July 16, 2024

October being International Indigenous People’s Month and with the ongoing celebration of the Ibaloy Festival, allow me to share this essay by my late father and hero, Atty. Gabriel Pawid Keith, that he composed in the 1950s when still in college.

It was originally titled, “I Am An Igorot”, but I know he wouldn’t mind if I changed “Igorot” into “Ibaloy” because that’s what daddy was – a proud Igorot of the Ibaloy tribe and a great son of Benguet. Here goes:

“I am an Ibaloy, son of parents in whose veins flow Malay blood. I was born and reared amidst these mountains and hills covered with sturdy and verdant pines that sway and dance with the mountain breeze beside the mountain streams. This part of the country, Benguet province, I have learned to love and to call my home.

I am an Ibaloy. In my veins run the immortal blood of my gallant, peaceful, and freedom-loving forefathers – blood borne by them who openly defied the authority of Spain in the year sixteen hundred and one. Again, it was the blood that also freely flowed in the bloody battlefields of world-famous Bataan and in the rocky bastions of Corregidor.

That blood is immortal. It is the same blood that flowed into the hearts of my grandfather, father, brothers, cousins, uncles, and nephews who formed the mighty 66th Infantry; blood that watered the wild lilies in the treacherous mountain of Bessang. Some of them died fighting that I may be what I am now – a free man, living in a free country governed by the principles of democracy.

I am an Ibaloy – a proud one. I am proud of my noble, brave, peaceful and hard-working ancestors; proud of the mountains, hills, rivers, trees, and of the lilies that adorn the forests and which were given by Him above to be mine; proud of the kanyaw and the bakdew, and of the customs and traditions handed to me from generation to generation; proud to beat the gangsa and to hear the savage sound of the solibao.

I am proud too of my Christian status and education brought about by the pioneering zeal of the Occidental missionaries and teachers; proud to be an integral part of the young Republic of the Philippines.

Though in educational, economic, social and political aspects, I may be far behind; though in high society, I may be frowned upon; though all in all, I may be called a barbarian, still I shall shout aloud that all may know and hear – I am an Ibaloy.