April 27, 2010 in Featured
By ALMA SINUMLAG
Today marks the 26th year of Cordillera Day commemorations. I remember the day I started to be a part of the peoples movement.
It all started with a song. Yes, a song I heard playing on my lolo’s cassette entitled, “Saludsud ni Ading”. It talked about how the environment was being destroyed and who were the perpetrators. I was then a carefree high school student. The only social issues I knew of then were about corruption and poverty.
My lolo was an activist who fought along with Ama Macli-ing Dulag against the IMF-WB funded Chico River Dam during the Marcos regime. He said the artists who sang the song were members of Salidummay.
A cultural group singing for the Defense of cultural heritage. According to him, they were the group who put the Chico Dam struggle into songs. I became curious about the singing group because I was awestruck by their voices, songs accompanied by indigenous instruments and most of all, the song had a strong message.
I was a new high school graduate when my grandpa invited me to attend the Cordillera day 2005 in Abra. I was persuaded because he told me that Salidummay would be performing. Days before, I anticipated meeting them personally that I was so happy seeing them in concert the night of April 23. I was told that their center was in Baguio and they conduct cultural workshops not only Cordillera wide but worldwide. I became more interested and enrolled for college in Baguio City.
I visited their center sometime in 2006 and discovered that Salidummay was a member of a larger group, the Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (DKK). DKK is an alliance of cultural groups that are united in the cause to defend the rights of indigenous peoples over their land, life and resources through cultural forms.
Aside from Salidummay, were: Binhi, a group of progressive singers in Baguio; Artista ti Kordilyera para iti Waya-waya (ARKIW), a group of visual artists; Kulturati, a student cultural group based in Saint Louis University; Sheng-nget, formerly known as the Anti Open-pit Mining Kids in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet; Tambulian, a theatre group for high school students.
Tanghalang Bayan ng Kabataan sa Baguio, (TABAK-Baguio) a group dominated by students of the University of the Philippines-Baguio (UP-B) who are non-Cordillerans but are advocates of indigenous peoples’ rights; Tan-aw Multi-Media Collective (TMC), a group producing educational documentaries about Cordilleran issues.
Their video productions include: “Toxic Gold” that tackles the grave effects of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) to the land, air, water and to the health and livelihood of people living along the Abra River; and, “That the Mountains may Chant the Truth”, about militarization and political killings in the Cordillera. Lastly, “the Sayote Republic” a group of alternative and reggae singers.
Who said that theater’s main purpose is simply to entertain? With DKK, you are not only entertained by the productions but most especially, you will learn of the issues and the stories of the indigenous peoples and other marginalized sectors of our society.
I became a part of one of their major productions during the Cordillera Day 2007 held here in Baguio. I did not only learn the art of theater but throughout the production I learned a lot about the commercialization of Cordilleran culture through festivals, and the role of the GATT-WTO in food insufficiency.
DKK writes scripts that are based on realities in the Cordillera communities. Starkly reflected in the play “Panagsubli”, is the story of a people driven from their village by bombs and militarization. Based on the true story of the Marag Valley bombing, in Apayao in 1988.
The “Untold Story of Gatan”, a major production during the Cordillera day in Abra in 2008 traced out the connection of mining operations and militarization in the Cordillera. They acted out why militarization is always found in areas identified by corporate mining interests.
The recognition of the United Nations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 has inspired the DKK to come up with a production entitled “Live and Let Live — the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)”. I had come to know that the Cordillera people are not alone in the fight for their rights because the issues of Igorots are issues of all indigenous peoples in the entire planet.
Aside from IP issues, DKK also produces plays on the issues of students, women, workers, farmers and urban poor. Lately, TABAK-Baguio mounted an adapted play about women entitled “Tatlong Maria.”
My participation in theater production has not only enriched my knowledge but I am happy to have become a channel in educating the broader masses.
Visual Arts for the People
Visual art is said to be art for arts’ sake. But DKK proved it otherwise. Theirs is art from the people and for the people. ARKIW has made murals and paintings that reflected peoples struggles. They make the plays realistic by making the necessary props for the stage.
Now, in a cultural exchange with the Talaandig artists of Bukidnon, who popularized “soil painting” using soil as paint. Aside from its being affordable and readily available, it is also earth friendly.
DKK conducts and has conducted workshops to help in debriefing children, youths, and young adults who are traumatized by militarization, and other disasters. They believe that art is an extension of human emotion thus, through painting, people can release their negative emotions.
An Art of Continuing Peoples Struggle
“Until our rights to self determination is recognized, the struggle will not end.” A quote from the Markus Bangit we are holding on to inspire us. DKK will continue to exist until the struggle we, the marginalized will get what is due. DKK is existing because of the art of continuing peoples struggle for change.# nordis.net