THE ILOCANO

When in 1572 Salcedo and his Spanish soldiers visited the northwestern coasts of Luzon, he found in the territory now known as Ilocos Sur and Norte a people more barbarous than the Tagalog, not so well clad, but husbandmen who possessed large fields and whose lands abounded in rice and cotton. They had large villages, several of which might be under one headman, but there was no tribal grouping nor organized priesthood. They had trade relations with Pangasinan and other areas to the south, while ships from China and Japan sometimes touched their coasts. These latter contacts were not intimate enough to effect the culture to any extent, but influences from the south led to considerable advances. At the time of the conquest some of the people could read and write in a script similar to that then used by the Tagalog, Visaya, and other coastal peoples who, in turn, shared the art with Java and Sumatra. This writing, which was incised on bamboo tubes or palm leaf, was carried by Indian colonists to the Dutch Indies, whence it spread northward. It is still in use among the Tagbanua of Palawan and the Mangyan of Mindoro.

When the Spanish attempted a landing at Vigan they were opposed, but their superior arms quickly broke all resistance, and the campaign for the Christianization of the people was under way. Apparently it was at this time that the more conservative element that refused the rule of Spain and the Chris tian religion moved inland and became known as Tinguian or Mountain Dwellers.

As the country became pacified, the inhabitants were called upon for service in manning the boats and for construction projects, and were also subjected to taxes. This led to minor revolts, which were easily put down but which led many people to desert their homes and move inland. Nevertheless the Spaniards were able to report in ~59~ that the Ilocano provinces had 17,~30 tribute payers and a Christianized population of 78,s~o as the result of less than twenty years of effort. They had brought peace between warring factions, they had opened trade relations with Manila, they had added a colorful religion, and had placed their rule on the old social order without doing much violence to native beliefs or practices.

Like the Tinguian the Ilocano had a rich or baknang group, along with middle or poorer classes. Farmily lines were emphasized and among the well-to-do matches often were arranged between second cousins in order to keep property in the kin group. The kinship system is similar to that of the Tinguian. The individual calls his father tala, his mother nana, but all grandparents go under one term—lelang. All uncles are uliteg, all aunts ikit, and all first cousins are kasinsin. One general term applies to brothers and sisters, but it is possible to distinguish elder brother and elder sister by changing the term mamong to mamang. To indicate sex the word babai is added for female and lalakay for male.22

With the new rule the cleavage between classes became even greater, for the rich families—or principales—were given some opportunities for education and became the intermediaries between the rulers and the mass of the people. In time they ga~ned control of considerable land on which the poor remained as tenant farmers. Under Spanish pressure several villages would be organized into a pueblo over which a native presidente, drawn from the baknang class, was in control. He became responsible for tax collections and for good order in his community, but he also gained prestige and opportunities for increasing his wealth.

Much the same situation existed throughout the Islands. The Spanish strengthened the wealthy class at the expense of the poor and uneducated. They also allowed or encouraged a mild form of slavery that existed in some areas. One of the most difficult problems confronting the teaching of American ideals for self-government in the Philippines has been the class structure, which has worked against the building of a strong educated and independent middle class.23

To the larger towns came the Augustinian friars. Officials came and went, but the friars remained, and soon they became supreme in both religious and civil affairs. Under their guidance churches were built, schools were established, and a small, element of the population was educated.

Although relatively few Spaniards settled in the Ilocos provinces, the towns nevertheless began to take on the imprint of Spain. Facing the square or plaza were the church and public buildings, while close by were the stores of the Chinese traders and then the homes of the well-to-do. The better houses had walls of stone or brick or hand-cut boards and roofs of tile, but the usual dwelling was made of bamboo with thatch covering. Such structures, raised high above the ground on piles, differed little from the Tinguian dwellings in Abra. They usually were set off from each other in small plots surrounded by bamboo fences; banana trees fringed the property with mango, guava, and possibly coconut trees nearby. Horses often were stabled beneath the houses, while pigs ran loose and in most settlements took the place of sanitary arrangements.

Near the plaza was a market place where women vendors sold blankets, mats, baskets, and pots, or vegetables, chickens, fish, and occasionally meat. A few stores with scanty stocks of food, oil, cloth and the like were in the hands of natives, but most general merchandising was conducted by the Chinese. These enterprising individuals dominated the trade in the larger towns and pressed into the villages as conditions permitted. They usually married native women and thus there was built up a Chinese-Filipino mestizo group, which has become an important factor in the social, economic, and political life of the larger towns—particularly Vigan.

