The parable of the ‘uncivilized’ Igorot-A A +A
Monday, October 8, 2012
THE “uncivilized Igorot” is the nomme de guerre ascribed to inhabitants of our beloved land by white-skinned tourists in search of converts, gold and spices, peons and power. It’s a term though which has managed to seep into present-day bigoted cerebral masses. And the antonym “civilized Igorot” supposedly speaks of the assimilated mountain people years after being taught the ways of the West.
With an ecological lens and in more perspectives than one, I love the uncivilized Igorot.
The so-called uncivilized Igorot regarded land as life and nature as his culture. His concept of health and well-being could not be threshed from the notion of environment. It was one and the same whole. His relationship with nature was health. His relationship with the community was health.
The centuries-old Papatay or Patpatayan trees, on whose feet offerings were slaughtered and prayers chanted by the uncivilized Igorots, were actually churches and shrines of the environmentally-conscious theism. And in our present-day “civilized Igorot” towns, only this tree is sole witness to centuries of loaded beautiful history. The civilized Igorots, with their highly-regarded civility, should have considered each sapling and fine wood a Patpatayan tree on whose feet, protection, water, and life were sustained. The Patpatayan more than a tree, was a symbol of this theism which had a dogma rooted in care for the environment.
The ampasit spirit of the rivers and bodies of water caressed by the uncivilized Igorots did not instill fear. It inculcated the value of liquefied life and resources. The tomongao and the pinad-ing spirits were the eyes that spied on the uncivilized Igorots’ behavior in the mountains. Hence the mountains did not become bald and exploited. The tomongao was known to be the mining regulator- gold, silver, and copper should not be squandered. Earth’s bosom should spill it in just-right tranches. Now, desiccated land and pockmarked and crying boondocks wrought by the civilized Igorot with their highly-regarded capitalist education lie aghast.
The snakes, owls and other animals for the uncivilized Igorot were unhurt for these animal friends forewarned of luck or none, portended danger, or invited good news. The civilized Igorot, with their highly sophisticated conservation program, trapped the good luck-bearing animals in zoos and cages, and annihilated bad luck-bearers at the expense of natural predators in the food chain.
The uncivilized Igorot was wary of pejew or taboos, of going to sacred places which actually protected water sources and lush wildlife. The civilized Igorot armed with his highly-regarded intellect knew pejew was a myth and trounced on the placid nature.
The spirits themselves were the indigenous policies and laws of the uncivilized Igorots. Environment was a doctrine. Pejew was a test of love for nature. The tongtongs on consequences of their disobedience and disrespect for the spirits instituted wisdom and became jurisprudence. All these engendered discipline. They knew all too well that there was only one God and that He loved nature.
It was for these and many other reasons that nature made the uncivilized Igorot sturdy, fit, nourished, protected and envied. Le Gentil, 250 years ago simply scribbled, “The people (the uncivilized Igorots) have practically no necessities. Nature seems to have made provision for their safety. Nothing is more difficult than to conquer people who have no needs and whose ramparts are the forests, mountains, impenetrable wildernesses, and high precipices.”
It is ironic that the very protector of the independence and integrity for the uncivilized Igorot is the very instrument that the civilized Igorot and his cohorts subdued and colonized badly. Now, the civilized Igorot scrounge for all necessities. Their safety is not at all guaranteed with avalanche of loam, silt and mud. Their vulnerabilities are exposed with the absence of nature’s care and shield. No forests, mountains, wildernesses and precipices stand to be ramparts against a bleak tomorrow. He has lost his soul and culture, his doctrine and protector.
The greatest colonizer was not of any race, it has been greed cloaked in civility. The civilized Igorot only thought of today and his immediate comfort- the major, major mistake. At a glance, we see the culture-deprived civilized Igorot whose riches are spilling, only for today. But none left for his children’s sullied tomorrow.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 09, 2012.