Friday, January 1, 2016

Igorots Have Tails, They Live in Tree Houses

by: Felisa Daskeo

Are you an Igorot?

You probably aren’t, and if you are not an Igorot, you are perhaps wondering what an Igorot looks like, where an Igorot lives and what an Igorot eats. Up to this computer age, the word IGOROT is often frowned at and even laughed at. It is often treated awkwardly like an alien word and most of the time misunderstood.
A beautiful Igorot house view just above the rice terraces in Tadian, Mt. province.

Let’s get this straight and clear and be done with the wrong perceptions of people about Igorots.

Igorot men busy at work during the wake of my father. Men are very busy when there is work to be done during calamities.
They say that Igorots have tails? Unless an Igorot is a monkey, which he is not, he probably has a tail. But Igorots are human beings and not animals, so it is impossible for them to have tails.

Although many Igorots still cling to the traditional way of life and do not spend time making themselves look good and be presentable to others, they don't have tails. Many Igorots are beautiful and handsome, but they are hidden within their rugged styles. Look carefully into their faces and you will notice the "meztizo" blood they had inherited from their ancestors. 
Many years ago, someone said straight in my face that he couldn't see any pretty face nor a handsome face in Baguio City. I almost slapped his face, but I merely kept mum and let the line go away. Of course, he didn't know that I was an Igorot that time.

Just like other Filipinos, there are different types of Igorot faces, but you cannot generalize Igorots as all ugly and never say, Igorots have tails.

It is in all aspects absurd to say that Igorots have tails.

They say that Igorots live in tree houses. That’s a fact and yes, perhaps they have lived in tree houses thousands of years ago during the time when all the other Filipinos were also living in treehouses to protect themselves from their enemies and wild animals. But since birth in the 1960s, I haven’t seen any Igorot that ever lived in a treehouse or even as near a treehouse for that matter.

In this computer age, I don't think there are still people living in tree houses.

To set the record straight, coming from a pure bloodied Igorot; Igorots are normal people living in normal homes in an equally normal environment. They, of course, have some practices, beliefs, and traditions that are a little different from other regions in the Philippines, but they are not totally different from other Filipinos.
This was our old house before we moved to another house.
I was born in January, 1961 and this was the house where I was born. Only the lower portion of the house was renovated because the new owner of the house decided to move the door to the front.

Igorots are a group of cultural minority people in the Philippines. They live in the northern parts of the Philippines and they were known as headhunters a long time ago. The Igorots are often mistaken as Aetas and Agtas. The fact is, Igorots are just like the other majority groups of Filipinos like Ilocanos, Tagalogs, and Visayans.

The word Igorot is a generalized name of the cultural minority groups of people in the northern part of the Philippines or the Cordillera provinces. The 5 provinces in Cordillera was only one province then called Mountain Province. This province was established by the Americans in 1908. However, in 1966, Mountain Province was divided into 5 provinces, namely; Mountain Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet, and Ifugao. Thus the question about who the Igorots are created a big issue and confused many people, even some Igorots themselves. The word Igorot is often wrongly defined by people as tailed people still living a primitive life. This is the reason why there are people from the Cordillera region who refuse to be called Igorot.

In a popularly known term, Igorots are people living in the Cordilleras. They are a group of people who are often mistaken by Filipinos as tailed people. Of course, unless Igorots are monkeys as I have said earlier, then it’s impossible for them to have tails. Igorots are Filipino people so the tail they are talking about is only a tale. In short, Igorots are cultural minority groups of people but they are normal people just like the Ilocanos, the Tagalogs, the Visayans and the Muslims who are all Filipinos but with different ethnicities.

Igorots may be the headhunters long time ago and that is a fact but in these modern times when technology has allowed for the discovery of every cave around the world, it would be impossible for Igorots to be still dwelling in caves and tree houses and living a primitive life. Fact is, if you visit the different places where Igorots live, their houses have passed the calculating eyes of the best engineers. Perhaps it is not impossible for an Igorot family to live in a well-constructed house because after all, who had built one of the best-engineered wonders of the world? The Igorots have built the rice terraces with only their crude tools and bare hands, yet the wonder has been constructed perfectly just like the building built by the best engineers. This further proves that Igorots are wonderful engineers who could construct great houses to dwell in.
This view is just one of the several constructions going on in Tadian.
Some Filipinos still believe that Igorots are people who live a primitive life but that is a misconception of those who do not know them. In 1970, the last man that I remembered wearing a G-string in my hometown was my own grandfather who refused to wear long pants that his children bought for him. He preferred to wear G-string because he was more comfortable wearing the piece of cloth. Every time they bought for him long pants, he cut them short. But even the shorts were not that comfortable to him, so he preferred wearing the G-string. It was only in the 1980s when he suddenly set aside his G-string and started wearing shorts and long pants.
An old house where my aunt and her family dwell. They never lived in a tree house.
I still hear so many arguments about who Igorots are. Some think that Igorots are the Aetas who are dark, short, with kinky hair and are still living a very primitive life. But even most Aetas are living a modern lifestyle and going to school nowadays. And as for the Igorots, they aren’t dark and small but most are fair and big. Even fairer than other Filipinos.

It’s a shame that many Filipinos, even educated ones, still wrongly define the Igorots.

But of course, more and more people are becoming aware that there are several Igorots circulating around the world, who are highly educated and very competitive just like the other Filipinos.

And I am proud to say that I am an Igorot

Copyright 2016 Felisa Daskeo

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