By CLAIRE MAY TUAZON
Strong culture determines a strong community, and eventually unites the whole country. Thus culture is the backbone of our society.
I view culture as a forever heritage and pride from our ancestors. And if we give life to our very own culture, surely, we will be one of the country’s prides. But have you ever known who religiously makes this culture alive?
I witnessed one of my schoolmates referring to both parents as members of the indigenous people. I was not shocked. Many students and youth, at present, are not really aware of their ethnic identity. Some even forgot their roots. This is a reality which must be addressed as early as we can.
I appreciate efforts of various groups conducting awareness campaign to awaken indigenous peoples to re-trace thier ancestral roots and re-learn their culture. Being re-learned include indigenous knowledge, traditional songs and dances, stories of alapu or ancestors, among others.
A concrete effort in cultural revival includes the Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines (HAPI) national symposium for Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs) from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao on November 12-14 at Victor Oteyza Community Arts Space (VOCAS) in Baguio City. With the theme “ Building and Upholding Indigenous Knowledge,” the gathering aimed to strengthen Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs). This is in line with the celebration making the Philippines as the Cultural Capital of Asia in the year 2010-2011.
Organized by Katrin De Guia and Kidlat Tahimik, the three-day activity include discussions, film viewing, photo art and craft workshops, and ethnic music jams and dancing. The relevance of traditional knowledge was discussed by speakers from the Lumad, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, and academicians.
Traditional or indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings, according to international NGO Tebtebba. This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, rituals and spirituality.
These unique ways of knowing are important components of the world’s cultural diversity, and provide a foundation for locally-appropriate sustainable development.
Parallel to these efforts is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) declaration on cultural heritage as critical requirement for sustainable development as spelled out in the Agenda 21 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In relation, Malanes in 2006 conducted a study on “indigenous peoples and educators biodiversity and traditional knowledge. Among his key informants were woman elder and an educator who shared the philosophy, educational tools, and activities of the Talaandig schools of living tradition in Bukidnon in Southern Philippines. The informants said “we cannot afford to let the cultures which our forebears have painstakingly preserved for us, die in our hands without passing them to the next generations,” and reiterated that “if we do, we would commit the greatest crime by killing the heritage of our past, which is the foundation of the future of our children’s generation.”
Even the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. The Declaration addresses cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language, among others. It outlaws discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them. It also ensures their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own priorities in economic, social and cultural development. The Declaration explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between States and indigenous peoples.
A keynote speaker in the VOCAS SLT seminar was Datu Victor Saway from Mindanao where he claimed that the Talaandigs pride themselves with the longest existing SLT in the Philippines. He pointed: “We need to protect, preserve and promote our cultural heritage and identity as people. We need to develop a sense of identity and cultural value among our children and youths. We need to be culturally accountable to our people and community.” # nordis.net