All That Fits: Identity and resistance


August 9, 2018. So we are standing under the rain in the middle of Malcolm Square, Baguio City. My feet and knees are starting to ache from the cold (kasi saanak nga naglana iti kadadaras ko a rumuar idi agsapa—sign of aging, no doubt) and I underestimated the rainfall, thus I neglected to bring my rubber boots. I try to be still under my umbrella to prevent more exposure to the rain, but it is inevitable when I applaud the speakers. Speakers whose messages and songs made me forget the cold and rain for a while by the urgency of their messages.

Evelyn Miranda is unforgettable as she opens her speech with the confirmation that real indigenous peoples do not fear the rain, thus the program and parade on World Indigenous Peoples Day despite the rain (saan kami nga matunaw). She points out the urgency of having the IPMR of Baguio be seated as such, to take on his duties and responsibilities.

And there is a young indigenous Ayangan who goes by the name BJ, who narrated of the human rights situation in his beloved Ifugao, how local leaders like William Bugatti and Ricardo Mayumi fell victims to extrajucidial killings, when their only acts have been of service to their communities as activists. He enjoined the public to participate in the program and to enjoy the rain, this being a blessing. BJ was among the youth leaders of the Cordillera who participated in the Lakbayan, and I must say that it is uplifting to see indigenous youth in the activist movement in their home provinces and the rest of the Cordillera. Haggiyo.

The World IP Day celebration is Baguio is international and national in nature. We are honored with the presence and solidarity of indigenous youth from Taiwan coming from Shih Hsin University who are participating in the LIMA program of their school. LIMA is the cultural exchange of indigenous youth of Taiwan and the Cordillera facilitated by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. The indigenous youth of Taiwan now directly partner with the Cordillera Youth Center (CYC) and Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (DKK) for this program. Lima means hand or five in the language of our counterparts in Taiwan—very much so like ours, and it also means working together. “We are here to lima with you” says Jocelyn as gives the group’s message during the program.

Many of these indigenous youth—even outside the LIMA program— have been participating as well in Cordillera Day celebrations every April, with each act of solidarity a surprise for us—they are very good singers, they can summon the rain. They are also very strong—they can toss you high while seated in a chair as an act of solidarity while they are chanting. I will not forget Cordillera Day 2017 in Bolo, Kalinga for this.

We are also honored with the presence and solidarity of our counterparts from Mindanao and Panay, with the Lumad and Tumandok representatives who enriched the program with how they are responding to the struggles they face. What astounds me is the courage of the Lumad in the face of the unending travails because of State terrorism. This was very clear in the speech of our Lumad sister who faces 17 trumped-up charges filed against her by the military. This was very clear in the indigenous chant of Lumad woman leader Lita Danyan, whose voice to me was both beautiful and chilling. Chilling because I felt her every anguish in every note. She is the sister of EJK victim Datu Victor Danyan of Lake Sebu.

Innabuyog leader Audrey Corce is right to be enraged at the injustice of the regime and the misogyny of the president against women, especially indigenous women. She is right to challenge her fellow women to be active in the organised resistance of women against State terrorism.

In the end, elder-activist Abi Battawang reminds indigenous youth that land is life. Ti daga ket biag, and that the youth must follow in the footsteps of our ancestors to defend land and life. He is right to say that material riches mean nothing if we do not defend our lands from plunder and exploitation.

So World Indigenous Peoples’ Day, rain or shine, tells us that is not only a day to be beautiful in our attires, to dance to our instruments or sing in our voices. With the pressing issues globally, nationally and locally that affect indigenous peoples, World IP Day is right to be a day of struggle, a day of resistance, a day of asserting indigenous identity. Much so in the way that the people’s Cordillera Day every April 24 is a day of struggle. #


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