MUNICIPALITY OF SIGAY (ILOCOS SUR), History and Culture of - Philippine Historical Data MUNICIPALITY OF SIGAY (ILOCOS SUR), History and Culture of - Philippine Historical Data


Municipality of Sigay

About these Historical Data

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Division of Ilocos Sur


Very little is known of the history of Sigay, but it is safe to say that this municipality high up in the Cordilleras was formerly a wilderness. It was a famous hunting ground where dogs were used as guns to hunt the wild pigs and deer in the forest.

Sigay Proper is composed of four adjacent barrios, namely: Mabileg, Maday-ao, San Ramon, and Batangen. It has an altitude very similar to that of Baguio. Its climate is healthful, invigorating, and cool. Beautiful roses grow in abundance. The mountain slopes are decked with rice terraces, a workmanship typical of the people of the Mountain Province. People find it a nice place to live in. The only difficulty lies in the steep climb where one feels much fatigue, but sweet is the pleasure after the sacrifice for one can find a complete rest afterwards. It is a remote place where mountains all around stand as gigantic statues, tapering among the clouds. This panoramic view of Sigay has won for it the title "LITTLE BAGUIO."

No written records whatsover can tell of the town's origin and no exact dates are available in order to furnish the reader with the beginning of the first settlement. There are only a few facts known which have been verbally handed down from generation to generation.

SPANISH HISTORY - During the colonization of the Philippines by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, these places were in complete paganism. The people worshipped the Kabunian as their God. The Kabunian is the same as God to the Christians. People in a civilized world live without much attention to their past history except for reasons when the felt need of it arises.

The early inhabitants of the place called it COSCOSNONG. As years rolled on, a certain man from Tangadan, Mt. Province, went there to settle. He was a good hunter. He found the place a very nice one to live in. In fact, he initiated its clearing and established his own home. One group after the other went there to settle. As the population multiplied, the people found it proper to name the place TANGADAN in his memory.

As years rolled on, different tribes went there to settle. This blending brought a conglomeration of ideas, customs, and traditions. People have the instinctive quality of changing for the better, in search of new wants.

The immediate aim of Spain in the colonization of the islands was to spread Christianity. It was never a failure. A certain Spanish missionary by the name of Father Ramon was assigned to teach and preach the Catholic religion. He was the one who began

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the first ground improvement and beautification of the place with the building of the first church and convent. It is an undeniable fact that the Filipinos are good imitators. The natives, too, did not find any great difficulty in adapting themselves to the culture brought about by the Spaniards. Their world became a civilized one. There were not only confined to the four walls of their houses but, also, they had broadened in their ways of thinking and dealing and they had learned to adopt their neighbor's culture. When this great missionary left forever, the name SAN RAMON was given in his honor.

The extension of the Spanish power to this region also led to the appointment of the first gobernadorcillo. A certain man by the name of Banig won the first title as gobernadorcillo. He was later on succeeded by Wangdali for an indefinite period. This continued toward the close of the Spanish era.

No definite date can be mentioned when the people began to immigrate to other places in the lowlands for a better living. "Sigcay" was given as name to the place. The name SIGCAY in the dialect [more correctly, language] means to separate or to divide. This term was later refined and coined to its present name of "SIGAY."

The Philippine Revolution of 1896 showed no traces of great hardships or destruction to the people. No calamities occurred except the capture of a certain Patricio Zaiding.

The cessation [probably meant "ceding"] of the Philippines to the United States by Spain on December 10, 1898 was met with much opposition by the Filipinos in their refusal to recognize American sovereignty. This resulted in the Filipino-American War. During the short-lived Philippine Republic, General Emilio Aguinaldo became the President. In his attempt to escape, he was pursued by the Americans in the north. In this connection, the Americans reached Tirad Pass where they were checked by a small detachment of Filipino soldiers. This defeat of the Filipinos resulted in the death of General Gregorio del Pilar on December 2, 1899 at the Battle of Tirad Pass. During this occupation, the Americans for sometime made Sigay as their military headquarters.

