The Igorots of Benguet

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  • 4 min read

Gino isn’t your typical guy. He goes by the motto, ‘uray magay lovelife, basta waday watwat’.

It isn’t unusual for a Cordilleran millennial to sport a top and bottom pair of Levis. Well, that’s quite pricey but not for Gino who has quite a collection. Although digging into a mountain of ukay-ukay is a more practical option, nothing compares to those rugged jeans that can withstand the test of time through all seasons for all occasions. For him, only Levis can touch the skin. To match it, Gino wears a pair of that sturdy Merrell. “Ulay say pares, basta Merrell,” he exclaims like a true Texan.

Groomed taraki-ly, he sits on his wooden kitchen stool and takes a sip of his morning brew. The distinct aroma and splendid taste is a holy grail worth indulging. Produced in the upland farms of Atok, Itogon, La Trinidad, Kibungan, and Tublay, these coffee beans are divine. Not a single drip is meant to be wasted. Coffee connoisseurs have done an extensive research concluding that a cup of Benguet coffee in the morning can lighten up a broken heart even in the worst of days.

Prepared and off to his day, Gino hails a jeepney, takes a seat, and feels his pockets—wait, it’s not there—*sigh of relief*, there it is, his tangled earphones. He thought he would be listening to his music on loudspeakers again.  Then, he starts listening to his favorite playlist—country music, of course. Who wouldn’t embrace this genre of music? From John Denver’s soft folk and outdoor-themed songs to Keith Urban’s tone and nuance of rock & rolls, Gino listens to them all for ease and comfort. He shuns away from modern music. For him, T Bone is just a nice steak as it’s about time for lunch.  

From a short distance, Gino can already see the smoke that’s slowly rising from the neighborhood—a sure marker that Cañao is about to begin. Everyone is invited. No RSVP needed. ‘Manong, isaldeng mo san igid’, he asks for to be dropped off by the roadside. As he approaches, he sees a queue longer than the London bridge. “Watwat kasin si awni,” Gino says to himself.

The older guests start to dance to the reverberations and rhythm of gangsa and solibaos. First, Gino approaches to congratulate the groom, his padli, and gives his best wishes to the bride. After this rather surreal yet sincere talk, he goes his way to find a friend. Being “taraki” as he always is, he joins the festive dance, tayaw, with his arms pointing towards the sky like an eagle vigorously soaring, flapping its mighty wings in repetitive strides. Such is the trait common to the Igorots as a symbol of camaraderie and fellowship.

As the dark starts to blanket the sky, bottles full of tapey start to make a few rounds within the small groups of young and old gathered around the arubayan. As drunkenness begin to personify, Gino gets up to bid his friends a temporary goodbye.

A responsible worker he is, Gino needs to get home early for tomorrow’s work. He hails the approaching jeepney. Oh, and one more thing – he needs to reheat that watwat he safely wrapped in a blue plastic he brought from home earlier.

Today, he chose not to drive his Toyota Fortuner. A 2019 4 x 4 model to be specific. An offer to a sip of tapey isn’t always what they say, just one sip.

Let me not conclude anything yet but here’s a guy embellished in contrarieties and quirks, yet a man I can truly say, an imperfect human and a full-blooded Igorot, a true Cordilleran.  That’s my good friend, Gino.

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