The author is a member of an indigenous group known as the Igorot. The Igorots occupy the mountain ranges of north central Luzon, Philippines. For the more than three hundred years of Spanish occupation of the Philippines, the Igorots were able to defy the Spanish Empire's attempts to turn them into Christian converts and tribute-paying subjects to the King of Spain. This event allowed the continuation of Igorot indigenous beliefs and ways of life, but which earned them the notoriety of being primitive pagan enemies of God and the State. After the conquistadors left, an antagonistic colonial legacy endured between the mountain-dwelling Igorots and the colonized, Christianized, and "civilized" lowland Filipino population.
It was said that the Spanish conquistadors offended the Igorot warriors so much that when the American colonizers adopted a soft strategy policy in dealing with the mountain tribes, for example, paying for labor instead of forcing the Igorots to do work for the Americans, the sheer contrast to the Spaniards' brutish policies made the Americans look good in comparison. As a result, the Igorots fell into the American colonial fold without resistance. Notwithstanding the Americans' success in "taming" the Igorots, and although the latter are now mostly integrated and Christianized, compared to the majority of the Filipino people, the Igorots are still able to maintain their age-old customs and traditions.
The Igorot culture and traditional way of life is founded on animism. Spirits are acknowledged to abound everywhere and they interact with human beings. To a varying degree of ability and sensitivity, before the full-blown entry of external factors such as religion, the public school system, and other modern influences, any adult Igorot inherently understood the natural and contextual codes of his world, and thus, could directly communicate with the invisible realms which are very much a part of his normal world. However, when it comes to healing abilities, there are those whose knowledge are evidently greater than the general populace. These individuals earned the reputation of being a mensop-ok, a shaman. These healers, mediums, diviners, dreamers and visionaries, are sought by the people when they are ill, whether it be physically, emotionally, psychologically or mentally. Shamanizing is usually an inherited practice as the ability is believed to run in families that carry such particular propensity. Among the author's particular ethnic group, most shamans are women, although men-shamans were not unheard of.
It is of this shamanic lineage that the author claims to have descended from. From both of her parents' clans lived generations of powerful shamans. The author, however, was only able to personally interact with her maternal grandmother who was the last shaman of her kind in her hometown when she died. It is from this background and context that the author found inspiration to write a philosophical discourse through an indigenous, but contemporary Igorot individual's perspective.
In addition to the author's claim of cultural qualification for writing a culture-based narrative, she is formally educated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Social Sciences and a Masters Degree in International Relations.
Above image: DOWNSTREAM by Jef Cablog, Philippines. All rights reserved.
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