Cordillera migrant workers celebrate Cordillera Day in Hong Kong
“Struggle for Social Justice, Land and Resources! Demand Accountability for the Displacement of our Peoples and Destruction of our Environment!”
This was the theme of the Cordillera Day Hong Kong 2015 organized by three major alliances – Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS), Cordillera Alliance (CORALL) and United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE) on Sunday, 10th of May at the Edinburgh place in Central, HK SAR.
Around one thousand migrant workers joined the parade led by the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mt. Province carrying their regional issues such as mining, militarization, and human rights violations against indigenous peoples. Other national issues were projected by non-provincial migrants’ organizations from the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL), Philippine Guradian Brotherhood, Inc., Rambak Cordillera HK-ILI, Gabriela-HK and Onjon ni Ivadoy. Spectators described the parade as the most-attended and most impressive ever in the history of Cordillera Day celebrations in Hong Kong.
The participation of Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance based in Baguio City in the Philippines, added to the significance of this year’s Cordillera Day now in its 31st year of commemoration of the death of Ama Macliing Dulag, a respected “Pangat” (chieftain) from Kalinga that was brutally killed by the Philippine Army in 1980 because of his opposition to the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project that would ultimately destroy the land and resources of the indigenous peoples in the region.
An ecumenical prayer service led by Luz Afidchao, CORALL’s vice chairperson and member of the HK Catholic Diocese Filipino Chaplaincy followed immediately after the parade. Members of the Divine Word Migrants Apostolate (DiWMA) provided the choir for the religious component of the event.
Highlights of the Cordillera Day celebration include cultural presentations from the five provinces focusing on indigenous peoples issues in the region. A traditional competition, extraordinary talents and portrayals of the historical struggle for social justice, displacement and human rights violations of the Cordillera peoples moved the audience; some caught teary-eyed witnessing brutal killings as a result of militarization.
Having watched all the cultural presentations, guest speaker Windel Bolinget focused his talk on the issues portrayed by the Cordilleran migrants. According to him, displacement and joblessness as a result of the development aggression driven by policies of the government to accede to the neoliberal policies brought by the globalization among nations are the main cause of forced migration among the indigenous peoples.
While he expressed admiration and awe at the show of pride of the Cordillerans about their cultural identity, he challenged everyone to stand for the objectives of Cordillera Day. More than just a gathering, Cordillera Day is a political statement on present realities by the militant Cordillera peoples’ movement, according to him.
“Cordillera Day carries with it the historical advances of the mass movement for self determination and national democracy. It is the affirmation of principles and struggles for defense of the ancestral domain and for self determination and pursues what the Cordillera martyrs and heroes have fought for,” Bolinget stressed.
Cordilleran migrant workers’ call for migrant rights and protection is not separate from their indigenous rights thus unity of OFWs in Hong Kong must transform into strengthening unity and solidarity towards the struggles of the Cordillera peoples with other indigenous peoples and sectors back home, at the national and international levels, according to him.
Supporting Windel Bolinget’s challenge, Bayan chairperson Eman Villanueva shared the exceptional international solidarity that migrants from all over the world extended to the campaign to Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso. Despite the reprieve in Mary Jane’s execution, continuous vigilance and pressure on the Philippine government to do their part should be exerted by the Filipino people inside and outside the country, he said.
International solidarity messages and performances were personally delivered by Migrante-Canada’s Jay-R Owatan who challenged everyone to keep the culture and tradition sacred; the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body through the Overseas Nepali Workers Association performing their folk dance; and Macau Cordillera Association.
The organizers expressed their profound gratitude to the organizations and individuals who shared their precious time to participate in the event like the judges for the parade and cultural competitions – Rey Asis from the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants. Susan Famadulan from the United Pangasinan Hong Kong, and Aura Ablin from Mindanao Federation. Likewise with the adjudicators – Mhae Longao from Filguys Association and Amber Cachero from Luzviminda Organization.
Cordillera Day HK 2015 ended with a fitting recognition and awarding of the winners: Cultural Presentation: 1st Prize: Abra , 2nd Prize: Benguet, 3rd Prize: Mt. Province. Parade -Provicincial Participants:1st Prize: Abra, 2nd Prize: Ifugao, 3rd Prize: Mt. Province; Non-Provicincial Participants: 1st Prize: UNIFIL, 2nd Prize: Onjon ni Ivadoy.
Finally, the beating of the gongs signified the forging of unity and solidarity among the Cordillerans and other Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong to continue their struggles for social justice, national patrimony and sovereignty. ***