December 6, 2023

The country’s National Hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, had also once stood against discrimination of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.

As a tribute to the 162nd birthday of Rizal on June 19, Baguio Councilor Arthur Allad-iw shared a piece of history about the deeds of the national hero who with other Filipino compatriots spent their lives in Europe under the propaganda movement for the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule.  

Allad-iw said in 1887 in Madrid, Spain, Cordillerans, known then as Igorots, were exhibited in a grand exposition with their native clothes and g-strings and weapons and became the objects of mockery and laughter by the Spanish and spread like fire by their press.

The councilor related Rizal heard the news while he was in a Europe trip and was outraged by this degradation of his fellow countrymen – the Igorots of Northern Luzon.

“My poor compatriots Igorots who are now being exhibited in Madrid are mocked by Spanish newspaper, except El Liberal, which says that it is not consistent with human dignity to be exhibited side by side with animals and plants. I have done everything possible to prevent the display of this degradation of men of my race, but I have not succeeded. Now a woman died of pneumonia. The Igorots were housed in baracca (rustic house made of bamboo, grass and tree branches),” Rizal then said.

Such discrimination of Igorots continued when the United States, which also colonized the Philippines, held an exhibit of more than 1,100 Filipino natives, including Igorots, Moro, Negritos, and Visayans in the so-called Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Like Rizal’s criticism on the Madrid event, the St. Louis Exhibition (of Filipino natives) was criticized as racist, degrading, imperialistic, and inhuman act to the subjects of U.S.’ colonized area, which left a stigma on Filipinos.

“For us generation of today, who read these literatures about the inhuman and discriminatory acts by our colonizers, we appreciate these acts of Rizal and all the Filipino patriots that contributed to the growth of our nationalism. In fact, on the other side are commendation to our forefathers, as historical events should be reiterated on their (forefathers’) contributions to the Philippine independence,” Allad-iw said in a speech during City Hall’s Monday flag raising rites on June 19.

He cited “the Battle of Tonglo (Tenglo), a settlement in between present-day Baguio City and Tuba, where the brave Ibaloys, with their simple weapons and tricks, drove away the highly-armed Spanish colonizers when they tried to penetrate the area to look for gold. Such was their (Ibaloys) contribution for independence.” 

He added even the Americans recognized the bravery of the Igorots for being in the frontline and in helping the defeat of the Japanese during World War II.

Allad-iw shared Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who recognized the Igorot soldiers in their gallantry, also said: “I have seen last-ditch stands and innumerable acts of personal heroism that defy description. But for sheer breathtaking and heart-stopping desperation, I have never known the equal of those Igorots riding the tanks. Gentlemen, when you tell the story, stand and in tribute to this gallant Igorots.”

Allad-iw said Rizal’s strong sense of nationalism and love of the Filipino race including the Igorots, as well as his condemnation of discrimination, exploitation, oppression or exploitation, and the correction of historical injustices against IPs should be strictly upheld by the government agency established to work for IPs’ interests.

“It should not serve as a mouthpiece in the red-tagging of the word ‘Igorot’, which has existed prior to colonization, nor when they exercise their right to self-determination as a distinct people,” the councilor said. –     Hanna C. Lacsamana