THE AMERICAN REGIME - An anecdote of the first refined sugar. Way to back to the time when the Whites first stepped on this section of the Mt. Province to which Sigay formerly belonged, the early settlers had not seen or tasted refined sugar. When the Americans offered these Tinguians a part of their refined sugar they had as rations, the natives refused. The told them the appearance and taste were nothing new. "Salt, salt," they said. But the Americans insisted that they should taste it. Then and only then were they convinced that the finished product was not really salt as expected but the taste which was sugar itself. The people laughed and looked at each other for having tasted something different from the ordinary sugar made in the lowlands. This

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later become a part of their daily wants.

The American occupation was a blessing to the Filipinos. The Americans extended their power over the islands, introduced their own ways of government. The first president of Sigay under the American era was Salibad, with Judge Velasco as the first Justice of the Peace. Nothing is said about the tenure of office as no records exist. The last president was Ciano. The present Justice of the Peace is Judge Moises Encarnacion of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. Throughout the American regime, the town of Sigay made considerable progress. A public school system of education was established. The people had their municipal building formerly erected at the present school site.

Although the progress of the natives was rather slow, there are evident proofs to show that they have assimilated the rudiments of education and civilization. This is clearly manifested in their customs, dwellings, the use of better implements and the varied products they produced.

The natives formerly wore the tapis with a simple kimono and beads worn around their heads and arms. They had long necklaces made of beads of different colors. Others had the so-called tattoos on their arms. Nowadays, the people dress as the lowlanders do except a few who have not yet adopted the modern ways of dressing because they follow the primitive customs of their forefathers. They wear nice clothes, too, and in beauty parlors, they are not an exception.

THE JAPANESE RULE - It is not a surprise to learn that the town of Sigay was also a victim of destruction. However, unlike the damages done in the lowlands, the people suffered not as much loss of lives during the guerrilla activities under the leaderhip of Major Walter Cushing. The public school became the military headquarters. The Japs, however, did not show signs of atrocities except the taking of foodstuffs. The Japanese forces stationed at Candon sometime in 1942 tried to capture the guerrilla unit, but were not successful. The guerrillas, therefore, had to abandon their headquarters, played hide and seek with the enemy and made the slopes of the mountains as their place of refuge.

During the liberation, the people returned to their dwellings. They began to build new homes in addition to the few left. They were only simple and not so strong because they used bamboo and cogon. The people had not time yet to cut timber from the forest, for they devoted it to the planting of crops. Many of them were still recovering from sickness, which they encountered in the evacuation camps. However, in spite of the spoils of war, they were still very grateful for they survived and did all means for rehabilitation. After the liberation, the people continued to build more homes and to replace old ones. The old school buildings which were blown by a storm have been reconstructed and, up to the present, the town of Sigay maintains a complete elementary

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education with the opening of the extension class for Grade VI on Novembeer 26, 1952.


DOMESTIC LIFE: The Tinguians do not differ from the other tribes found. The more civilized group shows signs of improvement in their ways of living. Their homes are also well-kept and arranged; their surroundings clean without standing water as breeding places for mosquitoes. Under the kitchen, there is no muddy part seen that stays wet because of frequent washing. This "pagbabasaan" in the dialect is a rare thing. After washing, the people throw the water outside the window, or else have it collected in a container to be used as food for the pigs. There is something typical in the way the natives take care of their cooking pots, that is, the cleanliness and whiteness of their casseroles, so shiny they look as if they were just bought from the store. This is because the people often wash their kitchen utensils, making them free of charcoal paints.

SOCIAL LIFE - In general, the social standing of the people in this region is much lower than that of the lowlanders. The people live as if they do not have any certain goal to attain. The married women do not seem to be worried about their delivery. They do not make any preparations beforehand as other women do. They have very simple and primitive ways of taking care of the newly-born baby.

After the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut by means of a bamboo split sharpened very well. The baby is wrapped in rags and he is not given a bath. Others have no clothes at all. After delivery, the mother attends to her household works just the4 same and is never confined at all in bed like mothers of the lowlands do.

BAPTISM - Baptism among the children is not a great problem to the parents. They do not trouble selecting names or look for padrinos or padrinas. Nowadays, some bring their children to any minister or priest; but some just call their children queer names, as Bating, Abaclod, Litok, etc.

COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE - The people in this place make courtship an obligation to young people. During the night, there is a certain rendezvous where young ladies meet and their boy friends usually visit them. They court each other in the form of jokes or in games. If the man and the woman understand each other, the parents may be notified and the marriage will be arranged without the knowledge of the two concerned, that is, if they are of the marriageable age. Later on the attention of the two will be called and, if the parents know that they love each other, there is no delay in the performance of the ceremonies. Marriage is not a difficult task among the Tinguians. The parents do not give the right to select the time for their children to marry. Sometimes, the old interfere, and upon their advice, the marriage will take place.

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When these things are going on, there is something queer in the marriage. There is the so-called trial or probationary period. This is the time for the boy and the girl as well as the parents of both parties to observe if the future husband and wife will prove to be true life partners. During this time, there is no intimacy done in spite of the fact that they stay under the same roof.

The boy may go to the forest to chop wood for fuel. He must see to it that in arranging the bundle, no stick would be longer or shorter than the others. They should all be of uniform length. He brings the bundle to the girl's home. If he puts it down without making any noise, this is a sign of satisfaction on the girl's parents. The boy is then sent home.

The girl, in return, goes to the boy's house. She pounds rice, washes clothes, washes the dishes or any household works to help her future mother-in-law. If she proves to be good, the boy's parents give their approval and the final arrangements for the marriage are made. In those days, there was no need to go to the Justice of the Peace or a priest for the marriage ceremony. They lived and multiplied as husband and wife ought to do for such was the purpose of the institution of marriage. Nowadays, those who get married need the services of a priest, a pastor, or a Justice of the Peace.

DEATH AND BURIAL - In the years of yore, the people did not have a fixed cemetery. They could just bury the dead under the house or in the yard.

When a person died, he had to stay in the house for two days. The dead had to sit on a chair or on one side of the house. He played a picture which was very awkward to see, with his pipe and a fresh-rolled tobacco wrapped in his handkerchief which was wound around his head. The mourners took turns in conveying their respect or their last compliments. Right there, there were many things to be offered by the relatives of the dead, for example: tobacco, matches, etc. When a relative came, he went near the dead. A certain rope or string was tied on two opposite sides of the house in front of the corpse, as a means of support for the people to stand, and to prevent them from going very near the dead.

When the dead was placed in his grave, he was covered right away. The oldest son in the family would set free a chicken which would act as the companion of the deceased in his journey to the other world.

RELIGION AND SUPERSTITIONS - The dominant religion of Sigay is Protestantism. Only very few are adherents of the Catholic religion, followers of their forefathers. No priest is stationed there to make the teachings of the Catholic religion more emphatic.

Superstitious beliefs are fast disappearing with the lapse of time. Old practices like making offerings to the anitos in times of sickness or pestilence

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have been disregarded already.

THE JURY SYSTEM - This is the voice of the high command of the village. All complaints, mischiefs, and the like are brought to the Abong for clarification. The abong is a small ground hut where people gather during cool evenings to keep themselves warm by means of a hearth which keeps on burning while they stay there to hear stories of the day.

If a man commits a crime, he is brought to the Abong to be investigated by an old man who presides as judge. No corporal punishment is imposed on anyone who is guilty. If the crime committed is heavy, he makes compensation for it by means of fines, not in the form of money but in the form of a pig which must be killed. The people will join in the eating or in the drinking of tapey.

METHODS OF MEASURING TIME - The people used the sun to tell the time of day. When the sun rose in the east, this spoke of the morning. If the sun was overhead, it was midday. As the sun went down in the west, then it was afternoon; and as it disappeared, it told the approach of the evening.

The hours of the evening are marked by the crowing of the cock, the position of the stars, the twitter of the birds, or the noise of the crickets.

The people of Sigay as well as the pupils show keen signs of honesty. They have respect for the property of others. A house may just stay open but nobody dares to enter or ransack its belongings. Nothing has ever happened or any mischief done in the night. If something is lost, the article is given back to the rightful owner.

The people are very courteous. In speaking to the teachers or the officials, they always say "Wen Maestra" or "Wen Apo," meaning "Yes Ma'am" or "Yes Sir."

Sigay is a place where peace and order exist. There are no strifes or quarrels between neighbors. There is unity and cooperation among the people. When one builds a house, everyone lends a hand from the cutting of materials, the building of the house up to its finish. The males do this while the females may help in the preparation of the noonday meal only.

Submitted by:


Transcribed from:
History and Cultural Life of the Town of Sigay, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. The pagination in this transcription is as they appear in the original document.
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