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Books up North: Learning a Little about the People of Cordillera

After a grueling month-long Bar Examinations last November, I knew I needed to take a vacation, no matter how short, to celebrate of some sorts, and ultimately, to feed my wanderlust and somehow unwind. Baguio was an easy decision. It was not too near to merely have a day trip, yet not too far to require an airplane ride to get there. The weather is nice and there are a lot of places to visit and a lot of things to do.

We only had a couple of days to stroll around, and needless to say, we crammed as much as we could do. It was tiring, to say the least. I guess we really are not getting any younger. We went to the usual tourist spots – Minesview Park, Burnham Park, and the likes. Nevertheless, as a self-professed geek and bookworm, I enjoyed visiting Tam-Awan Artist Village and Mt. Cloud Bookshop more than the others.

For the Love of Books

I am amazed by the collection of books at Mt. Cloud. They sell some of the rarest books I have ever heard of and they even carry titles of prominent Filipino authors and scholars. I even saw some books written by my former professors. My hands were itching to buy some books but my frugality got the best of me that time. As we rode the cab, I carried that nagging feeling telling me that I should’ve gotten that book on Philosophy which intrigued me.

On the other hand, I absolutely enjoyed exploring Tam-Awan Artist Village for the second time. I loved reading the trivia about paganism and the culture of the Cordillera people. I reveled in the beautiful artworks as we walked the trail of the village. I knew the visit was going to involve a little trek but I never expected to be as dead tired as we were. I don’t remember being that tired when I first went. Did I really get that fat and unhealthy in a span of two years? I guess so!

We visited the souvenir shop before leaving the village. I knew that I had to get something but I don’t know just what. Then I found some really interesting books by the cashier. I remembered regretting not buying any book back in Mt. Cloud and so I quickly purchased two local books which caught my interest.

Hot & Cold

The first book I purchased was a compilation of anecdotes by Elizabeth Mamanglo. I assume the book to be self-published in the year 2015. The book was divided into two parts. First was the compilation of funny anecdotes and conversations with and between the folks of the Cordillera region. I found myself laughing at some parts as I saw the perky and jovial side of the Cordillera people. Accordingly, this was the “Hot” part of the book that will make the reader feel warmth with the joy and laughter from reading the amusing tales.

The second part of the book was dedicated to the otherworldly stories meant to make the reader’s skin crawl and palms sweat. We all know about the scary stories and encounters by the people staying at the Teacher’s Camp but the scary encounters are not limited to just that place. Various terrifying encounters have been told all around the Cordillera Mountains which involve kapre (tree giant), dwende (dwarf), diwata (fairy), white ladies, and other creepy and mythical creatures. Aptly named, this part of the book is “Cold” as it was meant to make the readers shiver.

Since the connection of my cell operator was weak where we stayed, I almost immediately finished the book while resting after a day’s worth of strolling around the city. I think I only had five more pages left to read but my roommates already turned off the lights to sleep. I mean I could go out and finish the last five pages but who would want to go out in the middle of the night alone to read scary stories? Certainly not me! So I managed to finish the book just now.

Defense of Igorot Independence

The other book I bought was a compilation of essays by William Henry Scott written especially for the First Cordillera Congress for National Liberation in 1971. I especially liked this book as it gave me a deeper understanding of the Cordillera people.

The first essay is entitled The Defense of Igorot Independence. This essay is a historical account of how the Igorots fought for their independence against the Spaniards during the Spanish colonization in the Philippines. This was particularly interesting for me because not much has been said and taught about the Cordillera people’s resistance from foreign aggression. This essay gave me a better overview of the traits, beliefs, and convictions of the Igorots as strong-willed and resourceful people.

Origin of the Word Igorot

Meanwhile, the second essay is entitled The Origin of the Word Igorot. True to its name, the essay explores the etymology of the word Igorot. Accordingly, the word is composed of the root word golot which means “mountain chain”, and the prefix “i” which means “people of”. Consequently, the word Igorot, as it now stands, means mountaineers or mountain dwellers. The word was purely Filipino in origin which was used by the lowlanders to refer to the highlanders.

In the past, I remember hearing someone telling me not to call the natives of the Cordillera Igorot in front of them as some find the word offensive. From the etymology of the word, there is nothing inherently wrong with using the term. Nevertheless, the word has gotten some derogatory connotations through the years when Spaniards would use the term to mean as an infidel or pagans who are unruly, barbaric, and who cannot be tamed when the Spaniards failed to colonize them and convert them to Christianity.

At present, I still don’t know whether the term Igorot sounds offensive to the people of the Cordillera. I know of some who are proud of their heritage but I could not say for sure nor could I generalize. What I am sure of, however, is that the prejudice attached to the word, brought about by history, should not be fostered any further. And this, I believe could only be done through education.

Ah, books are really a good investment! Excuse me while I get some more of my unread book hauls…

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