Excerpt #3: Albert Ernest Jenks On How Igorots are Named

Bontoc children in 1901. Courtesy of this site.

Let’s continue with our serialization of Albert Ernest Jenks’ book, The Bontoc Igorot. Here he shares his observations on how Igorot children are named.

Previous installments of Jenks book can be found here and here. You will find an introduction to this series here. An electronic copy of the whole book can be freely downloaded here.

ALBERT ERNEST JENKS: The Igorot has no definite system of naming. Parents may frequently change the name of a child, and an individual may change his during maturity. There are several reasons why names are changed, but there is no system, nor is it ever necessary to change them.

A child usually receives its first personal name between the years of 2 and 5. This first name is always that of some dead ancestor, usually only two or three generations past. The reason for this is the belief that the anito of the ancestor cares for and protects its descendants when they are abroad. If the name a child bears is that of a dead ancestor it will receive the protection of the anito of the ancestor; if the child does not prosper or has accidents or ill health, the parents will seek a more careful or more benevolent protector in the anito of some other ancestor whose name is given the child.

To illustrate this changing of names: A boy in Tukukan, two hours from Bontoc, was first named Sa-pang’ when less than a year old. At the end of a year the paternal grandfather, An-ti’-ko, died in Tukukan, and the babe was named An-ti’-ko. In a few years the boy’s father died, and the mother married a man in Bontoc, the home of her childhood. She moved to Bontoc with her boy, and then changed his name to Fa-li-kao’, her dead father’s name. The reason for this last change was because the anito of An-ti’-ko, always in or about Tukukan, could not care for the child in Bontoc, whereas the anito of Fa-li-kao’ in Bontoc could do so.

My comments: Where I come from, I know of people whose native names were changed for one reason or another but I never heard of anyone who, by himself/herself, decided to change his/her very own name. Could Jenks be correct in saying that a Bontoc Igorot may change his/her name when he/she turns into an adult? Or was he misinformed? Its not like he stayed in Bontoc for a very long time, you know.

On the other hand, if he was talking about Igorots in cyberspace, then you certainly find lots of Igorots who assume a new name, like Bill Bilig for instance whose birth certificate does not say Bill Bilig. But then, we are not the only people “guilty” of assuming a new identity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *