Excuse Me, I Don’t Look Like an Igorot?

Igorota Beauties“Oh, Igorot ka? Bakit ang tangkad mo?” (Oh, You’re an Igorot? How come you’re tall?) or
“Oh, bakit hindi ka mukhang Igorot?”  (Oh, how come you don’t look like an Igorot?)

These words I hear every now and then from other Filipinos I encounter make me mentally berserk. My blood pressure skyrockets. My vision gets blurry. My raging emotions just want to grab the closest thing I can see and whack these people on the head. This is not the Igorot blood wanting to take revenge for the insults thrown at me or my forefathers, but more on trying to knock some sense into these people’s thick skulls for their rudeness and ignorance. However, as much as I want to be physically brutal, my privileged upbringing from a civilized culture somewhere in Mountain Province in the Philippines deters me from losing my cool. Instead, I look at them straight in the eyes and calmly state three things. First, I am an Igorot believe it or not. Second, I don’t look close to what you have in mind. And last, stop giving me that incredulous stare like I am an alien from another planet.

You would assume Filipinos living in a multicultural city like Vancouver don’t have discrimination against their own skin colour and ethnicity. Yet, you are wrong. Having to withstand the prejudice thrown at me numerous times for being an Igorot makes me wonder how some Filipinos still have these misconceptions about what a true Igorot looks like in this 21st century. The stereotypes against the Igorot people who are also Filipinos by blood are so tangible that education about who we are and what we look like seems inevitable. Yes, this is probably the defamed side of me being defensive. So, I apologize in advance.

IgorotaWe, the Igorots, are the indigenous people in the Cordillera region of the Philippines. Contrary to what some Filipinos believe, Igorots are beautiful, tall and not dark-skinned. We are not super short or “pandak” as you claim us to be.  We don’t have thick, kinky hair which I wish I had believe it or not. And sorry for the upcoming disappointment either, we don’t grow tails like monkeys. Yes, the “g-string” or “wanes” that you normally see Igorot men wear on special occasions is not a tail. That hand-woven piece of cloth you are making fun of, that is us being proud of who we are. That is our trademark, our tradition, our values you are mocking.

Of course, the obvious difference between us is we don’t take pride in throwing derogatory comments to our coFilipinos. We are refined, educated people who know better than to discriminate our own skin color. We are civilized, and we don’t go around making hideous assumptions such as how Igorots should live in the mountains and shouldn’t inhabit this beautiful city. Regrettably, it is hard to believe that no matter how we try to prevent discrimination against us Igorots, there are still these ghastly presumptions difficult to eliminate. What’s more outrageous is the fact that whether we live in the Philippines or somewhere miles away from home doesn’t make any difference of being victims of ethnic discrimination by some Filipinos.

In a nutshell, this short rant you just read is my two cents to people who have met an Igorot or will meet one in the future. It is beyond wrong to make assumptions of what we look like or how we have lived in this society. That refraining from labeling our own blood with negativity should be reinforced for us to coexist together with the different cultures found in this foreign land. Having said this, I look forward to that day when I no longer have to defend myself for being an Igorot or explain why my physical appearance contradicts whatever some Filipinos have constructed in their minds about what Igorots look like. 🙂

Our old folks with their Igorot attires
Young folks wearing their “wanes”

Photo credits to my friend Baw-i. 🙂


115 thoughts on “Excuse Me, I Don’t Look Like an Igorot?

  1. hehehe great ESSAY and nice comments,different situation encounters and experiences…..as what i have read,we are all igorots here,,,knows our limitations,humble on our own way and never to descriminate people around us….SMART at hindi mayabang,yan tayong mga IGOROT. BAUKO & BONTOC is where i came from..with morena complexion and 5’4″ in height…,laging napagkakamalan to be a BICOLANA maybe because of my color but when i represented Mt. Prov on a simple pageant here in Hk with our TAPIZ doing our cultural dance…they were speechless lol’z!

  2. be proud of what we are,indi lhat igorot ay mpuputi at magaganda,pandak at matangkad,or maitim man o maitim,icipin nyo nlang ngkaroon ng salin lahi,basta ang mhalaga proud ka na my lahi kang qng anong lahi,,karamihan na ngaun kinahihiya nila qng ano cila,,,aq proud aqng tga kalinga but actually i’m not a kalinga,dun lng aq lumaki,pero pinagmamalaki q sa buong mundo na i’m ah kalinga,,i’m proud of who i am..

  3. I am just so proud that Igorot blood is running in my veins , though i’m short but i call it petite instead, i don’t exactly look like the way most people thought Igorots look like. I love Igorots and will always be proud of my bloodline.

  4. I admire Igorots and their culture for I have been immersed in their community.. I also have lots of Igorot friends.. They really are beautiful and mestiza.. Totally different from what others think about them.. Many Filipinos from the “lowlands”, as how most of you call us, equates IGOROTS to AETAS.. They all thought that these two tribes/culture is just the same.. But they are not.. I hope, these misinformed people of the “lowlands” would soon understand the difference of the two..

