us about the culture of Igorot. Keep it up!

Felisa Daskeo said...

Hello Michelle. Thank you for being frank about how you feel about us when you were young. I don't blame people on how they look at us because we really are minorities in our own way. For one thing, Igorots came from the roots of people who look at life a little different from the Ilocanos, Tagalogs and other Filipinos. But then, like the aetas, agtas, maranaos and other cultural minorities, we have been modernized with the advancement of the technology and so we are now what we are - a group of people who are dedicated to our own roots but living just like the others around. The modern Igorot is just like the modern Ilokano, Tagalog etc.
Thank you Michelle for growing up and looking around. You probably are better than the others who still look at Igorots as primitive people of yester years.