April 22, 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 Sept. 13, 2015)

Ages ago, long before the Marcoses and Aquinos came into power, before overseas Filipino workers even as many of our countrymen left home to seek employment in the home of the brave, then overflowing with milk and honey, while the Middle East was a land of unrest, and the Al Queda and other terrorist groups were unheard of, and the only fleeing migrants were the Chinese from the mainland, who bravely sailed dingy boats that would hopefully bring them to friendly shores, and when there was no such thing as a traffic congestion along highway 54, now known as EDSA, the only Filipino reaping honors for the country was the great CPR or Carlos P. Romulo, who, in those days, was president of the United Nations General Assembly.

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Romulo’s crucial vote decided the fate of Israel, at that time seeking recognition as an independent state, and not part of Arab territory, as claimed by the latter.

Someone once asked CPR, standing less than five feet tall, how he felt living in the land of the giants, and Romulo with typical Filipino wit, replied that he felt like a dime among nickels.

CPR, unfortunately later got on the wrong side of the Igorot community, when he reportedly said that “Igorots are not Filipinos.”

My old man, however, not really coming to the defense of Romulo, told me that wasn’t exactly the case.

It seems that in a photo exhibit featuring Filipino culture, a mother was telling her son that the picture showing our early kin living in the houses were Filipinos. CPR, who was within hearing distance, mindlessly explained to the mother and her son that “No, they are not Filipinos, but Igorots.”

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CPR’s remark naturally raised the hackles of our Igorot leaders, foremost of whom was the likewise great Alfredo Lamen, then a member of Congress, who quickly challenged Romulo to a debate over his ignorant comment.

Now, on any other issue, CPR would have whipped Lamen’s butt on any day of the week, including Sundays, but clearly CPR’s position was indefensible, my old man setting the records straight notwithstanding.

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But hey, if Romulo were alive today, he would be amazed to see the change in the Igorot, who now lives not in tree houses, but in mansions or, as a throwback to the old days in multi-storied buildings, utilizing the ground floor for business purposes.

He no longer walks or rides a horse when traveling, but drives around in an expensive late model vehicle. Best of all, he also has a professional title to his name. Many Igorots today are lawyers, doctors, engineers, contractors, and businessmen.

No longer does he wear bright colored attire like a red or yellow shirt over blue pants. Like Mayor  Morris Domogan, he wears slacks and Lacoste shirts, no socks even, in keeping up with the fashion. But he still cannot get rid of leather jacket. Torogi pa rin, he, he, he.

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The Igorot also now dines in fine restaurants, not squatting on the floor while eating dog or cañao meat. He also uses a knife to cut his steak, not tear it up like pandesal, which he still habitually dips in his coffee.

But what about the shy Igorot lass, blushing a deep red when talking to a good looking Manila boy? Why, she is even more socially advanced than her male counterpart.

While her mother would rather keep the money and not spend it at the beauty parlor, her now modern daughter would plunk down thousands of pesos for a spa session, not even haggling with Vicky Belo if she wants her face or figure redone.

Mr. CPR, sir, the Igorota has come of age – beautiful, smart, fashionable, well to do, and no longer scared of men.

As for the guys, their sense of newfound confidence is simply amazing, whether as a political or business leader, capable of dealing with whoever or whatever, unmindful of their looks or lack of ceiling. To them, the world is theirs for the taking.

Like my friend Rene Cortes points out, he is one cocky bastard.

Only if he is from somewhere up the north, try to correct him.

But it is something they need to be, otherwise, they would be lost. Humility, quite often, can be more of a bane than a boon. If you have it, nothing wrong with flaunting it. After all, it is what other “choosy” ethnic women are looking for.