By SHERWIN DE VERA
I am dedicating my column for this issue to the Lakbayanis, to the Igorots of the Cordillera. They, who endured the hot and bustling atmosphere of the National Capital Region, away from the cold and green environment they are accustomed to. As the song goes – bannog, puyat ken bisin… tudo, pudot ken lamin… they have withstood all, to deliver the message of resistance against national oppression, tyranny and plunder.
I am not an Igorot, but I’ve worked and lived with Igorot communities, especially those ravaged by destructive corporate projects and businesses. I’m not an Igorot, but I fell in love with one, who is fierce in struggle as she is gentle to her love ones. I’m not an Igorot, but I appreciate them, their culture, the landscape, and the struggles by which these noble group of people identify themselves.
I am not an Igorot, but I wish someday I’ll be allowed to wear their colorful attire which I’ve seen them wear in different occasions, events and situations – in weddings, tribal occasions, the Panagbenga, while speaking before the UN and of course, in the parliament of the street.
Since the photos of G-strings clad protesters from the Cordillera, beating their gongs and marching the streets of the National Capital Region hugged the headlines this month, there have been widespread criticism about the use of the traditional Igorot attire during militant actions. People, including their fellow Igorots have shamed them for this, called them names and accused them of bastardizing their culture. These accusers say – “those protesters are not true Igorots”, “they don’t represent the people of Cordillera”, etc.
While it is true that these protesters don’t represent the entirety of Cordillera, they are equally entitled to wear the Igorot attire. It is their birth right, earned not only by virtue of their blood but for fighting for what their forefathers fought for – their land, life and honor. They can wear this like other Igorots, regardless of color and belief, where and when they see fit.
You might not empathized with their issues but many if not most of the Cordillerans identify with their struggle – against destructive mines, energy projects, land grabbing of ancestral lands and human rights abuses. They are marching against national oppression that many Igorots may brush aside, but quite evident on how the national government allot the Cordillera for big business and extractive industries. They are bringing these issues to the seat of power, not just for them, but for the entire Cordillera, for the future Cordillerans.
Macliing Dulag, an Igorot luminary in the indigenous people’s movement here and abroad wore his G-string together with other elders to protest the Chico dam. Tingian activists who fought the destructive Cellophil Resources Company wore their traditional attires as they protest. Many of those who fought Martial Law, were imprisoned, wearing their traditional clothing, proud and unyielding despite the torture they experienced. Some of these people, whom you are shaming wore their Igorot attire when they lobbied for the recognition of IP rights for self-determination and ancestral land in the 1987 Constitution.
They are wearing the Igorot colors because they are proud of their ancestry, reliving the warrior tradition of the Cordillera, of the maingel and mengor who fought valiantly against foreign invaders and plunderers of their land. What they’ve accomplished wearing the Igorot cloth and brandishing their culture in the streets, in protest are way more significant and respectable than wearing the attire for tourism and profit.
Yes, we can argue about this endlessly but one thing is for sure, the Igorots fought those who oppressed them then wearing these clothes, there is no honor lost to wear it fighting tyranny and oppression now. # nordis.net