What is an IGOROT?

I immigrated to America at the age of four, and up until my sixth or seventh year in grammar school; I thought all Filipinos were Igorots simply because all our close Filipino friends were Igorot. I learned quickly that this was not the case as my parent's entrepreneurial endeavors brought me in contact with Filipinos who spoke a different language and even had different ways of thinking and living.

"Igorot" is the modern term to describe the indigenous people who lives in the Cordillera Mountains located in the northern part of the Philippine island of Luzon.  When first "discovered" by the Spaniards in the 16th century, they called us "Ygolotes" - later to be re-spelled "Igorrotes."  The Spaniards used other names to describe Igorots based on where in the Cordilleras they were found.

Igorots furthest north on the Ilocos coast were called by the ordinary term applied to mountain dwellers all over the archipelago: "Tingues" and "Zambales."  In the Cagayan valley, Igorots were called "Infieles" (pagans).  Those up near the Apayao River were called "Mandayas" - literally, "those up above."

Although we Igorots are "geographically" Filipino, there are numerous things that give us our own unique identity, which has led to many debates on whether Igorots are Filipinos.  So, for those who think Igorots are like all Filipinos; take a look at the following characteristics:

  • Language:  Igorots speak their own languages (Bontoc, Ibaloy, Kankanaey, Kalinga, etc.)
  • Government:  Igorots of the Cordilleras have their own autonomous government made possible by former President Aquino.
  • Food:  Igorot food is considered indigenous with little influence from other countries.
  • Clothing:  Traditional clothing for men & women are clearly distinct and bears no Spanish influence.
  • Culture & Colonization:  Above all, Igorots were not conquered by Spain.  The Igorot's ability to keep from being colonized by Spaniards for more than three hundred years allowed our culture to stay preserved to this day.  Spain's king Philip ("Philip"pines) was never able to force his name on our people.  This resilience and fortitude to preserve our culture is what we Igorots pride ourselves most of, but I agree with the scholars who point to this delineation of colonized and indigenous-not-colonized (lowlanders and highlanders) as the root of the discrimination that exists today within Filipinos.  I am sure this discrimination will eventually find itself in my blogs as they always do when Igorots associate themselves with non-Igorot Filipinos (what a shame). 
The above characteristics are what comes to the top of my head.  To learn more about Igorots; I encourage you to follow the links below.

Igorot Global Organization (IGO) website

Sagada Igorot Blog with great information & topics

Source of above etymology:  "Discovery of the Igorots" by William H. Scott 1974  ISBN 971-10-0087-3