HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 53 no. 1 (2007)

Accommodation, Localization, and Resistance in Abra (1598-1898)

Isagani R. Cruz

Discipline: Philippine History, Ethnography



The Tinguians of Abra, like many other indigenous peoples in the Cordillera and elsewhere, manifested their human agency amidst colonial incursion and imposition in many ways. The long period of native encounter with colonialism (1598-1898) is full of narratives of native accommodation and localization of foreign (Spanish) influences. These processes can be shown in the performance of the everyday lives of the natives as gleaned in colonial records. Resistance was the native response to physical displacements as well as cultural alienation. This is demonstrated in overt actions such as armed “uprisings” as well as everyday actions such as abandoning the pueblos or insisting to walk around the streets of the pueblos naked (cf. James Scott, Weapons of the Weak (New Haven: Yale

University Press, 1985).

Besides highlighting indigenous agency in the context of colonial experience in Abra, this paper also tackles the process of ethnic identity construction throughout the period. I will argue that ethnic labels are not merely products of colonial impositions but also as local reactions to the effects of colonial administration. Ethnic identity formation is a clear example of accommodation and localization, i.e., indigenous agency. The “Tinguian” identity is, therefore, a product both of social construction as well as of continuities with the pre-colonial

process of group formation. The blanket statement that ethnic groups are purely colonial creations should be reviewed: ethnic groups were already emerging prior to colonization, and these identity markers intersected across groups in Abra and neighboring areas in the Cordillera. This paper will prove the dynamism of ethnicity as discourse and practice.