Mapping North Luzon’s indigenous peoples

October 15, 2007 in general, indigenous, NL general, people by editors

By PIO VERZOLA JR.

Note: This article is an abridged version of the final report for the Cordillera-North Luzon IP Mapping Project implemented by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the Northern Media and Information Network, and finished in December 2005.

In the past century especially since the mid-20th century, much ethnographic information have been gathered on the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region and the adjacent Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions of Northern Luzon.

Such information included the identification of IP’s with their respective ascribed names as distinct peoples or ethnolinguistic groups. Naming them was important, if only to organize demographic, geographic and linguistic data for census reports and ethnolinguistic mapping.

One problem is that IP group names have a notorious trait of fluidity and overlapping. For example, in popular literature, census instruments and even recent ethnographic studies, “Tinguian” is used as a definite identifier for IP communities living in Abra province. But the reality on the ground is that the “Tinguians” are actually a more complex patchwork of IP groups who carry distinctive names, territorial boundaries, oral histories, and often different languages or major dialect differences, which change over time.

The result is that most census reports and ethnographic maps until now remain hobbled by significant inaccuracies, over-generalizations, and outdated facts. There have been efforts among social-science research and IP advocacy groups to correct the inaccuracies and make ethnographic updates, but these have not been significantly used by statistical agencies and mainstream maps up to now.

The result is that the said inaccuracies impair policy research and planning especially at the regional and local levels, which should always be sensitive to changing ethnographic-demographic factors. The inaccuracies seep down to the general public through error-prone textbooks, maps, and media reports, reinforcing wrong notions and worsening controversies even among the IP groups themselves.

Ethno-linguistic identities and names

Prior to Spanish and later American colonial rule, the entire population of Northern Luzon (and most of the Philippine population for that matter, except a sprinkling of Chinese and Japanese residents in trading posts) must be considered as indigenous peoples. The earliest Spanish chroniclers reported on native peoples as already exhibiting a patchwork of local cultures and ethno-linguistic identities but still evolving along very common paths of development as a whole.

It was the uneven imposition and differential experience of Spanish colonial and feudal rule that drew stark lines between those peoples who were assimilated, and those who for various reasons were not. It is mainly those who belong to this latter category that are now considered as indigenous peoples. This mapping project is focused on the IP’s found in Northern Luzon.

As the Spanish and later American colonizers explored and established their presence throughout the Northern Luzon highlands and established garrisons in strategic settlements, they adopted the highly localized names of these settlements, or convenient terms used by outsiders, to cover wider spans of town-sized and province-sized territories. Meanwhile, local communities continued to use their traditional identities and placenames.

Immediately, therefore, we encounter a confusing tangle of IP identities and the names of actual communities and places associated with them. Volumes of ethnographic and historical studies as well as popular articles have been written to explore and explain these identities and names. Below, we present only a highly simplified summary of the most common and encompassing identities and names:

Igorot

Igolot or Igorot (“people of the mountains”) is derived from a Northern Philippine cognate of the Tagalog golod (mountain ridge). Early Spanish records used ‘Ygolotes,’ ‘Ygorotes,’ and later ‘Igorrotes,’ which carried over into the American-period Igorrote. Historically, the Spanish colonialists who reached the Pangasinan lowlands and southern Ilocos coastal strip adopted the term to refer to the peoples living in the southern section of the Cordillera ranges – namely, what are now Benguet and western Mountain Province. The IP’s of these areas ultimately accepted the term to refer to themselves.

By tradition, IP’s in other parts of the Cordillera like the Tinguian, Kalinga and Ifugao did not usually call themselves by this same term. But in more recent times, there has been a trend of loose acceptance of the term Igorot to refer to all Cordillera peoples. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance has been a consistent popularizer of the term Kaigorotan (“the entire Igorot people”) as the equivalent of Cordillera peoples.

Tinguian

Tinguian is derived from tinggi (Malay ‘mountain’). Early Spanish colonizers used the term more generically to refer to all mountain peoples. Later, the term became a more specific name for the various upland peoples found in Abra province and its Ilocos peripheries. Like Igorot, Tinguian does not denote a homogenous language and culture. Tinguian peoples share many historical continuities with Kalinga, Kankanay and Bontoc cultures and languages.

