By Bong Forouzan
Mr Carrot Man, Jeyrick Sigmaton, the 21-year-old social media sensation from the Mt Province (Philippines) visited London to attend the Grand Cañao (foundation annual celebration) held last 17th September 2016, organised by the Igorot UK at the Pentagon Hall of Globe Academy in Southwark (London). The Grand Cañao is an annual festival attended by Igorots residing in London representing five tribal organisations – Benguet, Mt Province, Ifugao, Kalinga and Abra, and sister organisations – under the umbrella association of Igorot UK (IgoUK).
Jeyrick was discovered early February this year, when a photo-enthusiast tourist, Edwina Bandong, took his photos carrying a carrot-load kaing (wicker basket) on his shoulder which he loaded onto a delivery truck; and posted the candid shots on her Facebook account. In a span of two weeks – the pictures of this ruggedly-good-looking nearly five foot tall, mulato-skin sleek-built young farmer – garnered 50 thousand ‘likes’ and 19 thousand ‘shares’ on Facebook that made him an instant internet-celeb with the now famed “Carrot Man” nametag. His family hails from the village of Kadaclan in Barlig town of the Mt Province. Jeyrick is the eldest of seven siblings. When he completed primary level schooling he decided to work as a farmhand to financially help the family. But the good-fortune-deity soon favoured him well. From his social-media popularity, Sigmaton landed a modelling contract (in April) with the local retailer ‘Boardwalk’ as their brand spokes-model for their new clothing collection. The Carrot Man fashion/style (released in May) was created by Avel Bacudio – a Filipino designer who won METRO magazine’s ‘Breakthrough Designer of the Year 2012’ and ‘2014 Asia’s Most Influential Designer’ awardee accorded by fashion guru Jimmy Choo OBE – famous for handmade ladies shoes and haute couture accessories and clothing lines. Jeyrick also signed a one-year “build-up” contract with GMA Network for his celebrity transformation, including speech training and acting – skills that will develop him as a spokes-model and youth ambassador. GMA’s ‘Magpakailan Man’ TV series already featured his life story publicizing that despite his newfound status and financial gains, Jeyrick remains humble – choosing to stay in the Cordillera rather than the bright lights and buzz of Manila. He remains a family-oriented-young-man whose earnest goal is to better his siblings’ future through proper education and secure the family’s livelihood by purchasing some of the lands they’ve worked on. Sigmaton is not daunted with his moniker – Carrotman. “It is a blessing, by which I became a welcomed symbol that gave Igorots renewed recognition worldwide,” said the be-dimpled icon.
“For the Igorots, the Carrotman is the new symbol of hope that could eventually end the Igorots’ identity struggle. We thank Jeyrick for being the face to the indigenous Igorots while the brave warriors of the Igorotland still strive to be recognised and accepted for what and who they truly are,” said Grace Nabus, Carrotman UK Fan Club admin team leader.
CarrotMan’s London visit is his first overseas engagement. Jeyrick, accompanied by Lolo Bio, was primarily invited to attend the Grand Cañao – an annual IgoUK celebration but this year paid tribute to CarrotMan’s hometown (Kadaclan Barlig) and featured the Kadaclan eagle dance brought to life with the beat of Igorot gongs led by Mark Watan.
Igorot UK was established in 1995, under the leadership (1995-1997) of Richard Stone Pooten and 20 founding members namely – Conchita Pooten (pres. 1999-2002), Linda Khensay (pres. 2003-2006), William Solang (pres. 2006-2008), Florence Duclis, Julie Maliseg, Elvie Langagan, Jojie Carino, Geof Nettleton, Darna Solang, Carmelita Nanglegan, Carmelita Pumihic, Jovie Bodnar, Marie Borret, Florence Tio Juntilla, Marilyn Domingo, Nellie Comiles, Jane Bugnosen, Simeon Quinopez, Nena Casinto, and Teresa Bangsoy. Other presidents were Edmund Bugnosen (1997-1999) Robert Balagtey (2008-2011), Ursula Baido (2011-2013) and Archibald Nabus (current president from 2015). Igorot UK grew in its membership and records more than a thousand members hence became an umbrella organisation giving recognition to four subgroups – Mt Province Federation UK (MPFed-UK, pres. Dukaw Cadiogan), Ifugao Organisation UK (IOUK, pres. Mary Miguel), Benguet Organisation UK (BOUK, pres. Archie nabus), and United Kalinga Apayao Network (UKAN – pres. William Longan); – and two sister organisations, Timpuyog ti Tirade Pass (pres. Lemar Bugtong) and Sagunto UK (pres. Alfredo Taqueban). Together, all six organisations contribute to the success of all the Igorot UK regular activities – ie Folknight with MMB, GOTAD ad UK and Grand Cañao (led by Igorot UK), ADIVAY London (by BOUK), LANG-AY ad UK (by MPFed-UK) and ULLALIM Festival (by UKAN-UK).
Igorot UK in cooperation with CarrotMan UK fan-club, clearly wanted to meet Jeyrick Sigmaton but most importantly to thank him simply because in the course of his instant fame the Igorots – culture, traditions and people – were again given recognition worldwide.
IgoUK and CarrotMan UK admin (Carol Mitas, Megan Abad, Ajet Tulong, Grace Nabus, Mara Tibangwa, Billy Based and Crispina Moresto) also organised a farewell fundraising evening on 8th October – held in Golders Green themed “Jamming with Carrot Man” – in support of Jeyrick’s personal projects. It was an “easy listening” gig – cool country music all night long that equally inspired vigorous line-dancing and cha-cha struts but with noticeable distinct Igorot dance movements – foot stomping, shuffling, hops on bent knees and the spread-flexing-arms emulating a gliding eagle.
Apparently, Igorots’ fascination with country music roots from the American occupation era specially when the American Base was built on the Ibaloi lands in Baguio city. “Igorot-American partnership was quite strong entrenched with American influence. The Igorots liked the idea of the American west – with their cattles, horses, farms, and country songs. Hence, the evolution of the Igorot cowboys and fascination with the American west music,” explained Grace Nabus. The Carrot Man more than pleased his UK fans when he joined the line dancing and sang with IgoUK’s house band – Mountain Music Band (MMB). Igorot songs Kankana-ey (tantalising eyes), An-amusak (patiently in-love), Timpuyog di Igorot (Igorot festivity) were included in the repertoire along with popular cover titles like Country Road, Joleen, Black Coffee, Dixieland, Stand By Your Man, Morning Bells will Chime, Luisiana, I don’t wanna talk about it, If tomorrow never comes, and Achy-breaky-heart to name a few. Other performers were: Milan & Raymond, Ms Jaynee Wood and Ms Lu Divina Quismondo.
“Perhaps, his most recognizable qualities are not his looks – that, his virtues are beyond prettiness. It wasn’t just his face that launched a thousand clicks. It is what he represents that makes him so endearing, not just to Igorots but to all who have dreams and those who suffered oppression and discrimination. His story is relevant – it portrays the life of those deprived but could make better in life if the right doors were opened. He is a symbol of hope, a voice of the unheard-tens-of-millions young Filipinos who work hard and willingly sacrificed their youth and personal dreams to help their families subsist,” Grace Nabus concluded.
The Phil-Anglo community surely congratulates the Igorot UK for their successful activities and also wish Mr Carrot Man, Jeyrick Sigmaton, all the best in his new career and future.//ends//