Sunday, June 11, 2017

La Trinidad at a glimpse

La Trinidad at a glimpse
(Valred Olsim Eternal Student Column for SunstarBaguio June 13, 2017)

At 4 in the afternoon, we discovered from the heights the beautiful valley of Benguet, the lovely sight of which surprised us all, so that even the soldiers gave vent to their admiration by joyous shouts – Lt.Col. Guillermo Galvey,1829

During the Spanish era, the valley of La Trinidad was originally called “Valle de Benguet” from the local term “Benget,” which means the stench emitted by the mud-covered swamp area.  Its original settlers were Ibalois, who grew rice, kamoteng kahoy, sweet potatoes, gabi, and sugar cane on hillside gardens and terraces along the mountain slopes. Power and wealth were measured by one’s ownership of land and livestock. These were shared by holding the prestigious feast called “Peshit”.

For centuries, the whole Gran Cordillera went undiscovered, not until the Spaniards heard about the gold-rich Igorots trading with the lowlanders. Earliest Spanish visits by Captain Garcia de Aldana and Don Alonso M. Quirante were recorded as early as the 1620s.

Although the District of Benguet was established in La Trinidad by 1846, it was only in April 21, 1874, under Commandant Manuel Scheidnagel, that “Valle de Benguet” was renamed “Valle de La Trinidad” (La Trinidad Valley). Despite popular acceptance that it was named as “a fitting tribute to Galvey’s wife - Doña Trinidad de Galvey” – recent research has revealed that credit should have probably gone to Scheidnagel, having been inspired by the three prominent adjacent hills (in effect, forming a Trinity: a religious icon of the Christian campaign) overlooking the Poblacion church, where the seat of government, the Cabecera, was established.

After the Revolutionary period in 1900, La Trinidad grew vegetables via the Trinidad Farm School (now Benguet State University). Along with socio-economic changes, the concepts of freedom of religion, titling of lands, formal education and the democratic election of leaders were introduced. Paid labor and money became an important feature in the economic lives of the people. Such time of plenty is fondly recalled by old folks as that “time of blissful peace.”

In contrast, the Japanese occupation and World War II were turbulent times. Residents were imprisoned without formal charges and pitilessly tortured. This prompted able-bodied men to join the guerrilla movement, while their families fled for safety to the mountains. 

After liberation, on June 16, 1950, La Trinidad became a regular municipality by virtue of RA No. 531.  To get back on its feet, La Trinidad went on a massive production of vegetables. For this, the municipality soon came to be widely-known as the Salad Bowl of the Philippines. And with the establishment of the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post, the valley solidified its status as Benguet’s marketing hub of highland vegetables.

Owing to the need to diversify and with the introduction of new varieties, strawberries soon became the town’s main product by 1980s. Growing acclaim for these red and luscious strawberries earned La Trinidad for itself the title “Strawberry Capital of the Philippines.”
Farmers likewise ventured into cutflower production, and by the 1990s, many barangays in La Trinidad were soon growing chrysanthemums, roses and a variety of flowers. Barangay Bahong, a major flower farming community, was named “The Rose Capital of the Philippines”.

By the turn of the century, migration and urbanization paved their way in, bringing with them a colourful tapestry of peoples not only from the nearby Cordillera and Ilocandia regions, but from all islands of the archipelago.


La Trinidad will be celebrating its 67th foundation day this Friday (June 16, 2017) at the Municipal Gym. There are many things we hope and pray for La Trinidad, our home; we passionately hope and pray for the cooperation of the community in many programs of the town, as well as dedication and wisdom for our officials to work for the common good of the community. We hope that we will all love and take care of our home, La Trinidad, for the very simple reason that…it is our home.

Valle de Benguet

Valle de Benguet
VALRED OLSIM, (Published by Sunstar.Baguio for Eternal Student,June 6, 2017)

“I have heard some Igorot say that beyond the great mountain called “Tonglo” which overlooks Santo Tomas and Agoo, and is one of the noteworthy mountains of Luzon, there was a very large town situated in a broad and fertile valley the inhabitants of which were very rich and brave people and made war upon the pagans of the foothills.” (Espedicion al Valle de Benguet en Enero del año de 1829)

The expedition diary of Lt. Col. Guilermo de Galvey in 1829 is a fourteen-day account of his voyage to “Valle de Benguet” (present day ‘La Trinidad Valley’). Galvey is without a doubt, “the greatest despoiler of the Igorots Spain ever sent to the Cordilleras”.

Seventy years after the punitive expedition of Tonglo by Pangasinan Governor Arza, Galvey marched to the mountains with his Igorot friend, Pingue, about a dozen officers and a troop of  fifty,  and some 200 ‘Polistas’ (Filipinos forced into labor). They crossed wild rivers and climbed steep rocks. For days they shielded themselves from the traps of ‘pagans’ and heavy rains, until the eight day where they finally ‘came upon the pine trees’.

At 4 am that day, they finally arrived at the valley where Galvey wrote: “…we discovered from the heights the beautiful valley of Benguet, the lovely sight of which surprised us all, so that even the soldiers gave vent to their admiration by joyous shouts”.

Galvey’s troops were advancing when two drunk Igorots with spears planted themselves and confronted them furiously. They were later bound after a brief scuffle and another group of Igorots were brought to Galvey for interrogation. He set them free and told them to go back and tell the headmen to see him the following day and assured them that no harm would be done to them, but that if they attacked, he would burn their village.