In physical type there is little difference between the southern Chinese and the Filipino, but the cultural differences are great. Life in the Islands is easy. It requires no great effort to build a house; and if the native has a plot of ground, one or two carabao, some pigs and chickens, he is likely to take life as it comes, exerting himself when necessary but spending little time or thought for the future. The Chinese, on the other hand, have come from a land where life is hard and thrift necessary. They are untiring in their efforts to amass wealth and are equally ambitious for the education of their children. There is, naturally, some resentment toward the Chinese but this seldom extends to the mestizo, who is accepted as a Filipino. From this group have come many of the present-day leaders.

To imply that the Ilocano is lazy is far from the truth. There is much apparent idleness: he has time to train his pet fighting rooster; he loves to talk; he takes advantage of holidays and feast days, and indulges in siestas to an extent maddening to an American. Yet when the fields need attention he works tirelessly. For purposes of trade he pushes back into the provincial towns, and if the stake is sufficient, he may take his family and settle in new territory. In this manner he has become an important element in the provinces of Abra, Pangasinan, La Union, and the rich valley of the Cagayan River. Meanwhile his dialect has become the trade language of northern Luzon.

There is comparatively little specialization in industries. In some coast towns most of the people are engaged in fishing; in others the chief industry is pottery making. A village may be noted for its work in iron or for its wood carving.

In general a man cultivates some land, fishes for home consumption, hunts when he has an opportunity, and may assist in any one of several industries. Likewise the women of the poorer class vary housework with labor in the fields, with selling at market, or with weaving or pot making.

The village may lie close to the sea so buried beneath coconut palms or hidden by giant bamboo as to be scarcely visible. Nearby will be wet-land rice fields, but the low mud walls seem but weak imitations of the great terraces of the interior. Small fields of sugar cane, patches of camotes, corn, magucy, or dry-land rice appear on the hillsides, while sufficient tobacco to care for local needs is raised.

To augment the food supply the people of the coastal villages spend much time along the beaches or on the coral reefs, hunting the octopus or shellfish, gathering clams, or scooping fish from pools. More ambitious fishing parties employ long nets which are carried out to sea by boats and are drawn to land by groups on shore.

Co-operative work is the rule in family groups and among friends at planting, harvesting, or house building. No pay is expected for similar service will be returned, but the host of the day furnishes sufficient food and drink to make the gathering as important as a good old-fashioned American husking bee.

Christie 24 emphasizes the very successful co-operative groups found in Ilocos Norte. There small landholdings are unusually numerous, while landed estates are rare. This has led to the formation of irrigation societies the members of which erect and maintain dams and ditches of considerable magnitude. In Ilocos Sur and La Union there is less need for irrigation, and large landholdings have discouraged the development of such co-operatives.

In connection with these irrigation projects it is interesting to note the blending of old and new beliefs. Each society has its patron saint, who on his special day is honored by a mass,

after which food is placed on a mat and a woman skilled in the art calls on the spirits of the dead and on natural spirits to come and partake. If new ground is to be broken she erects a cross, sprinkles basi on the soil, and then consults the omens. If the signs are bad, work is discontinued for a few days and will not be resumed until a chicken has been sacrificed and its flesh, together with basi, betel nut, and tobacco, has been placed on a small "altar" in the field.

When a ditch has been completed a pig is killed and its blood is allowed to spurt into the excavation, while the leader says, "Ditch, this blood is spurted into you in order that your current may be as strong as the current of the blood."

Such practices recall the magico-religious acts of the Tinguian. As a matter of fact, older accounts indicate that the beliefs and practices of the two people were similar if not identical. Both recognized the great spirit, E.abonian, and a host of minor spirits who visited the people at times of ceremonies and talked through the bodies of mediums. Spirit houses were erected in villages and fields, while offerings and magical acts insured a plentiful harvest or good fortune. Within the written record certain towns, now recognized as Ilocano, were listed as Tinguian settlements that had accepted Christianity.25 In Ilocos Sur and Norte the author has visited towns in which a considerable portion of the population professed Christianity, yet took part in the old-time ceremonies. People of other settlements, now Catholic, freely admitted the former practice of Tinguian ceremonies and beliefs. Many acts, such as that cited for the irrigation ditch, take place on occasion and serve to remind us of the pagan past, but when a town or district accepts Christianity it quickly merges into the Ilocano grouping. Peripheral villages differ in few respects from the pagan settlements except for the absence of spirit houses and the possible addition of a church, store, or market place. With conversion, the dress of the coastal people replaces the older native garb, while closer association with centers of trade leads to the acceptance of more household articles, such as tables, chairs, and beds.

