The Bontoc Igorot

Author: Albert Ernest Jenks


The Igorot has almost no formalities, the "etiquette" which one can recognize as binding "form." When the American came to the Islands he found the Christians exceedingly polite. The men always removed their hats when they met him, the women always spoke respectfully, and some tried to kiss his hand. Every house, its contents and occupants, to which he might go was his to do with as he chose. Such characteristics, however, seem not to belong to the primitive Malayan. The Igorot meets you face to face and acts as though he considers himself your equal — both you and he are men — and he meets his fellows the same way.

When Igorot meet they do not greet each other with words, as most modern people do. As an Igorot expressed it to me they are "all same dog" when they meet. Sometimes, however, when they part, in passing each other on the trial, one asks where the other is going.

The person with a load has the right of way in the trail, and others stand aside as best they can.

There is commonly no greeting when a person comes to one’s house, nor is there a greeting between members of a family when one returns home after an absence even of a week or more.

Children address their mothers as "I’-na," their word for mother, and address their father as "A’-ma," their word for father. They do this throughout life.

Igorot do not kiss or have other formal physical expression to show affection between friends or relatives. Mothers do not kiss their babes even.

The Igorot has no formal or common expression of thankfulness. Whatever gratitude he feels must be taken for granted, as he never expresses it in words.

When an Igorot desires to beckon a person to him he, in common with the other Malayans of the Archipelago, extends his arm toward the person with the hand held prone, not supine as is the custom in America, and closes the hand, also giving a slight inward movement of the hand at the wrist. This manner of beckoning is universal in Luzon.

The hand is almost never used to point a direction. Instead, the head is extended in the direction indicated — not with a nod, but with a thrusting forward of the face and a protruding of the open lips; it is a true lip gesture. I have seen it practically everywhere in the Islands, among pagans, Mohammedans, and Christians.


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Chicago: Albert Ernest Jenks, "Formalities," The Bontoc Igorot, ed. Iles, George, 1852-1942 and trans. Oliver Elton in The Bontoc Igorot (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed March 20, 2019,

MLA: Jenks, Albert Ernest. "Formalities." The Bontoc Igorot, edited by Iles, George, 1852-1942, and translated by Oliver Elton, in The Bontoc Igorot, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 20 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: Jenks, AE, 'Formalities' in The Bontoc Igorot, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The Bontoc Igorot, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 20 March 2019, from