That afternoon he described Valle de Benguet as: “…a valley of a league and a half or more in circumference; it is surrounded with springs and forms a basin. The soil was very well cultivated, with immense fields of sweet potatoes, gabe and sugar cane, but no paddy in this tract of land. All was irrigated and fenced in by dividing lines of earth after the manner of Spain, and provided with wells. The houses which had numbered some 500, were of broad pine boards and very dirty. He finally decided that it is in the valley that he will establish the capital of the district.

At 8 pm however, their camp was attacked by Igorots, and Galvey, in response, killed a number of natives and captured twelve Igorots – all of whom were drunk and were shouting savagely.

On the next day, Galvey found himself surrounded by more natives who were angrier than the night before. It is at this tipping point that Galvey decided to “give them a lesson”. He and his troops stormed the village firing at the natives and burning down some 180 houses.

After that unforgettable violence, Galvey and his troops went southwest with twenty-eight Igorot prisoners. They continually descended towards the west for days until they arrived at Aringay in the fourteenth day.

As a final reflection, Galvey wrote: “…the expedition, though short , served well for those I made later, as the Igorot of Benguet shortly afterwards asked me for peace and have since been my friends. On different expeditions I have passed eight or ten times through their valley, and far from attacking me, they have treated me with kindness, providing me with rice, cows, and other food. Still, as a consequence of this expedition and of smallpox, this town has been reduced to about a hundred houses. I am, however, doing everything to make it flourish again, and my highroad reaches there”.

Ten years later after the expedition, Don Guillermo de Galvey died in 1839. Despite popular tradition that La Trinidad was named after his supposed wife Dona Trinidad de Galvey, his military records in Madrid revealed that he is in fact unmarried (soltero).

In 1875, one of Galvey’s successors, Commandante Manuel Scheidnagel renamed “Valle de Benguet” to La Trinidad.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Ibaloy today

The Ibaloy Studies Conference: The Ibaloy today (By Valred Olsim)

(Our Tourism policy is more than numbers that help generate employment and pump the economy but also includes the preservation of culture and heritage. That is why I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend seminars and conferences that are related to our functions such as this recently held Ibaloy Studies Conference at UP Baguio on April 24-25).
“That’s a very difficult question.” Dr. Julie Camdas-Cabato, sighed not knowing that the inquisitive person in front of her is one of the many babies she ushered to this world via caesarian section.

Dr. Cabato’s story of the “vanishing Ibaloys of Baguio City” echoes the many fears of the Ibaloys in this age – the displacing of its people, the fading of its culture, and the losing of its identity. As many queries piled the hall, I was compelled to stand up and address the room’s white elephant after a UP professor’s “profound” and “extremely important” inquiry about the “color of the butato (fireflies)”.

“How do we, the multi-cultural children- the one-halves, and one fourths, address our identity? What is the implication of being a multi-cultural child in the Ibaloy’s advocacy of cultural preservation?” I nervously raised.

“That is indeed a very difficult question” The questions actually broke the room- each participant looking side and up, asking the ceiling the same thing.

There was no answer.

Earlier, messages were given asking the obvious question: “Who are the Ibaloys?” Benguet Gov. Fongwan, who admitted that he has no Ibaloy blood but can speak fluent Ibaloy, shared that he is considered by many as one of them simply because he lived as an Ibaloy, and speaks the Ibaloi Language. (“He looks and sounds like a chicken, therefore he must be a chicken”).

Does that mean that those who do not know how to speak Ibaloi, despite having Ibaloy parents, like most from the fifth and perhaps, sixth generation, are not considered Ibaloys?  Is being an Ibaloy by blood? Or by cultural orientation (as being able to speak Ibaloi)? Although I understood that Anthropological researchers use the language to sort human groups, I still felt unconvinced.

NCIP Commissioner Zenaida Hamada-Pawid (a one-half, one- fourth herself) answered my query in three parts. She started her story by recalling her experience as a young Anthropology professor of UP who is tracing her ancestry by collecting the genealogy of the five biggest clans of Benguet villages. What she and other researchers found out was that all of the people in the southern Cordillera can trace their roots to only one people – the Kalanguyas (Ikalahans), a distinct sub-group of the Ifugaos.

The Kalanguyas (from “Keley ngoy iya” a term used to pacify misunderstandings), in turn, are blood brothers of many different ethnic groups, not only from the Cordillera region, but also of the people of Region I and II. “Enshi nai-afafil” I smirked.

If we go deeper, we will find out that our different tribes in the Cordillera region belong to the same Austronesian Peoples in Southeast Asia and Oceania. This means that we belong to the same family with the Taiwanese aborigines; the majority ethnic groups of MalaysiaEast Timor,IndonesiaBruneiMadagascarMicronesia, and Polynesia, as well as the Polynesian peoples of New Zealand and Hawaii, and the non-Papuan people of Melanesiathe minorities of Singapore where Malay is an indigenous language, the Pattani region of Thailand, and the Cham areas in Vietnam,Cambodia, and Hainan.

“What irks me is the different organizations, including that Bangsamoro, who insist that they are different (perhaps superior?) groups when they belong to the same group of people” She said strongly. “Even without discussing the cultural and social matrix however, we are one people because of our common activities – pasturing, agriculture, forestry and mining.” These activities, she explained are protected by the Indigenous Peoples themselves suggesting that said activities taught them to become very much protective of their land and resources.