Kalinga

Kalinga (pronounced with soft ng as in English singer) means ‘enemy’ in some Northern Philippine languages. As the Spanish colonizers reached the Cagayan River valley, they must have adopted the term used by lowland Cagayan peoples in referring to inland and upriver peoples to their west, south and east. Ultimately, it evolved into the more specific name (now pronounced with hard ng, as in English finger) for the peoples found along the middle Chico River and its tributaries.

Again, like Igorot and Tinguian, Kalinga does not denote a homogeneous language and culture because it covers a wide range of linguistic and cultural variation. The Banao and Mabaka peoples straddling both sides of the northern Cordillera divide, for example, can be equally classified as Kalinga and as Tinguian.

Kankanaey, Iyaplay, Bontoc

The ethnic name Kankanay is probably derived from kana (‘say, tell’ in most southern Cordillera languages), as local peoples tried to differentiate themselves from their immediate neighbors through the most obvious language differences. Perhaps assisted by American colonial scholars who found sufficient commonalities in their local languages and cultures, the practice ultimately evolved into a term encompassing the various communities along the headwaters of the Abra, Agno, and Amburayan Rivers, and western tributaries of the upper Chico River.

“Northern Kankanaey” is a linguist-invented term to differentiate subtle differences between the communities along the western tributaries of the upper Chico River (covering the towns of Sagada, Besao, Tadian, Bauko and Sabangan) and the main Kankanaey area towards Benguet to the south. Also in recent times, people in these five towns have adopted the self-ascriptive term Iyaplay (‘upriver people’), which distinguishes them from their Bontoc neighbors downstream to the north and east.

Bontoc originally referred to the densely settled region along the middle Chico river. In time, and again with the help of American scholars and administrators, the term expanded to include the surrounding areas and their peoples—what became Bontoc sub-province and later Mountain Province. Thus, nowadays, we must carefully use modifiers to qualify which of the several “Bontocs” we are referring to: Bontoc ili as the traditional grouping of 17 ator (native wards or village centers); Bontoc municipality, which covers many other farflung villages; the Bontoc language-culture area which roughly corresponds to the towns of Bontoc, Barlig and Natonin; and former Bontoc sub-province which is now Mountain Province.

Ifugao

The word ipugaw means ‘man, person’ in most Central Cordilleran languages. According to W.H. Scott, ipugaw means ‘the people of Pugaw, the earth world,’ and ifugao is a lowland mispronunciation of the term. Ultimately, the term evolved into a self-ascription for the people who mainly inhabit the rivers draining the southeastern slopes of the Cordillera Central into the Magat River—which is roughly the scope of modern-day Ifugao province.

Gaddang

According to Cordillera scholar Patricia Afable: “Gaddang comes from gadang (“coming up from the river”) in Northern Cordilleran languages. It first appeared as a distinct group label in early 17th century records of the eastern lowlands; today it applies to highland as well as lowland interior populations along the middle Cagayan River and west of it along the Mallig and Siffu Rivers.”

Bago

The core meaning of the term Bago refers to those peoples on the western foothills of the Cordillera who are the historical product of several centuries of in-place admixture (inter-marriage and other modes of local coexistence) between highland (Isnag, Tinguian, Kankanaey, Ibaloy) and lowland (Ilocano, Pangasinan) peoples. This customary process was already existent in pre-Spanish times, and was accelarated by the Spanish policy of reduccion and pacification, local trading and road-building.

More specifically, Bago has evolved into one accepted generic term of communities along the middle and lower reaches of the Amburayan and Naguilian Rivers and middle sections of the Abra River (portions of of the old Lepanto, Tiagan and Amburayan political-military commandancies) in referring to themselves.

The term could also refer to more recently-relocated communities from lowland to upland or vice versa all throughout the western and southwestern foothills of the Cordillera—the result of migrations triggered by war and colonial occupation especially from the 19th century onwards.

Thus, Bago does not refer to a specific tribe, language, or ancestral territory, but to local hybridized IP populations in the said areas.

