The 8TH ICBE Consultation in Vienna A Celebration of Culture and Integration

Written by Grace Nabus on .

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Austria’s capital was made more colorful as the the biennial event,  Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) unfurled the Igorot banner on  its 8th consultation event on the 13th to 16th of August 2015 at the Ibis Hotel, Mariahilf, Vienna, the city of music.

The summer in Austria’s spectacular capital provided  a fitting background as the ICBE,   hosted by Igorot Austria Cordillera found home at the heart of Vienna for the second time. In 2003, the  the Igorot European Consultation (IEC) held its  second consultation event  in Vienna with the theme ‘Our Cordillera People’s Culture: Our Heritage”. The IEC then evolved to ICBE shortly afterwards.

The 8th ICBE’s theme  “Appreciating Ifugao (People, Land and Culture) in the Philippine Cordillera and Highlighting Experiences on Integration in Europe” gave direction and structure to the 4 day consultation event.

The Opening Program on the 13th August saw about 70 participants from different Igorot Organisations around the globe- Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, USA, Philippines, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Italy ,Austria and Canada gather to welcome each other and to set the quality and character of the next few days. A relaxed ambience was made possible by Mr Rick Kilongan of BIBAK Switzerland as he entertained with popular songs of our youth.

14th August 2015. A most informative and fruitful day. The participants paid homage to a great Igorot song as the second day begun with the singing of Nanlayad Nan Likatan, a beautiful love song from Bontoc.  The participants also indulged in Ifugao Culture as the Keynote address from Ifugao State University’s Presdent Serafin Ngohayon was read by Igorot UK’s Herminia Teh-op, a native of Ifugao.  The presentation explained the Ifugao people, their qualities and culture, the origins of GOTAD and how the hard working, ingenious  Ifugao people created the rice terraces with their bare hands, with little or no tools and  which sustained life for 2000 years. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, there are 5 clusters of rice terraces found in Kiangan, Batad, Hungduan, Central Mayoyao and Bangaan (Banaue) protected and considered a living cultural landscape. It is indeed, a world Engineering masterpiece, an Igorot pride all throughout. Current issues that threaten their  survival was also discussed  like erosion, urbanization, problems with watershed and modernization. Ms Teh-op continued standing in for the expert speakers, as she presented their paper- the Ifugao Dances Context, Symbols and Meanings. Regrettably, the guest speakers, all experts in Ifugao culture from Ifugao State University were sorely missed during the event as they were met with visa problems for this year’s consultation. Nevertheless, we all anticipate their attendance in future ICBE consultations.

Second Generation Igorot speakers, Averil Pooten-Watan, Chico Taguba and Hilda Alingcao tackled a very significant subject on Igorot Integration in a foreign land and the experiences as second generation igorots, being born and / or bred ‘abroad’.  In their heart warming speeches, they described their experiences, realizing how their being an “Igorot” meant being distinguishable from other Filipinos, their struggles to feel a sense of belongingness- to integrate, their stories  often brimmed with tales of discrimination and how they have overcomed challenging situations. Chico’s ‘Integration is a Choice’ statement was catchy and interesting as he declared his views that one chooses where one integrates into. Helen’s experiences on labelling and language barriers echoed the sentiments of many participants. Averil’s reflection about her young self, finding her culture within herself and how she has evolved into a modern second generation Igorot was honest and is a present-day fact of life on how the Igorot culture can be passed on to future generations.

The participants were divided into groups and were led into lively discussions about “Highlighting Experiences on Integration”. Moderator Laura Baeyens of Cordi-Bel led the plenary session as the groups read their reports on Igorot Integration. As a summary, everyone agreed that as Igorots abroad, we play an important role into mothering our second generation Igorots into ‘Igorot Ways’ as they also play an important role in the survival of our culture in the modern world. Very appropriate words indeed as the 8th ICBE participants also include many children  as young as 11 months old.

Also, the participants adopted a resolution on maximizing the overseas absentee voting law as an instrument for Filipinos abroad to impact on good governance and democracy in thePhilippines. The petition urging the Philippine Congress to repeal the Republic Act 7942 or Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and enact a patriotic, pro-indigenous peoples, pro-environment and responsible mining bill was presented to and adapted by  the group. These activities were enough proof that the ICBE consultation is more that just your average Cultural gathering – it has a very good purpose and can be movers for important changes. Igorot Global Organisation’s (IGO) Vice President Patrick Mc Donough ended the day with an update on the IGO  and an invite to attend the IGO’s IIC in Bontoc Mt Province in April 2016.