“So how can the young Ibaloy today understand how is it to become an Ibaloy of the past?” She asked. “The Ibaloy is a culture and people in constant change….they are not frozen in time”

“But if you want to know the core value of the Ibaloys, go ask the Ibaloys who perished in the Battle of Tonglo at Lumtang (Lamtang). Our ancestors who spent 300 years of fighting to protect our ownership of our lands, properties, and resources.” She almost shouted. “The Ibaloys are strong and empowered!”

The room almost became somber. For some of the Ibaloys who are there, the obvious implication of her last lines hit them like a brick. “Have we protected our ownership of our land and resources?” They must have muttered. Perhaps, our ancestors must be rolling on their graves screaming that “the real Ibaloys are those who have protected the lands of their ancestors!”

My late Father, Alberto Ingosan Olsim Jr., descended from the Ingosan-Gabol Clan of Irisan, Baguio City who can trace their roots to Ahin (Buguias) and Kabayan, and the Olsim and Bacquian clan of Buguias, Benguet. He is a “Kanibal”(Kankana-ey – Ibaloy). He, however, grew up in Mt. Province because of his father’s choice to farm at nearby Bauko and Sabangan, Mt. Province.

It is a different case with my Mother, Marcelina Dulay Elwas, who is predominantly a “Bontokis” from Sabangan and, Samoki, Can-eo, and Gonogon, Bontoc, Mt. Province. She, however, grew up in an Ibaloy mining village at Itogon, Benguet where she lived and spoke like a true blue Ibaloy.

This (comically) means that I have an i-Benguet father who grew up in Mt. Province, and a Mt. Province mother who grew up in Benguet.

I was born in Baguio City, and raised in La Trinidad, Benguet. I lived in a multi-cultural neighborhood who uses the Cordillera region’s “neutral” language – the “Ilokano”, or perhaps our washed out version of it. Our parents did not use the Kankana-ey or Ibaloy language in our home, just like many parents today.

Growing up, however, I saw how the two tribes treat each other with contempt - the Ibaloys thinking that other groups have robbed them of their lands, and the other groups blaming the Ibaloys for selling hectares of it. In one record, my Ibaloy side,the Ingosan and Gabol, who are two of the major clans of Baguio City, sold their lots at Irisan to Manila developers. Such event at Irisan served as the microcosm of how Baguio City have turned out to be.

The attitude of Benguet versus Mt. Province, or the Ibaloys vs. the "Bontokis" is visible in schools, in the workplace,and even in news columns like Midland's Opposite Direction by Atty. Benny Carantes where he viewed the "Bontokis" as carpet baggers, and his fellow Ibaloys as threats to other Ibaloys. 

Many writers blamed the division of the Ibaloys to the conscious machinations of powerful people in the past. The division of barangays to divide the Ibaloy clans and subdue them, and the unfair politics of this date. Come to think of it, there has never been an Ibaloy mayor of Baguio City.

Such conflicting scenario, taught me to become indifferent with my cultural identity. "Why can't we just say that we are humans who breath the same air, and drink the same water?" I contemplated as a young kid. For a 90s kid immersed in the global pop culture, I never really cared...until today.


So, how do we, the part Ibaloys, address our identity, especially in the Ibaloy’s call for cultural preservation in this modern multi-cultural society? Does it mean that I have to marry an Ibaloy girl to ‘promote and continue the blood line’? Does it mean that we have to ban the entry of the “Bontokis” or other cultural groups?  How can I compromise the preservation of the different cultures that I belong too (which are equally wonderful)?

For us hybrids, we can only imagine in our silence.

In this multi-cultural generation in which the young Ibaloys have learned to love without the issue of tribe, language, or colors, they will barely understand the importance of their Ibaloy culture and identity, or feel what is it to become an Ibaloy.

They can only learn the cultural tools - the language, and the dances. They can only wear their names and their ethnic costumes. But beyond that, they have changed... just like this ever-changing world.


The Legend of Mt. Tinmakudo (and Mt. Kalawitan)

The Legend of Mt. Tinmakudo (and Mt. Kalawitan)

          A long time ago, people in this world have only one language. The world where they lived in was flat; there were no hills nor mountains to be seen around, so when people go somewhere, they would get lost because the surroundings were almost the same - there were no landmarks to serve as guide for them. This created a problem to the inhabitants.
          The God Kabunyan noticed this problem so he flooded the earth and all living creatures perished. When the flood subsided there were mountains and hills that rose from the earth. Lumawig who was looking down from the heavens saw what happened. He descended from heaven and stood on top of the highest mountain. Tired, he then sat down (Tinmukdo) while viewing the surroundings.  While viewing the earth, he responded to the call of nature. Standing and facing the valleys of Namatec and Napua he urinated; thus making the area the source of abundant water that springs from the top of Mt. Tinmakudo – the place where he sat.

Soon, the day turned to night and the time has come for Lumawig to build a fire to light his surroundings.  Looking far towards Mt. Kawwitan  now Mt. Kalawitan) he saw a fire burning. He was curious, he rode in his “Solibao” and flew to Mt. Kawwitan and there, he saw a small nipa hut. He peeped through the hut and inside, he saw a woman who happened to be her sister Bungan  (later on pronounced as Bangan). Lumawig didn’t know that the woman was his sister. When Bungan saw Lumawig, she immediately recognized him as that of his brother and asked him what he wanted. Lumawig answered that he wants to get fire since he haven’t brought anything with him to start a fire. Bungan asked him to stay instead, so Lumawig stayed and lived with Bungan.
          Kabunyan who was looking down from the heavens saw Bungan and Lumawig living together but noticed that they didn’t sleep together. Kabunyan descended at Mt. Kawwitan and asked the two why. They nervously answered that it cannot be because they were brother and sister. Kabunyan thought for a while, and offered an agreement to them. He told them that he will do something, and that if any one among them would laugh upon seeing what he did, they should get married. So Kabunyan got a chicken, removed its feathers leaving two feathers in each wing and two in its tail then he let the chicken run wild.

