Olsim: Rape in the Cordilleras

The Eternal Student

IF LITERATURE, as an art, imitates life, then the confessions in Artekdote and Pimans of Baguio undoubtedly paint a bleak depiction of our society's ills, namely, broken souls and families, unfaithfulness and cheating, abuse, and worse, incest and rape, among others.

A recent statistical revelation also puts Cordillera at the top of regions with the most sexual abuse and rape incidents in the country, with about 30 percent being committed by family members and relatives. Said disturbing facts certainly presents a difficult query: "Does a culture of rape exist among us Igorots?"

Certainly, the social media stories and confessions hardly pose as scholarly accepted data to form an opinion. However, it reflects a certain reality that things like that, albeit hard to accept, do happen. My role as a barangay official for five years in one of the most populated and urbanized barangay in the region, opened my eyes to such real cases -- fathers raping their children, caretakers sexually abusing the young, grown group of men dragging a helpless student to the dark to be raped.

Most of the perpetrators, contrary to what others may claim, belong to our own Igorot tribes. Yes, I have long accepted that such evil propensity does not exclude our most regarded regional group or tribe, there are simply bad people anywhere we go. But yes, the people we thought to have been ingrained with the culture of "inayan" do not only rape our mountains, but their own flesh and blood.

Indigenous Peoples should be better than such a looming depiction. The peaceful Ivatans in Batanes, for instance, who boasts of zero-crime rate in their province recently had the misfortune of having a single rape case which was committed by an outsider. Other indigenous tribes in the country claim the same absence of rape cases by their own tribe members. Igorots, on the other hand, have the most cases, which does not even include the unreported incidents out of fear, or those cases which were settled by tradition: simply butchering a pig and imposing a destierro-like exile to the rapist. According to some elders, it is better to settle the rape case than to embarrass the whole family or clan. Personally, this culture empowers the rapist, and perhaps perpetuate a tradition of incest and rape -- for me: an absurdity and cultural garbage, (can we imagine the trauma on the children?). Which begs the same question above: "Does a culture of rape exist among us Igorots?"

Before I am accused of slandering a whole group, please understand that I am also a full-bloodied Igorot who is proud of our great community sharing traditions. The inquiry we assumed is out of clarification, rather than a bastardization. If discussions on this matter proved a flaw in our culture, then we, as cultural bearers for the next generation can modify such culture. After all, our culture is not frozen in time, and we, as crime-abhorring people can introduce a culture of "Great Igorots who are incapable of rape and abuse."

Please send me your thoughts on this at


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