40 indigenous Filipinos unite in Ilocos to preserve their culture

VIGAN CITY – Forty indigenous Pinoys gathered at the National Museum Ilocos Region complex in this city last October 7 to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Month this October.

Students, teachers, and residents from 12 indigenous communities from all over the country showed their unique dances, musical instruments, songs, and attires to help preserve their identity, and their cultural heritage, to residents of the city.

They are the Blaan of Sarangani, the Tagbanwa of Palawan, the Mangyan of Occidental Mindoro, the Yakan of Basilan, the Maguindanaoan of Cotabato, the Bugkalot of Nueva Ecija, the Ga’dang of South Cotabato, the Ibaloy of Benguet, the T’boli of South Cotabato, the Ipugaw of Ifugao, the Ayta of Bataan, and the Tinggian of Ilocos Norte.

The event called “Gameng” or wealth, is a lecture and workshop on indigenous cultures conducted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, City Government of Laoag and Barangay Casili, Katutubo Exchange Philippines (KEP) and the National Museum Ilocos Region, to celebrate also Museum and Galleries Month this October.

Before the program began, a press conference conducted by the Ilocos Sur Information Center of the Philippine Information Agency, helped introduce the Katutubo Exchange to local media through its president, Dr Edwin Antonio. It cleared some issues on the preservation of indigenous cultures in the country, understanding of the attires of the indigenous peoples, and prevention of discrimination against their communities.

The audience composed of teachers, students, media personalities, museum staff and residents, were taught indigenous dances to help them understand the culture of their indigenous brother and sisters.

This was the closing program of the October 5-7 Katutubo Exchange Ilocos 2018 (Akhad Eskwela Katutubo) led by Dr Antonio. The other activities held in Ilocos Norte included a ‘parada’ (parade) of indigenous people on kalesa in Laoag City covering the city market, Laoag Central School, Capitol and City Hall; a grand opening ceremony at the Laoag City Multi-purpose Hall; Kannawidan: An Evening of Philippine Indigenous Performances at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Paoay Church; Dap-ayan: Interaction with the Weavers and National Living Treasure Magdalena Gamayo at Lumbaan-Bicbica, Pinili town; and Tillaong: Immersion with Tinggian community at the Eco-cultural park in Nueva Era town.

Antonio said that this is the second time that Katutubo Exchange Philippines came to the World Heritage city to show the culture of the indigenous communities of the country. The first was in May 2017 when he and two teeners from Sarangani and Batanes were guests for two episodes of the Ilocano culture-anchored radio program of PIA Ilocos Sur, “Dap-ayan Pagdadapilan,” at DZNS Vigan.

Katutubo Exchange Philippines began in 2013 as a “multi-level cultural exchange platform among indigenous youth groups from all around the Philippines, is an annual program of Katutubo Exchange Philippines,” said Antonio during the presscon. “It aims to promote awareness of indigenous cultures, empower indigenous peoples, embrace indigenous beauty and magnificence, and celebrate oneness of the Filipino race even in the face of multi-dynamic cultural ethos and traditions.”

Its programs include Katutubo Exchange, community outreach in education, environment, arts and culture, health and nutrition; international outreach; sentro katutubo with activities like Museo Katutubo, arts camp, and katutubo residency.

Its latest international programs include Wika at Kultura (Language and Culture) seminar workshop to celebrate National Language Month on August 29 at Stairway to Hope Learning Center in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia; and Dunong Katutubo (Indigenous Knowledge) to celebrate International Literacy Day on September 8, as part of the Philippine Embassy in Brunei Filipino Language and Cultural Enrichment Program at the University of Brunei, Darussalam.

“The program wants to build lasting understanding and friendship among participants while sharing a common stage to showcase their own native dances and folk songs,” said Antonio. “It provides an avenue for a united cultural sympathy, helping indigenous youth participants to embrace openly their identity, amidst discrimination, and be one in saying: Kami ay mga katutubo, mga nagkakaisang Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa. (We are the indigenous people, united Filipinos in thought, in word, and in deed.)

Katutubo Philippines is a volunteer group of youth and cultural workers who aim to heighten awareness of the public on indigenous cultures. Founded by Antonio in July 2013, its office is the Sentro Katutubo in Laoag City. (JND/ICR/PIA1 Ilocos Sur)