By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Youth groups, students and institutions lined-up events this March for the 25th year of Kaigorotan Youth Week, with the theme, “Tignay Agtutubo: Living the tradition of courage and unity. Advancing the struggle for land, life and resources!”
Caselle Ton, spokesperson of Progressive Igorot for Social Action (Pigsa) said that the annual event “commemorates the bravery young Igorots of 1980s who strongly stood against the Chico dam project and the Cellophil logging concession along with the heightened militarization in the region.”
The same recognition was echoed by the regional office of the National Commission Indigenous Peoples, saying it is a celebration of “the gallantry of the IP youth in the defense of their land, life and resources in Cordillera during the late Marcos dictatorship.”
Kaigorotan Youth Week
KYW is an annual event that emerged from the violent dispersal of the peaceful student demonstration in Baguio City during the 1980s to protest development aggression, and the commercialization of the Igorot culture and heritage.
A resolution declaring March 1-5 as Kaigorotan Youth Week was approved by the Baguio City council. This legislation was the result of the concerted effort of PIGSA, Benguet-Ifugao-Bontok-Abra-Kalinga-Apayao organizations (now BIBAK Federation) and the Sanguniang Kabataan Baguio, then headed by Florence Ibarra. The importance of the event was reaffirmed by the city council through City Ordinance No. 11 Series of 2014.
Socially relevant activities
“This year, as we intend to bring KYW to the center of the most relevant issues that confront not just the indigenous peoples but the nation at large: the preservation of life, dignity and democracy,” explains Ton.
PIGSA, together with BIBAK Federation and Cordillera Youth Center will lead the conduct of activities – a Kaigorotan Youth Fair on March 23 at Saint Louis School Center High School Department and the Kaigorotan Youth Jam on March 25.
The youth fair, an activity endorsed by the Department of Education Baguio City Division, is a half day affair for elementary and secondary schools that will feature extemporaneous speech, poster making, group quiz bee and song writing competition to promote Igorot history, culture, tradition and concerns.
The action last March 17 to commemorate the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ indiscriminate bombing of Malibcong and protests Duterte’s atrocities against the Cordillera people is also part of the celebration.
The Kaigorotan Youth Exhibit, Sine Agtutubo and Cordillera Youth Situation Discussion are making rounds to different schools. This week at Saint Louis University, then at the University of the Philippines Baguio after which it will move to Benguet State University.
Not to be left out, NCIP-CAR also scheduled a series of information and education activities to equip IP youths and students in the tertiary level with the “necessary tools they can use once they exit the walls of their schools.”
The main topics are Cordillera history and situation, and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. Also included are the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, basic human rights, labor law and paralegal training. The activities commenced last March 4.
Oppressive situation remains
In their statement, Ton said that oppression remains, with the state of political and economic affairs in the 1980’s being resurrected under Duterte.
“Indigenous communities are continuously harassed and militarized and attacks against human rights defenders in the Cordillera also intensified. Indigenous peoples advocates and leaders are being subjected to trumped-up charges, illegal arrests and detention, harassment and political vilification,” she said.
The youth leader also expressed their distaste of Duterte administration’s effort to pave the way for foreign plunder of ancestral lands by railroading the Charter Change.
She pointed out that the proposed provision that entails 100% foreign ownership of multinational corporations will lead to expansion of destructive mining and energy projects in ancestral lands and displace IP communities.
Ton challenge her fellow Igorot youth “to maximize all venues to engage and act upon pressing issues” and “live and imbibe the tradition of unity and courage” of their/our ancestors to advance the struggle for the defense of land, life and honor. # nordis.net