It was a sunny afternoon and the streets and plazas of the City of Gent were full of people, tourists and inhabitants as well, sitting in the terraces of the cafés and restaurants when we toured around the historic places of the city. This was how the second Cordillera Day in Gent, Belgium was opened with the theme for this year’s celebration, “Globalize Solidarity, Power to the People.”
The Cordillera Day celebration this year had three main parts: a) the guided tour in the city of Gent, b) the cultural workshop, the discussion panel and the information booths in the venue and c) the solidarity meal and cultural evening.
In the guided tour, we were divided into three groups for an easy walk through the streets of the city with well prepared professional tour guides, who explained the migrants’ area, the workers’ houses during the 19th century and the workers’ office, which was a huge building resembling a cathedral, and the castle of the counts of Flanders. Then we converged in front of the building where Jose Rizal stayed, wrote and published his novel “El Filibusterismo.” We proceeded to the Wilson Plaza passing by the “red district” of the city, where Grace Punongbayan of Migrante-Europe talked about the global campaign against sex trafficking called “Purple Rose.” At the Wilson Plaza, we spread our streamers on “Stop the San Roque Dam” while performing some of the Cordillera dances. There was a call for petition signing where two giant petition postcards were signed by the public to be sent to the JBIC (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) in Japan and the other to President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo in the Philippines. We felt that this guided tour, wherein Belgians and Filipinos walking together listening enthusiastically and attentively to the explanation of the guide, as one concrete manifestation of a globalized solidarity.
The venue called “De Centraal” is an old national electric power center, similar to the NAPOCOR in the Philippines, which has been preserved and now serves as a museum and a cultural center. In the venue, various activities were done simultaneously. The panel discussion was held in the conference room wherein Georgia Velasco, the invited guest from the Cordillera representing the APIT-TAKO, a peasant organization in the Cordillera, was the main speaker. The cultural workshop on the Cordillera dances, guided by Brigitte Santiago and Cristabel Bounggick, was done in the main hall. At the same time, people were doing visit to the information booths, put up by the FGB, KWIA, and Cordi-Bel, where information materials, books and souvenir items from the Cordillera were being sold.
The solidarity meal was typically a Filipino dish and the songs of the choir, Sapukay, followed by the Igorot dances and disco animated the solidarity evening. Together with Sapukay, we enthusiastically sang “Ang Bayan Ko.”
The success of this Cordillera Day 2002 is greatly credited to the 36 Belgian volunteers, who worked hard in arranging the program like the guided tours around the city, the decoration of the venue and other things needed for the affair. The delegates of the Assembly of Cordillera People in Europe (ACPE), which was held in Gent on April 19, 20 & 21, also had the chance to participate in this Cordillera Day. Most Igorot participants talk of this successful Cordillera Day, thus we look forward for a yearly celebration coinciding the one in the Cordillera, Philippines.