    On the other hand, why does some of the people from the “highlands” think that those descriptions pictures an ugly, unacceptable feature of a person well in fact, these descriptions are of Aetas and many of them are beautiful as well. I understand those who just want to explain the difference of the Aetas and the Igorots but some reacts in a way that they are already belittling the other culture, the Aetas’.. I hope that as we lift ourselves up, we should always be reminded that we should never stoop on someone else..

    Just my two cents. Peace everyone!! Great blog, indeed! 😄✌️

    • It’s the stereotype that makes the Igorots cringe. Pag sinabi kasing Igorot and lowlanders react the way they react, it’s like “don’t we have a right to look like the way we look”?hehe bakit kelangan pag Igorot, kinky hair, maitim, may buntot? Its like equating us to the ancient times na parang wala kaming karapatan to develop and go mainstream.lol. I even cringe at lowlanders calling me Igorot because there’s like a different ring to it but on the other hand, when they call us natives, I also think there’s some kind of discrimination coz they don’t want to call us Igorots. Maybe that’s just part of being discriminated so don’t judge us if we hate at people’s misconceptions. It’s not that we don’t want to be called pandak or maitim. Forgive my example and I have no intention to be racist but in the movies, it’s ok for blacks to call themselves and each other “nigger” but when other races call them that, they feel it’s discriminating. I guess the only people who can understand that are the people who also experience discrimination. 😀

    • Sorry for this late response: Neneng, thank you for your the compliments about the IGOROTS. As to your observations, you cannot blame my own people for making comparisons because they have to educate those misinformed co-Filipinos. I don’t think that is a way of belittling the AETAS.

    • No not all Filipino do that specially in Mindanao as well in visayas. Somepeople of Luzon do that and identified your race. In visayas and Mindanao we have a lot of native it’s misconception that your being justified by color or race

  5. I’m an Igorot and proud of who I am. True, a lot of kababayan are still ignorant of the different cultures that exists in our country, the Philippines. One of them is about us, the IGOROTS. So when someone shows me his/her ignorance about the Igorots, I just smile and proudly tell them I’m YES I’m an IGOROT. You might here them say ” talaga” ( really?), ” bakit…” ( why?).. etc…… This is the chance to inform them about us the Igorots. By sharing with them about who we are, I know that one less ignorant “kababayan” is now, aware about the unique culture that I belong from.Furthermore,by showing them how friendly, down to earth and civilized I am, I know that I’m reflecting to them the image of a true IGOROT.

  6. Thanks for this great article. It is really inspiring to be proud of our culture. I myself as an Igorot had experienced many times the doubts and misconception every time I introduced myself as Igorot. But I always explain it to them. Let’s not also blame others for they were informed reading books or hearing from others about us. Rather, let’s continue to tell them that all of us as Filipinos are unique, may it be people coming from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Aetas may have kinky hair and short but they are beautiful people. The indigenous people of other places in Visayas and Mindanao have their own uniqueness as well, but they are beautiful. The best thing that we can do right now is to continuously engage ourselves to modernization and be proud of our culture. I still hope that one day, especially this incoming generation will understand the uniqueness of each tribe in the Philippines and even abroad.

  7. People Dont say what they actually mean… i guess the process of reacting right away takes over the beauty of the mind… not everyone thinks that way but making an effort to understand well thats priceless

  8. I just want to share an explanation, for us igorots who are being discriminated in any way… I am a proud IGOROT and am married to a man from the province of Negros from Visayas… In their place, there are these people living in the mountains. These people are pandak, maitim at kulot…. And they call these people , “IGOROT”….. I think maybe we are just being misunderstood from another group of poeple, like the negritos from the Visayas area. I think they are just shocked to see a person with very different features from the one they tagged as “IGOROT”.

  9. I got to experience something like this when I was younger. I’m only 1/4 igorot now because my maternal grandfather’s second wife (my grandma) is an Ilokana from Pangasinan. I grew up totting a Pasiking instead of a regular cloth/nylon backpack and I spent my Summers in Paracelis Mt. Province, I lived the weaved tapis I see my granda wear. I would tell my schoolmates I was an Igorot and they would laugh. Before I complelety grasped the idea of my heritage it was a bit uncomfortable being seen as something else. But it was also back in elementary whwn I realized what a great culture I have. I learned to be proud of my middle name “Kenept” because my granddad was the first in his family and tribe to carry that name given to him by Dutch missionaries (so anyone with the last name Kenept or a derivative is sure to be a relative). I cannot for the life of me spell my grandfathers original igorot last name (goes something like “Anngud” I think). I remember seeing a black and white picture of my greatgrandparents and meeting my great aunts and uncles. I remember speaking to my grandparents only in Ilokano or English (I was not able to learn the dialect). Best of all, I spent sone of my most treasured summers in Mt. Province. I also felt very at home when I went to college in Baguio City. I do not know how to describe an igorot but I’m thanking my igorot genes for the fair complexion, fine hair, and pimple free skin (I can completely attest that I got those from my igorot genes because it’s different on my paternal side. Plus my mom is almost 60 and she does not look a day over 45 at least). So I am very proud of my heritage and I will make sure my children are as well.

  10. I am a Ilocano and I have a lot of Igorot friends… I see most of igorots are beautiful than the Ilocanos and most of us are darker in complexion and we used to make fun of our self like we almost look like africans but thats the reality and we have nothing to be insecured about…and I used to be inlove to one of this igorota… but I wonder why you have Insecurities about calling Igorots because i my self dont know what to call you as to feel unoffended? no race is better than the other God made everyone beautiful.

  11. those who talk about us igorots and categorizes us are
    “uneducated” so let’s not bow down to their level……..

  12. Let us not heap blame on others when our own Igorot brothers and sisters can’t even accept who we are. I had lunch with a distant Igorot aunt yesterday. I brought along my youngest daughter, 9 years old, with me. I was amused when my aunt said “She doesn’t look like an Igorota”, hahaha! I showed her pics of my 3 older daughters and she again said the same of them. My first and second daughters grew up in Vancouver and now live in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. They are half-Igorotas but are still very proud of their Igorot bloodline.

  13. My wife, sons and my daughter have the bloodline, they look a bit of a foreigner. Mixture of Spanish, Ilocano and Igorot. I love seeing my family participate in traditions and cultural heritage. I’m lucky to have seen my family and lived to see them proud of their mixed heritage. Born and raised, I don’t have any drop from the bloodline but I am and proud to be original Baguio Beans.

  14. during my high school days my historian teacher told us the story of the debate by Carlos P. Rumulo vs our very own Alfredo Lam-en, Rumulo said that igorots from the CAR are not Filipinos, Lam-en told Rumulo he (rumulo) beside him(lam-en) but Rumulo didn’t want to do it because Lam-en is very tall and to him. Later on the debate Rumulo told them that Igorots speaks in English more fluent the tagalog that is why he called Igorots are not from the Philippines he he he, so Lam-en said “if you want make our place (CAR Region) one of the state USA”. but Rumulo and the other Filipino officials do not want it… he he he

  15. Bottomline?

    It’s not the tag that offends but the tone and obvious surprise in the voice and reaction of non-Igorots like us that offends. Its a dead give away that they have pre-conceived notions about us that are contrary to the reality.
    So in the end, it is up to us to keep on being calm, civilized, cultured and of course, “beautiful” as a people

  16. I’m proud to be an Igorot 😊 People usually think I’m Korean , Mong or Chinese… But I always tell them that I am A Filipino and I am an Igorot. I will always be proud of my culture and I am passing it on to my daughter. At her young age (since she was 2y/o) I am showing and teaching her about our culture.

  17. we cant really deny the facts that some were ignorant about igorots,,,,,,,,….d lang nila alam may mga sikat na mga artista na may lahing igorot but sad to say some were not proud, however igorots has more beauty than it has to show, its not about the physical appearance but its the culture and practices….and that is priceless…………..proud to say Im a full blooded igorot…

  18. igorot show hospitality at all times ,they always offer something to their visitors even though they dont have something for theirselves..:)

  19. Nagwowork po ako sa isang hospital sa Canada. As, I was fixing the room of one of the patients na Pinoy. He asked me kung taga saan ako sa Pinas. I informed him that I grew up in Isabela, but both my parents are from Mountain Province. I never expected what he did next. He asked me if I was an Igorot. I happily replied, na “Opo”. Then, his attitude suddenly became insulting. He told me na ang igorot daw ay may buntot, I replied by “maybe naconfuse lang ho kayo sa suot naming bahag”. He continued to mocked our language and enacting the movements of a retarded individual. I replied, “ah, lahat po ng indegenous groups sa Pinas may sariling language other than tagalog”. The last comment that made me lose my patience with him was that, sinabi nyang “yung mga igorot ay nakasuot ng mga bahag na halos makita ang kanilang mga private parts na parang hindi tunay na modern na Pinoy”, and he further adds “that these shows our lack of civility and education”. I am sorry, but I gave him a piece of my mind. Sinabi ko sa kanya na first, I am proud of my people because unlike some of the remaing tribes of the Pinas we hold strong and true to our identity, our culture is still alive, the achievements of our ancestors still stands out and can still be utilized even though many centuries have passed. I asked him, how about you do you know what is the origin of your clan? He then, replied ” ako ay may lahing kastila, and my great grandfather is one of the police dring the spanish occupation”. I actually laughed at his reply. Lastly, I said to him. I am proud of my people because my ancestors did everything para hindi madanasan ng aming lahi ang pangaalila ng ibang lahi . He admantly stated ” na may lahi akong kastila”. I looked at him with pity. I replied to him for the last time. I told him to look at your skin, do you really think that those bastards will think of you as one of them. They would have treated you like cattle by making you work from the age of 17 to 70 years old in the haciendas, get paid little, or maybe can even be killed for fun. I am usually friendly and do avoid conflicts most of the time. This is the way I was raised by my Igorot parents, but don’t take it as a means to take advantage of me in any way. I am a descendant of a tribe that has always been free, it is my duty to shatter anything that dares to bind me. Hay! I miss Tadian at Natonin, I will be home soon tapusin ko lang ang degree ko.

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