          When Bungan saw what Kabunyan did to the chicken, she can’t hold her laughter and laughed hard. Kabunyan, with glee, reminded them about the condition that they should then be married.

                 This is, how the earth became inhabited and populated.

          Bungan and Lumawig were married and bore many children. They sent their children to other parts of the world to bear children and to give names to the place where they live and to have different dialects.

Narration by Alejo Dolipas (84 yrs. Old)

Mountain Province Elder

                                                                      Mt. Kalawitan View from Mt. Tinmakudo
Mt. Kalawitan View from Mt. Tinmakudo
Mt. Tinmakudo (with the highest peak on left)

                                                            Photo Above: Mt. Tinmakudo (with the highest peak on left)

Sunday, April 20, 2014



Waday esaylabi ay ek nan- esesa
Ay manangtangad sin talaweddaya
Asakiitawen ay sika-a di esa
Talaw sin edlangit ay ekbinuybuya.

Asaknenemnemen no gasat di dumteng
Ta sikakuma di para ken sak-en
Ngemmasdaawaktalaw ay inilak
Kanak et no sik-a kambawkan in-misukat

Asakud pay men- se- semsem
Sakit di nemnem
Nan tungpalsiudom
Kamakbawwatini- itaw
San layadmo ken sak-en
Ay into pay san talaw
Ay ekbuybuyaen.

Etnaey-yak kasin ay pagman- esesa
Ay mangil-ila san talawwddaya
Kaasianakkoma ta wadaymaseg- ang
Si balasang ay eyakkapusuan.

( repeat chorus)

Tan nay watak pay manse-semsem
Sakit di nem- nem
Nan tungpalsiudom………

( do intro…)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Igorot Struggle for Independence (William Henry Scott)

The Igorot Struggle for Independence

Group of Igorot women  
A group of Igorot women. Baguio, Benguet, 1900.  
It is a strange thing that the history textbooks commonly in use in the public and private schools of the Republic of the Philippines never mention the fact that the Igorot peoples of Northern Luzon fought for their liberty against foreign aggressions all during the 350 years that their lowland brethren were being ruled over by Spanish invaders. One history book says we can never know the history of the Filipino people during the Spanish period because they were slaves to the Spaniards or at least forced to play the role of slaves.

Certainly this is not true of the Igorots. They were never slaves to the Spaniards nor did they play the role of slaves. Quite the contrary, Spanish records make it clear that they fought for their independence with every means at their disposal for three centuries, and that this resistance to invasion was deliberate, selfconscious, and continuous. That it was largely successful is indicated by the fact that at the end of the Spanish Regime, when the Cordillera Central had been carved up into a dozen military districts, the last Spanish census listed one-third of the estimated mountain population as completely independent.

Foreign visitors to the Philippines all during the Spanish regime noticed this Igorot independence. An Italian traveller mentioned it in 1696, a Frenchman in 1766, an American in 1842, a German in 1878, and an Englishman in 1896. And it was a cause of great embarrassment to the Spaniards themselves.
When Governor Diego Salcedo landed in Aparri in 1662 and travelled to Manila through Ilocos and Pangasinan, he said he suffered a sense of shame to see all those mountains inhabited by the Igorots, "owners of the gold mines and enemies of the Christians". So in 1779 an official said,

"It is certainly a shameful thing for our nation to suffer such disorders without demanding satisfaction for the Igorot crimes against our vassal natives, and a mockery and cause for laughter among other foreigners".

And a hundred years later Governor Primo de Rivera wrote almost the same thing,

"It is certainly humiliating for Spain and her government at home and abroad, to realize that thousands of human beings, some at the very doorway of the capital, and many others within sight of Christian towns with government forces and authorities, not only live in pre-Conquest backwardness, but commit crimes even to the extent of collecting tribute from the Christian towns themselves without receiving any punishment for their boldness".

Igorot throwing a lance  
An Igorot man throwing a lance.  
Of course the Spaniards did not consider this resistance a fight for independence. They considered the Igorots to be bandits and savages and lawbreakers because they did not submit to Spanish rule like the lowlanders. And they explained the Igorot defense of their liberty as the instincts of uncivilized tribes who. had always been at war with their more peace-loving neighbors. But the first generation of Spanish records do not make it clear that the Igorots' lowland neighbors were peace-loving, or that the Igorots were their enemies.

Quite the opposite, they make it clear that the Ilocanos and the Pangasinanes and Igorots were business partners in the gold industry. A Dominican account of 1593 says the Igorots brought their gold down to their special friends and agents in Pangasinan, and the famous book by Dr. Antonio de Morga of 1609 says the Igorots mined the gold but that the Ilocanos refined it and distributed it to other places. When the first friars went to Mangaldan, Pangasinan, in 1588, they found the people there making regular business trips to the mountains, and worshipping a mountain god called Apo Laki In 1745 the place that is now called Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya, was inhabited by Panipuy Igorots who also inhabited villages high in the mountains of what is now Kayapa municipality and the southwestern borders of Ifugao. And when a Kalinga chieftain raised a revolt in Isabela in 1787, the mayor of Camarag who remained loyal to the Spaniards, was his own brother. Considering the similarity of the present languages of Pangasinan and Benguet, and of Isinay and Lagawe, who can say where the dividing line between highlander and lowlander was when the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines ?

