I am an Igorot, and I am proud of my culture. I was born and raised in the Cordillera region of the Philippines, where Igorot culture is still very much alive. I have always been proud of my Igorot heritage, and I have always been fascinated by the rich culture and traditions of my people.
However, in recent years, I have become increasingly concerned about the commercialization of Igorot culture. I have seen how both non-Igorot and Igorot businesses have been profiting from the sale of Igorot-inspired products. I have seen non-Igorot businesses that have not consulted with any Igorot people before designing their products. I have also seen Igorot businesses that have not given anything back to the Igorot community.
What is commodification of Igorot culture?
The commodification of Igorot culture is the process of turning Igorot cultural elements into commodities that can be bought and sold. This can take many forms, including the use of Igorot motifs on clothing and other products, the use of Igorot words and phrases in marketing materials, the use of Igorot cultural practices as tourist attractions, and the use of Igorot words and phrases in political campaigns.
The negative effects of commodifying Igorot culture:
- Exploitation of Igorot people: When Igorot culture is commodified, it can lead to the exploitation of Igorot people. This can happen in a number of ways, including:
- The profits from commodified Igorot culture may not go to the Igorot people. Instead, they may go to the owners of businesses or organizations that are commodifying Igorot culture.
- The commodification of Igorot culture can lead to the loss of control over their culture by Igorot people. This can happen when Igorot people are not involved in the decision-making process about how their culture is being commodified.
- Loss of authenticity: When Igorot culture is commodified, it can lose its authenticity. This can happen when Igorot culture is simplified or misrepresented in order to make it more appealing to tourists or consumers.
- Stereotyping: The commodification of Igorot culture can also lead to stereotyping. This can happen when Igorot culture is portrayed in a way that reinforces negative stereotypes about Igorot people.
- Loss of cultural knowledge: The commodification of Igorot culture can also lead to the loss of cultural knowledge. This can happen when Igorot people are not able to pass on their cultural knowledge to younger generations because they are not involved in the commodification process.
Other forms of Igorot commodification:
- The use of Igorot motifs on clothing and other products. This is a common form of commodification, as it takes traditional Igorot designs and uses them for commercial purposes. In some cases, the designs are used without the permission of the Igorot people, which can be seen as a form of cultural appropriation.
- The use of Igorot words and phrases in marketing materials. This is another common form of commodification, as it takes Igorot words and phrases that have cultural significance and uses them to sell products or services. In some cases, the words and phrases are used in a way that is offensive or disrespectful to the Igorot people.
- The use of Igorot cultural practices as tourist attractions. This is a more recent form of commodification, as it involves the exploitation of Igorot culture for the purpose of tourism. In some cases, these cultural practices are presented in a way that is divorced from their original context, or they are used in a way that is offensive or disrespectful to the Igorot people.
- The use of Igorot words and phrases in political campaigns. This is a more recent form of commodification, as it involves the exploitation of Igorot culture for the purpose of political gain. In some cases, Igorot words and phrases are used in a way that is offensive or disrespectful to the Igorot people. For example, a political party might use the word "Igorot" in their party name to connect with Igorot voters and to show their support for Igorot culture, however, it could be seen as an attempt to exploit Igorot culture for political gain.
Examples of Igorot commodification
One day, I was browsing Facebook when I came across a page that I had followed for a while. The page was one of the most popular pages in the Cordillera region, with a large following. The page was known for sharing stories about Igorot culture, but it has since shifted its focus to selling Igorot-inspired products.
I was disappointed to see this change. I felt like the page was no longer being true to its mission of promoting Igorot culture. I also worried that the page was profiting from Igorot culture without giving anything back to the community.
This experience made me realize how easy it is to witness the commercialization of Igorot culture online. With just a few clicks of a button, I can see how Igorot culture is being commodified and sold for profit. It's a sobering reminder of the challenges that Igorot culture faces in the 21st century.
I'm worried about the future of Igorot culture. I don't want to see my culture become a commodity that is bought and sold, or to see the cultural knowledge and traditions of my people lost. I also don't want to see my people taken advantage of by non-Igorot businesses that are only interested in making a profit.
The Nas Daily Incident
In 2019, the popular social media personality Nas Daily announced that he would be creating a course on how to learn how to tattoo from Apo Whang-od, the last mambabatok or traditional Igorot tattoo artist. The course was met with criticism from many people, including Igorot leaders and activists, who argued that it was a form of cultural appropriation and exploitation.
Nas Daily defended the course, arguing that he was simply trying to share Apo Whang-od's knowledge with the world. However, many people were not convinced, and the course was eventually canceled.
The Nas Daily incident is a clear example of how the commercialization of Igorot culture can be harmful. It is important to be aware of the potential for exploitation when engaging with Igorot culture, and to take steps to avoid it.
The Igorot Stone Kingdom
The Igorot Stone Kingdom is a man-made park in Baguio City, Philippines, that has been criticized for commodifying Igorot culture. The park showcases the Igorot people's rock-laying skills, creativity, and indigenous culture, but some people believe that it does so in a way that is disrespectful and exploitative.
The Igorot Stone Kingdom presents Igorot culture as a spectacle for tourists to consume. The park's attractions are based on Igorot myths and legends, but they are presented in a way that is divorced from their original context. For example, the Kabunyan Tower is a tower dedicated to the Igorot god Kabunyan, but it is presented as a tourist attraction rather than a sacred site.
The park also fails to adequately represent the diversity of Igorot culture. The structures in the park are based on the culture of the Kankanaey people, but there are many other Igorot tribes with their own unique cultures. The park's focus on the Kankanaey people can be seen as a form of cultural appropriation.
Finally, the park's profits go to the owner of the park, not to the Igorot people. This means that the park is not benefiting the Igorot people, but rather it is exploiting their culture for profit.
How to Protect Igorot Culture from Commercialization
There are a number of things that can be done to protect Igorot culture from commercialization. These include:
- Supporting Igorot-owned businesses: When you buy products from Igorot businesses, you are helping to support the Igorot community and to ensure that the profits from these businesses go back to the Igorot people.
- Encouraging businesses to use Igorot cultural elements in a respectful and ethical way: This means using the elements in a way that is consistent with their original meaning and that does not exploit the Igorot people.
- Challenging businesses that are profiting from Igorot culture in a harmful way: If you see a business that is profiting from Igorot culture in a way that you believe is harmful, you can contact the business and express your concerns. You can also contact your local government officials and advocate for changes to the laws that regulate the commercialization of culture.
- Educating yourself about Igorot culture and history: The more you know about Igorot culture, the better equipped you will be to identify and challenge the commercialization of Igorot culture. There are many resources available to learn about Igorot culture, including books, articles, and websites.
By taking these steps, we can help to ensure that Igorot culture is preserved and passed on to future generations.
The commercialization of Igorot culture is a complex issue with no easy solutions. However, I believe that it is important to be aware of the issue and to take steps to protect Igorot culture from exploitation. We can all do our part by supporting Igorot-owned businesses, advocating for changes to the way Igorot culture is commodified, and educating ourselves about Igorot culture and history.
By working together, we can help to ensure that Igorot culture is preserved and passed on to future generations.