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Present reverberations of Ygollote historical politics
by Morr Pungayan

A historical backdrop

North straight, west, and east of the [Spanish-] occupied provinces of La Union and Pangasinan, the Spaniards heard of a nación whose people were once the invete-rate neighbors of the Ilocanos and Pangasinenses trading gold nuggets for carabaos, cows, and pigs “for their many feasts and revelries.”

In addition, earlier missions of the frailes – both flourishing and short-lived – constantly reported in their Chronicles the daring and survival of those Salvajes y paganos (savages and workers of the pagos, earth) needing more than ever the “instruction in the Faith.”

Those two basic factors ignited the adventurous spirit of the Spanish conquistadors – little and big – so that in 1620, Captain Garcia de Aldana and his force came, and the Ibalois (then also known as Ygollotes) stopped him at Sobosov; in 1623, Sgt. Maj. Antonio Carreño de Valdes came full force and was successful to build Fort Santiago at Tublay and the Fort del Rosario at Antamok, Itogon; in 1624, Don Alonso Martin Quirante was sent to replace Valdes. Quirante was the most intrepid of them all; but after losing some men in the months that followed and without succeeding to subjugate the recalcitrant Ygollotes of Itogon, he left the Fort c. June, 1625.

After that, relative peace reigned; but after 134 years, more or less, the Spaniards came again culminating in the 1759  Hispano-Ibaloi Battles of Apatut (February, 1759), Lumtang (March 14, 1759) and the most-costly Tonglo (March 18, 1759) – where as many Igorot historians will agree today, after said Tonglo battle – there came about among the early Ygollotes those times a realization that even the white men who distinguished themselves as tough enemies, scores, and decades earlier in the Lowlands, could be felled by the hardened bamboo tips, stones, and Sholos (S-Igorot sword-type).

Yet, costly were those battles in spite, those same battles inspired more misioneros to explore the land of said Salvajes; such that, the later waves of them flanked by commandantes, regulares, and indios (officers, regular enlisted, and conscripted converts), came in pours.

Something new though in the hands of their commanders were maps of “reported” native villages – or alliances of them – but summarized as tribus independientes, where some of their strongest warriors exerted dominance,  rule, and control over defined areas of influence.

Yes! the socio-political orientation those times among the españoles was [simplified in our present day language] beyond thosetall mountains, in the fastness of the deep gorges and big-and-small rivers, there lie el páis de los ygollotes (the country of the mountain-range dwellers), and they’re ruled and defended by their own men; each group of ten or more family heads, led by their most able and powerful: the Maksil or the Maingel.

Reverberations in contemporary times

So, could we explain from the history of a people – as the Ygollotes in general, how the present leadership or political patterns among them have obtained, precipitated, devolved, etc., from “original” or archetypal ones? “In many respects” should be the answer though “qualifiedly some are obvious ensues; and some are latent adaptations.” Now, to our instantiations.

The age-equals-maturity factor

Today, ask the politician why he doesn’t give up to the younger opponent ‘so easily’. The main reason is: among his own clan members, are equally youngaspirants; but he(!) was chosen to represent said clan because he is the eldest, interested member!

In Bokod municipality this present contest, Bien B. prepared, much much earlier than the filing of candidacies for his bid to run for councilor. What did you know? Filing time, his uncle or father’s brother, Abe B., filed a few minutes before Bien B. did! Bien B’s advisers counseled him: “your uncle is older, give him a chance; yours will be later. Besides, you have the same family name – the voters will get angry!”

But unlike in the historical analogue of the Maksil or Maingel, who was chosen logically for his age (=maturity), strength, and fighting prowess, the more senior or older member in present time is often endorsed by his clan on mere basis of great age. So there go the dissimilarities of the present and the past – even if the same patterns are of one principle, i.e. “the older, the abler.”

The experienced vs the schooled

In almost every nook of the so-called Cordilleras – or more aptly: Mountain Provinces, the scramble for “getting educated” has never showed any letup, nor has it ever slackened. This has been so because many perceive education itself as the antidote to traditional socio-political stratification.

On one side,many were right in such a perception that they “got [easily] elected” simply because they “got themselves [first] educated.”

On the other side, even getting oneself educated as a lawyer [the most-preferred profession-basis for the Cordi electorate] could be devastatingly misleading, to wit:

Case A: An already-practicing lawyer in a Kankana-ey town filed for mayor versus a “no-read, no-write” opponent. The issue seemed clear; but when voting time was over, many had to respect the electorates’ verdict – the no-read, no-write won!

Case B: A newly graduated lawyer (well, with some practice-lawyering here and there, you might say) ran against an incumbent, obviously much, much older opponent – two times! The young lawyer lost both bids.

Cases A and B may be exceptions; nevertheless, they reverberate the culture-history of the past: the villagers, now citizens or voters, always laid their trust in leadership to the experienced ones or veterans!

Fellow, tribemate, or kin

The Kankana-eys Northern say Ib-a (fellow); the Ifugaos, Ibba (fellow); the Kalingas, Sunud (brother); the Ibalois, Agi or Khait (sibling or relative); the Kalanguyas and Kankana-eys Southern, Gait (relative or kin), and so on.

But in whichever way it is said, in whatever language – in these mountain fastnesses, when applied in a political exercise, the ones saying such expressions understand their mutual covenant, i.e., “let us help each other because we are kin, related, even tribe- or townmates!”

And so many would-be “mayorables” and “councilorables” complain and lament about their well-planned programs of government; their attainments; their expendi-favours; in short their everything! “Why in blazes, did I not win?”

And lady unluck just smiles, not to say “secret . . .” but to unfurl the naked truth: “don’t you know, can’t you see? The voted one is their Ib-a, Ka-tribu, or Khait!” And adds she even: “you never learn, don’t you?”

But lest you fall prey to any of these “traps” – unlaid before you because they most don’t immediately obtain in your vigilant consciousness or watchful eyes, perhaps it will do you more good than harm to understand or read, or (better) study, the social and politico-cultural history of the contemporary Ygollotes, before you embark on your mission and vision and dedication to “lead” them i.e. to be their leader by serving them!

After all, knowing them a little bit more shall provide you additional advantage data – aside from building with them better chances to accept your leadership, in current times, or in the near foreseeable future.

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