As a matter of fact, early Spanish accounts don't even make it clear that highlanders and lowlanders were very different racially or culturally. The first missionaries in Zambales, Pangasinan and Cagayan said the natives were all headhunters there, and the same word mangayaw, is found as far away as the dialects of Mindanao and was recorded by a first-generation Spanish conquistador in the Visayas.

When Juan de Salcedo drove the Chinese corsair Limahong out of Lingayen in 1574, he found the bodies of Chinese who had escaped and were killed by the local people and they were all headless. In fact, when Salcedo's own body was sent to Manila for burial in the San Agustin Church after he died outside Vigan, the head was missing.
The native mountaineers of Panay who were also unconquered by the Spaniards, to this day dig up their ancestors' bones and bury them again after cleaning them just like the Ifugaos, and just so Dr. de Morga said the Tagalogs kept their ancestors' bones in the houses and worshipped them. The kind of earrings the Ifugaos called ling-ling-o have been dug up out of 2,000-year-old Filipino graves in Palawan. All over the Philippines, from Aparri to Jolo, the Spaniards noticed that Filipinos considered a sneeze unlucky at the beginning of a journey, and that they would turn around and go home if a snake or lizard crossed their path, or if a bird flew from one side to the other. A study by a U.P. professor makes a list of supposedly Chinese words in Tagalog but this list includes a lot of words which are common all over the mountain provinces, likeatangbantaykotkotbosogbotyog, and sowitik.

Moreover, a recent study of vocabularies from languages and dialects all over the archipelago by a Yale linguist, indicates that Tagalog and Bontoc, for instance, have more basic words in common than either of them does with any language outside the Philippines-like Borneo, for instance. It is hard to explain this similarity if the Tagalogs came to the Philippines in a separate wave of migration 2,000 years after the Bontocs were already settled in the mountains of the Grand Cordillera Central.

Anyway, whatever the picture was in prehispanic times, after the Spaniards started the conquering of lowland Filipino tribes, those who submitted to the Spaniards naturally became enemies of those who didn't. A Spanish complaint of 1606 says the Igorots prevented the other Filipinos from becoming Christians, and stole children who had been baptized to raise them in the old pagan religion. Some Jesuit theologians in 1619 argued that a just war could be made against the Igorots because they prevented free passage through their lands to the Ilocanos and Cagayanes, "our friends and vassals of the King, Our Lord." And missionaries helped to make enmity between converts and pagans, too. The first missionary in Manaoag bribed converts to report pagans who secretly held caiaos. Governor Cruzat in 1690 issued an order that lowlanders would be punished by 100 lashes for having dealings with pagan Igorots. An Augustinian missionary handbook of 1731 says that Tinguianes and Igorots should be attracted by peaceful means, but that after all peaceful means have failed to convert them, they should be threatened and their fields taken away from them.

And the records make it clear that the Igorots often had justified complaints, too. In 1753 the head of the Augustinians had an Igorot petition translated for the Governor General, asking for the return of the gold, silver and blankets that had been grabbed' by the agents of the Governor of Pangasinan. In 1773 the Igorots burned the church in San Nicolas, Pangasinan, in revenge for the loss of their gold which they entrusted to a local businessman. Accounts in both the 18th and 19th centuries say the Igorots collected land rentals in the foothills of the Ilocos, Cagayan and Isabela because they claimed to have owned that land before the Spaniards relocated lowland converts there. A friar writing in Kiangan in 1857 said the major cause of fighting between Ifugaos and Christians was conflicting claims to the same hunting grounds-and he adds, "the pagans are not always to blame, either".

At any rate, if the Igorots and the lowlanders were natural enemies from time immemorial before the coming of the Spaniards, how come the Spaniards were always complaining that lowlanders were always escaping and running away to join the mountaineer pagans?

A 17th century petition calls Igorotland "a den of thieves where delinquent Christians take refuge and escape the law", and after the Diego Silang uprising of 1762-63 the Governor General called it a place "where rebels take refuge because they. are their allies and our enemies." As a matter of fact, the whole population under control of the Spaniards in the Ilocos went down by onesixth during the first 25 years of. the conquest. One modern scholar has concluded that they all escaped to the mountain provinces-and Father Lambrecht, after a careful study of the internal evidence of the Ifugao hudhuds, thinks all the Ifugaos migrated into the present province of Ifugao after the Spaniards invaded the upper Magat River Valley.

Modern Filipino writers seem to be just as slow as the Spaniards to give credit to the Igorots for their defense of their homeland. History professors in Manila classrooms have been known to say that it was all just an accident of history or geography. By this they mean either that it was too much trouble for the Spaniards to invade the mountains or that they didn't want to do so in the first place.

The idea that the Spaniards didn't want to invade the mountains of the Igorots is just flatly contradictory to their own records. They heard about the Ilocos gold mines before they ever set foot in Luzon, and it only took them five years after the founding of Manila to reach the Baguio mines. They established short-lived forts in Boa and Antamok in 1620, 1623 and 1624, and in Mankayan and Lepanto in 1668-but they were never able to stay until after the invention of the modern repeating rifle. A hundred years later they tried to open a road through Igorot territory between Pangasinan and Cagayan, and in 1750 began a 150 -war with the Ifugaos. In 1767 they were repulsed in Kiangan itself, in 1793 they were met by natives wearing metal armor, and during the 19th century they made literally dozens of expeditions into that province. Yet in the 1850's the- Ifugaos killed or drove out all the Spanish missionaries in Mayoyao, Bunhian and Kiangan. In the 1880's they were picking off members of the new occupation forces one by one, and during the revolution they completely massacred the Kiangan garrison and sent a war party of 600 down to attack a garrison in Isabela.