Orr 26 has considered the material culture, customs, and beliefs of the people of San Vicente, a settlement of six thousand individuals near the capital of Ilocos Sur, and finds the basic aspects of Ilocano life strikingly similar to those of the Tinguian. Houses, tools, agricultural practices, fishing, and most household industries are nearly identical. Advanced weaving devices, such as are found among the Christianized peoples in general are in common use, while the Chinese forge has superceded the Ma]ayan device. Dress of the elders shows the influence of Spanish times, while that of the young people is Americanized. As would be expected after three hundred and fifty years of Christianity, most pagan practices have disappeared, but enough remains in intrenched custom to indicate its former presence, even were no historical records available. Today the church plays a great role in Philippine village life. It serves the religious needs of the people, while its great ceremonials and processions add color and pageantry to an otherwise somewhat drab existence. American schools, games and politics have given additional incentive for change—change which, in the long run, may do more to effect the general culture than centuries of Spanish domination.27

There is an easy transition from the near-Tinguian houses and furnishings of the villages to the more-Spanish type of house and belongings of the well-to-do in the larger towns. Even in the larger Ilocano settlements the houses of the lower class differ little from the ordinary dwellings of the pagans.

We have already noted the general construction of the homes of the well-to-do. The ground floor may be used for. storage, but the family resides on the second. Here is a long sale or drawing room, the floors of which are made of highly polished hardwood planks. Sliding windows, made up of many squares of shell, admit light but keep out the glare of the midday sun. A large mirror usually graces one end of the room, while a table, heavy wooden chairs, and a massive sideboard make up most of the furniture. Off the sale are sleeping rooms fitted with heavy hand carved wardrobes and four-poster beds on which are pillows and sleeping mats. On the same floor, but usually detached, are the kitchen and bathroom, the fittings of the latter often consisting only of a large jar and dipper.

The census of ~go3 indicated that at that time ninety-four per cent of the Ilocano owned their homes and that seventy per cent had title to some land. This is a higher figure than obtains in most of the Philippines where tenant farmers are common.2i The widespread custom of loaning rice or money to the less fortunate and exacting labor in return has frequently led to a system close to peonage and has further strengthened class distinctions. In general, however, members of the lower class have accepted the idea of being attached to a rich family, and while they have poorer houses and fewer luxuries, they also have fewer problems and worries.

In recent years conditions have been improved for all classes. Good roads and trails have been extended even to remote villages; public schools have taught the children of rich and poor; while increased production has added considerably to the average wealth. Greater income has allowed the erection of modern public buildings and, in larger towns. the installation of electric plants and safe water systems. All this and much more has been accomplished through local taxation.

Early Spanish accounts indicate a great similarity in culture among the coastal peoples at the time of the conquest, but as one proceeded southward there was increasing evidence of contact with more advanced peoples. We have seen that the Hindu-Javanese states of the Indies exerted some influence in the southern islands; Chinese trade became important, and Mohammedan rulers took control of the Sulu seas and extended their raids as far north as Manila Bay. Such influences led to the development of petty rulers and to a somewhat higher culture from Manila southward, but taken as a whole the description of the Ilocano holds for most of the Christianized peoples of the Philippines.

The last few years have seen great developments especially in the larger centers. Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, Vigan and many other modern cities have been connected with the provinces by excellent highways or an up-to-date fleet of interisland vessels. More and more the Filipino has participated in trade and commerce; he has developed plantings of sugar, hemp, tobacco, coffee, coconut trees and other export crops, in addition to the all important rice and camotes.

Some ten thousand public schools have sent an increasing number of graduates to the high schools, normals, and finally, to the universities.

There are still many barrios with few outward signs of advance; there are still sparsely settled areas where agriculture is in a backward state; there is much to be done in nearly every field of endeavor; yet as one looks back at the Philippines over ten-year periods one marvels at the amount of progress and one notes with satisfaction that this has not declined with increasing Filipino control.

The population of the Philippines, which was estimated to be a half million when the Spanish arrived, is now about sixteen million, yet the resources of the Islands are largely untouched. Perhaps as much as three fourths of the land is undeveloped; much is buried beneath a tropical jungle, but still awaiting settlement are high tablelands suitable for cattle or for raising quinine, coffee, or other tropical products. Rich mineral resources are beginning to be exploited but the future of the Philippines appears to be with the tillers of the soil.

The Filipinos are not the richest people of Malaysia, but at the time of the Japanese invasion they were the freest and most progressive in the southeastern Orient. They had estabfished a solvent, self-governing state that gave great promise for the future. That they believed in that state and were willing to fight for it was proved at Bataan and Corregidor.