March 2, 2024

The April 11 fire that gutted several houses and commercial establishments in the capital town of Bontoc, Mountain Province has ignited people in the province and faraway lands to unselfishly help the displaced individuals and families get back on their feet through the centuries-old cultural practice among Igorots, especially among Ifontoks, called “og-ogfo.”
The “og-ogfo” among Ifontoks is culturally distinct, seen in how communities, especially those from the different villages within the municipality and those in the province, voluntarily rendered their time, resources, and equipment in the clearing operations sans appeal from politicians unlike in other places hit by similar incidents or natural calamities.
Women and the youth, on the other hand, had come forward to take care of the food provision of those working at ground zero, courtesy of donations from groups and businessmen, again without any formal request posted on social media for food packs to feed the volunteers.
In such difficult times, political leaders, including those in the government and private sector, allow and give respect to an indigenous people’s elder who performs a time-tested cleansing ritual that pave the way for a cultural lockdown to also allow weary volunteers, mostly composed of villagers and government personnel, to rest while the elder beseeches the Supreme God to remove the hardship and prevent such a disaster from happening again.
The cultural lockdown, which was also effective in controlling the spread of the Covid-19 virus, is strictly observed by community residents, including political leaders in respect to the cultural practices that have made Igorots a great people.
We laud the leadership of Bontoc led by Mayor Jerome Tudlong and the provincial government led by Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. and Rep. Maximo Dalog Jr. for showing great respect to the IP leaders who performed the time-tested cultural practices in the aftermath of that April fire which was one of the most difficult times for the people of the capital town.
After all, it is by their respect to the time-honored cultural practices that have made them great Igorot leaders in their own rights.
Again, sans any formal appeal from leaders for financial support, the municipality of Bontoc is overwhelmed by the cash donations that continue to pour from kindred souls and Samaritans. Even school children wholeheartedly donated their allowances to the fund drive.
Over time, the people of Bontoc have been known for their sense of empathy and compassion in the aftermath of any form of calamity or disaster nurtured by their cultural practices. It is their innate values that make them Igorots to be proud of.
This brings us also to a prevailing issue caused by the statement of an official of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples equating the word Igorot to the underground movement.
Contrary to such a claim, the term “Igorot” is widely accepted and used in countless books and reference materials even while the same term was a misnomer made by the Spaniards in mockery against the indigenous peoples in the highlands they had failed to colonize.
In fact, people from this highland region with great achievements in the global stage, be it in the field of law enforcement, military, medicine, research, legal profession, or sports, honor their Igorot roots.
Even noted historian, William Henry Scott in his 1974 book, “The Discovery of the Igorots,” made it clear that “Igorot was a general term used to refer to people from the Cordillera [to include] Isneg, Kalinga, Bontok, Ayangan, Tuwali, Kalanguya, Kankana-ey, Iwak, Karao, Tinguian, Balangao and Ibaloy who successfully resisted assimilation into the Spanish empire.”
Perhaps once a degrading misnomer, the Igorots themselves have turned it into a word to glorify their heritage through their values and achievements.
Back to Bontoc’s ground zero, people from outside monitoring the display of the true spirit of bayanihan through “og-ogfo” might have something to learn from it, as this IP’s culture has helped a whole community once again to cope with the calamity, in their very own Igorot way.