2nd Igorot European Consultation
29 May-1 June 2003
Overview of the Consultation Preparations and Proceedings
By Yvonne Belen
During the first “Assembly of Cordillera People in Europe” (ACPE) held in Gent, Belgium in April 2002, which was hosted by the Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel), the participants decided, among others, to meet again in 2003. An odd year was chosen considering that the Igorot International Consultations are usually held on an even year.
The participants set the objectives of the next activity and nominated the Igorot Organization-Austria (IGO-Austria) as the host. In principle, Patrick Bounggick, Sr., president of IGO-Austria, accepted the nomination but had to refer the matter to the organization’s members.
Meanwhile, some participants planned to attend the IIC-4 in London in June 2002 and they decided to have a meeting there. During the caucus, Patrick Bounggick, Sr. said that IGO-Austria agreed to host 2003 Igorot Europewide activity. Due to lack of financial resources, it was proposed that the planning would be done through electronic mail. Alfredo Labfayong volunteered to open a group electronic mail account and moderate it.
Communications among the Igorot residents in Europe to plan for the activity began in July 2003. Alfredo Labfayong suggested the theme: “Integration of the Igorot Identity into the Mainstream (European) Community.” The topics to be discussed would be mixed marriages and second generation Igorots. Ric Cuyob suggested that a background of the 2003 activity should be written.
Severino (Rhino) Oblas proposed a topic on Igorot beliefs and home rituals. The writer suggested if someone could talk about Igorot women and requested Maria Cristina (Mia) Apolinar-Abeya to be the speaker. Cristabel Olat-Bounggick asked if it was possible to include Igorot values. She was also requested to look for a speaker. The subjects on Beliefs and Home Rituals of Benguet, Igorot women, and Igorot values would later become the topics for the panel discussion.
Patrick Bounggick, Sr. was requested to give the opening remarks (oggayam) while Stone Pooten and Peter Agnaonao would give the opening and closing prayer, respectively.
One consultation objective was to enable to Igorots in Europe to have a cultural exchange. From the communications, it was turning out that many were interested on the topic of Igorot culture. So the theme, “Our Cordillera People’s Culture: Our Heritage,” was suggested. It was proposed that Rex Botengan, president of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO), would moderate the panel discussion. This, aside from giving the “Story of the IGO.” Later, he was requested to give the keynote address. He agreed after his physician gave him the go-signal to travel. However, he declined to moderate the panel discussion and suggested that somebody else should do it.
The second objective was to know the conditions of Igorot migrants in Europe. To fulfill this objective, talks on the situation of migrants in Europe and bicultural marriage, and workshops were planned. The talks would provide the background for some of the workshops. Conchita Pooten agreed to put down some points on the Cordillera migrants’ situation and she requested to focus on aging migrants. Lolit Hafner accepted to write an article on the challenges in a bicultural marriage. Four workshop topics were proposed: migrants’ situation, aging migrants, bicultural marriage and second generation. Different organizations were requested to convene the workshops.
The third objective was to address the issues of the second generation and a workshop was allotted for them. Meanwhile, IGO-Austria suggested that the name of the activity would be “Igorot European Consultation.”
There was a request to have an update on the IIC-5 to be held in St. Louis, Missouri in 2004. Edwin Abeya, Chair of the IIC-5 Planning Committee, was invited to give the update. However due to a previous commitment, he would be unable to attend. He tasked his daughter, Nicole Lani Abeya-Barnabas, to represent him.
Edmund Sr. Bugnosen was invited to moderate the panel discussion. He also prepared a paper on “Igorot Values.” Since he would be unable to come, he sent his article, which is included in the appendix.
Ambassador Victor G. Garcia III, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Austria and Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Austria, was invited to deliver a message.
By the time the talks were lined up, the workshops planned, and plenary sessions scheduled, there was a full program. And the details of the cultural night, which was called “Igorot Night,” still had to be included. IGO-Austria planned to have a cultural performance, Kanyaw Babayas. The country participants had to prepare their cultural presentations.
The Igorot organizations, associations or individuals present during the ACPE were encouraged to invite other Igorots they knew. Igorots in France, Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden were invited but they were unable to go.
Meanwhile, IGO-Austria formed different committees, which were: Program, Physical arrangements, Registration, Outing and Socials, and Finance. Cristabel Olat-Bounggick was the overall Chair.
