Living our Igorot Values

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 Keynote Speech to the 6th ICBE Conference, April 22-25, 2011

Living our Igorot Values*

Serafin L. Ngohayon, Ph.D.


Ifugao State University,

Lamut, Ifugao, Philippines

I. Salutation and Greetings.

...friends, ladies and gentlemen, good day

II. Expression of elation and gratitude for the invitation. 

I feel humbled to be tapped as your Guest of Honour and Speaker. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe for the trust and overwhelming love you’ve granted me.

III. The question of who are Igorots?

To start with, let me raise two questions that may be lingering in the minds of some of the Cordillerans specially my fellow Ifugaos.

Who are the Igorots? Can Ifugaos and Kalingas be regarded as such?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines Igorot as a member of any of several peoples of the mountains of northern Luzon in the Philippines. The word is originally Igolot: i - means from and golot - means mountain range.

Other sources point out that during the time of the Spaniards, the word Igolot was anglicized to Ygorrottes.

I would like to affirm that the word Igorot is so unique and its meaning is simply wonderful. I cannot see any reason why I, as an Ifugao, would deny that I’m an Igorot, someone who hails from the mountain ranges of the Cordillera.

This conference definitely provides a venue to reaffirm our identity as a people. Congratulations to the organizers. I commend your tremendous efforts.

The theme of the conference “Living our Igorot Values” is definitely important this time when the young Igorots, our children, are embracing the world of hi-technology. Hi-technology can either build or break them. There is a need to remind them and even ourselves of our Igorot values so that we would always find good direction in our lives.

Our Igorot values helped us achieve development milestones in our Igorot land. These values were imbedded in our culture and again, let me stress that this conference provides us the opportunity to go back to these values as some may have forgotten them.

I came up with an acronym which I hope would help everyone bear in mind the Igorot values. The acronym is IGOROT.

I – stands for Ingenuity

G – stands for Goodness

O – stands for Open-mindedness

R – stands for Resilience

O – stands for Originality

T – stands for Truthfulness


On Ingenuity

The rice terraces not only in Ifugao, but also in the whole of Cordillera are testimonies to the ingenuity or resourcefulness of the Igorots. At the time when modern equipment was not available, our forefathers were able to carve the mountain slopes with their bare hands and crude tools for their rice farming. They tamed our land for survival. Engineers and scientists attest that what makes it a marvel is the interplay of the watershed, the rice terraces, the people and their culture.

Aside from the rice terraces, when commercialized food preservatives were not introduced, Igorots developed natural methods in food preservation. We have the Etag, Inahinan, and smoked meat. Another natural method is when we dry variety of beans like the white beans, red beans, mongo, etc. I used to pack them when I travel to school in college since I could store and consume them for a longer time.

Also, Igorots constructed traditional houses that have unique architectural designs. Traditional houses may vary but one thing in common is their adaptability to the environment.

Nowadays, Igorots remain and continue to be ingenuous. These are manifested in various developments that are now observable in the Igorot land.

I have known of Igorots who became millionaires through vegetable gardening, wood carving, fishery, piggery, poultry, and lots more. This is in no regard of the level of education one has ever attained. They made use of their ingenuity to be progressive. One may wonder that even in remote areas of the Cordillera, mansion-like houses are constructed. Ingenuity made Manang Fely, Manang Conching and all of you here surmount huge and varied challenges here! With your Ingenuity, just like the Igorot we have seen in the video, YOU WILL DEFINITELY MOVE ON AND SUCCEED!

On Goodness

One Igorot value that is note-worthy is having high regard to common good! Despite our individual weaknesses, we all react and are always ready to offer a helping hand to a brother/ sister in need. It is this innate goodness that forced you to help a fellow Igorot in need, in distress. I urge you to continue nurturing that innate goodness. Life here maybe hard but it is definitely harder back home. Therefore, you expect that there will be more people, who like you, will do their best to come here, even with uncertain future. Help them as even if they will not come back to thank, just delight with the idea that you have helped a soul find its way to a better life. And they will transform a lot of lives back home too.

We salute you for what made you different from us, who are left back home, is that you have the courage to try your luck and find your destiny here in London.

On Open-mindedness

We, Igorots, never close our minds to new ideas, possibilities, and to what we can achieve.  We have progressive minds. We ride on with the mainstream society without denying our identity. Disregarding the misjudgement that Igorots are barbaric, uneducated, indigents, etc., we have Igorots who proved that they can excel in the entertainment industry. Broadway singer Ingrid M. Payaket, grand finalist in the prestigious reality show Pilipinas Got Talent of ABS-CBN, announced on television that she is proud to be an Igorot. The late Marky Cielo who won the talent search Starstruck of GMA-7 never denied on television that he is an Igorot. His fellow contestant even earlier commented, “Hindi siya mananalo dahil Igorot siya” (He will not win because he is an Igorot.) Eric Salvador who previously won Mr. Philippines – World also publicly announced that he is an Igorot.

