by Dr. Yvonne Belen
“Had I known it will be this hot in London, I should not have brought my thick clothes,” said Florencio Dimog, a participant from Ifugao, Philippines, of the 6th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Conference held from the 22nd through the 25th of April 2011 at the Woodford County Hotel in London, United Kingdom. The conference theme was “Living our Igorot Values” and host was Igorot UK headed by their president, Robert Balagtey.
April is usually a rainy month in central Europe. As the saying goes, “April doesn’t know what it wants.” It can be sunny, it can be rainy, it can be cold but rarely is it warm. However, for the three-day duration of the conference, the sun shone.
With an initial number of 42 that registered on April 22, the attendees increased to 60 during the Gotad ad London in the evening of the 23rd and to a crowd of 200 during the Gala Night on the 24th. The participants came from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Philippines and the United Kingdom. Many were first-generation Igorots, some second- and a few were third-generation.
Arrival of delegates
The sun was shining when the Ifugao delegation arrived on April 20 from the Philippines. They came not only to attend the conference, but also to showcase Ifugao songs and rituals through their cultural presentation, Gotad ad London. The head of the delegation, Dr. Serafin L. Ngohayon, president of Ifugao State University (IFSU), was also conference’s keynote speaker. Members of the delegation were Carmen Baguilat (Assistant Team Leader), Lydia de Castro (Lead Choreographer/ Director), Mr. Dimog, Alfonso Gumangan, Elpidio Basilio, Jr., Juliet Daniels, Julie Guay, Zenaida Dulnuan and Geronima K. Codamon. Other Philippine delegates were Mrs. Ruth Olat Capegsan, Andrea Baoangan Mangusan, and guest speaker and resource person, Dr. Caridad B. Fiar-od. Most participants from Europe came on Friday, the 22nd of April.
Earlier, Conchita B. Pooten of the Igorot UK invited those who would arrive early on April 22 from the European continent to have lunch at their residence in Walthamstow. Some participants from Belgium, Ireland and The Netherlands honored Conchita’s invitation. Afterwards, she and Robert became the “taxi drivers,” shuttling participants from her house to the hotel. Chuntug and yours truly were the last to be brought to the hotel. When they arrived at 5:00 p.m., the Philippine delegates were at the hotel lobby talking with attendees from Austria, Belgium and Germany. Meanwhile, the participants signed up with the Registration Committee composed of secretaries of the different Igorot UK groups – from the municipalities of Besao, Sagada and Tadian in the Mountain Province.
After a welcome dinner of vegetable salad, lasagna and fried chicken, the conference began. –
Ursula Baido, president of the Tadian-UK group, was the Master of Ceremonies. To open the conference in the evening of April 22, Igorot UK prepared a cultural entry. It was a simulated Kayew of the western Mountain Province. After the sound of gongs by selected performers, Rhino Oblas came in with a torch, which he brought all the way from Belgium. A third-generation Igorot from BIBAK Ireland, eight-year old Roisin (Banakan) Laron Quintin followed carrying a bundle of palay. Two third-generation Igorots from Igorot Organization Austria (Igorot Austria) – Azriel Lucas (Olat) Bounggick Cafirma and Diego Auriel (Layugan) Bounggick Cafirma carried jars of rice wine. Others were carrying a tray with cups and a tray with bottles of water.
Indigenous prayers followed. Patrick Bounggick of Igorot Austria; Peter Agnaonao of the Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel); Mr. Balagtey and Allan Pelingen, vice-president of Igorot UK, prayed the Bogao (Kedse, Tidwil.) Mr. Dimog of IFSU prayed in Ifugao (madmad.) The basabas or bogaw was also shouted in Ifugao. To open the programme and Gotad ad London, there was a toast of tapuey (rice wine.)
Mr. Oblas, one of the contact persons of the 5th ICBE Conference, turned over the host responsibilities to Mr. Balagtey.
Rhino said, “HEAR! Bugan, who lives where the sun rises. Extend your beard on this earth for the spirits of all ICBE celebrants to hang on in coming to London. Come, be here in London to participate in this 6th ICBE Consultation.”
In his welcome talk, Mr. Pelingen said, “Preservation of our ethnic culture for younger generations to enjoy, observe, practice and eventually preserve is quite an appropriate theme. To attain such a noble cause, however, knowledge of such ethnic culture is a mandatory requisite; more so in this foreign soil where our children and younger generations seem slowly being alienated from our ethnic culture and traditions.”
Rhino returned to the stage to give a “Review of the 5th ICBE Conference” held in Germany.
