Saturday, September 13, 2008
IGOROTAK - Kankana-ey for "I am an Igorot", an acknowledgment of one's Igorot identity
My boys, who were all born in Quezon City, have spent majority of their young years in Manila and in the US. They've spent at most - a couple of months total in the Cordilleras and these were during vacations in Baguio / Sagada / Tadian. When I asked them if they were Igorots, I got a range of answers from being uncertain ("Are we?") to an outright denial ("No.") I guess I can't blame them. It's not a daily discussion for us. While my wife and I converse in Kankana-ey, they don't see the connection.
So, when there was an opportunity for us to join a gathering of Cordillera people last August, I didn't let it pass. (See previous blog posts on BIBBAK.) It was a chance for them to see fellow Igorots, and see Igorot dances being performed. Before going to the gathering, I prepped them to answer correctly when asked if they are Igorots. ("Yes, we are.") If asked what made them Igorots, they should respond with, "because our parents are Igorots".
At the gathering, there was an opportunity for group dancing. When I joined during a dance, I asked my second child to join as well. He didn't want to. But when I joined, he called his older brother so they could watch me. After the dance, I joined them and told them that they should have joined since it was a lot of fun. My second child said that he just didn't want to. At that, a young teenage girl who had her back on us turned around and said, "You shouldn't be. When I was younger, I also didn't feel like it. But its good to know about your roots." She then stood up and showed the shirt she was wearing. It read "Igorotak!". She asked my son to read it and then turned around, since at the back of the shirt, the phrase was explained - something like "an assertion of one's Igorot identity".
My son blurted out, "Yes, yes, I know I am an Igorot" and the older girl exchanged high fives with him. Like my son, the girl is part of a generation where though both parents are Igorot, they were raised in other places where that identity is not as strongly asserted as it would have been if they grew up in the Cordillera region. In this case, the parents bear the primary responsibility of letting their children know about their origins. Involving them in such gatherings is just one part of it. The chance conversation with the girl was a brief yet memorable moment for my son. He wasn't alone. I just hope that there would be more of these Igorotak moments for him and his brothers.