As far as saying that the Spaniards couldn't invade the mountains is concerned, is it the case that all lowlanders were conquered and all highlanders remained independent? What -about the Muslims? They defended their liberty against Spanish invasion whether they lived in mountains, or in tiny little islands, or right on the seacoast. On the other hand, not everybpdy who lived in the mountains resisted Spanish conquest or, for that matter, even wanted to. The mountains called the Caraballo Sur between Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija are a case in point. For these are mountains so rugged and easy to defend that the Philippine army had to provide armed escorts for public transportation through that area as late as the 1950's.

When the Spaniards sent four expeditions through this area between 1591 and 1594, the people of some villages welcomed them and paid them tribute, but in other villages tried to fight them off, and in still others completely repulsed them. Yet within a decade, native delegations came to Manila asking for Spanish intervention in local wars, and for another 150 years Spanish forces were welcomed in some places. and repulsed in others. The people of St. Catherine's mission, Buhay, for example, only six kilometers from Aritao, always welcomed the conquistadores and their missionaries, while the Panipuy Igorots of Aritao fought them off from behind stone walls until 1745. Yet Buhay was built on top of rocky mountains so steep people needed ladders to climb up while Aritao was exposed to attack right in the open plain of the Magat Valley. How come Buhay submitted but not Aritao.

Besides, the Igorots quickly learned that living in the mountains did not spare them from Spanish attacks. In 1755 a Spanish friar went to live in the village of Tonglo, near the public school in the present municipality of Tuba outside Baguio. After he destroyed their idols, they threatened to stone him to death, and a few months later drove him out. Since they were only a day's hike from Spanish garrisons on the coast, they must have known they were risking punishment. And in 1759 it came-three separate detachments of lowland soldiers who took three weeks to reach Tonglo, which they subjected to five hours of artillery fire and burned it to the ground so completely no trace of its location can be found today. Yet the Igorot survivors of the battle did not surrender. They simply retreated deeper into the mountains, and some of their descendants are living still in Baguio today.

This was part of the heavy price which the Igorots paid for their independence-always giving up their homes and villages and fields to Spanish fire and sword, and retreating deeper and deeper into higher and higher mountain ranges to struggle for a harder existence. It is clear that at the beginning of the Spanish occupation, the Igorots lived in better houses, in bigger villages than they did later. The 1620 expedition to Baguio found fortifications so solid they used them to build their own fort. A 1740 account says Igorot houses were so spacious three families could live in one of them. The 1759 expedition found a settlement with 35 large houses all made of boards, arranged along a regular street, with a plaza, and a kind of church for their pagan ceremonies. When Galvey entered the Trinidad Valley in 1829, he found 500 houses there, and started burning them. In 1883 there were only fifty left. And a German traveler in 1861 found the Agno valley full of old stone walls in the fields, all grown over with underbrush, and he reported, "Today most villages bear the stamp of misery and deprivation: the fields are badly maintained, the stone walls around the houses are falling down, and the big villages of Galvey's time have been deserted".

When the Igorots were not literally overwhelmed by sheer numbers and firepower, however, they proved formidable opponents. No Spanish force ever maintained a garrison permanently on the Cordillera before the Remington repeating rifle replaced the old muskets that were almost useless in wet weather. The goldmining Igorots drove off two Spanish expeditions before they could sample their ores. When Martin Quirante was finally successful in carrying away gold samples in 1625, he brought along 85 Spaniards-double the number Salcedo took to the Ilocos in 1572 -as well as 1750 Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos. Nor could the Spanish government guarantee protection to their lowland vassals from Igorot attack. In the 18th century, a Spanish historian says the Ilocano farmers had to work their fields with the sickle in one hand and a weapon in the other, and travellers could not use the royal highway along the coast without armed escorts. When one officer proposed an attack on the Igorots in 1796 and told the governor it would be an easy victory, he replied, "Don't forget to make an estimate of the pensions for the widows and mothers of those killed in battle".

The traditional Igorot arsenal consisted of wooden shields, bamboo lances and highly effective stakes planted in the grassy trails to strike their enemies in the ankle or foot. Bows and arrows were only rarely used, and iron weapons like spears, bolos and head-axes only appeared later. Their defensive tactics included blockades of trees and branches in mountain passes where they could roll down big stones and treetrunks. They often pretended to retreat until the invaders lowered their guard, or even pretended -to surrender and then wiped out the supposed victors by ambush on their way home. More especially, they tried to keep all their trails and villages secret, and killed their fellow Igorots who acted as guides for the enemy. A Spanish friar in 1789 wrote: "Those who come down to trade in the lowlands are only men or chieftains in whom they have confidence, never women or children or slaves. If you ask them for information about their land or mines, they just act dumb, and if they say anything at all, it is just lies or nonsense, and only leaves you all the more confused".