We have Igorots who opened their minds to the reality that we can top the board exams. To mention some, in 2007, Renelyn Cabbigat ranked no. 2 in the midwifery exams.  In year 2006, Kriston Kimbunga topped the Licensure Examination for Criminologists. In 1976, Sonia Aplosen Dao-as topped the board exam for education. In 2004, Pinky Deligen Egan topped the Licensure Examination for Radiolgists. We have lots more and we are proud of them.

On Resilience

We, Igorots are known to be tough in facing the hardships of life. I am a living testimony to that reality. I grew up witnessing how our parents worked hard just to send us to school. On our end, we have to hike too distant pathways just to reach the school. With that, I’m proud to say that what I am today is a result of my being resilient as an Igorot.

I also personally believe that the mountains that surround every community back home can motivate every Igorot to soar to greater heights. The mountains teach us to persevere. They teach us to have strong character, to become tall in thought even if we are short in size.

Journeying back, I believe that some of us experienced fetching water in the spring, carrying palay from the granary, pounding rice, splitting the wood for fire-wood, hiking narrow and distant path ways from home to school, etc. We may have thought of these experiences as hardships of life but they taught us to be independent, to be strong, and in general, to be resilient, something we could hardly teach to our children. Certainly, our resilience destined us to where we are now. WE ARE JUST FEARFUL THAT THE RESILIENCE WE LEARNED FROM HARD LIFE IS WHAT OUR YOUNG IGOROTS OF TODAY LACK! Gone were the days of hiking, eating camote and making do with a little allowance in school. You young people are enjoying better life and privileges than we have. We are sharing these to you for you to know and understand that from our sacrifices come your comforts of today, so learn to value and treasure them. When you have the opportunity to come back, nurture an open mind and learn as much as you can.

On Originality

Our culture is original. We did not copy it. It is our God-given identity. It is a gift.

Indeed, the uniqueness of our traditional chants such as the salidummay, uggayam, hudhud, ergwad, and the uniqueness of our traditional dances continue to draw the attention of not only our co-Filipinos in the lowlands but even the international community. Why? It is because they tell our stories, our way of life. They are mediums of expressions. They blend with nature, with the scenic landscape of the Cordilleras.

It is for these reasons that we, Igorots, are proud of what we have. We never admit that our culture is inferior to any other culture. I’m one with those who believe that there is no such thing as an inferior or a superior culture.  

On Truthfulness

We never deny realities of life. We embrace them with humility.

We recognize the fact that the mountains serve as our strength and our place of refuge.

Some of us may find the mountains as barriers to the delight of modern life, however, I believe that everything exists for a reason. Even Celia O. Ortega of Lacub, Abra pointed out in her book entitled, “Climbing the Mountain of Hope” that “the mountain represents the conditions, events, and situations that block our dream of a better future and life: poverty, ignorance, fear, problem, sadness, sickness, pain, indifference, apathy, and even death. As much as possible we try to avoid these difficulties. We have no intention of seeking out these tough choices and challenges. We do not want to climb these mountains.” However, Celia continued that when we appreciate these challenges and their value in our lives, we reach a certain level of contentment and freedom. Celia further stated that when we can see beyond our present difficulties and realize that these challenges will allow us to grow and make us stronger persons, we open our eyes to a new vision and our minds with new insights and deep optimism.

Our forefathers did not live in pretentions. They simply lived with what life could offer. That made them wise. May the value of truthfulness remain in our hearts as Igorots.

In closing, I do know that in realizing our vision, mission, goals and objectives, the task is huge and it rests on our shoulders. We need these values in pursuing them. I appeal to every Igorot to have these values in heart. Always remember the acronym IGOROT.

 I – stands for Ingenuity

G – stands for Goodness

O – stands for Open-mindedness

R – stands for Resilience

O – stands for Originality

T – stands for Truthfulness

Let this be a day also to show that we IFUGAOS, at least we in IFSU, have gladly accepted the fact that we IFUGAOs are also IGOROTS and we are proud to be with our brothers and sisters in the Cordillera, to live and enjoy life with you all. From today, let us make it our resolve to be brothers/ sisters, guardians and supportive of each other. Let us start doing that by embracing each others’ unique culture, dances and way of life. Thus, I would like you to express your appreciation of my talk, if you do, by dancing with my group the Ifugao dance as your way of embracing and accepting us. We promise to reciprocate that by dancing with you your dances, and chanting with you your chants. So come on, play the GONG, my group leads and we all join and enjoy.

Finally, amidst the challenges facing our race in our effort to move forward to a brighter future, let us learn to be strong in unity as the ANTS. (Show video of ants…)

Allow me to reiterate my pitch and earnest request for all of you to help your unfortunate brothers/ sisters back home by being instruments to their education. You are all testaments to the fact that what bridges poverty from prosperity is GOOD EDUCATION! Share whatever penny you have and it will have a long way for the education of your fellow IGOROTS back home. We are always waiting for you to contact us. We will connect you to your scholars and we promise that they will be in constant communication with you.

Thank you very much!



*Acknowledgment is hereby given to my staff, Mr. Jeremy Gawongna, for his invaluable assistance in the preparation of this piece.


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