Amidst the Pandemic, The Cordillera Community in Belgium Celebrated Its 25th Anniversary

Written by Ric Cuyob on .

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It was suggested and then finally decided during the 2nd quarterly meeting of Cordi-Bel held at the Naron’s residence in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw on June 26, 2021, that the 25th anniversary of Cordi-Bel will be celebrated at the place of Xavier and Fely in Eigenbelzen. The suggestion was happily accepted by Xavier and Fely, thereby the body applauded loudly in finality.

On the 30th of July, Mylene and Lhynne composed the advance team to help Fely and Xavier with the valuable assistance of Kimberly and Matthew to prepare the venue. Few days earlier, the group asked Xavier to buy one half of a butchered pig of which he did. Though it was originally agreed that the Narons will buy one whole medium pig from their farm contact, it must be changed because when they went there, the farmer stopped raising pigs a few months after the outbreak of the corona pandemic. Luckily, Xavier knew where to source out what the community needed. However, the original suggestion of one whole medium pig appeared to be a lot of meat so it was revised to one-half medium pig. That should be more than enough for the community’s feast.

In the late morning of July 31, the community arrived in three waves. The first wave arrived in a convoy. The first car was composed of Max and Melinda with their son Lolen Jr. and Serenita, one of the participants.  The second car was occupied by the Bucad family composed of Joel, Ellen, Jeremy, and Vanning. The Cuyob family – Ric, Alice, Marivonne together with Aethan and Rosie occupied the third car.

Upon arrival, they were elated to find the venue 75 per cent ready. There was a big tent put up by Xavier and family. The Cordi-Bel banner was already hanged in place. Xavier had reached half time of the cooking process of his surprise menu. While the decoration was in its finishing touches, a lunch sandwich needed to be improvised. So Fely must drive to colryut (one of the many retail stores in Belgium) with some of the women to buy breads, hams, and cheese for sandwich. When it was almost break time for lunch, the second wave arrived composed of Angel, Lorenza, and Sherwin. Meanwhile, Fely came back with the others. When everyone was busy doing their lunch sandwich, the third wave arrived. They were Peter and Susan. That made up the participants since we learned later that Marie, Oliver and Tala will not be able to come since Marie sent a message that she was not feeling well. 

Simultaneously with the lunch sandwich, Sherwin, Joel, and Max installed the makeshift fireplace for cooking. Then the rest of the meat was chopped to be boiled in the big pot while most parts were already cut for barbecue and adobo. As this was being done, Manong Peter, Manang Lorenza, Ric and Sherwin opened a bottle of wine brought by Angel and offered a prayer in the manner of our ancestors. 

While the traditional cooking, barbecue and other food preparations were happening, our chico (this is what we call our children committee or Children of Cordi-Bel) accompanied by Melinda, Ellen and Serenita went out for a walk around the village. Of course, thanks to Kimberly and Matthew who served as their guides until they came back for the dinner. When food was served on the table, Manang Lorenza led the blessing after which everybody attacked and enjoyed that which for us was a sumptuous feast.

Immediately after dinner, though still early in the evening, the impromptu program began. The current chairperson, Max, gave the opening and welcome remarks. Then they called the past chairpersons to speak except Rachel who was unable to come. Manong Peter started, then Fely, Ellen and Sherwin of which each one came out to be giving a testimony of how they lived their four years term as chairperson in the Cordi-Bel. Then Alice took the floor as the first secretary for four years too. 

It did not end there because individuals came up and gave their testimonies and wishes. Manang Lorenza spoke, followed by Mylene, then Serenita who came as a guest and wanted to reconnect with fellow Igorots because her mother was originally from Mayaoyao, Ifugao. Melinda Caballero and Marivonne gave their testimony and wishes too. Then Kimberly and Matthew did their part where Matthew performed a kata exhibition (the correct forms or postures in the performances of most martial arts). When no one else stood up to talk, they called Ric to give a summary, but it turned out to be an overview of how far Cordi-Bel has gone as a community and what goal it could aim to attain in the next phase. 

To have a grasp of what each one said, we must review and listen to the video clips posted in the Cordi-Bel group facebook. However, to have a feel of the sharing, here are a few observations. Max, who should be giving a welcome and opening remarks, was in fact giving the impression of giving a farewell talk and acknowledgement. He said, “…I am happy that many came and thank you for coming” instead of saying for example, “I have the honor as the chairperson to welcome you all and to proceed with the celebration, I declare the party open. Let us enjoy it.” As for the other speakers, unpreparedness was very evident. Nonetheless, those who stood up managed to organize their thoughts and in the absence of words, body language was used. What made it more remarkable was that every uttered word, and every body language manifested was coming straight from the heart because they were expressed with feelings and even interspersed with tears. This was how touching the sharing was that evening. But there was also a bit of head shaking as it was observed that when Ric started talking, some of the Cordi-Bel women stood up to prepare the table and distracted attention as they walked back and forth to the kitchen to make tea, coffee, and prepare the desserts. Such actions clearly deliver the message that between food for thought and food for the stomach, stomach progress tops all other priorities if ever there are to enumerate.

The evening lingered on with “sissiwit” dancing and social drinking. When it was getting late and the neighbors might feel disturbed, the rest of the evening continued with a bingo social game. 

As the celebration was programmed for July 31 and August 1, the group did not stay extremely late in the night. They took time to rest for the following morning. 

Upon waking up in the morning, each one did his/her personal hygiene while some helped Fely prepare breakfast for the kids and for the adults as well. While breakfast was progressing, Xavier had to leave and help pull up his friend’s car, which got stuck in the mud due to the flood. When he came back, he guided the men for a good walk around the village. Our chico also did their cycling and crossed the men’s group on their walk before they proceeded on their own route. Being born and grown up in the village, everyone listened attentively to what Xavier showed, explained, and narrated about his childhood days while amusing themselves in appreciation to everything they saw around.

The women preferred to stay behind. They took the initiative to do the house chores. Then they prepared more food and still recycled the left-over of yesterday’s dinner that made a hearty meal.

When the men came back from their walk, it was around 13h00 that was very much on time for lunch. They immediately joined the women and the chico who were starting to attack the foods on the table. While everyone was enjoying the hearty lunch, Max took the chance to thank the Lindelauf family for offering their place to accommodate the celebration of the 25 years of Cordi-Bel. After the large and satisfying lunch, the celebration was concluded with a bingo for a cause. Everyone was aware that a church group member of Mylene Pucti passed away and so Cordi-Bel took the chance, in the spirit of solidarity, to raise a little fund and handed it to Mylene to deliver to the bereaved family as soon as she got back to Brussels.

It was a bit regrettable that the celebration of this 25th year of Cordi-Bel was not noisily accompanied by gong playing and dancing since the observance of sanitary restrictions was still strictly enforced. 


Ric Cuyob (03August2021)

     About the Author


   Ric Cuyob 

is half-Benguet and half-Bontok, and belongs to the Kankana-ey ethnolinguistic of the Cordillera. He lives in Brussels with his wife, Alice, and their daughter, Marivonne. 

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