Review of the 5th ICBE Consultation
The 5th ICBE Consultation was held on April 10-13, 2009 in Vallendar, Germany. The theme was, “Igorot Cordillera Rituals: Their Features and Significance.” Dr. Fiar-od delivered the keynote address and Dr. Ngohayon, President of the Ifugao State College of Agriculture and Forestry (now IFSU), gave a special presentation on “The Bulul in the Social Life of the Ifugao People.” It was a new topic for everyone.
Based on the researches on birth, marriage, agricultural cycle and death, the delegates presented skits or dialogues.
The Philippine Ambassador H.E. Delia Domingo-Albert was unable to attend the Gala Night. However, she sent her written speech, “German Scientific-Work in the Cordillera - A Continuing Challenge.”
She emphasized and looked forward to younger generation who could study and become scientists to continue the research work done earlier by German scientists in the Cordillera. Dr. Ngohayon was requested to give a reaction to the ambassador’s message. In his last sentence, he quoted a statesman, “Coming together is good, knowing each other is better, but working together is progress.”
According to Rhino, it was a wonderful time to end the first evening with storytelling and sipping red wine produced along the River Rhine. BIBAK Ireland members and their president, Dave Aragones, contributed the bottles of red wine. Everyone enjoyed and drank to friendship.
Rhino thinks the big event was the sightseeing tour of the Rhine River with the bus and cruise ship reaching the famous Loreley viewpoint.
The 5th ICBE Conference will be remembered for the publication of the ICBE magazine, Cordillera Rituals as a Way of Life.
The first evening’s highlight was the introduction of participants. Some country delegations rendered a song. For some Ifugao delegates, it was their first trip abroad and they related their experience travelling alone.
Igorot Austria was represented by Mr. Bounggick, Cristabel Olat-Bounggick, Marjorie Abeya Soaygan, Bibiana Lee, Azriel, Diego; Cordi-Bel by Susan Kilakil, Mr. Agnaonao, Alice P. Cuyob, Cristobal, Marivonne; BIBAK Ireland by James Leroy Quintin, Ronaliza Laron-Quintin and Roisin L. Quintin; and Igorot UK by Ms. Pooten and Mr. Balagtey[i]. The lone delegate from Germany was Mr. Oblas. And attendees from The Netherlands were Chuntug Taguba and yours truly.
The Philippine participants also introduced themselves – first, Dr. Fiar-od, Ms. Capegsan, and Ms. Mangusan; and later, the delegates from Ifugao.
The evening ended with drinking wine and tapuey.
At 7:45 in the morning of April 23, the bus was already parked on the hotel premises. Mr. Balagtey was the guide and after seeing to it that all participants were in the bus, he requested the driver to proceed. The driver already knew the itinerary and said it would take around three hours to reach Stonehenge. It was a hot, sunny day when the delegates were in Stonehenge. They stayed for about an hour and proceeded to the city of Bath.
Cecille Cobcobo and Elizabeth Ut-utan met them in the city of Bath. They welcomed them with bottles of water and boxes of “Celebrations,” which contained different kinds of chocolates; helped them get their tickets to the Roman Baths so they didn’t have to queue. By the time some of them finished the Roman Baths tour, it was already 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. They had only an hour for the Royal Crescent of Bath. They walked for around 20 minutes, posed for some pictures and returned to the bus that was already parked. The driver was in a hurry to leave since they had to be at the hotel at around 6:00 o’clock in the evening. After dinner, the participants just had enough time to change for the Gotad ad London.
Gotad ad London
The programme began with a prayer by Brother Jimmynor Gumangan after which Ms. Quintin led the Pambasang Awit (Philippine National Anthem.)
Ms. de Castro taught the Cordillera Hymn and encouraged every one to join.
There were two welcome songs, one sang by the Ifugao delegation and another by the Ifugao Organization UK. Mr. Balagtey gave the opening remarks. The participants sang hymns of their respective province. The Ifugao delegation sang the Ifugao Hymn from memory; so did the Benguet participants. Some from the Mountain Province sang the Mountain Province Hymn. However, only Ms. Fiar-od and a few from the Mountain Province knew the hymn by heart. As for hymns of the other provinces, nobody sang it because either the delegates didn't know the lyrics and melody or, there was no representative from the province.
The highlights in keynote speaker’s introduction are: Dr. Ngohayon considers himself a true-blooded Igorot/Ifugao of Ifugao parents; reared and grew up in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao. He believes that “education can indeed liberate men and women from the shackles of ignorance and poverty.” As a working student from high school through college, he pursued his education with excellence. At 35 years old, he was elected president of the Ifugao State College of Agriculture and Forestry (ISCAF) in 2003. And in 2009, he led the transformation of ISCAF into the Ifugao State University.
