(Editors’ note: The Midland 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 July 6, 2008.)
In the good old days when life was difficult but not unkind and cruel as it is today, the Torogi managed to survive by planting camote and other root crops in his “uma” or small landholding.
The Torogi was a farmer who loved his work, but did not wish the same fate for his brood.
And so, with sorrow in his heart, he sold part of his “uma” to land speculators to finance the education of his children, in the hope that one day, they would become professionals and not a tiller of the soil as he was.
Laughed at and ridiculed by his lowland neighbors for his seeming ignorance and naivete, the naturally bashful Torogi nonetheless spoke better English than others, and was inherently decent and law-abiding.
A Torogi lucky enough to be employed in government then did not dip his fingers in the government coffers, and Torogis in law enforcement, long before the catchy police phrase was coined, faithfully and to the letter went about their duties “to serve and protect” the people.
In sum, the Torogi of the past was a God-fearing individual whose only joy in life was taking care of his family, and making sure his children turned out right.
Alas, that would not be the case for the succeeding generation of Torogis.
The Torogi of today has become quite modern in his ways, living a fast life of driving late model cars and sporting signature fashion clothes, although his taste in colors, still is – well, tasteless, even while splurging inheritance that his parents worked hard for.
The new Torogi has also developed a taste for Scotch and everything else imported, and will make money any way he can, not from tilling the soil, but perhaps farming prohibited plants.
To be sure, the Torogi of today likewise speaks good English like his elders, but uses his glib tongue for less than honorable purposes, particularly when he ventures into lawyering and later on into politics.
To digress a bit, in the capital town of La Trinidad, Benguet, a town predominantly Torogi, the municipal government will impose curfew hours this month, and for good reason.
It seems too many crimes are being committed in the streets at night, from rowdy drunken behavior to stick-ups and armed robberies.
Some Torogi couples have even been caught performing sex in some dark corner or another, but within plain view of passerby, and crimes in large or syndicated scale are being traced to a certain tribe or tribes.
Perhaps it is an unfair assessment, but that is the prevailing belief in both the city of Baguio and in the bustling town of La Trinidad.
Other ethnic groups are likewise into crime, given the economic difficulties of today, yet almost all white-collar and big crimes appear to point North and not in some other direction.
I miss the Torogi of old, the always polite and English-speaking kind, who after a drinking session, would metamorph into a hated pest and he himself despises in his sober moments.
That was the old Torogi – a Doctor Jekyll who became Mr. Hyde after having one too many.
But the modern Torogi today, believe it or not, is a Frankenstein, always on the prowl for suckers and willing victims.
And who is to blame for the sad transformation of our young mountain people?
I guess government or the authorities, perhaps the unpredictable weather or the coast guard, or even God Himself.
Certainly not us, never ourselves.
Sooner or later, the old values and traditions of the Ibaloy will be forgotten, as he seeks to climb atop a material world, lured by promises of gold and a supposedly better life.
Pity the Torogi of yesterday, whose children has been befallen by evil. The poor fellow must be turning in his grave.
Shy ma-ngo to kupal ma-ngo.