[BONTOC] The Last Generation of Overt Igorots in the Cordilleras


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"Each second counts, and each second that has passed means losing another second of their generation."

People come and go, and so culture. Daily, there are people who are born, and people who die. While for culture, it could die after a generation, replaced by the next generation with new set of norms. It is so dynamic that it is just out of control. These are the things I was thinking upon seeing the last generation of Bontok Igorot women in Bontoc who show-off their traditional identity overtly.

Bontok Woman with tattoo, turban and traditionally woven skirt


I spent a time just sitting beside a street in #BONTOC and observe, feel the place, see people, appreciate people. Learn new ways and understand the old ways. This was a joyful way of spending time, wisely. I didn't need to stay in a designer hotel to do this because the learning is located outside, there at the street.

The town of Bontoc is a cultural treasure in itself. But the ways of the past is slowly diminishing away from the bracket of what is considered normal this age. Who would dare wear a tattoo on the upper extremities, then wear a turban, colorful porcelain beads around the neck and a skirt only used nowadays as a costume in school activities?

A culture that's turning blurry


These women were born to unwittingly set the border of what is old and what is new. A lot of young girls in Bontoc has turned fashionistas, mimicking what their favorite popstar is wearing and these old Bontoc women has just set, obviously, the borderline.

Their generation is slowly, but surely ending soon. Bye tattoos, bye snake-bone coronets. Those artworks could be strange as it may seem, but honesty, just culturally fascinating. 

Saying bye to bright, colorful, predominantly red skirts; bye turban, oh where have all the turbans gone? Girls now wear make-up, treat their hairs for good to make it shiny and straight and put highlights. Well, no issue for that. I'm just saying that the tradition is surely decaying, from head to foot; replaced by new ways, new culture, trendy pop culture.

With three Bontok Igorots, the gap in culture is wide clear, right?


Meeting the last generation of this tribe that still overtly wear the marks of their identity was priceless. The tradition and culture is signing off swiftly that it can no longer handle the strength and influence of new elements signing up to the social database of new trends in lifestyle and living.

Having photographed these people is like a school graduation accomplishing something. I know, once these old women are gone, it will be forever. Unless a new civilization shall arise with the same format in 6-digit years time. And, the extinction of their generation is just certain. They lived to put an end to something they are not supposed to be doing. It was fate that set them to live this way.

Wearing the beads with pride, some use snake bone, a very rare scenario


How I wish they understand what's happening around; on why young girls are not following their ways. It was a lifetime of continually shrinking space of culture. Each second counts, and each second that has passed means losing another second of their generation.

Their time is now so thin. It seems like the new generation is not aware of what they are losing. The new ways have just arrived, alluring everyone with glitz and glamour, encouraging everyone to get out of the old world and it appears that no one (or a little, if any) is brave enough to save the dying heritage.

Lolo Bernard, 2nd oldest Bontok man in Alab Oriente


While in a village called ALAB ORIENTE, I met Lolo Bernard. He speaks in his native dialect while the younger men speak Ilocano or Taglish. My ears were focused to this old Bontok man. Every word he was saying is just beautiful. I can't understand, but beautiful to my ears. It is about my love for learning new things.

He also has a head-wear with suako in between his lips. No one in the village do it now. Lolo Bernard's generation is so fragile. In every air he breathes in with that suaco also means a generation breathing the last air stored for them.

With a beautiful elder in Bontoc wearing batek

With Lolo Bernard, 2nd oldest in Alab Oriente


Spending a short moment with them was like running on a long road of gold. That's how precious it was. They are the last and I'm just lucky to have seen them. 

After 10 years, this experience would become on it's rarest, and more years, could be an extinction. These people are on 80+ years old range. Well, the Igorot culture will still be there. They have loved their identity so much. I appreciate that. But the culture that brings visual feast, overtly,  before the eyes of many will never be the same again. However I'm sure it will still show up -- but that would be only on books, and these photographs I have taken ./end

*ALAB ORIENTE DOCUMENTARIES SUB-SERIES | 1

Alab Oriente, Bontoc | An Ancient Village with Sacred Grounds

TEASER: "Prehistoric mountain dwellers inhabited this place leaving a mark that became an evidence of their existence."
| 2

Mt. Gotong, Mt. Data | Hiking the Mountains of Myths and Urban Legends

TEASER:"...there is still a little regret in me that I didn't just even notice the summit of the first real mountain I ever climbed." / Photo: Photo: Mt. Gotong | Bontoc, Mountain Province
| 3

Alab Petroglyphs | Prehistoric Etchings, Mind-Boggling Patterns

TEASER: "It was carved inside a space of time from another dimension of civilization even far from the dawn of Christianity..."
| 4

Finding Shelter in Alab's Mt. Data: Happy Memories with Strangers

TEASER: "By time, I may forget them, so, I have to write a story about that experience that I may still remember those precious memories every time I do the recalling of happy moments."
| 5

Ganga Burial Caves | Mystical People, Mysterious Grave

TEASER: "I experienced goosebumps upon entering this area of dead bodies that made me feel I was in a different dimension."
| 6

Evidence of Jar Burial in the Philippines as seen in Bontoc

TEASER: "They left an evidence to let us know they once existed but the complete details on why they have to do this is a thing only known to them."
| 7

Ganga House, the Ruined Pig Pen and Goodbye Mystical Mountain

TEASER: "Still, it is significant because it is an ancient mark, an evidence of prehistoric civilization. The trek continues..."
| 8

Bontoc #TownExploration Series

Map showing the Location of #Bontoc

Click map to view latest articles covering Mountain Province


MORE POSTS FROM THIS CATEGORY: *PEOPLE*

Finding Shelter in Alab's Mt. Data: Happy Moments with Strangers

TEASER: "By time, I may forget them, so, I have to write a story about that experience that I may still remember those precious memories every time I do the recalling of happy moments."

