Saturday, April 23, 2011

American Lenses: Igorot Eyes

I was fortunate to have been born with 20/20 vision.  My five sisters and parents weren’t as fortunate though.  For years, they have relied on corrective eyeglass lenses for adding or subtracting from their cornea’s focusing power, thereby creating the clear images of their daily lives.  Although I never physically relied on eyeglasses, I wore a pair of invisible lenses for which to see the world through.

My very first pair of lenses were Igorot made; forged from the Cordillera Mountains of the Philippines.  I only had those for four or five years, and I hardly remember wearing them.  For almost my entire life, the glasses I wore were American made.  I once tried a pair of Japanese lenses, but preferred the American made ones that I have been so accustomed to wearing.

If you have been following my latest blogs, you will definitely see how these lenses influence my writing.  Some of my fellow Igorots or Filipinos may have been scratching their heads wondering why I draw my inspiration from people like Ashley Judd, Bethany Hamilton, Tim Tebow and U2.  Well, that’s just who I am I guess. 

Most of my life has been spent on the flat plains of the Midwest and Southern areas of America.  The magic and splendor of the Cordillera Mountains were for the most part – absent.  I’ve always consider myself as American as most normal Americans.  I went to predominantly white schools all my life, dated white girls, love rock and roll, love football and basketball, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, and would die for this country I call home. 

I may see the world through the lenses of America, but my eyes are pure Igorot.  Lenses only project images for the eye to see.  When our cerebral eyes connect with our hearts, we are able to “see” clearly; and therefore, we are able to discern good from bad. 

I recently added a page on my website that associates my upcoming book, “Igorotdo: The Warrior Within” with well known movies, books and personalities.  Does the book seek to be a cheap imitation of any of these things?  Of course not.  I use these examples because they contain so many values, characteristics and similarities to the Igorot culture that my eyes and heart intend on sharing with the world. 

My Igorot culture has been able to withstand over 300 years of Spanish colonization, but somehow more and more Igorots are allowing themselves to become morally and spiritually colonized by the Western self centeredness that brings out the worse in all of us.  Take divorce for example.  Just because it is an accepted norm in American society, it doesn't have to be nor should it be as accepted by Igorots.  

I would like to say that my Catholic upbringing is the only thing that keeps me focused on my marriage and family, but there is much more to it than that.  I draw from something my father once mentioned about my Igorot heritage.  I learned that before there were ever Christian missionaries, we Igorots took monogamy seriously.

Were there ever Igorots who were unfaithful to their spouses? Of course.  If there weren't, we would be the only perfect people in the world, and I know this is definitely not the case.  However, the overwhelming majority of my ancestors entered marriage with a good purpose.  They did not enter it blindly or selfishly as many do today.  Also, we believed so strongly in the sanctity of marriage that the punishment for being unfaithful makes today's court precedings seem like a slap in the hand (something I will cover in a separate blog).

So, go ahead and wear whatever style, color or type of lense, but remember to see with your eyes, and in doing so, draw from that which is good in your ancestry.  

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