By JASON VERZOLA
Senator Imee Marcos’s first day in the Senate was met with controversies as she requested an Igorot cleansing ritual to be performed in her new office, which happened to be the office of former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a vocal critique of the Duterte regime.
According to the reports of several media outlets, she said: “Siguro magpapatawag ako ng mga Igorot namin dahil kailangang basbasan ang office dahil kay Sen. Trillanes yung nabunot ko…makikisayaw kami sa mga Igorot namin para mabendisyunan ng todo.” It was as if the Marcos family owns Igorot people. Progressive organizations such as the Progressive Igorots for Social Action (PIGSA) and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) condemned her words. According to their statements, the sacred rituals of the Igorots are a significant expression their traditional values and a reflection of how the Cordillera people protect their ancestral lands and natural resources as indigenous peoples, and not for giving blessings to a senator coming from a family of unapologetic murderers and plunderers. Imee’s remarks were also a blatant objectification of the Igorot culture.
What amazed me is how a few fellow Igorots defended Imee. Some argued that she was misquoted by the media, while others acknowledge that Imee actually owns the Cordillera being the number one senator in the region last May 13 elections. Others have even tagged PIGSA and CPA as “dilawans” and “communist fronts.” One commented, “There are TRUE Igorots and there are POLITICIZED Igorots.” (Politicized ones referring to the progressives). But actually, the TRUE Igorot is the POLITICIZED Igorot, and you can quote me on that! We were politicized the moment we acquired this “Igorot consciousness,” our collective social knowledge which drives us to take pride in being an Igorot, to defend our ancestral domain, and struggle for our right to self-determination.
As early as the Spanish colonial era, Igorot consciousness took shape in our forefathers’ armed resistance against the Spanish military and missionaries. In the early post-colonial years, Igorot students studying in Baguio City and Metro Manila formed organizations such as the BIBAK (Benguet-Ifugao-Bontok-Apayao- Kalinga) Association as an expression of indigenous pride. Under Martial Law, the Cordillera region became a battleground for indigenous people’s rights during the anti-Cellophil and anti-Chico Dam struggles. Our fight for genuine regional autonomy may not yet have been over, but it pushed the Cory Aquino government to form the Cordillera Administrative Region in 1987. So you see, the politicized Igorot is not that bad. Yes, we deduce politics into the violent family feud of traditional oligarchs hungry for political power, but this is the cheap and reactionary kind of politics. Politics is more than that, as the Cordillera history of people’s struggles had shown us.
Imee’s words were interpreted in many ways. Maybe she actually owns some Igorots, maybe she does not. Maybe she was being racist, maybe she was not. But we are all missing the point. IMEE MARCOS DOES NOT DESERVE THE BLESSING FROM THE SPIRITS OF OUR ANCESTORS. How can we forget the Cellophil project, which nearly exhausted our forests? How can we forget the Chico Dam project, which nearly displaced thousands of Kalinga and Bontok people, submerge their communities, and destroy their fields? How can we forget the murder of Macliing Dulag, the attempted murder of Pedro Dungoc, the Beew Massacre, and thousands of human rights violations in the Cordillera under Martial Law? With your sins, we can never give you any cleansing ritual. # nordis.net