By Padi REX RB REYES, JR., General Secretary VII, National Council of Churches in the Philippines

April 22, 2016. Cordillera Day 2016, Tapapan, Bauko, Mountain Province


I thank the organizers for inviting me to this year’s celebration. To give me a task I think was to ensure that I will be here as I have not been regular in attending Cordi Day much as I would like to. The last one I attended was in 2014 in Pasil, Kalinga. Even so, it is good happy to be here with you, kakailyan ay i-Montanosa.

Kablaaw kadaguiti amin nga delegado, kakabsat ida, nga naggapu iti dadduma nga munisipyo iti daytoy nga probinsya, ken kadaguiti bisita tayo nga immay nga makipagmaymaysa kadatayo,  aggapu iti numo nga biyang ken iti nagan ti National Council of Churches in the Philippines daguiti sanngapulo nga denominasyon nga miembro na ken siyam nga associate members. Iti pagilian tayo, ti United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Episcopal Church in the Philippines ken ti Lutheran Church ti miembro iti daytoy makunkuna nga Konseho. Nangnangruna iti trabahon ti NCCP iti panaka itag-ay ti hustisya ken kapya iti ili tayo nga Pilipinas ket daytoy numo nga biyang ti umuna nga Igorot wenno indigenous person nga mangidaulo iti daytoy nga konseho nga addaan iti limpulo ket talo nga tawenen nga pakaistoryaan.

This year’s celebration of Cordillera Day shall be remembered for two reasons that do not usually mark our annual celebrations.

First, we are still mourning the passing away of one of the founding figures of the Cordillera People’s Alliance. Padi Eduardo Solang, (1940-2016). Ordained minister since 1971, he served in Poblacion, Lubon, and Sunny Side all in Tadian and in Abatan, Otucan, Cagubatan and Pandayan all in Bauko.  I believe much has been said about his work and his legacy in the defense of land and the responsibility of indigenous people to persevere in that task. Umanay nga nanayunan ti tured ken namnama tayo iti inpakita na daytoy nga padi. Thank you very much to Helen Solang nee Bilagol, and their children Elizabeth, Benedict, Theodore, Eduardo Jr. and Adele for sharing your father to be father and pangat to us all.

We have the legacy and spirit of Macliing Dulag and many other generations of Igorots before him, most of them unknown to us, who have resisted Spanish colonial rule. Adda daguiti saan mga mamati iti kintarakin ti Igorot ket kunada nga resultatayo iti makunkuna nga mixed marriages idi damdamo na pay-laeng. Adday pay lumabes ket kunada daguiti dadduma ket puli ti puraw. To this very day, they cannot believe that we are “wonderfully and fearfully made” (“ako’y nagpapasalamat sa iyo spagkat ang pagkagawa mo sa akin ay kakilakilabot at kamanghamangha) (Psalm 139.14). So much so that instead of calling us by our names they call as with names associated with something else, a kas kuma iti “Carrot Man”. Adda latta iti pananglalait ken pangirurumen. We are not animals, we are not vegetables, we are human beings. We are the originals!

We have the legacy of Atty. William Claver, Mr. Daniel Ngayaan, and now Padi Solang who were midwives in the ushering in of the continuing struggle for self-determination and genuine independence for the whole country. We also have the legacy of Jean Macliing,  Marcus Bangit, and William Bugatti, who to the very end stood unyielding to the reactionaries who would prefer us to be uninformed and in bondage. We have the legacy of the many other women and men who have resisted in recent decades. Sapay la kuma a ta umado met daguiti sumarsaruno kadakuada kadaguitoy nga henerasyon. Ket no makitak daguita young people nga simmarungkar ditoy, maragsakanak. Dumakdakel ti namnama.

So you see, our struggle was not just born two or three decades ago. It has a history, just as the continuing oppression of indigenous peoples and the rest of the majority of the people in this country has a history. This is why we need to understand our history to make sense of what is happening today and make things right. Kas kinuna ti maysa nga masirib: “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are bound to repeat it.” There is truth to this. One of my professors in seminary who loved the Igorots and wrote passionately about the militant struggle of the Igorots was Dr. William Henry Scott. Many times in his retirement home in Lattang, Sagada we would spend long evening conversations on how some of us refuse to learn from history and no wonder, keep on committing the same mistakes – making our marginalization and oppression seemingly perpetual. Adal, adal, adal latta ti tulbek tapno maawatan no apay nga kastoy ti kasasaad tayo ken tapno entay maamuan ti wagas nga dalan ken rekurso. No kunatayo nga baknang iti natural resources iti pagilian tayo, apay ngarud nga adu ti marigrigat ken napanglaw no saan ketdin nga datayo ti maysa kadaguiti marigrigat ken napanglaw nga paglian iti entero a lubong? Daguiti agkulang iti adal ken panag-amiris iti nauneg wenno ramot ti panagrigigat tayo, kunada inak-aktibista sa! Wenno ketno komyunista od dasa! Saludludsoden tayo iti bagi tayo no apay nga manu nga tawenen keta wan met pagbaliwanna to sitwasyon tayo. Ti panag-adal ken panag kaykaysa ti umili ti epektibo nga dalan nga agturong ito alternatibo nga kasasaad.