The participants went on to a Vienna by Night Tour organized by the host organization. What a treat after a lengthy but fruitful discussions in the morning. The tour guide provided a historical account of Vienna’s stunning scenery and architecture and the people that lived and shaped their culture. A truly unforgettable experience for everyone, and enough encouragement to come back and explore Vienna some more.

15th August 2015. Pfarre Akkonplatz. A lighter day was expected  as the participants were notably more relaxed, perhaps due to the uplifting tour of  vienna the previous night, or the anticipation for the cultural night. Mark Watan proved to be such an expert in Igorot gongs and dances as he led the cultural workshops. The different Igorot tribes’ distinct sound and dance moves came to life in his expert hands. The general impression for the cultural workshop is that it needs a longer and a more regular session so Igorots, specially the younger generation can truly learn to play the gongs. Hats off to Mark and other ‘experts’ in Igorot gongs for sharing their skills and knowledge.

Presenting the paper on Ifugao Rituals, Symbols and Meanings was Ms Fely Ananayo of Igorot UK, also from Ifugao who presented like an expert as she stood in for the ISU professors. IGO’s Vice President Patrick McDonough also presented  the Global Igorot Nation Concept. A befitting thought of our times as more and more Igorots live and settle away from the Cordillera Mountains and into different parts of the Philippines and the world. Potlick’s presentation paid tribute to the different Igorot organisations all over the world, that these ‘little communities/ villages’ of Igorots gather together wherever they may be and form a part of what he calls the Global Igorot Nation, and that the Igorot culture can be seen not only in the dances the gongs or the ‘attire’ but we can also see it in butchering of a pig, the community spirit of an Igorot gathering, that we shouldn’t let little pieces of our culture fall to the wayside. And that we are stronger as a group (in Unity there is strength).

The day culminated in an Igorot Cordillera European Cultural Night where the Igorots were seen in their best element, donning their cultural attire, dancing and beating the gongs of our ancestors. The 39 degree summer heat didn’t deter as the number of participants swelled to about 150- more Igorots from Austria came and more participants from Italy came to celebrate the night. Philippine Ambassador to Austria Zenaida Angara-Collinson also graced the event and gave an inspirational talk. The sound of the Igorot gongs was in a stark contrast to the classical waltz, made popular in Vienna and  the Igorot gongs never sounded better as the different countries proudly entertained with their Igorot dances and songs. The term Igorot by heart befit to describe BIBAK Germany’s presentation of a german song of peace and tranquility by Mrs Mechteld Oblas, garbed in traditional Benguet wear and also of  by Guiseppe Forte of Cordillerans in Italy Bologna and Modena, who sang in the Igorot dialect, to the delight of the audience- both are spouses of proud igorots. The highlight of the night was not only the announcement that the  9th ICBE consultation will be held in Rome, but also the presentation of the second generation of Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena. Their stunning interpretation of  the war dance was coupled by the Sakuting, equally impressive was the fact that one of them, a very young Igorot choreographed it.

16th August 2015. A day of Worship and Reflection. It was a Sunday, and it started with a worship led by Pastora Virginia Magalgalit, a gentle eloquent participant from Ulnos di Mountain Province Rome. A financial report  followed by Igorot Austria Cordillera’s treasurer Judy La Pena, and also a concluding statement by Mr Cesar Taguba on the success and achievements of the 8th ICBE consultation.

The afternoon was spent with a relaxing picnic along the banks of the great River Danube where the participants were serenaded by an impromptu performance by Mr Rick Kilongan on the guitar. The afternoon was made better as everyone mingled with each other resulting in meeting new friends with a promise of seeing each other again in future Igorot events and activities.

17th August 2015. A day of leisure. The rainy start of the day didn’t dampen the spirits of the participants as they boarded a coach to Salzburg, the historic setting of the popular musical ‘The Sound of Music’. The spectacular views of Austria’s country side was prominent throughout the travel and the stop over was full of Austria’s culture, even staff in the stop over shop  were dressed in their traditional clothes and the products on display were distinctively true to Austria’s German influence. That day, the city of Salzburg was swamped with light rain but it remained beautiful…. exquisite. The familiar sights and sounds of the famous musical did excite the senses. A tour to the Salt Mines gave a glimpse of the world of local miners who worked there for centuries. It was impressive, educational and gives one a sense of adventure, being below ground with low temperatures. It certainly was a tour best experienced with all your senses.

On Sunday, the 16th of August, when the ICBE drew to a close, one could feel a sense or satisfaction, a sense of pride that this ICBE consultation ended with more hopes for the future. And yet, there is also that sense of longing, a hunger for culture that only an event like the ICBE can satisfy. And so as we continue to integrate into the modern world, we can’t wait to show off the Igorot Culture on such a grand scale….. so roll on the 9th ICBE in Rome.

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