North Luzon Monitor

North Luzon

Tracing Tribal Roots

Hilarion “Abe” Pawid
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A quiet and serene mountain village called Ahin in the back water municipality of Tinoc in Ifugao is not a paradise. Unlike the biblical “Garden of Eden” where a man and women were created and planted, Ahin has nary wide rice terraces sufficient to feed its inhabitants.

It is where aborigines of most parts of the Cordillera mountainous region point to as the roots of their ancestors. Ibaloi, Kankanai, Kalanguya, Tuali, Ayangan and other mountain tribes all plot their respective lineage to this tiny village.

Ahin still exists where a few families survive in simple living. Ilocanos would pronounce the place as “Asin” but there is no source of salt in those parts.

The amenities of modern society are in limited imagination. Yet Tinoc, the town proper, was opened to vehicular traffic some two and a half decades back via Buguias in Benguet; and until recently, from the ancient town of Kiangan connecting her to the lowlands of Nueva Vizcaya in the Cagayan valley.

Ask the elderly tribesmen of Benguet and they all point to Tinoc as their roots. So, with the Ifugaos on the eastern side of the town.

It is said that the initial migrants into Benguet hiked across the 9,000-foot mountain of Pulag and down to the village of Amlimay in Buguias.  From here some went south to Kabayan and spread in central and southern Benguet. Others took to the north in the vicinity of Mount Data.

Curious of the route of migration, this writer in 1968 walked to Amlimay from Buguias población where old folks confirmed the movements of their ancestors from Ahin, Tinoc. The Second visit was in 1970 when the road connecting Buguias and Kabayan was constructed at the initiative of then Rep. Andres Cosalan and Governor Ben Palispis. The third was with Governor Nestor Fongwan in 2019 where wide farmlands were noticeable and planted with vegetables.

It is ironic that while Ahin in Tinoc exists, there is never an instance where descendants take pilgrimage to the place, not even out of curiosity how this tiny village has populated far flung communities.

Nonetheless, Ahin in Tinoc is forever mentioned during family and clan reunions among Benguet tribes. Thanks to Alex Haley who in 1976 came out with his novel “Roots” that has inspired clans to hold reunions and trace their own genealogical roots.

     ( “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”. The book caught the attention of millions of readers worldwide as he narrated the story of an African sold into slavery and brought to North America.

     (Novelist Haley wrote of the horrors of slavery which is universally known today.  In the hellish lives of slavery, a mother traced her roots to a village in west Africa. She repeatedly mentioned the names of her grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters to her descendants on the slave farm in Virginia. She demanded of her offsprings and their descendants to memorize the names of ancestors and do the same to theirs. As a result, surviving family lineage in the later part of the past century, from then on, can trace their roots to that village called Gambia in West Africa.)

In the Cordillera mountain ranges, the saga of black slavery as detailed by Haley is brushed aside as the tribal practice of a form of slavery was abandoned and forgotten.  His book, however, has magnanimously influenced families to seek near and distant blood relatives into clan reunions.

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