“Climate change equals culture change,” declares anthropologist Enrique G. Oracion, president of the Ugnayang Pang-AghamTao (UGAT) or the Anthropological Association of the Philippines.
Among other things, we are shaped and affected by the environment we live in, including the natural environment. This is also true for indigenous peoples (IP), and the impacts of the environment and its changes in their lives and culture are more profound. UGAT tackled these issues as well as perennial concerns like IP rights, mainstreaming and marginalization, preservation of culture, poverty, etc., in the celebration of the Indigenous Peoples’ Month by the country’s national organization of anthropologists and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Every October, the NCCA spearheads Indigenous Peoples’ Month, one of the national arts and culture agency’s major celebrations. Of recent, the celebration is in the form of grand festivals focusing on each Philippines’ major island cluster. In 2007, Kalimudan: Panaghi-usa sa Mindanao (Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ Gathering) held in Davao City in November, featured Mindanao’s ethnic groups. The following year, Timpuyog: Indigenous People Month Celebration in Luzon was held in Santiago City, Isabela, focusing on Luzon ethnic groups and featuring performances, arts and crafts workshops, cultural awareness lectures, forums, tours, and a theme-park exhibition featuring the traditional houses, cultural resources, practices/rituals, chants, music, songs and dances, stories, traditional arts and crafts, indigenous games. Last year, the Indigenous Peoples’ Festival was held in the Visayas, particularly in Roxas City, Capiz, called Dungog, with similar activities and aims.
Via activities such as performances, exhibitions, forums, lecture-demonstrations and workshops, the festival aims to “provide venue for indigenous peoples (IP) to celebrate the richness of their cultures; allow cultural exchanges that will foster deeper cultural understanding to sustain a culture of peace; provide opportunity to discuss IP rights; give students and other people a chance to deepen their awareness and appreciation of indigenous cultures; recognize the expertise and contributions of indigenous communities; and advocate for the preservation as well as integration of traditional culture into the national cultural mainstream.”
This year, the celebration was held in the National Capital Region, named Dayaw: Indigenous Peoples Festival 2010, with three major components: dance and performance or Palabas, exhibit or Sulyap, and conference or Suri. The celebration opened on the first day of October with a showcase of indigenous performances and a press conference headlined by NCCA (led by its chairman Dr. Vilma Labrador) and UGAT officials, and Maria Venus Raj, the controversial beauty queen who became fourth runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant and Dayaw’s endorser.
“This year’s Buwan ng Katutubong Filipino draws inspiration from the word dayaw, which means, in old Tigaonon of Surigao del Sur, ‘to show off, parade or display’ and ‘to present with pride what is distinctly and essentially inherent in oneself”; in old Catandunganon, ‘to show one’s best with pride and dignity coupled with excitement’; and in Ilokano, ‘honor.’ It also draws inspiration from the word kadayawan, which means, for Dabawenos, ‘a celebration of life, a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature, the wealth of culture, and the bounties of harvest and the serenity of living,” stated Dr. Eufracio C. Abaya, this year’s festival director. “Accordingly, Dayaw: Buwan ng Katutubong Filipino not only celebrates the wisdom of social and environment peace and harmony enshrined in IP cultural practices, but also the continuing reflexive and pragmatic engagement among IPs, the government and the public at large to uphold the IP’s strategic importance and rights.”
Assisting Abaya in the steering committee were deputy festival directors Domingo Bakilan, head of the NCCA’s Subcommission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts, for the Luzon group; Alphonsus Tesoro, head of the Committee on Central Cultural Communities, for the Visayas group; and Cheryl Cellona, head of the Committee on Southern Cultural Communities, for the Mindanao group.
Aside from the showcasing of indigenous cultures, Dayaw highlighted the serious aspect of environmental concerns. Each festival component carried a title with the word kalikhasan. Abaya coined the term, a combination of the Filipino words likha, meaning “creation,” and kalikasan, meaning “nature” or “natural environment,” to underscore the “inseparability of creative practice in the natural environment as well as the natural environment in creative practice.”