In his keynote address, “Living the Igorot Values,” Dr. Ngohayon said,
“To start with, let me raise two questions that may be lingering in the minds of some of the Cordillerans specially my fellow Ifugaos.
Who are the Igorots? Can Ifugaos and Kalingas be regarded as such?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines Igorot as a member of any of several peoples of the mountains of northern Luzon in the Philippines. The word is originally Igolot: i - means from and golot - means mountain range.
Other sources point out that during the time of the Spaniards, the word Igolot was anglicized to Ygorrottes.
I would like to affirm that the word Igorot is so unique and its meaning is simply wonderful. I cannot see any reason why I, as an Ifugao, would deny that I’m an Igorot, someone who hails from the mountain ranges of the Cordillera.
This conference definitely provides a venue to reaffirm our identity as a people.”
Dr. Ngohayon used the acronym, IGOROT, to expound on Igorot values.
· I for Ingenuity. “The rice terraces not only in Ifugao, but also in the whole of Cordillera are testimonies to the ingenuity or resourcefulness of the Igorots.”
· G for Goodness. “One Igorot value that is note-worthy is having high regard to common good!”
· O for Open-mindedness. “We, Igorots, never close our minds to new ideas, possibilities and to what we can achieve.”
· R for Resilience. “We, Igorots are known to be tough in facing the hardships of life. I am a living testimony to that reality. I grew up witnessing how our parents worked hard just to send us to school.”
· O for Originality. “Our culture is original. We did not copy it. It is our God-given identity. It is a gift.”
· T for Truthfulness. “We never deny realities of life. We embrace them with humility.”
After the keynote address, the Ifugao delegation presented the much-awaited Gotad ad London. In 45 minutes, they showcased the dances and rituals of Ifugao.
Ifugao delegation during the Gotad ad London[ii]
Members of the 10-person Ifugao delegation led by Dr. Ngohayon enter the conference hall one at a time.
The ladies – Ms. de Castro, Ms. Baguilat, Ms. Daniels, Ms. Guay, Ms. Dulnuan and Ms. Codamon – wear an ampuyo, which is a black wrap-around skirt with prominent horizontal stripes of red and white. Their blouse called lamma is a white woven cloth, with red and black thread sewn in front at its length from the collar bone until below the navel. These same-colored threads are sewn at collar borders and around the blouse's semi-short sleeves. To keep the ampuyo in place, they wear a black belt – designed with two pompons of red, yellow and white yarns – around their waist. For their accessory, they wear hingat or earrings and two attake, one as a necklace and the other as a head band. Ms. Daniels, acting as a bridegroom, wears a dungdung or head wear, which is a bronze statuette mounted on the head, and a duko or ceremonial bag tucked within the left fingers.
The men – Dr. Ngohayon, Mr. Dimog, Mr. Gumangan and Mr. Basilio Jr, wear a g-string of black with red horizontal stripes. It is a quarter of a meter wide and two to three meters long. With its length, the g-string could be wound around their waist twice and hang down to cover almost three quarters of their legs. On top, they wear the bayya-ung, a woven cloth also of black and red horizontal stripes, which is half a meter wide and about three meters long. It is placed diagonally across the chest over the shoulder to the back. Dr. Ngohayon, Mr. Dimog and Mr. Gumangan wear a pongot around their head. It is about two to three inches wide with stripes of black, red and yellow and with tassels of red and yellow that adorn the upper edge. When worn by men as a headwear, it’s a sign of dignity.
The youngest participant, Mr. Basilio Jr, acting as bride, wears the kango or headgear made out of hornbill, the ginuttu or porcelain belt and the pinuha or betel nut bag.
For many attendees, it was their first time to see the Ifugao costume with all the accessories. The bride’s headgear caught the eye of many in the audience.
At the end of their presentation, Dr. Ngohayon invited the audience to participate in the Ifugao dance. They could have danced all night. However, the hotel personnel started cleaning and fixing the hall at around 11.30 at night.
The day was still sunny on Sunday, April 24. Mr. Quintin was the moderator for the morning session. He and Mr. Oblas sang a Bacdiw. Later,Roisin L. Quintin gave an Irish Blessing.
Ms. Quintin introduced the Guest Speaker, Dr. Fiar-od, Chair, Igorot Global Organization (IGO) Scholarship Program and Staff: Provincial Governor’s Office, Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines.
