Growing up in this mountainous region, our parents, grandparents, and seniors have been passed on values and life lessons through their words and actions. As our culture changes and catches up with modern times, let us bring with us the beautiful Igorot values that have made our tribe flourish.
Below are some of the values and life lessons I have observed and learned, living in the Cordilleras for almost three decades.
1. Humility and Simplicity
I may be biased of course, but for me, Igorots are among the humblest people in the world. The wealthiest Igorots I know are living low key. You will see them around in simple shirts and worn-out jeans; only to find out they own a fortune.
We keep our heads down and work instead of raising our noses and brag about our importance. We understand that others bring value to the table just as we do.
2. Inayan (prudence)
Inayan can be interpreted in many ways by different ethnic subgroups but it is generally rooted in the belief of a supreme being and prudence as every action has a consequence. It makes us think twice before doing anything that will lead to destruction. Parents use it to warn and guide their children in their decision-making.
3. Binnadang (teamwork)
At the spring of a new life till the end of it, and all the events in between, the Igorot's spirit of binnadang is evident.
The whole village celebrates when a couple marries. Dozens of livestock are butchered; everyone enjoys a feast and goes home with their watwat. The couple receives various gifts (mostly monetary) as the community's way to help the new family start off.
A baby's birth is another milestone where binnadang is practiced. The mother or other relatives assist the new mom in doing everything so she can recuperate fast and well. The day when the umbilical cord falls off is another call for a celebration where elders butcher a chicken and pray for the baby's well-being.
The community is also quick to help in times of suffering like sickness and death. These seasons are painful but inevitable. And they become bearable when we feel the binnadang's spirit alive.
4. Adi tako bukbukodan di gawis (Let us not keep the good stuff to ourselves)
An Igorot village thrives due to everyone's generosity. Selfishness is frowned upon. Even a family with meager resources finds a way to share.
My grandmother has taught this lesson in many situations both through words and actions. This practice is also observed in mines when one group hits an abundant supply of gold. The fortunate group opens up their spot for other groups to mine for a while to have their share in the treasure in a tradition called sagaok.
5. Adim taltalikudan din grasya (Do not turn your back from blessings)
I remember one time during my childhood when a neighbor offered me a bunch of bananas. Because I wasn't a fan of the fruit back then, I refused. My father who was with me that time signaled me to get the gift so I did. He later explained to me that I should always receive grasya and not turn my back from it. It is rude not to receive whatever is given.
Most Igorots know how to use resources carefully. We have been taught from a young age not to waste anything especially food. It is a common practice for families to teach children not to leave even a grain of rice on their plates.
My grandparents, especially my grandfather, are particularly mindful of the careless use of water and electricity. I'm proud to have grown up in a house with a rain collection reservoir which we use for flushing toilets, the first round of laundry, and cleaning. We also always get a good round of sermons every time we turn on the lights too early or use water lavishly.
7. Kasiyana (Hope)
Kasiyana is an expression of sincere hope. It is used to comfort oneself or other people in extreme agony or seemingly hopeless situations.
We hold on to hope in times of despair. We don't easily give up and we find a way to rise up from the ashes.
8. Respect to the elderly
The eldest in a village gets the utmost respect from everyone. They lead ceremonies and are often consulted in decision making and settlement of disputes. When they speak, everyone listens.
We were taught to help the elderly with heavy baggage. We should welcome them to our homes with a snack. We should respectfully talk to them.
9. Hard Work
The numerous and majestic rice terraces around the region show how Igorots have been hard-workers throughout the decades. Diligence is a value passed on to the children at an early age. My parents and grandparents would tell me stories on how they fetched water, collected woods, helped in the fields, gathered cow dung to sell, etc. I may never have experienced most of it because of the lifestyle changes but my folks made sure I learned the importance of hard work.
10. Dugad mo, shalosim (Clean your surroundings)
I'm not sure if this expression came first or it was just translated from the national campaign "Tapat mo, linis mo". I first encountered this slogan when I was an elementary student and I haven't forgotten it since then.
It is a very simple, seemingly very obvious statement, but imagine where it will take us as a region if we all follow it by heart. The world is facing overwhelming environmental challenges. Challenges that have gone out of control because we have forgotten some of our values.
It is saddening to see that we are forgetting some of our values. Change is inevitable. We must learn the ways of the modern world to survive. But as we move forward, let us not forget the basic teachings that allowed us to progress into what we have and who we are now.
I have mostly used kankana-ey statements since both of my parents belong to that group. But I have been to most of the provinces and met friends from all over the region and observed that these values are common.
Are there other Igorot values or life lessons you want me to include? Let me know in the comment section.
About the author: This article (revised) was shared exclusively by our friend Donnabeth Tolano-Aniban with the Igorotage team. Donnabeth is a licensed Filipino nurse and a former teacher. She now works as an academic writer and also writes on Medium. Her work has been featured in Her View From Home and When In Manila. You can get her book "50 Ideas For A Great Life" on Shopee.