The celebration put into spotlight the importance of the environment in the shaping and viability of indigenous cultures as well as the effect of climate change, specifically in the conference titled “Kalikhasan in Flux: Cultural Creativity in a Changing Environment,” which was also the 32nd UGAT Annual Conference.
Held at the Tambunting Hall of the Museum of the Filipino People, National Museum, from October 20 to 23, 2010, the conference aimed to gathered IP representatives, artists, cultural workers, academics and representatives from government and non-government organizations.
“This year’s theme is particularly timely because indigenous peoples, due to their marginalized position and unique relationship with the environment, are seen as one of the most vulnerable segments of the population to the impacts of environmental crisis. And yet, they are also some of the most active participants in environmental movements, who, together with support groups, challenge dominant ideologies and practices towards the environment,” said Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo, the conference chair.
“But I do not want to sound as an environmental determinist because the ways people live likewise impact or alter the environment; it could also be culture change equals climate change, and the degree of change varies across time and space,” explained Oracion. “In general, the changes in the conditions of the natural environment have corresponding cost to the lives and culture of indigenous peoples particularly the Philippines. And this is not only seriously affecting their food supply and nutritional requirements but also other facets of their lives such as traditional knowledge, rituals, medicines and health practices, music, art and other aesthetic production which have made them culturally distinct.”
On the other hand, Abaya said: “Main issues touched on the theme of the conference, which is the interaction between nature and cultural creativity. So given that current situation in which climate change and extractive industries and the way land is used, patterned or defined, these have really affected the way of life of the indigenous peoples. And when I speak of their way of life, we’re talking about things that they do in their everyday life. For instance, their agricultural practices have been affected. Practices such as these along with rituals, the way they usually organize their lives have been affected by changes in nature. Concretely, we talk about displacement as a result of the mining industry, ancestral domains, land conversion.
He further said that they heard these kinds of comments and stories “from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.”
The conference gathered academics, anthropologists and cultural workers such as Owen Lynch, Vellorimo Suminguit, Philip Largo Anghag, Mynabel Pomarin, Victoria Diaz, Reuben Andrew Muni, Maileenita Penalba, Emerson Sanchez, Michael Armand Canilao, Nicole Revel, Edwin Gariguez, Timuay Alim Bandara, Alicia Magos, Robert Panaguiton, Erlinda Burton, May Shiu-Buslig, Randy Nobleza, Earl Francis Pasilan, Norli Colili, Bernadeth Wampa, Bernadeth Ofong, Gideon Binobo, Maria Victoria Espaldon, Van Leigh Alibo, Rico Ancog, Arnold Salvacion, Ramon Docto, Lyer Galulo, Nicomedes Briones, Paolo Vicerra, Jem Javier, Kathleen Tantuico, Ros Costelo, Ramon Felipe Sarmiento, Ponciano Bennagen, Maria Mangahas, Arlene Sampang, Cynthia Zayas, Lilian dela Pena, Zona Hildegrade Saniel Amper, Maria Teresa Dominguez, Artiso Mandawa, Matyline Camfili, Julius Dagitan, Benjamin Nebres III, Bonindo Revidad, Jr., Harrish Serrano, Cyndi Mae Paje, Christian John Morales, Paul Vincent Silo, AT Roxas, NL Bracamonte, SL Ponce and LN Marapao.
They presented their studies which dealt with the impact of changing land use patterns on indigenous cultures; the relevance and efficacy of national, regional and global instruments addressing environmental crisis, specifically those affecting IPs; the relation between ritual life and environmental crisis; the relation between art practices and weaving and environmental crisis; the relation and challenges among indigenous peoples, biodiversity conservation and climate change; environmentally-linked knowledge and practices; the relation between changing marine environments and fishing traditions and creativity; and extractive practices affecting IPs’ ancestral domain and their ramifications on cultural creativity.