Rona said, “The resource speaker is a retired College Professor at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College and has been an advocate of the Igorot culture as evidenced by her active participation in the Lang-ay in Bontoc, Lang-ay in Toronto and in other Igorot festivals around the world. Most of her researches and book publications also deals with culture. After retirement, she was hired from October 2008 to June 30, 2010 on job order by the former Governor Maximo B. Dalog (now Congressman) as Executive Assistant on Cultural and International Affairs. Then on March 2011, she was hired by Governor Leonard G. Mayaen as Executive Assistant to coordinate and facilitate external affairs (Medical Missions, scholarships, donations overseas, etc.) and research-related activities. She is Chairperson of the IGO Scholarship Program and Chairperson of the Association of Retired Mentors of Bontoc. Our speaker is a mother of eight children and six children-in-law, a grandmother of two boys and seven girls. She was born in Besao, Mountain Province and her late husband is from Barlig.”
Dr. Fiar-od had a power point presentation on “Showing Ethnicity.”
The main points of her talk were:
- Prayers showing ethnicity – Igorots pray every time before they do something;
- Use of traditional and modern g-string in terms of color and design.
- How to use the g-string (with a knot at the back). Ceremonial g-string of the Gaddangs, heavily beaded symbolizes wealth. Men's wear: head gears are symbolic of authority; tanggil arm band is believed to give spiritual strength; buaya is for the ritualist, and so on.
- Head gears, tapis (colors and value.) The Ambusao from the Kalinga tribe is the most expensive.
- Carnelian bead necklaces – can only be found now in museums.
- Before, the complete attire of men can only be used for doing rituals but now we can use it on stage. Spirituality is being lost.
- Before, the tapis is used for working that’s why it’s knee-high.
- Tattoes reflect ethnicity and is a status symbol.
- Every thing now tends to be mixed because of "Acculturation." Attires are a mixture of the different costumes of the Cordillera.
After her presentation, Dr. Ngohayon stood and said that it was (1) enlightening, (2) enriching as it dealt with existing knowledge of our culture and (3) titillating because it titillates us to action.
In the afternoon, there were workshop group discussions on topics of interest.
Geoff Nettleton, an anthropologist and coordinator of the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks) based in London, United Kingdom, facilitated the “Cordillera Updates;” Dr. Ngohayon moderated the subject of “Ifugao Hut” and yours truly facilitated the “Planning for the 7th ICBE Consultation in 2013.”
The topics discussed during the workshop on “Cordillera Updates” were:
- Foreign companies exploiting the wealth of the Cordillera.
- Indigenous peoples’ (IP) rights.
- Philippines: National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
- Free, prior and informed consent.
- The United Nations as implementor of IP rights.
· Ancestral domain.
On “Planning for the 7th ICBE Consultation,” the group proposed the conference will be held on 9-12 May 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. The theme agreed upon was “Appreciating the Similarities and Differences of the Cordillera Ethnic Groups.” They suggested that Dr. Ngohayon will be the keynote speaker. It was decided that ICBE will request BIBAK Barcelona to host the conference. As of this writing, BIBAK Barcelona accepted to host the 7th ICBE Consultation.
Other participants, especially the second- and third-generation, joined the cultural workshops on “Dances, Chants, and Costumes,” which the Ifugao delegation facilitated.
After the workshop group discussions, Ms. Kilakil moderated the Plenary Session for the workshop reports. The result of the cultural workshop was going to be shown during the Gala Night.
Towards the end of the afternoon, Ms. Bounggick gave the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) updates. She spoke on the 9th Igorot International Consultation that will be held on April 12-14, 2012 in Baguio City.
The Masters of Ceremonies were Ms. Bounggick and Rolly Carpio (Benguet Organization UK)
The night opened with an Igorot Ritual. Prayers were said by Dr. Fiar-od, Mr. Oblas, Mr. Dimog, and The Rev. Ben Ngayaan of Kalinga, Philippines.
Mr. Balagtey delivered the welcome talk while Lydia de Castro led in the singing of the Cordillera Hymn.
The ICBE participants had a Grand Entrance led by the youth: Cristobal, Marivonne, Azriel, Diego, Roisin, Chuntug and Ashleen.
The adults followed – Mr. Bounggick, Ms. Bounggick, Ms. Soaygan, Ms. Lee, Ms. Kilakil, Mr. Agnaonao, Ms. Cuyob, Mr. Oblas, Mr. Quintin, Ms. Quintin, Ms. Pooten and yours truly.
Ms. Bounggick led the ICBE delegates in singing “Ay ay Alilay Alilay.” The first stanza is:
Timpuyog 'ti Europa
ICBE nagan na
Ay ay alilay, alilay.
Ni Yvonne idaulona,
Urnos, Ragsak ken Kapya,
For the cultural workshop output, Chuntug and Cristobal danced the Ifugao dance.