Cultural Experience with AMMUTAN TRIBE of Manabo

TEASER: "There was a language barrier but the mere fact that I am witnessing a portion of their culture has made me think that these people are simply unique and blessed!"

Meeting the Oldest Palaspas Weaver for Palm Sunday at 74 years old

TEASER: "All I can see to the face of Lola Conchita is the sincerity in her craft -- that she loves it so much in spite of her age. She started weaving Palaspas when she was 64 years old and at that age, she finds the "need" to do it to earn for a living."

The Trike Toploader Kids of Sallacong

TEASER: "I was following their way and even the sunset will signal that they have to take a rest for now, the sunrise will again come tomorrow giving them new strength, new hope and a new day to gather more woods for their daily living."

The People I Met Along the Mestizo River

TEASER: "Their lives start to revolve with these things that many of us living at the cities and working at the office don't know or not aware at all."

Baguio City | Romance at the Burnham Park

TEASER: "The flowers around the Burnham Lake seemed like smiling and cheering as they too witness this precious moment in their life time as me personally, is also cheering deep inside my heart as a witness how successful they are in managing a long distance relationship."

Tabaco City | Bonsai Kids: What Future Awaits Them?

TEASER: "I can feel the pain, the feeling of inferiority but the motivation for success and outlook for dreams is very high and will remain high."

What a Wacky Igorot!

TEASER: "Those smiles in their faces really looked enlightening seeing our indigenous brothers enjoying their time. But, behind those smiles, is an issue I have seen."

comment 17 #TownFolks Commented :

Rochkirstin Santos on September 4, 2013 at 8:30 AM said...

We also got in close contact with these people before. I think that giving them their photographs will bring glory all the more because they might not have pictures of themselves. And having memories captures is always something worthwhile.

Gil Camporazo on September 4, 2013 at 10:05 AM said...

It's good you let them feel that they're important. I could see from the smiling faces of their happiness of being a part of the society. Your presence is more than enough for their identity social recognition. I know they treasure it too much. They're going to tell their family members and even the rest of their tribe of the wonderful experience of having such a friendly person like you.

Traveling Morion on September 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM said...

I love your shots here bro- pang Dokyu!and of course the PLUS ang well-written article :)How I wish after Mindanao ma explore ko naman ang North :) also to meet dis so called last generation of overt Igorot

Franc Ramon on September 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM said...

You learned a lot about their forgotten culture through this trip.

GM on September 4, 2013 at 2:35 PM said...

I have had the chance to live with the Igorots for ten years and my only wish is that their culture be preserved and propagated among their youth. Although times may change, culture and heritage are genuine treasures

Raya on September 4, 2013 at 4:12 PM said...

I am from Bukidnon and I enjoy talking with the natives of our province, too. You can learn so much from them. I never get tired of hearing their stories. Very interesting read, thanks for sharing!

Edmar TownExplorer on September 4, 2013 at 5:49 PM said...

Rochkirstin Santos | They even asked me to send their photos! :)

Edmar TownExplorer on September 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM said...

Gil Camporazo | Actually sir, i wouldbe the one honored to tell my friends that I met them.. the other way around, it was a golden opportunity.

Edmar TownExplorer on September 4, 2013 at 5:59 PM said...

Traveling Morion | Oist hurry up before everything else is gone ;)

Edmar TownExplorer on September 4, 2013 at 6:03 PM said...

GM | wow you're lucky! You must have learned a lot about them for sure! :)

Edmar TownExplorer on September 4, 2013 at 6:06 PM said...

Raya | You're welcome :)

jem alvarado on September 5, 2013 at 3:08 PM said...

I like their colorful clothing and yes I agree its truly a precious time when you meet them and personally spoke with them.

musings on meanderings on September 6, 2013 at 10:02 AM said...

it sure is an experience of a lifetime to be around these people who strive to keep their colorful customs + traditions alive. i wish i can experience that in this lifetime, too. hopefully, the younger Bontoc generation will also be mindful of preserving their colorful age-old culture while embracing western, modern fad.

Edmar TownExplorer on September 8, 2013 at 8:36 PM said...

jem alvarado | actually, more than the color, I'm fascinated with the culture that brings out the color, threatened by pop-culture :p

Edmar TownExplorer on September 8, 2013 at 8:38 PM said...

musings on meanderings | Hopefully, crossing all fingers in the world! :)

Manong Unyol on September 24, 2013 at 4:46 PM said...

NAKAKAHINAYANG NA ANG TRADISYON AT NATIVE NA KASUOTAN AY UNTI UNTI NANG NAWAWALA AT NASUSUOT NA LAMANG KUNG MAY OKASYON. MERON AKONG SINAMAHAN NA GRUPO ANG DESTINASYON NAMIN AY IFUGAO UPANG TUMULONG MAGBIGAY NG MGA SCHOOL SUPPLIES SA LIBLIB NA LUGAR NG IFUGAO NAG REQUEST AKO SA ORGANIZER NA GUSTO KO MAKAKITA LOKAL DOON NAKA SUOT NG KANILANG KASUOTAN. SWERTE NAMIN PINAGBIGYAN KAMI MGA STUDYANTE NAG SUOT NG KANILANG TRADISYONAL NA KASUOTAN AT SUMAYAW DIN SILA LAKING TUWA NAMIN KAHIT PAPAANO NAIPASA PARIN NILA SA KANILANG MGA ANAK.

Edmar Guquib said...

Manong Unyol | OO nga eh, at ang swerte niyo nakakita kayo! Pero mahirap na talaga natin ito mapipigilan, ang pagbabago ng ating lipunan ay constant... haaaayy, if only...

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