A People’s Agenda on indigenous people’s issues and urgent concerns highlighted the successful decentralized celebrations of this year’s Cordillera Day celebrations led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the following: Baguio City for the Baguio-Benguet cluster, Tabuk City for the Kalinga-Apayao cluster; Lamut, Ifugao; Bauko, Mountain Province and Dolores, Abra.
The People’s Agenda outlined lobby and advocacy concerns of Cordillera communities which was presented as a challenge to candidates and partylists vying for seats in the upcoming May 9 elections. Invited candidates responded positively with commitment to include the said concerns in their respective electoral platform. Among the urgent issues include destructive mining and energy projects, human rights, good governance and agricultural liberalization.
The 2016 Cordillera Day celebration was an outpouring of support for senatorial candidate and fighter ng bayan Atty. Neri Colmenares.
A total of 2500 delegates participated in the decentralized celebrations, including delegates from Mindanao, National Capital Region (NCR), Canada, Netherlands and Japan.
Compatriots and advocates of indigenous peoples in Hong Kong likewise organized a successful celebration in April 24, 2016.
Respected leaders and defenders of human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights such as Joanna Cariño and The Rev. Rex Reyes Jr. served as keynote speakers, specifically in Baguio City and Mountain Province, respectively. Cariño, a CPA pioneer, is a human rights defender and survivor of the Marcos dictatorship. She continues to serve as an active leader of CPA through its Advisory Council. Rev. Rex Reyes is the secretary general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), staunch human rights defender and church leader. On other celebrations in Ifugao and Abra, Rhoda Rivera of CPA and Vernie Diano, Executive Director, Cordillera Women’s Action and Education and Research Center, served as keynote speakers. Rivera is a long time champion of indigenous people’s rights while Diano is a staunch defender of women’s rights.
Cultural presentations were abound in all the celebrations, conveying messages and challenges to the delegates coming from different sectors and communities.
“Thirty two years of celebrating Cordillera Day well proves, and beyond doubt, its continuing relevance. This is in spite of the many challenges in the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ movement and the difficult times CPA braved,” said CPA secretary general Abigail B. Anongos.
In conclusion, Anongos said that “Cordillera Day carries with it the historical advances of the mass movement for self-determination and national democracy at the same time affirming the principles and struggles for defense of the ancestral domain, self -determination and pursues what the Cordillera martyrs and heroes fought for.”