For the introduction of the guest speaker, Dr. Fiar-od said, “Dr. Serafin Ngohayon, the keynote speaker was introduced as an epitome of academic achievement and who claimed that he credits being who he is now to the Igorot values he learned from his parents and lived up with it. The Igorot values of humility, competence, dedication and commitment and many more is noticeable in him. His achievement is paramount. His technical, human and conceptual skills turned the once struggling Ifugao State College of Agriculture and Forestry into Ifugao State University ahead than all other state colleges in the Cordillera. At present, he was elected as President of the Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (AACCUP). With his local and global network, he is an achiever, and is in demand as a speaker of substance and as accreditor of institutions internationally. By the time he left London, he was to take-off for Indonesia then to Macedonia as an accreditor in one of the universities.”
For the second time and to another audience, Dr. Serafin L. Ngohayon delivered his keynote address “Living Our Igorot Values." Afterwards, he led the Ifugao delegates in the Ifugao dance and invited the audience to participate.
Members of Igorot Austria together with Roisin and Ashleen sang “Edelweiss.”
Different groups performed and the participants saw a sea of colors with the ladies’ blouses in red, yellow and black. Their performances were: Tebyag by the Besao Group-UK, Songs by Bauko Group-UK, Sakuting by the Sagada Group-UK. After an intermission by Azriel and Diego, the Tadian group-UK presented an environment-related theatrical performance. The Kalinga and Apayao Group-UK followed with their performances of the Banga Dance and Segseg Dance while Jojo Bumaa recited the ICBE Daniw. The performances ended with the Benguet Organization-UK presenting the Bendian Dance.
Ms. Pooten delivered a message. Some highlights of her talk were: “Convinced that rituals are the Igorots way of life, I am fortunate that I had my late father who had imbibed in me what it all meant to be ritualistic. It all meant sharing and getting the blessings continually. My father is right. The blessings come abundantly and I can always give a living testimony but that is better seen than said. What I am proud of is that I raised my children within the bounds of Igorot culture in the UK, they met their husbands and were wedded in the western style in 5-star hotels and had it in Igorot wedding celebration in the Philippines, they have their young children (my grandchildren) and they having their own jobs and business. That is the prize for having exposed them to the Igorot culture. These are blessings in my life being a living proponent of the Igorot culture.”
Ms. Soaygan, vice-president of Igorot Austria, said the closing prayer while Mr. Balagtey gave the acknowledgments.
The evening ended with the community in a circle, holding hands and singing, “The More We Get Together” and “Auld Lang Syne.”
Finally, the Ifugao delegation led the Ifugao Dance and invited the audience to participate. The Mountain Province delegation also performed the Ballangbang and also invited the audience.
On Monday, April 25, the participants joined in a Thanksgiving Mass with the “Free Believers” at the St. Stephen’s Church in Walthamstow with Cyril Salvador and Marilyn Bastawang Domingo officiating. Afterwards, yours truly (on behalf of ICBE) turned over monies to launch the ICBE Scholarship Programme at the IFSU. The monies were given to Dr. Ngohayon and IFSU Financial Officer, Ms. Daniels.
After the mass, Ms. Pooten invited members of Igorot UK and ICBE Conference participants for lunch at her residence. Afterwards – with everyone outside the house of Ms. Pooten – the participants from Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands gave their assessment of the conference. All of them thanked Mr. Balagtey, Ms. Pooten, Ingerith Pooten-Masferre, and members of Igorot UK. On behalf of the Ifugao delegation, Ms. Codamon expressed her gratitude.
In Dr. Ngohayon’s final statement, he said that attending the ICBE Conference transforms the participants and connects them to where they are; it makes them more confident. He also said the participants see that differences are common however, this is a matter of perspective. If the attendees focus on the negative, they see more of it. After expressing his gratitude, he ended by saying, “We (referring to the Ifugao delegation) thought we came to inspire but we were inspired.”
The sun was still shining when the participants bade goodbye to each other. They look forward to seeing each other again in May 2013 in sunny, sunny Spain.
Igorot-UK came up with the idea of publishing pictorial Proceedings. It is a coffee-table magazine entitled “Igorot Value Systems and Cultural Protocols” by Dr. Caridad B. Fiar-od. Conchita B. Pooten reviewed the contents and yours truly edited it.
Speeches delivered during the consultation, impressions on the conference and other materials will be posted in the ICBE website: www.icbe.eu.
[i] Pending submission of complete list of Igorot-UK registered participants, only two are mentioned.
[ii] Juliet Daniels of Ifugao State University edited the first three paragraphs of “Ifugao delegation during the Gotad ad London.”