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Indigenous Filipinos gather in Ilocos

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Forty indigenous Pinoys got selected and invited to showcase their culture and traditions to the annual cultural exchange program, Katutubo Exchange, held this year in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur from 5 to 7 October to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples’ Month.

Cultural bearers from 13 indigenous communities from all over the country performed traditional dances, musical instruments, songs and chants and wore attires to better understand by the Ilocos peoples our cultural diversity as a nation and thereby revitalizing the recognition of ethnic identity and preserving cultural heritage.

Mangyan youth delegates of Occidental Mindoro perform a traditional dance during the opening program at the Laoag City Multipurpose Hall.

This year’s program, called “Akhad Eskwela Katutubo,” advanced indigenous peoples’ education, where participants have to share their indigenous cultures to students and teachers in the Ilocos provinces. This project was made possible by a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and supported by the barangay government of Casili and the city Government of laoag under the leadership of mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas.

The year 2018 marks sixth year of the program as well as the fifth anniversary of the volunteer organization Katutubo Exchange Philippines, founded by Dr. Edwin V. Antonio, with the theme “Limang taon na tuloy tuloy na pagpapalaganap ng katutubong kultura.” The first three years of the program was staged in Manila, then Sarangani and Iloilo in the years 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Dr. Antonio, founder of Katutubo Exchange Philippines, said that “the annual program Katutubo Exchange now on its sixth year continues to serve and empower indigenous young people. It is a way to make them realize their potentials especially that it’s the first time of the majority of the participants to travel outside their communities and made it far to the extreme north of the country. They were able to experience local culture and in turn shared proudly their indigenous cultural heritage to the mainstream people of Ilocos region.”

This year’s participants are the Blaan of Sarangani, Yakan of Basilan, Maguindanao of Cotabato, T’boli of South Cotabato, Panay Bukidnon of Iloilo, Tagbanwa of Palawan, Mangyan of Occidental Mindoro, Bugkalot of Nueva Vizcaya, Gaddang of Mountain Province, Ifugao of the province of Ifugao, Ibaloy of Benguet, Ayta of Bataan and Tinggian of Ilocos Norte.

Visit to the historic town of Vigan by the Katutubo Exchange 2018 delegates.

An IP pride parade on kalesa around downtown Laoag was a great welcome to the delegates. James Gonzales, adult leader of Tagbanwa group, said, “I was truly amazed to experience my very first kalesa ride with my youth delegates.” It was the first time for majority of the participants to ride on a kalesa as well to be in Ilocos.

The opening program was held at the Laoag City Multipurpose Hall with Fariñas as guest of honor and speaker while the participants performed one ethnic group after another. It was attended by students of higher institutions and Laoag City government officials and employees.

In her speech, Farinas said, “If there are things that anybody can be proud of, that would be the history, culture and tradition of every individual, regardless of human race or skin color.”

She added that “the Katutubo Exchange program serves as a significant instrument in the campaign for the promotion of indigenous cultures and people and we can learn more about and appreciate more of our Filipino heritage with a real interaction with the katutubo delegates.”

In the afternoon, the participants graced the launch of the Sentro Katutubo, the head office of KX Philippines and home of the Museo Katutubo, then proceeded to Casili Elementary School for cultural workshops for the pupils and teachers and installed the Katutubo gallery where photos of IP were put up and displayed for the students and teachers to use.

The delegation visited the Unesco World Heritage Site Paoay Church, awed by its grandeur, and rendered an evening of Philippine indigenous performances for the locals of the heritage town at the site itself.

Blaan delegates of Sarangani rode their very first calesa experience during the IP Pride Parade on Calesa around downtown of Laoag.

Day two was another interesting day for the delegates. They met and interacted with National Living Treasure Magdalena Gamayo and her weavers. A lunch program was held at the weaving center hosted by Mayor Samuel Pagdilao, Sr. with other Pinili LGU officials. At the nearby town of Nueva Era, the delegates continued showcasing and teaching their indigenous culture this time with the Tinggian community at the scenic eco-cultural park and performed a community dance.

Capping off the cultural exchange program was a visit to the historic city of Vigan, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where delegates did a flash mob and the site visitors joined in for some dance steps and snapshots. Katutubo Exchange concluded with a lecture and workshop at the National Museum Ilocos Region branch, to celebrate as well the National Museums and Galleries Month, for students, teachers, members of the media, museum personnel and other guests. Participants were awarded with certificates of participation. Adult leader Maria Seraida Caga expressed gratefulness, “The program has touched the hearts of the young katutubo delegates giving them opportunity to explore and grow with their own indigenous culture.”

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