June 14, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Feb. 21, 2021.)

That’s mountain slang, which means, “I am an Igorot, and proud to be one.”
But please, I am not the kind of Igorot who wears a bahag or G-string when attending official functions or some other social event, nor do I go prancing or dancing on the streets barefoot or shirtless, and no way will you hear me screaming “Igorotak” at the top of my voice. Truth is, the word isn’t even emblazoned on my rear car window.
In fact, I do not recall going to a court hearing sporting a coat or jacket made of Igorot fabric.

But I love gorging on fatty food – meat dripping with lard, or innards – intestines, liver – fried or grilled – inch-thick steaks, and pork chops with egg on top.
Drinking gin or scotch with friends always makes my day.
But I would rather go to a cockfight derby than attend a birthday party, unless there’s pig being burned to celebrate the occasion – then do a quick eat and split act, later on driving furiously to Tuba or Shilan to catch the first fight of the day.

I also become unruly or boisterous, even turn bellicose after having one too many, prompting my friend, Atty. Marvin Yang-ed, to drive me home in his brand new SUV Fortuner.
Along the way, we pass by a guy – likewise with a hyphenated name – parking his Jaguar, waving to a fellow with curly hair and dark skin cruising along in his top down sports Mercedes Benz.
Show me an Igorot walking to town in combat boots, and I will eat this column. Show me a shiny, recently bought expensive car and I will bet you the one behind the wheel is an Igorot, male or female.

“You don’t look well,” Marvin says to me, “Why don’t I bring you to Dra. Pilando’s clinic, but this is always a busy hour for her; anyway, the clinics of Dra. Macli-ing and Dra. Suanding are housed in the same building.”
“Marvin,” I turn to look at him, “How many Igorot physicians do you know, not including the men?”
He scratches his head and replies, “I don’t think you have enough toes and fingers to make an accurate count.”
“But for Torogi lawyers and politicians, you will need a calculator.”

“Marvin,” I intone, “I mean no offense, but how come many of your tribesmen are practically all here in Baguio, running for some political post or another? Locals are scared of possible annexation.” I throw him a stone and he comes back with a rock.
“It’s called progress,” he tries to educate me, “just like someone from Davao acting as your Benguet representative.”

You remember Imelda, famous for her infamous quotable quotes, i.e. “If you ask how much is it, you can’t afford it.”
But I was quite impressed when she said, addressing her husband’s constituents, “I am more Ilocano than you are, you are only Ilocano by birth, while I am an Ilocano by choice.”
Great line. Rep. Eric Yap should follow her act.
On the other hand, the two of us, Marvin, are Igorots by choice, birth, and blood. All others are intruders.
Maybe a visit to the Red Cross would help Rep. Yap’s political career.
He has a choice between Ibaloy and Kankana-ey blood, whichever will get him more votes.
A mixture of both would be good, more so if you add a pint of Kalanguya to the mix.

In my growing up years, neighborhood kids would often taunt me with “Igorot, Igorot, mang-mangan ti aso.”
I would run home to my mom crying, and she comforts me in a way that only a mother can, with lessons of life that would later serve me well in my adult future.
“What are you crying all about,” she says to me, mushing my hair, “Look at them and look at you. Envy is what makes people act and talk like them.”
“Notice how friendly they become every time your apo Kensha throws a cañao, prodding you to get lots of boiled meat to grease the sides (actually a knocked down carton box) so it would run faster downhill.
Well, guess what they had for supper that night.
So next time your apo Kensha celebrates a cañao, which is often because she dreams all the time, invite them over to join the feast.
The best revenge is not getting even, it is making them feel guilty and remorseful for the way they are.”

“It will be dark soon, and I need to fix dinner. But while it is still light, go and ride around them in your little bike, and be sure to laugh aloud. If they hurt you, tell them your dad will get back the land (where then rented shanties stand) donated by your lolo Quidno. Your dad will make sure it reaches their parents’ ears.
Times and people never really change. Before the war, mindless lowland folks also taunted your dad’s family for eating camote.
When the war began exacting its toll, they all came knocking at the doors of your aunts and uncles, begging for camote to eat.
None of them were turned away. Sweet (potato) revenge.”

My mom heads for the kitchen to cook dinner, and it is my dad’s turn to say his piece.
“Son,” he says to me, “in a way, they are right. Dogs are meant to be pets, not to be viand or pulutan.”
“Dad, are you saying you don’t eat dog?”
“Are you kidding? I love dog meat. It’s just that in a dog-eat-dog world, a clash between norms and traditions is bound to happen, and there’s no way of telling what is right and what is not.”
Anyway, long after BBC closes shop, Comiles will still be around.
Doggone if I am not right about that.