But whether the Igorots were better fighters than the Spaniards or not does not answer the question why they remained independent and their. lowland brother submitted to Spanish conquest-because the Spaniards were always so few in number the lowlanders could surely have overcome them if they really tried to do so. Between 1572 and 1872, the Filipino population paying tribute increased from 500,000 to 5 million-yet there were never more than 2,000 Spanish soldiers in the.whole archipelago! Jose Rizal explained this phenomenon by saying, "The people were accustomed to bondage and would not defend themselves against the invader and would not fight-for them, it was just a change of masters." And Professor Teodoro Agoncillo said it was because the natives would blindly follow anything the friars, their spiritual advisers, told them to do. Certainly this was not true of the Igorots. They were satisfied with their form of government, and they were satisfied with their kind of religion.

The pagans of Tonglo, for example, told the idol-smashing friar who came to convert them, "It's no easier for the people to give up their ancient practices for the word of a priest, than for him to give up what he believes." And their pagan priestess told him, "If you're the priest of the Christians, so am I of the- Igorots, and if you have your God, I have mine." In 1857, a Spanish priest in Ifugao told the following story: "When I was in Bunhian, I wanted to catechize a 12-year-old-boy who was very ill, in order to baptize him. But when I told him he would go to heaven if he died, his mother turned to me angrily and told me she didn't want her son to go to heaven; why not give him some miedicine and cure him and leave him in this world?" And when a priest tried to persuade an old Igorot of Sumadel it was unsanitary to bury the- dead under the-house, he replied, "But don't you understand that if we bury our dead out there in the cemetery on the mountain, they will come back at night, take up their bodies and eat up all our camotes?" The whole Igorot attitude toward their religion may be nicely summarized in an 18th century statement they made to some lowlanders:

"The fiestas of the Christians aren't worth anything because it's all just a lot of noise-making with bells and drums and muskets, and then everybody just goes home to his own house and eats what little he has. But the fiestas of our leaders are not like that. They are good-tasting and satisfying, and they don't have all that racket. They kill animals by the dozens and everybody drinks until he passes out. Among you anybody is mayor or headman, but our leaders are never changed. No matter how much they spend, they always have more".

Some Spaniards themselves understood the Igorot pride in their own way of life. Father Francisco Antolin, a Dominican friar stationed in Aritao, spent 18 years trying to learn as much as he could about the Igorots and their way of life, and he wrote a long book about them in 1789. The following is a quotation from his description of the Igorots almost 200 years ago:

"The small population of the Filipinos is usually attributed to smallpox, venereal disease and leprosy; or to wars, deforestation, tribute, division of land, migrations, and similar:things. But the Igorots have practically none of these. They take sufficient care of the mountain passes to prevent the entrance of smallpox and other epidemics from the Christians. They don't navigate seas or rivers, nor do they leave their own country. They have nobody to order them to row, act as cargadors, or cut wood. They work, eat and drink as they wish and when they like. They have few long-range wars. The very fact of having maintained themselves as an independent republic this long, exploiting their mines, without the Christians or other pagans having been able to seize their mineral wealth, implies a great population. If they were few and not disposed to cooperate among themselves, they would not have been able to resist becoming Christians and obedient vassals until now."

"Although their agriculture is most primitive, they do not have those duties, sometimes enforced, which the Christians havelike government service, running messages, making roads, attending church, and various tasks incompatible with working and cultivating their fields. Those who live by working in the gold, copper and iron mines care little about making fields. And why should they wear themselves out in agriculture when the gold, knives and pots they produce suffice for everything". But from this it is not to be concluded that their land is completely barren and miserable, for it abounds in precious materials.

The fact is that the Igorots are contented with it, and that it costs the missionaries much battling, strife and diligence to get them out of their lands and make them live among Christians. They give many reasons for not coming down. They say that the towns of the Christians are very hot, that there is much smallpox and many epidemics, that there are crimes, robberies and conflicts between people, and that there are many to give orders and make the poor people work. Much less are the tribute, monopoly, and government officials hidden from them. And even though they also have to be subject to the whims of their leaders up there, these are lighter and they can evade them. In short, they do not envy the products and conveniences of the Christians, and only seek free trade in blankets, G-strings and animals for their gold. And with this alone they keep themselves perfectly happy in their mountains."

This independent attitude would not have been so objectionable if it had been kept in aloof isolation on the heights of the Cordillera. But the fact was that the Igorots. came and went to the lowlands as they pleased. It was galling enough that they raided tribute-paying Spanish subjects and carried off lowland heads-or even whole lowlanders as slaves or objects of ransom. But what was worse was that these depredations did not interrupt 350 years of lowland commercial cooperation with them.

Igorot group in Buguias Benguet, 1901  
Igorot group in Buguias Benguet, 1901. Copper kettle is made by Igorots mined and smelted by them.  
In Pangasinan and Ilocos they traded gold, copper utensils and counterfeit coins, wax, and rattan for rice, pigs and cattle. The Ifugaos made their purchases with rice in the Cagayan aind Magat valleys, anctwith iron tools they made from broken iron pots, they got from the Ilocos, which the people of Nueva Vizcaya considered superior to Manila bolos. Lowland merchants travelled around buying up carnelian beads to sell them at a peso a piece. Igorot G-strings were woven on Ilocano looms in-the 18th century as in the 20th. Igorot miners refreshed themselves with basi carried up from lowlands and molasses cakes. And Igorot traders themselves moved freely back and forth across the Cordillera. They sold Ilocano iron tools in Nueva Vizcaya as early as 1690, and in 1780 a missionary in Aritao sent a letter to a fellow friar in Bauang by some Ifugao traders from Tinok. Nor were these Igorot traders completely ignorant of lowland politics, either: a native of Kayapa told a Spanish friar who was trying to convert him in 1785, "So what about these Englishmen who captured Manila-they were white men and Christians, weren't they?"