Second, this year is a national election year.  How do we measure our candidates? We have experienced and continue to experience the suppression of the right to self-determination, the militarization of many areas, the closure and burning of schools in Lumadland, the killings of indigenous peoples, bakwit, the vilification of churches in solidarity with the Lumads and indigenous peoples. Add to these the unnecessary deaths of 44 SAF (more than ten of which are from the Cordillera) and people in Mindanao, the insensitive if not pathetic government response to the survivors of natural disasters, commercialized education, rising cost of commodities, the increasing forced migration to other countries with no jobs or low-paying jobs here, corruption and a horrible bureaucracy.  All of these are documented and not merely hearsay. We have seen the people who have experienced these. We are experiencing these.

We see great leaps in advocacy and the fight for rights, – the Manilakabayan of the Lumads in October last year, the Lumad and farmer demonstration in Kidawan, North Cotabato, last month. Daguiti mangibagbaga nga nabayadan daguitoy no saan adda mangidurduron kadakuada nga aggunay. Adda ti mangidurduron nga talaga – bisin kin ti kinakurang iti hustisya. Saan nga ugalin ti katutubo ti agpabaybayad para ilabanna ti kalinteganna!

Iti bilang iti NCCP, nangnangruna ti nalaing nga botante. Daytoy nga kinala-ing ket nakasanggir iti agpaysu nga pagsaayaatan iti sapasap. Iti English, a wise voter is one who desires change for the better and not just about changing the faces of those who run a system that is oppressive, rotten and anti-people. It stands on our indigenous spirituality, our religious faith and our responsible citizenship. This is the essence of the politics of change. Ket kadaguiti ada plano da nga agkandidato alaen da nga obligasyon iti agpaysu nga panagserbisyo ken ragragipenda nga adda sungsungbatanda iti tattao a saan laeng nga diskurso wenno pangako nga napako sa krus a kanayon. Saan pulos nga nag-ungar. To be sure, saan nga masolbar ti eleksyon ti amin nga sangsanguentayo nga problema wenno parikut iti agdama. Ngem dakkel ti maitulong na daytoy iti panakaiwayat ti solusyon no la ketdi taginayunen ken itag-ay tayo ti politics of change.

Biruken tayo ti kandidato nga mangisakit ken agserbi kadatayo, saan nga didiay nalatak nga kuwarta. We cannot be at the losing end all the time. At least in our local areas, we remember the promises of our candidates and get them to task when they win. Voting does not end in the elections. It finds its meaning when we are vigilant that campaign promises for the common good are fulfilled.

For now, let me offer the following primary considerations

Justice (kinalinteg). Land reform, just wages and job security, housing education, health care, equal opportunities and implementation of laws for the protection of women, respect for LGBT, respect and uphold self-determination of indigenous peoples

Peace (kappia). Principled peace negotiations must continue and the agreement on the respect of human rights and humanitarian law sustained. Awan kuma ti counter-insurgency plan ken maikkan ti hustisya amin daguiti biktima ken daguiti nangbiktima. Sapay la kuma ta saan nga aramiden ti Army nga barracks daguiti eskwelaan, barangay centers ken dap-ay tayo.

Righteousness (kinaimbag, kinagawis). Good and transparent governance; track record; commitment to the marginalized, against political dynasties, political integrity, not using force, cheating and intimidation, vote-buying to win, a genuine concern for the environment and the preservation of the ecological system.

Umanay nan tolo ay naayda. Tinungo tako nan udom ay masapul mitutop. Men-tulag tako: INAYAN NAN MANGILAKLAKO IS BOTOS NA!


One of the many impacts of Cordillera Day is that many of our own fellow indigenous peoples have set a special day of observance following our example. So we have  Aeta Day, Dumagat Day, Mangyan Day, Tumandok Day, and days for the various Lumad tribes in Mindanao. It not only speaks well of the leadership of the Cordilleras in the militant and just struggle for self-determination but also encourages us in the Cordilleras never to forget that we have to see beyond ourselves – the struggle is not just for Igorots, but for all indigenous peoples in this country and not in this country alone but around the world where indigenous peoples are faced with the same kind of systemic and systematic oppression and repression simply because they are protecting the land. Indeed, many of us in the Cordilleras are engaged around the world even if we remain home-based in the Philippines. Cordillera migrant workers around the world are not to be outdone. I know of many who contribute a lot in terms of not only showcasing Cordillera culture but also advocating our aspiration for self-determination and the quest for social justice. One day, tourists or visitors will not come to our places because of “tourism”. Rather, they will come to us to seek our wisdom on how we can survive.

We need to take heed to that our critique of greed and capitalism does not creep into our communities. Communities are important reminders lest we look at profit and more lands to own as the sole definition of our relations with people and the land.