UP Baguio's "Bulwagang Juan Luna" looked gay yesterday with the colorful hand-woven tapestries (courtesy of Narda's) hanging on its walls as it warmly welcomed about 300 participants to a yet another historic event in the region and the country, the "1st International Conference on Cordillera Studies."
The affair went off to a rousing start with the opening ceremonies graced by UP President Emerlinda R. Roman who, in her keynote speech, lauded UP Baguio for this key contribution to the centennial celebration of the UP System, the country's "premiere educational institution." The hall also rang with the laughter of gongs accompanied by a guitar, and would have jigged -- if that were possible -- with the dancers in full indigenous attire.
Initially dilly-dallying over which of the 14 Panels to get into as I argued with myself about the importance of each of the 46 titles of papers to be presented for the day, I finally decided to join Panel 4 (Identity and Representation - I) for the morning segment, and Panels 9 & 11 (Music and Literature & Cultural Heritage - I, respectively) for the afternoon session.
♦ Jimmy Fong (UP Baguio) - "Constructing Igorotness and Popular Culture"
♦ Ruth Tindaan (UP Baguio) - "Imaging of the Igorot in Vernacular Films Produced in the Cordillera"
♦ Roland Rabang (UP Baguio) - "Kailyan di Cordillera: Imaging a Nation through the Lens of Eduardo Masferre and Tommy Hafalla"
♦ Jennilyn Dula & Jaime Raras (Univ. of Northern Phils. - Candon) - "Two Cordilleran Songs -- Dung-aw and Uggayam : Bridges of Understanding"
♦ Michiyo Yoneno-Reyes (UP Diliman) - "Undoing Identity Projection and Myth of 'Tradition' in Salidummay Singing and Narratives in a Northern Highland Village in the Postcolonial Philippines"
♦ Ma. Elinora Peralta-Imson (UP Baguio) - "Two Cordillera Legends from Fil-Hispanic Literature: 'El arbol de oro' and 'Antamok'
♦ Rosario de Santos del Rosario (UP Diliman) - "Introducing the Ifugao Alim - A Male Discourse on Couplehood, Sexuality, and Prosperity"
♦ Marlowe Aquino (Department of Agriculture) - "Methodical Analysis of Cordillera Artifacts: The Case of the Itneg Natural Dye Weaving"
♦ Purificacion Delima (UP Baguio) - "The State of Heritage Learning in the Cordillera: Views and Reviews of Determinants"
♦ Remedios Mondiguing (UP Diliman) - "Ifugao Woodcarving as Embodied Thought, Memory and Imagination"
Listening to the lectures and forums during the day was like exploring the fastnesses of our tribal territory in Balbalan, Kalinga -- at first familiar; in the long run, strange.
The program's theme, "Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Transition," at once allowed me to pick up where I left this concern off in 2005 when I resigned from DILG-CAR (the year before that, I had the privilege of representing our regional office in the following workshops: "Mainstreaming Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Local Governance" held on 13 September 2004 in the city under the joint sponsorship of the Japan Foundation and DILG through its training arm, the Local Government Academy or LGA; "Mainstreaming Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Local Governance in the Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop" held on 14-16 October 2004 in Pasig City and with the same sponsors; and "Workshop on Local Good Governance and Indigenous Peoples" held on 19-20 November, also in the same year but this time under the sponsorship of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance or CPA). Further, the wealth of information presented by the panelists initially connected with my memories of home and my experiences in various parts of Northern Luzon's highlands.
As the discussions deepened, however, the theme and the world -- my own culture -- that were familiar had become strange with my realization that I have, to a great extent, been ignorant of my own cultural heritage for whose exploration, preservation and/or enrichment I had contributed so little.
On a more cheerful note, however, I am gladdened by the fact that I have now started to pursue the academic and professional path which will enable me to be a better servant to my ili, my binodngan.
Also, it is greatly encouraging to once again realize how many stakeholders -- foreigners and locals alike -- have banded themselves together to help steer the grand Cordilleran ship across the troubled waters of today and on to a better shore of historical development.
Here's one tasty, bite-sized info I picked up from Jimmy Fong's presentation:
The "e-gorot." Prof. Jimmy Fong prefaced his presentation with a PLDT ad showing photos of three male Igorot elders in their native garb one of whom says, "Someone emailed me about starting an e-business" to which another quipped, "That will make us 'e-gorots.'" The lecturer then went on to note that the last statement is a "self-fulfilling prophecy" as evidenced by the Igorots' increased participation in today's cyber-race and their creative mobilization of pop culture "to construct their identity." Today's "Igorot Agenda," he says, is "Ethnic Cleansing" -- by which he meant the rooting out of stereotypes embedded in the term "Igorot." He convincingly showed this burgeoning movement through the Igorots' engagement in showbusiness (read: Marky Cielo), and pop music (Buguias-made country music, for one), among others. Ending with a note on the neologism "Kinnoboyan" (to be a cowboy) coined by Igorots, Fong remarked that as the Igorots continue to find their hold in a fluid era, "the Igorot has become a 'cowboy' -- spartan, flexible."