Migration: Igorots in Bukidnon

Back to the days when I was with a non-government organization, I went to Bukidnon with some co-workers to conduct a fact-finding mission. Because of security reasons, we were advised to cancel the mission so I decided to spend the time visiting a good friend, George Gewan, who was teaching at the Central Mindanao University in Musuan.

It was a very short visit, I’m not even sure if George still remembers it. But that visit made me wonder how he, along with a significant number of Igorots, ended up living in Bukidnon. I have not seen him since then so I never got the chance to ask the question.

Fast-forward to the internet age and I found the answer by accident. I was googling for stories on Cordillera domestic helpers in Hongkong and for some reason, Google churned out an article that mentions Igorots in Lantapan. I didn’t know where Lantapan was, so my interest was piqued. Turns out Lantapan is a town in Bukidnon and the article, part of a larger study by Merlyne M. Paunlagui and Vel Suminguit, discusses the demographic development of the town.

Naturally, I was most interested on the Igorot part of the study. Well, let’s have the authors share their findings.

Paunlagui and Suminguit: A 70-year old Igorot from the Province of Bontoc in the northern Philippines shared a similar migration story. He came to Lantapan in 1952 because he and three other Igorots were hired by the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) as tractor drivers. The ADC was an agribusiness corporation owned by American nationals, and specializing in the production of white potato. The company acquired 339 hectares of land in Barangay Songco and Barangay Cawayan, which he along with other workers plowed using tractors before planting potatoes. The three other Igorots returned to their province one year after their job contract with the ADC expired.

Wed to a Talaandig woman, one Igorot stayed. In 1953, the couple bought a hectare of land in Songco for just 80 pesos. In later years, a professional surveyor measured the land that he bought; it turned out to be four hectares. Our key informant continued to visit his home province in Bontoc.

During his visits, he would share the story of his adventure and fortune in Lantapan to his relatives and friends. Some Igorots, who were willing to take the risk of venturing into relatively unknown territory would travel with him or follow him later, knowing that they already had a contact person in Lantapan. As the years passed by, the number of Igorots in Lantapan increased. The Igorots in Lantapan are known to produce high value cash crops in Kibangay and Basac and other barangays near the buffer zone of Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park.

To probe the reasons for migration further, informants were asked to describe the economic situation in their province of origin. Those who responded to the question were unanimous in saying that economic difficulty back home—and specifically the shortage of agricultural land and other productive resources—encouraged them to migrate. Migrants from Bontoc pointed out that while their rice terraces on the mountain slopes were quite productive, they had limited opportunities to venture into other activities because of poor natural resource endowments. In fact they were forced to carve the mountains into rice terraces because they had very few options—there was very limited flat land to till.

That’s the part that should interest us most but you can find the full study here.

Nowadays, Igorots comprise 12% of the population of Lantapan. Apart from introducing temperate vegetables (potatoes, cabbages, etc) to the town, they also introduced an agricultural practice which Cordillera farmers would be very familiar with — the use of wild sunflower as fertilizers or in reclaiming fallow lands from cogon grass.

So the Igorot community in Lantapan developed because an Igorot tractor driver (vegetable farmer) fell in love with and married a Talaandig woman! I wonder how other Igorot communities outside the Cordilleras (Igorot Village in Rizal for one) came about. Could it be also because of love?

2 thoughts on “Migration: Igorots in Bukidnon”

  1. Hello. I found your blog by random search, as I am searching for reference sites for the thesis I am proposing for my undergrad in sociology at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology. I proposed to do a preliminary study on the lives of the Igorots currently living in Kibenton, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, a buffer zone of Mt Kitanglad, bordering Lantapan. Thank you so much for substantiating my hypothesis that the presence of the Igorots in Kibenton is not an isolated case, and this settlement in Bukidnon is partially dictated by the plantation economy of the province. I can be reached through greg.pellerin@gmail.com. Take care.

  2. hello, I just found this blog by accident when I’m searching some name. But, anyway, we Igorots of Bukidnon have an organization called the Goodwill Alliance of Bukidnon Igorots or the (GABI, Inc.) formerly called the Grand Alliance of Bukidnon Igorots but the acronym is still the same GABI. We just had our 13th general annual assembly last May 20, 2012 in Valencia City in which our guest speaker was P/Supt Narciso Domingo the current chief of Police of Valencia City, also an Igorot. As you mentioned, your good friend and my father-in-law, George Gewan is the out-going president of GABI, since his term was already ended. Also, you mentioned the Igorots of Lantapan-side, this is the area for the multi-million project of GABI through the effort and the project in charge -Dr. Edwin Balaki. This project involves the production of potato similia that will supply not only the gardeners here in Bukidnon, the Philippines but targeting also export. Hopefully, this project will be a progressed to benefit not only the GABI members but also the Philippine economy.

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