Place: Ten Berg, Merelbeke, Gent, Belgium
Date: 19-21 April 2002
Theme: “Strengthening the Cordillera Community in Europe and Fostering Solidarity with the Cordillera People’s Aspiration for Land, Life and Self-Determination”
Host: Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel)
Forty-one participants attended the Assembly of Cordillera People in Europe (ACPE). There were 32 adults and 9 children.
There were representatives from four Igorot organizations based in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The other Igorot participants, who attended as individuals, came from Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. Other organizations present were: IGO-Philippines (Igorot Global Organization), APIT-TAKO (Alyansa iti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera) based in the Cordillera, Philippines and Migrant-Europe based in the Netherlands. One participant came from Scotland. There was a guest from the Philippines and three from Belgium.
II. Assembly Program
The Assembly began on 19 April 2002. Ric Cuyob, Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee, gave the welcome address. Then the participants introduced themselves. Earlier, they wrote their expectations in the registration forms. These were listed and classified according to the following headings: getting to know each other, sharing and learning, organization, solidarity and networking.
In the morning of the second day, Peter Agnaonao, President of Cordi-Bel, gave the welcome talk. Then, the Rev. Cesar T. Taguba of EMFA (Ecumenical Ministry for Filipinos Abroad), talked about the conditions and major trends in Europe that have an impact on migrants rights and welfare. Ms. Georgia A. Velasco of APIT-TAKO and based in the Cordillera, Philippines followed with a speech on Philippine government policies and its impact on the Cordillera people.
The participants decided to combine the first and second workshops. This workshop group discussed the situation of Cordillera migrants in Europe and the setting up of a Cordillera network in Europe. The other workshop dealt on the responses to the struggle of the Cordillera people in the Philippines for land, life and self-determination.
The first workshop group focused their discussion on the second-generation Igorots mainly on the problem of integration into the mainstream Filipino community because of discrimination and/or stereotyping of Igorots. Some Igorot youth are able to assert themselves in the face of stereotyping. The second-generation Filipinos, in general, cited the issue of identity as a problem. The participants also talked about the social cost of migration and problems of aging first-generation migrants. The recommendations were to: 1) encourage the “Back-to-Roots” program and 2) hold a summer youth camp simultaneously with the ACPE.
The workshop members described their organizations, i.e., problems, how they address these problems, activities and their recommendations for ACPE. Some countries have an Igorot organization, whose membership range from few to many, while others belong to an informal Igorot association. Most organizations are self-reliant and known for their expertise in Igorot dances and songs.
The other workshop discussed the campaigns and concerns in the Cordillera of the CPA (Cordillera People’s Alliance) and APIT-TAKO, such as the opposition to the construction of the San Roque Dam, mining transnational operation and expansion in the Cordillera, and national issues, such as the US-RP Balikatan military exercise. The resource person cited the importance of international solidarity. Recommendations were: 1) to have information updates from the Philippines and 2) for Cordillerans abroad to contribute to projects and programs in the Cordillera, Philippines.
In the afternoon, the participants joined the Cordillera Day celebration, sponsored by FGB (Filippijnen Groepen Belgie or Philippine Solidarity Groups Belgium), KWIA (Steungroep Inheemse Volkeren or Indigenous People’s Support Group) and Cordi-Bel (Cordillera Community in Belgium) with support of the Province of East Flanders, New World and 11.11.11. During the celebration, Susan Kilakil read the article, “Igorots in Belgium: Then and Now,” written by Cordi-Bel.
During the plenary on the last day, the assembly received the workshop reports. They heard the synthesis of the workshop reports and passed a resolution on absentee voting. The participants discussed and approved the Assembly Declaration. They also approved the financial report of Susan Kilakil, ACPE treasurer. Conchita Pooten, coordinator of the International Igorot Consultation-4 (IIC-4), gave an update on the IIC-4 scheduled from 28 June–1 July 2002 in London, United Kingdom. Brigitt Santiago, member of IGO-Philippines and Dean of Easter College, Baguio City, Philippines, gave a brief talk on the courses in the Cordillera offered by the College. Grace Punongbayan of Migrante-Europe announced and invited the participants to the Europe-wide Consultation of Filipino Organizations-2 (ECOFIL-2) scheduled in Sweden in June 2003. The participants agreed to convene the next assembly and suggested that IGO-Austria would be the host. The alternate host would be Cordi-Bel.
Johan Bosman of KWIA and Els van der Sypt of FGB, gave messages of solidarity. Words of thanks were extended to Ric Cuyob, who coordinated the preparatory activities of ACPE. The Assembly ended with the Ecumenical Prayer Celebration, officiated by the Rev. Fr. Noel Dacuycuy and The Rev. Cesar T. Taguba.
The participants made a written evaluation. Most wrote that their expectations were met. They liked most the lectures and workshops. Many participants rated their participation as good. They were glad to have met fellow Igorots, exchanged ideas and shared experiences. They had several recommendations on how to make the next ACPE meaningful.
After lunch, the participants held a meeting to plan for the next assembly, specifically its objectives and activities. The date set was May 2003 during the Pentecost weekend. The proposal was that Igorots in Europe would meet on odd years, i.e., 2003 then 2005 since the International Igorot Consultations (IICs) are usually held on an even year.
With the IIC-4 in London and ACPE-II in 2003, the assembly participants have something concrete to look forward.