August 2, 2010

Mama, please buy me an Igorotak t-shirt

I found myself wandering on the streets of Baguio a few days ago. The rain had stopped and the sun was slowly taking control of the skies. Vendors rushed back to their spots on the sidewalks unmindful of the still wet pavements. I have a love-hate relationship with these vendors. I love them when I needed to buy something from them because they got the cheapest goods around. I hate them when I'm on a rush and they are blocking the ways. But you can't really blame them. They got mouths to feed just like everybody else.

Anyway, my pair of Igorot feet brought me to the souvenir shops in the Maharlika Livelihood Center. I was looking for a bonnet because I can't live without bonnets..:). I was trying on one that had a Che Guevarra logo on the front when I heard a kid behind me say to her mother:”Mama, igatanganak man idiay Igorotak t shirt.” To which the mother replied:”Apay Igorot ka ta agttshirt ka ti kasdiay? Agraraman.”

Let me ask you. What would you do or say when you witness a conversation such as what I just told you?

I was so amused by their little conversation. I turned around and smiled at the mother who gamely smiled back. Well, the little kid sure looked sad and was pouting like hell.

That incident made me think about what the mother said to her kid. Logically she was right. She was speaking the truth. If her son wears an Igorotak t-shirt it would be like a white American wearing a shirt that says “I'm a nigger.”

But it is a fact that it isn't just us Igorots who are wearing Igorotak tshirts these days. Ilocanos, Tagalogs and foreigners. We see a lot of them wearing the shirts. I was on a trip to Manila once. On the bus with me were a bunch of local tourists all wearing the shirts.
I'm not sure if they actually knew what Igorotak meant but they were wearing them.

We Igorots wear the shirts to show to the world that we love being who we are. That we are a proud community of tribes blessed with probably the most culturally rich people group in this country.

Non-Igorots wear them for a lot of reasons. Some as a souvenir not unlike those hooded sweaters that say “I love New York”. Some as a symbol of their attachment to the Igorot culture that they were exposed to while staying here in Baguio. Some because everybody's wearing them. Some because of Ingrid Payaket.

So I guess it all boils down to this: Igorot or not, pulling on an Igorotak tee shirt is cool.

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