A session paneled by the NCCA dealt with topics such as microfinance scheme for IPs, IP rights including intellectual property rights and the Dungog Declaration, a document drafted and signed by IP leaders who participated in the Dungog celebration, detailing the issues and concerns of the IPs and recommendations and solutions.
The microfinance scheme was presented by Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), which offers financial and non-financial services such as loans with very low interest and no collateral especially to indigenous peoples, so they would not be victims of loan sharks.
Noted anthropologist Dr. Jesus Peralta talked on indigenous peoples’ rights, particularly intellectual property rights. He is currently helping draft a bill to protect the traditional intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples. He pointed out that the present copyright law, which mostly deals with individual works, is insufficient or no apt in protecting indigenous intellectual properties. He said that the law states that any work, after fifty years of creation, becomes public domain. He said that traditional expressions such as crafts, performances and others are “older than fifty years and are therefore considered public domain and subject to exploitation by anyone.”
Dr. Peralta mentions two ways in protecting these: by amending the copyright law and by signing of a new bill that particularly protects indigenous intellectual properties. He believes that that it is possible to legislate traditional cultural properties of all the ethno-linguistic groups that “shall not lapse into public domain after 50 years and shall continue indefinitely to be exclusive property of these ethno-linguistic groups that communally own them.”
“Traditional tangible and intangible properties are to be held in perpetuity in ethnic memory and considered valid as ethnic intellectual property,” he states.
To be able to “copyright” a traditional expression, it must be distinctive to a group, which can claim solely as its own.
“There are cultural properties that are distinctive, characteristic of and or derived from the particular ethnic traditional culture, to the exclusion of other ethnic cultures. For instance the hagabi of the Ifugao is theirs only exclusively and not found in culture of other groups. All other cultures have properties that are exclusively their own,” Peralta said.
This as well as others may “be established in a communal ownership of sort, and to be registered under the group’s name for protection within the copyright law.”
All we have to do is to pinpoint these distinctive items.
Aside from intellectual ownership, there are several issues confronting the indigenous peoples. One deals with perception and classification. To explain, Abaya looked at history.
“When the colonist arrived in the country, nakita natin kung paano nila klinasfy ang mga lipunan sa ating bansa. Merong Christian and non-Christian. Nagkaroon ng minority/majority. Mayroon ding cultural minorities… hill tribes. And meron ding commission sa ating gobiyerno na patuloy ang ganitong classification. Ang implication nito ay ang paningin ng so-called majority sa minority. Mas superior sila, mga ganyan. At silang mga minority ay kawawa,” he said. “In fact, ang nangyari pa sa mga labels na ito na-stigmatize nga ang pagiging katutubo. Na-associate sila sa mga primitive. And yet, ang irony din ay nakikitaan natin sila ng source ng mga materials para ma-define natin ang national identity. So, ang nangyayari, humuhugot-hugot sila ng mga symbols, mga sining ng katutubong Filipino, at sinasabi nila ito ang ating sining. Parang may irony doon.” (“When the colonist arrived in the country, we saw how they classified societies in our country. There is the Christian and then the non-Christian, minority and majority. We also have cultural minorities… hill tribes. And we have a commission in the government that continues this kind of classification. The implication of this is the perception of so-called majority of the minority. They’re superior, like that. And the minority is pitiful. In fact, these labels stigmatize being indigenous. They are associated with being primitive. And yet, the irony is that we see them as a source of materials for us to define our national identity. So, what happens is that they draw out symbols, the arts of the indigenous Filipinos, and say that these are our arts. There is irony in that.”
