By OLGA LAUZON
BALBALAN, Kalinga — In the spirit of international solidarity, around 90 foreigners from different parts of the world took part in the celebration of the 33rd Cordillera Day here. Participants from Taiwan, Cambodia, Japan and USA.
The largest group of foreign delegates were from Taiwan, more specifically those from Hunter School. They are lead by the school’s founder, Sakinu Tai, who has been participating in Cordillera Day commemorations since 2001.
Cast in the same mold
When asked about the school, he explained that the school was established not necessarily to teach people to hunt but more on the practices and traditions of aboriginal (the term they use in Taiwan for indigenous people) hunters. The hunter culture “seeks to find harmony between man and nature, land and, life.”
The practice of the aborigine hunters in Taiwan is not different from the belief of indigenous peoples here in our region. Sustainability and respect for nature is the bedrock of both cultures. Both are influenced by old wisdom and norms passed down by those who came before them, that strive to keep ecological balance.
In the almost 17 years that he has been visiting the Philippines, Sakinu has brought around 400 Taiwanese visitors to also participate. He said that their issues as aborigines in Taiwan is parallel with the concerns that IPs of the Cordillera struggle for, so it is important that his fellow citizens, especially the younger ones, also learn from the struggles here.
He said that they are also victims of national oppression. Since immigrants from China arrived in Taiwan 400 years ago, their ancestral lands have been looted and their traditional norms, languages and culture have been restrained under severe policies of assimilation. Tribes there also experienced militarization and disregard to the rights of aborigines. At present, aborigines make up 2% of the total 23 million population of Taiwan.
“Although we are from different lands, we face the same issues as indigenous peoples. In Taiwan there’s also a conflict between the established civilization and the traditional culture,” he said.
Struggle for land, culture
Tai said that one of the reasons why he keeps coming back is because there is always something to learn from the people here. Every time that he comes back with fellow Taiwanese, he hopes that his companions could also learn and apply those lessons in their continuing struggle as aborigines in their own country. He added that the hospitality and determination for one’s cause are some of the traits that he really respects with the IPs here.
“When we were in [Sitio] Bolo, they still live out the ways of the past. Their indigenous practices and spirit is still there.”
With the aboriginal culture often misunderstood and stigmatized, Sakinu hopes that this could change someday for people to appreciate and respect traditional culture. Lastly, he said that recognizing the power of collective action is one of the most significant lessons that he would bring back home. # nordis.net