Ilocos Norte History

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Ilocos Norte is rich with history, culture, customs, and character...

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Long before the coming of the Spaniards, there already existed an extensive region (consisting of the present provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra and La Union) renowned for its gold mines. Merchants from Japan and China would often visit the area to trade gold with beads, ceramics and silk. The inhabitants of the region, believed to be of Malay origin, called their place "samtoy", from "sao mi toy", which literally meant "our language"

In 1591, when the Spanish conquistadors had Manila more or less under their control, they began looking for new sites to conquer.  Legaspi's grandson, Juan De Salcedo, volunteered to lead one of these expeditions. Together with 8 armed boats and 45 men, the 22 year old voyager headed north.  On June 13, 1572, Salcedo and his men landed in Vigan and then proceeded towards Laoag, Currimao and Badoc. As they sailed along the coast, they were surprised to see numerous sheltered coves ("looc") where the locals lived in harmony. As a result, they named the region "Ylocos" and its people "Ylocanos".

As the Christianization of the region grew, so did the landscape of the area. Vast tracks of land were utilized for churches and bell towers in line with the Spanish mission of "bajo las campanas". In the town plaza, it was not uncommon to see garrisons under the church bells. The colonization process was slowly being carried out.

The Spanish colonization of the region, however, was never completely successful. Owing to the abusive practices of many Augustinian friars, a number of Ilocanos revolted against their colonizers. Noteworthy of these were the Dingras uprising (1589) and Pedro Almasan revolt (San Nicolas, 1660). In 1762, Diego Silang led a series of battles aimed at freeing the Ilocanos from the Spanish yoke. When he died from an assassin's bullet, his widow Gabriela continued the cause. Unfortunately, she too was captured and hanged. In 1807, the sugar cane ("basi") brewers of Piddig rose up in arms to protest the government's monopoly of the wine industry. In 1898, the church excommunicated Gregorio Aglipay for refusing to cut off ties with the revolutionary forces of Sen. Emilio Aguinaldo. Unperturbed, he established the "Iglesia Filipina Independiente". Aglipay’s movement and the nationalist sentiment it espoused helped restore the self-respect of many Filipinos.

In an effort to gain more political control and because of the increasing population of the region, a Royal Decree was signed on February 2, 1818 splitting Ilocos into two provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Soon thereafter, the provinces of La Union and Abra likewise became independent.

Ilocano Songs

The native songs of the province do not only show that the people are music lovers but also express their characteristics, aspirations and occupations. Some of the songs have been collected and analyzed for their educational values. Ayat ti Ina (Love of a Mother) expresses how a mother loves and takes care of her child. The narrative song, Napateg a Bin-i (Cherished Seed) utilizes metaphor in comparing a woman's love to a bin-i or seed. Pamulinawen (Hard­ened Heart) is the most popular ilocano love song which equates the heart of a girl, who does not heed the pleading of a lover, to a hardened flint. Duayya ni Ayat (Love's Lullaby) expresses a man's tender loving care for his ladylove.  Manang Biday is a love song, specifically a dialogue between Biday and a younger admirer. In Bannatiran, the admirer cautions his ladylove to be careful in changing her mind and choosing another man. Siasin' Ti Agayat Kenka? (Who is in Love With You) expresses an insistent love. No Duaduaem Pay (If you Still Doubt) gives the idea that the lover feels that his loved one doubts him, so he asks for understanding and also reiterates his love. Tengnga ti Rabii (Midnight) tells of a lover who sees the image of his loved one in the middle of the night and is awakened by her voice. A patriotic song Dinak Kad 'Dildiliawen, (Don't Criticize Me) conveys service to and love of country, while Kasasaad ti Kinabalasang (The Li?e of a Maiden) is an advice to young maidens to con­sider carefully their plans of getting married, because marriage is a risky venture. Agdamdamili (Pot Making) is an occupational song, while Kanaganan is a birthday song.

Ti Ayat ti Maysa Nga Ubing (The Love of a Youth) is a humorous song advising an old man who falls in love with a very young girl to choose a widow, not a young one who is already committed.

The dallot is sung during betrothal and marriage. On the other hand, when someone dies, weepers sing the dung-aw. When the mothers rock their babies to sleep, they sing the duayya (lullaby).

Ilocano Dances

Ilocos Norte has its own native dances. The people regard dancing as an art. The dances not only provide opportunities for the people to show their graceful body and arm movements but also depict or reflect the customs, beliefs and practices of the people. There are several native dances worth mentioning.

Osi-osi portrays the traditional ways of courtship. Biniganbigat (Every Morning) is a courtship dance depicting a boy who is in love with a girl from whom he asks pity. Sileleddaang (Grief-Stricken or Laden with Sorrow) is a courtship dance showing the lovers' fondness for each other. Manang Biday, another courtship dance, shows puppy love between young boys and girls. Manang is an honorific term for an older female, while Biday is the name of a girl.  Esticarro is a courtship dance usually performed by young people. Sabu­nganay (Banana Blossom) symbolizes a young lady who is still too young to be courted and Pandanggo Laoaguena is a courtship dance performed by the young and the old;

Ilocana a Nasudi (Chaste Ilocana), a dance depicting a chaste and virtuous Ilocana, may be performed by four pairs, while Surtido Norte (Assorted Dance from the North) is a combination of different Ilocano steps manifesting thrift as a trait of the people.

Vintareña may be performed by one to any number of pairs in any social gathering, such as baptismal, wedding, birthday or thanksgiving parties. Kuratsa Pasuquina is danced during birthday parties and festivities. Depicting merri­ment are La Jota Zapatilla, Barbarukong (Breast Out), La Jota Laoagueña and Kuratsa Paoayeña which are also presented during social gatherings. Other dances shown during weddings and baptismal celebrations are Sagamantica and Arikenken. Chotis Dingreña is a dance for the elite and is performed during social functions. On the other hand, Pandanggo is one of the favorite dances of the old people. Gulingguling is a dance for Ash Wednesday, while Tambora is usually shown on the eve' of Christmas.

In Rabong (Bamboo Shoot), a dance glorifying the bamboo shoot as a delicacy of the Ilocanos, the participants sing the lyrics. Some occupational dances are: Asin and Dinaklisan which portray salt making and fishing, respectively, two occupations of people living near the seacoast;    Agabel which represents cloth weaving; and Agdamdamili, which shows the rustic life of those in the pottery industry.