- Posted August 13, 2013 by
Baguio City, Philippines
The Formula Protection Against Igorot Discrimination
“By the way, where are you from again?” a good friend once asked me while we were inside a city bar for a bottle of beer.
“I’m from Sagada,” I replied loudly, hoping he knows where Sagada is located on the map. I was there to unwind and not to give him a detailed explanation about my hometown.
“So are you an Igorot?” he followed up interestingly.
“Yup!” I admitted. In fact, I am a member of the Applai tribe in the deep Cordillera mountainous region in northern Philippines.
My folks are known to wear hand-woven fabrics covering only their genitals. Historically, Spaniards were the first ones to call us Igorots, which means “people from the mountains”.
Igorot tribes are known for their unique culture of playing gongs during weddings, butchering pigs to appease the gods, mummifying their dead and offering food to living ghosts. Some groups are known for their forefathers’ headhunting expeditions.
Until now, we practice some of our traditions that are considered illegal and immoral to a self-proclaimed modern man. Honestly, we eat dog meat (this was first known to the world when a handful of Igorot men were brought to the 1904 St. Louis World Fair for exbhibition).
However, we look like a typical Filipino and eat rice three times a day just like any other person in the country.
“Sorry, it’s not that obvious,” my friend revealed.
I just smiled because it was not my first time to hear such comment.
I know he thinks that modern day Igorots wear the traditional attire on a day-to-day basis. He does not know that Igorots also know how to put on Levi’s Jeans and Chanel Bags when they go to the city.
Or his only idea of an Igorot must be someone who chews beetle nut and spit everywhere. If this is the case, I cannot blame him because some of my folks have already built that impression about us.
I am still thankful that no one ever dared to ask about my tail. In the early times, lowland Filipinos think that Igorots have tails (that is why one Filipino historian concluded that Igorots are monkeys and not Filipinos).
I consider myself very lucky because I was never discriminated because of my ethnic origin. The reason is very simple: I always do great so people will learn about my deeds first before my ethnic origin.
One time, I heard someone saying “Yuck Igorot!” to a classmate. I felt bad because I was not able to defend Igorot.
When I was in first year college some classmates referred to me as “the Igorot man”. But as soon as they discovered how good I was in Algebra, these classmates never addressed me that way again.
During friendly conversations with lowlanders, I always end up giving a talk about my ethnic roots. I always point out key information about Igorots and invite them to Sagada to know more about my origin.
One time my Australian boss found me struggling to build a fire. He told me to look for an Igorot man to do the job for me.
It was a slap on my face. He did not know that the person in front of him is an Igorot man.
Lucky for me, I do not have to suffer from Igorot discrimination unlike some of my folks. I always tell those who confess about their nightmares of being Igorots to just accomplish great things and no one will discriminate them for being Igorots- because having a tribe is a bonus and not a liability.