In the Philippines, there is an aboriginal tribe that is making news for some rather impressive skills. The Igolot makes their own bicycles using wood carving techniques.
Igolot, which means ‘mountain people’ in the Tagalog language was later adapted from a name given to them by invaders from Spain in the 16th century. During that time, it was a derogatory way of referring to the people who were considered uncivilized and were not making any contributions to innovations of modern society.
As it turns out, it was just a matter of the Spaniards not looking closely enough. Their technological prowess is amazing, considering the fact that they carve fully functional bicycles out of trees. People have discovered this ability and are amazed at what they are able to do.
This is not a new skill, it has been passed down from one generation to the next for a long time. When you look at the bikes, you will see just how amazing they truly are.
Each bicycle is made entirely from a carved tree. They are individual and unique and represent the artistic style of the individual who created and rides it.
Some may consider these to be more like a scooter, but they are two-wheeled machines that are carved with a unique theme, such as dragons, horses and lions. When you see the detail involved, you begin to recognize how much craftsmanship goes into each bike.
Not only are they a masterpiece to create, but it also takes a considerable amount of skill to ride them as well. They can easily reach speeds of up to 25 mph going downhill and they only have the most basic of brakes.
The rider steps on a wooden paddle that is attached to a recycled tire. When the friction of the paddle hitting the road slows down the scooter, the rider is eventually able to put their feet down and stop the bike completely.
They also don’t wear any protective gear, including head covering.
This tribe is only one of the numerous mountain tribes found in the area that are all known as the Igolot. They inhabit Luzon, which is the largest island.
Those who craft these bicycles are happy to share their creation with the rest of the village. They will often ride together wearing traditional costume.
Richard Haw is the photographer who took these pictures as he was on his way back to his truck while visiting the area.
He said: “… it just so happens that I had my camera on hand and snapped the cowboy-inspired scooter zooming downhill. Owning a motorcycle is considered a status symbol for people of a humble background. Since most of them do not really earn enough to afford the real thing they would just make imitations of scooters by whatever means they have.”
Elaine, who is his wife, lives in Tokyo with him and is part-Igorot.
He doesn’t feel that it is common for fatalities to occur but he did notice some serious scars on their legs and feels that it may come from accidents.
“When they race through the town, it is a chance to show off their scooters which is a source of pride for the carver.”
The Igolot believe that Gods reside in inanimate objects, such as mountains and trees. Perhaps that is why they have respect for both.
Unfortunately, the Igolot are still oppressed on the island and struggle to remain in possession of their indigenous land. They want to be recognized as a self-governed people so they can fully benefit from the resources that share the area of the island with them.