Igorot, or Cordillerans, is the collective name of several Austronesian ethnic groups in The Philippines, who inhabit the mountains of Luzon.
“I shall mention chiefly the Igorot, Bontok, and Ifugao peoples, as these three, in addition to holding the highest order of beliefs, are the best developed in general material and social culture of any of the Philippine mountain tribes.” – H. Otley Beyer
The Igorots have both priests and priestesses, and they perform many public and private ceremonies, both for the benefit of the great deities and for the countless minor spirits which inhabit the sacred mountains, cliffs, groves, trees, and bushes that are scattered throughout the Igorot country.
The Creation of People
In the beginning there were no people on the earth.
Lumawig, the Great Spirit, came down from the sky and cut many reeds. He divided these into pairs which he placed in different parts of the world, and then he said to them, “You must speak.”
Immediately the reeds became people, and in each place was a man and a woman who could talk, but the language of each couple differed from that of the others.
Then Lumawig commanded each man and woman to marry, which they did. By and by there were many children, all speaking the same language as their parents. These, in turn, married and had many children. In this way there came to be many people on the earth.
Now Lumawig saw that there were several things which the people on the earth needed to use, so he set to work to supply them. He created salt, and told the inhabitants of one place to boil it down and sell it to their neighbors. But these people could not understand the directions of the Great Spirit, and the next time he visited them, they had not touched the salt.
Then he took it away from them and gave it to the people of a place called Mayinit. These did as he directed, and because of this he told them that they should always be owners of the salt, and that the other peoples must buy of them.
Then Lumawig went to the people of Bontoc and told them to get clay and make pots. They got the clay, but they did not understand the moulding, and the jars were not well shaped. Because of their failure, Lumawig told them that they would always have to buy their jars, and he removed the pottery to Samoki.
When he told the people there what to do, they did just as he said, and their jars were well shaped and beautiful. Then the Great Spirit saw that they were fit owners of the pottery, and he told them that they should always make many jars to sell.
In this way Lumawig taught the people and brought to them all the things which they now have.
“The sun gods, and the deities of the sky world in general, occupy the most important place in the Igorot religion. Place-spirits and animal deities are likewise highly developed. At a place called Kágubátan, at the foot of the sacred mountain Múgao in eastern Lepanto, is a small lake full of sacred eels which the people guard with great care.
They believe that if these eels were killed the springs would all dry up and they would have no water for their terraced rice fields.
The eels are fed every day with rice and sweet potatoes by the children of the village, who, as they approach the lakelet, sing a peculiarly sweet and mournful song, upon hearing which the eels all rise to the surface of the water and approach the shore to receive their food.
The Igorots have a high code of morals which is closely associated with their religious belief. They also have a scientific calendar and a considerable knowledge of astronomy which has effected many modifications in their religion. Their mythology is extensive, and they have a rich unwritten literature of epic poems, hero-stories, and historical legends.
Origin of the Igorot People
It has been mentioned above that among their tales and stories they preserve a tradition relating to their origin and beginning, after a great and dreadful flood which, a very long time ago, as their old people relate, covered the earth.
All the inhabitants except a brother and sister were drowned. The brother and sister, though separated from each other, were saved, the woman on the summit of the highest mountain in the District of Lepanto, called Kalauítan, and the man in a cave of the same mountain.
After the water had subsided, the man of the cave came out from his hiding place one clear and calm moonlight night, and as he glanced around that immense solitude, his eyes were struck by the brightness of a big bonfire burning there on the summit of the mountain.
Surprised and terrified, he did not venture to go up on the summit where the fire was, but returned to his cave. At the dawn of day he quickly climbed toward the place where he had seen the brightness the preceding night, and there he found huddled up on the highest peak his sister, who received him with open arms.
They say that from this brother and sister so providentially saved, all the Igorots that are scattered through the mountains originated. They are absolutely ignorant of the names of those privileged beings, but the memory of them lives freshly among the Igorots, and in their feasts, or whenever they celebrate their marriages, the aged people repeat to the younger ones this wonderful history, so that they can tell it to their sons, and in that way pass from generation to generation the memory of their first progenitors.