He further related: “On the one hand, nakikita natin, ah, napaka-colorful ng buhay nila, napaka-creative nila. Pero at the same time, kapag titingnan mo ‘yung regard ng karamihan, parang mas mababa silang kategorya. Kahapon, may nagsabi, tinanong ng isang researcher ang isang kabataan sa Cordillera, Igorot ka ba? Ay ako, hindi na. ‘Yung parents ko lang ang Igorot. I think may pagbabago na sa kanilang pananaw kung ano ang identity nila. Siguro tingnan din natin ang papel ng media rito. Nire-reproduce lamang din kadalasan ng media ang mga pananaw ng dominant sector ng ating lipunan. Kung minsan, kinakikitaan natin sila ng source ng spectacle… So makikita natin, mga festivals, for example, doon lang natin hina-highlight. Maganda naman talaga ang kanilang sayaw, tapos, nagke-cater kunwari sa turismo. So marami tayong dapat pagnilaynilayan kaugnay siyempre ng kanilang lugar sa pangkalahatang lipunan natin sa Pilipinas.” (On the one hand, we see, ah, their lives are colorful; they’re very creative. But at the same time, if you see how they regard them, it’s like they’re in a lower category. Yesterday, a researcher asked a young man from the Cordillera are you Igorot. He answered not anymore. Only my parents are Igorot. I think there has been a change in how they perceive their identity. Maybe let’s look at the role of media. It often reproduces the perception of the dominant sector of our society. Sometimes, we see them as a source of spectacle. So we see them in festivals, where they are highlighted. Well, their dances are really beautiful. They cater to tourism. So, there are many things that we have to ponder on especially about their place in the overall society of the Philippines.”)
Abaya also touched on the issue of nationality: “Until such time na hindi natin ma-solve ‘yung idea ng nationality versus ethnicity kung saan ang isang Maranao ay magsasabi na ako’y isang Maranao at isang Filipino, ako’y isang Ilocano at ako’y isang Filipino, Mandaya, ganyan, kailangan pa rin nating tingnan ng mas malalim ang interaksyon ng etnisidad at ng pagiging citizen of the Philippines. Itong kategoryang IP ay mahalaga lalo na kapag nag-iisip tayo ng mga programa. Without a category such as this, how programs are developed and implemented, mahihirapan kung wala talagang kategorya ang isang grupo. Hindi naihihiwalay ito sa mga kategorya tulad ng mga magsasaka, mga manggagawa, mga kababaihan. Importante iyon sa pag-identify talaga ng mga grupo sa Pilipinas. It just so happened na we know that historically, ang mga indigenous peoples ay special sector na talagang marginalized culturally, socially, politically, economically. So multiple ang kanilang marginalization. Kung nagre-react man sila na na huwag ninyo kaming tawaging indigenous peoples ay nakikita ko sa isang anggulo, mas mabuti siguro na tayong mga Filipino. Siguro kung isang makakasolusyon sa problema. Pero depende talaga sa konstekto ng usapan. Ganoon naman talaga ang lengguwahe ay nasa konteksto ng paggamit. Maraming nuances ang paggamit ng lengguwahe. Ang nakikita kong posibleng solusyon doon ay mag-isip tayo na tayo ay Pilipino pero kailangan nating i-recognize na tayo ay nanggagaling sa iba’t-ibang pangkat etniko.” (“Until such time we don’t address the issue of nationality versus ethnicity, in which a Maranao can say I am Maranao and a Filipino, I’m Ilocano and a Filipino, like that, we still need to look more deeply into interplay of ethnicity and being citizen of the Philippines. This IP category is important if we’re developing programs. Without a category such as this, how programs are developed and implemented, it is difficult if a group has no category. This is not different from other categories such as farmers, fisher folks, women. It is important in identifying groups in the Philippines. It just so happened that we know that historically, indigenous peoples is a special sector that is really marginalized, culturally, socially, politically, economically. So, their marginalization is multiple. If they are reacting, don’t call us indigenous peoples, it may be better if we just call ourselves Filipino. That may be one solution. But it also depends on the context. Language is really about contexts. There are nuances. One solution I see is that we think that we are all Filipino but we also recognize that we come from different ethnic groups.”)