The program planning was all done by electronic mail except in instances when telephone calls were needed a few days before the Consultation.
Four days before the Consultation, Janet Botengan wrote that she and Rex would be unable to attend. Rex’s physician strongly advised against his travel. Rex Botengan expressed his apologies several times and wished the participants the best.
The participating organizations were: Igorot Association - Austria (IGO-Austria), Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel), BIBAK Ireland, BIBAK Switzerland, Igorot UK, and BIMAK DC.
There were 102 participants who attended, of which 71 belonged to the first generation, 19 were second generation Igorots and 12 were supporters.
The breakdown of the participants was:
1st generation 2nd Supporters
Austria (IGO-Austria) 34 11 4
Belgium (Cordi-Bel) 7 3
Germany 3 1 1
Ireland (BIBAK Ireland) 4
The Netherlands 2
The Philippines 1
Switzerland (BIBAK Switzerland) 12 4
United Kingdom (Igorot-UK) 10 1
U.S.A. (BIMAK DC) 1 1
On the first day, the host organization, IGO-Austria, welcomed the participants with a program. The participants briefly introduced themselves. As background to the Consultation, Susan Kilakil read the paper on “How the Idea of Gathering Cordillerans/Igorots Came About” prepared by Cordi-Bel. Lani Abeya-Barnabas closed the evening with an update on the IIC-5.
From among the participants, a documentation committee was set up and added to the committees formed by IGO-Austria.
On the morning of the second day, Stone Pooten said the opening prayer. Then His Excellency Victor G. Garcia III, Ambassador to Austria gave a message. Patrick Bounggick, Sr. followed with a chant of his opening remarks (oggayam). Linda Khensay, president of Igorot-UK, read the keynote address of Rex Botengan. The panel discussion followed with Severino Oblas speaking on “Rituals and Home Beliefs of Benguet,” Maria Cristina Apolinar-Abeya, on “Role of Women Among the Igorots” and Hilda Bounggick on “Igorot Values.” Questions like, “What rituals or values do you want to be preserved?” and “What is it in our culture that we want to pass on to our children?” were partially answered.
In the afternoon, there were workshops on: Cordillera Migrants’ Situation in Europe, Second Generation, Bicultural Marriage and Aging Migrants. During the plenary session, the reporters read their workshop summary and recommendations.
In order to encourage the participants to assemble before the sessions, the men would play the gongs and the women danced. Stone Pooten taught the delegates the song “Enta Baw” and how it should be properly sang with two columns facing each other, each column taking turns singing the stanzas and stepping backward and forward while singing. As intermissions, there were violin and modern dance performances.
Everyone was already looking forward to the Igorot Night. All the women and most of the men participants were in their costume. The gongs were more than enough. Aside from the set of gongs of IGO-Austria, the delegates from Switzerland also brought their own set. IGO-Austria performed a Kanyaw-Babayas, an Igorot traditional wedding ceremony. The participants from each country in Europe were called on to give their cultural performance.
On the morning of the last day, Saturday, Marylin Bradfer gave a summary of the Friday morning’s activities. During the plenary session, the following subjects were taken up: recommendations from the workshop reports; name of our group and whether we will organize and make our bylaws; and plans for the next activity. The delegates decided on the name: Igorot Cordillera (BIMAAK)-Europe. On the formation of a Europewide Igorot organization, they thought it was too early to do this. It was mentioned that while there is no organization on a Europewide level, the Igorots are encouraged to form their group or association in their country of work and/or residence.
Meanwhile, BIBAK Switzerland was nominated and agreed to host the 2005 activity. A member of their organization, Fred Labfayong, moderated the discussion on the plans for 2005. After the words of thanks, Peter Agnaonao gave the closing prayer.
In the afternoon, the participants went sightseeing. They went through the Wiener wald or Vienna forest then up to the mountain until they reached Kahlenberg. Here they had a panoramic view of the city of Vienna and the river Danube. Then they visited the palaces - Schonbrunn and Belvedere. The day was capped with a Thanksgiving Party sponsored by the Olat-Bounggick family. It was also a surprise party for Cristabel Olat-Bounggick who was celebrating her 50th birthday anniversary.
The delegates went their separate ways on Sunday, 1 June. Many went home, others stayed for more sightseeing, and a few went camping to a mountain resort in Austria. Many Igorots in Europe will remember the Ascension weekend of 2003. They were happy with the thought that they have come together and will see each other again in 2005.