The mapping project

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), jointly with the Northern Media and Information Network (NMIN) and with additional assistance from RDC-Kaduami, conducted the Northern Luzon IP mapping project with the aim of helping rectify this situation.

For a one-year period, the project team gathered, validated and consolidated current basic demographic information about the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera and adjacent regions of Northern Luzon, and organized key elements of the said information in tabular and cartographic format.

We used current demographic data at the municipal and barangay levels, mainly from government sources such as NSO and NCIP. We cross-referenced the said data with existing ethnographic and linguistic identifications and related data, including recent data collated by CPA organizers and other NGO field workers in areas with problematic ethnolinguistic boundaries.

We then constructed and populated a database to consolidate the miscellaneous data according to key categories. Finally, we made combined use of manual cartography and simple computer-aided mapping to construct a map representation of the said database.

The resulting map and full report (with tables) are intended to be of immediate use by people’s organizations, NGO’s, academic and research institutions, and planning agencies.

Conceptual and practical issues

Althought the most evident output of the NLIP mapping project are the resulting tables and maps, it also brought into sharper focus some theoretical and practical issues on how a complex set of ethnographic data can be boiled down to tables and maps without glossing over the many fuzzy areas inherent in ethnographic studies. In particular, we need to continue addressing the following issues:

First, how to integrate the often divergent lists of IP groups in Northern Luzon, on the basis of group self-ascription and acknowledgment by others (especially by neighboring groups, by the state), which are subjective but key factors, and equally important objective factors such as differences in language, history, and local ecology. Often, this is not a question of mutually-exclusive groups with sharp delineations, but of identifying and representing hierarchies and gradations.

And second, how to measure and represent the demographic distribution of the said IP groupings across geographical divisions (i.e., provincial down to barangay level) in statistical and cartographic form, in ways that emphasize macro distinctions but also reflect micro differences wherever significant.

The mapping project was hobbled by spotty demographic data, non-standard placenames, and conflicting geographic references, for many municipalities. On the other hand, tremendous amounts of geo-referenced placenames at the barangay or barrio and sitio levels have not yet been placed into the master map file, although they are already in our master database file.

Completion of the mapping process at the barangay and lower levels requires either a very tedious manual inputting, or a more sophisticated but efficient use of GIS software, either of which the project’s limitations did not allow us.

We hope that, by presenting these issues, the methods we devised to solve them, and the resulting tables and maps themselves, will contribute to the wider effort to reflect all Philippine ethnolonguistic groups more accurately in future statistical and mapping projects, which should be of great help to government and non-government planners, and the social sciences research community as a whole.

Principal sources

1. National Statistics Office (NSO), statistical reports for Census Year 2000

2. National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), various unpublished surveys dated 2000 based on 1990 and 1996-67 surveys, with primary data provided by Region I Tribal Council Organization

3. Pantatavalan (Data and Discourse on the Cordillera), Issues No. 1 (1997) and No. 2 (1998)

4. Papers and Proceedings of the Third Cordillera Land Congress, 2001

5. Various unpublished researches of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance Research Commission

6. Primary data from focused group discussions in Ilocos Sur, Mt. Province, and Isabela, Northern Media and Information Network, 2005.

7. RDC-Kaduami, research data on the Bago and Aggay peoples, 2005

8. National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) topographic maps for various Northern Luzon provinces, at 1:250,000 scale and some at 1:50,000 scale.

9. ArcView vector data files for Northern Luzon municipal boundaries

10. Miscellaneous Internet sources of geo-referenced placenames and online-generated contour maps.

Other references on Northern Luzon and Cordillera history, ethnography and languages include the following:

William Henry Scott’s works, mainly Barangay (Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society), 1994; Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, 1984; History on the Cordillera, 1975; and The Discovery of the Igorots, 1974.

Ethnologue website of the Summer Institute of Linguistics http://www.ethnologue.com

Languages of the World http://www.languageserver.uni-graz.at

(Unpublished) List of Philippine Languages, by Language Data House Phils., Inc.

(Unpublished) Cordillera Peoples’ History

Patricia Afable, Eduardo Masferre’s subjects: A century of self-representation in the Philippines, 1998

Various websites of local government units (provincial and municipal level) in Northern Luzon

Next week: A list of Cordillera indigenous groups