Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) greets and congratulates Igorot Global Organization (IGO) on the occasion of its 11th Igorot International Consultation (IIC), in Bontoc, Mountain Province from April 6-8, 2016; with the theme “Understanding Each Other, Celebrating Together”. After hopping around the globe where concentrations of the Igorot diaspora have hosted past IIC’s, as well as in IIC’s held in the Cordillera (twice in Baguio and once in Banawe); this 11th IIC has finally come home to Bontoc, capital town of the old undivided Mountain Province and geographical center of the Cordillera region.
We celebrate the coming of age of Igorots in the global arena, not only as accomplished individuals; but more so in the common identity as Igorots. That IGO came to be is testament to the assertion of Igorot identity, dignity and culture in the global Igorot diaspora. This evolved within the historical circumstance that locally here in the homeland, there is (and has been) a robust people’s movement for the defence of the ancestral domain and for self determination, of which a milestone was the launching of the Cordillera People’s Alliance here in Bontoc in June 1984. In a visit to the U.S. A. in 1986, I remember the discussions with Edwin Abeya in Maryland and with the late Rex Botengan in West Covina. We shared on the situation in the Cordillera and the Philippines then under the Marcos dictatorship, our Igorot identity and the establishment of CPA led by the late Atty. William F. Claver, nurture of Igorot culture for the diaspora who were then mostly in various BIMAK organizations and their role in homeland Cordillera concerns. The vibrancy of IGO gives substance to our Igorot particularity, even as we are by nationality also Filipino, and perhaps even citizens of our respective country of residence. As Igorot or Cordilleran, our identity shines forth and IGO track record flows for Cordillera concerns.
We should also celebrate historical points in the continuing journey, for the defence of the ancestral domain and for assertion of the right to self determination (as national minorities or indigenous people particularly as Igorots) such as: cancellation of the Chico dams that would have submerged the Chico valley and the Cellophil Resources Corporation that would have irreversibly destroyed forests and watersheds, provision in the 1987 Philippine Constitution for Regional Autonomy as appropriate political form of self determination in the Cordillera and in Mindanao, regionalization of the Cordillera (Cordillera Administrative Region-CAR), sustainable agriculture with indigenous knowledge like in organic farming and appropriate technology for village level renewable energy initiated by Cordillera NGOs, information and education to combat discrimination of Igorots and other national minorities, sustained campaign against development aggression in the form of destructive projects, active advocacy of indigenous people’s rights and human rights, and others .
But as we celebrate, let us be reminded that there is also much yet that we must collectively understand sufficiently and widely. For example, on the political issue of Regional Autonomy for the Cordillera which we aspire for, there is now assertion for Genuine Regional Autonomy (GRA) by people’s organizations led by CPA; as differentiated from other versions of Regional Autonomy but which do not sufficiently address the substance of self determination: on identity-socio-economic-political rights. And on sustainable development, there is continuing concern on development aggression by destructive mining and energy projects; as well as other so –called development initiatives that do not sufficiently involve the people thus there is no “Free, Prior and Informed Consent”, or that do not ensure sufficient benefits for people’s welfare and the common good. Through informed discourse and sharing of practice, we hope to reach essential unities on our common aspirations for our beloved Kaigorotan or Cordillera homeland. Trust that CPA will pursue its information, education, mobilization, alliance and international solidarity campaigns and advocacies to continuously advance these concerns.
Like in other CPA messages to past IIC events, the continuing challenge to the Igorot diaspora anywhere in the world; is to be informed – involved – and to try to make a difference in the Cordillera for the collective common good. Our Igorot cultural heritage which holds us together and which expresses our particularity at the national and up to the global village; will be sustained if the “fire keeps burning” in the homeland or ili, with our ancestral lands and indigenous socio political systems and social values nurtured, as well as evolved appropriately to serve both present and future generations.
Gawis obpay nan kasin sumaa (It is good to be home indeed). Welcome to all participants of this 11th IIC.
Cordillera People’s Alliance
07 April 2016