This untaxed trade was especially objectionable in the case of the Igorot gold monopoly. Neither the king nor the missionaries could put the gold out of their minds for,veryAong. Priests called it a "magnet to men's hearts" and preached that God had hidden the gold in the most remote parts of the pagan world to attract greedy Christians there so the Gospel would be spread. When King Phillip III foolishly took Spain into the Thirty Year's War, he wrote the Archbishop of Manila:

"With your experience in the islands, you well know the importance of maintaining them not only because of the Christian faith, which is the main reason, but also because of the condition of our Royal treasury, and so, because it is necessary above everything else to have the necessary treasure or money for it, it is deemed that the only and chief solution must be to exploit those mines of the Igorots".

When Governor Salcedo sent out the 1668 expedition to Mankayan, he ordered them,

"Even if you come across the gold mines, make no show of esteeming them, nor look for them, because it should not seem that you, have any other aim than to reduce their souls to God; save the exploitation of the mines for later".

 These expeditions to the Igorot gold mines, however, were all so expensive and so unproductive that after the failure of the 1668 entry into Lepanto, the Spanish Government never attempted another one. By 1800, however, a new economic crisis arose with the Igorots. In 1780 the government instituted a monopoly on tobacco in the Philippines, and it was so successful that, for the first time in 200 years, the colony actually showed a profit for the home government. The monopoly promptly became an object of sabotage by the Igorots. They not only grew contraband tobacco themselves, but carried it all the way from Cagayan to sell illegally in the Ilocos. At first, this Igorot trade was winked at under a hopeful policy of trying to attract them, and under the illusion that not much money was involved. By 1836, however, it was discovered that tobacco' taxes in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur had dropped off by 66%. The government therefore sent Colonel Guillermo Galvey through Benguet, Lepanto, Bontoc and Ifugao in 1829-39 to put an end to the tobacco smuggling and Igorot independence. But still, even after their fields were burned, their villages levelled, and their population decimated by the smallpox carried by the soldiers, the Igorots continued to evade the monopoly. So the government agreed to exempt them on the understanding they would only sell their tobacco to a government station. But a Spanish official reported in 1842:

"Experience has shown the uselessness of this arrangement because the pagans carry ten bundles to the government and then sell a hundred as contraband, for the price they get from the lowlanders is always better than what they get from the government monopoly".

Galvey's decimation of Benguet, however, did make its miserable survivors the first tribe of Igorots to be officially listed as Spanish subjects. Lepanto soon followed, and Bontoc in 1859. But not until the 1890's under energetic Governor General Valeriano Weyler, the so-called "Butcher of Cuba," were troops permanently quartered in Kalinga or Ifugao. The last Spanish census of 1898 claimed 120,444 pagans recognizing vassalage to the King of Spain. It must have been a tenuous sort of vassalage, however, to judge from chance references by foreign travellers at the end of the Spanish regime-a detachment of 40 men wiped out on the march for example. Or two garrisons in the Saltan Valley massacred one Sunday morning during mass. Or the number of Spanish heads shown to German scientist Alexander Schadenberg. Or, for that matter, the Spanish jawbones still decorating heirloom gangsas in more remote parts of the mountain provinces even today.

Meanwhile, during those three centuries when Spanish firearms never really conquered the lofty liberty of the Igorots, they were paying a heavy price for their independence. Moving off into more remote parts of the Cordillera, they had to pit their brawn and brains against raw nature and sterile soil. And while they learned to carve whole mountainsides into terraces to wring out a bare subsistence of living, their tribute-paying brethren in the lowlands were learning to farm like Spaniards and cook like Chinese.
While Graciano Lopez Jaena was ornamenting the Spanish press with his graceful prose, and Jose Rizal was hobnobbing with European scholars in a half dozen foreign languages, their illiterate Igorot compatriots were being exhibited in the Philippine Exposition along with the other native plants and animals. In their mountain province independence, the Igorots missed out on, all those convenient innovations enjoyed by their conquered brethren - the iron plows, the horses and cows, the pancit and pan-de-sal, the camisas de chino and barongs tagalog, the grade school primers and those prestigious blue eyes and curly, blond hair.

It was a heavy price to pay for liberty. And it is a price not yet fully paid. For even their descendants who are congressmen, professors or bishops must send their children to government schools where they dutifully stare at textbooks which say they are different from all other Filipinos because their ancestors came in the wrong wave of migration. But never a word about their 350-year resistance to foreign aggression.

The Igorot struggle for independence: William Henry Scott, Malaya Books, Quezon City, 1972 (via the University of Michigan Digital Library, 2005)
Photo credit: Philippine Photographs Digital Archive, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan.
Wikipedia Commons for rice terraces.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dakami a Tingguian

Dakami a Tingguian


Luglugar mi a Tinggian (our abodes, we Tinggians)
Lugar kabanbantayan (are mountainous places)
Ken kabakbakiran (and forestlands)
Napalalotirigat mi (we greatly suffer)
Pudot, sang-at lak-amen mi (heat, uphill climbs we endure)
Kaasi kami (we are pitiful)
Sidsida mi ngaTinggian (our foods, we Tinggians)
Alingo, ugsakadaikan (are wild pigs, deer and fish)
Ay, ay, nam-ay mi pay (Ah, how blessed we are!)

[last five stanzas omitted]

(Kalinga song)