Dance is important and even integral to the cultures of indigenous peoples, serving many purposes such as entertainment and ritual. Selected ethnic groups and performers were invited to showcase their dances and music for the performance aspect of Dayaw, titled “Indayog ng Kalikhasan,” under the artistic direction of Shirley Halili-Cruz, head of the NCCA’s Committee on Dance.
“Indayog ng Kalikhasan” was held simultaneous with the conference, opening at the Rizal Park Open-Air Auditorium on October 20 preceded by a short parade and going to several venues such as government branches (House of Representatives), television stations (NBN 4 and ABS-CBN 2), malls (SM City San Lazaro and Star Malls Las Pinas, Alabang and EDSA Mandaluyong), nearby cities (Malolos, Bulacan) and schools (Miriam College; St. Scholastica’s College in Pampanga; Pedro Poveda College; Manila Business College in Sta. Cruz, Manila; and Rizal Technological University in Mandaluyong.)
Featured groups were the T’boli of Lake Sebu, South Cotobato; Mangguagan of Davao del Norte; Teduray of Maguindanao; Kamayo of Agusan del Sur; Bagobo of Davao City; Manobo of Bukidnon; Subanen of Zamboanga del Sur; B’laan of Balut Island, Saranggani; Sangir of Balut Island; Tausug of Jolo; Kaagan of Davao Oriental; Mamanwa of Surigao del Norte; Hiligaynon of Capiz; Palaw’an of Palawan; Jama Mapun of Palawan; Bukidnon of Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Capiz; Ati of Iloilo, Guimaras and Capiz; Waray of Samar and Leyte; Mangyan of Midoro; Dumagat of Quezon; Ifugao of Kiangan, Ifugao; Kalinga; Bugkalot of Nueva Vizcaya; Gaddang; Ayta Magbukon of Bataan; Ibaloi of Benguet; and Malaueg.
They presented traditional dances and rituals and music such as the shelayan by the Subanen, pattong by the Kalinga, binanog by the Panay Bukidnon, dagungguan by the Jama Mapun, damsu by the T’boli, pangalay by the Tausug, kasamungan by the Kaagan, and ini-ini by the Ati of Iloilo.
“Indayog” closed on October 23 also at the Rizal Park Open-Air Auditorium, with a series of performances capped by a “unity dance,” comprising selected steps from different ethnic dances, by all the participants.
Under the artistic direction of Edgar Talusan Fernandez, head of the NCCA’s Committee on Visual Arts, “Sa Tinubuang Kalikhasan” presented ethnographic photographs and artifacts at the NCCA Gallery for the whole month of October. It also featured reproduction of works by Federico “Boy” Dominguez, a Mindanaoan artist with Manobo and Mandaya roots, on indigenous peoples. Additionally, interactive exhibit on traditional arts and crafts, such as mat weaving, handloom weaving, pottery and the making of accessories was put up at the National Museum during the conference.
Aside from the three major components, smaller events were held. The Australian Embassy showed a series of Australian indigenous films at the NCCA.
Several NCCA-supported events and projects celebrating indigenous cultures were included in the overall celebration of the Indigenous Peoples’ Month. From September 29 to October 1, 2010, the Tagakpan Women’s Tribal Organization held the Tipo Tipo Festival, a three-day celebration of the Bagobo Clata highlighting their cultural traditions in rituals, traditional songs, dances and indigenous games, in Tagakpan, Davao City. The Ibaloi community of Taloy Sur, Tuba, Benguet, held the Tuba Pansakatan Tan Kagam-es Festival, from October 5 to 6, 2010. The Kaliga Ta Talakag Festival highlighted the culture of the Higaonon community of Talakag, Bukidnon, from October 20 to 23, 2010. In Loo, Buguias, Benguet, the IP organization Buguias Ancestral Domain Alternative for the Natives’ Governance (BADANG) commemorated its founding with a four-day gathering of the Kankana-ey cultural community called Alibay di Badang, from October 27 to 30, 2010. Alibay is an indigenous rite of thanksgiving and supplication for good health, bountiful harvest and continuous peace and harmony.