3rd Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation
5-8 May 2005
by RORA NAVARRO-TOLENTINO
As the Philippine Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation, I am most gratified and deeply honored to be invited by BIBAK-Switzerland to join you tonight for the Gala Night of the “3rdIgorot Cordillera (BIMAAK) Europe Consultation” which brings together many participants coming from various parts of Europe, the United States, and our country, the Philippines, for a 4- day Consultation that involves activities and in depth workshop discussions on your chosen theme:"Our Igorot Cordillera Culture: Heritage and Social Integration".
Although your Consultation commenced two days ago, last Thursday, allow me nevertheless to join BIBAK Switzerland in welcoming warmly our compatriots from Bontoc, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Abra, Apayao and Kalinga to Switzerland - a country that highly values the preservation and promotion of cultural identity and heritage even as it encourages and supports the harmonious integration of migrants into Swiss society. It is in this context that BlBAK Switzerland exemplifies a model Filipino-Swiss organization because its members are dedicated to pursuing the preservation of their authentic Igorot culture, customs ad traditions while endeavoring to adapt to Swiss life and environment.
In speaking so highly of BIBAK Switzerland, I take this opportunity to acknowledge with deep gratitude its positive role in strengthening the Filipino community in Switzerland by its active participation in and solid support for joint activities embarked together with the Philippine Embassy since its foundation on September 16, 2000. Notably, BIBAK Switzerland actively participates in the annual Philippine Independence Day celebrations held jointly by the Filipino community and the Philippine Embassy since I assumed my post as Ambassador 5 years ago. Likewise, BlBAK Switzerland regularly attends the Embassy's meetings with Filipino community leaders which I chair throughout the year.
When Sabina Kuenzi extended to me BIBAK Switzerland's invitation to this event, she kindly provided me some background information of the international movement that strongly unites Igorots in different parts of the world. Thus, I learned about the Igorot International Consultations held since 1995 inCalifornia; followed by subsequent meetings held inVirginiain 1997, inBaguio Cityin 2000; inLondonin 2002; and inSt.Louis, Missouriin 2004 - with early plans to hold the 6th Igorot International Consultation inAustraliain 2006. In between theseInternationalConsultations are the BIMAAKEuropeanConsultations first held inBelgiumin 2001; followed by the one held inAustriain 2003; and now, here inSwitzerlandin 2005.
The global momentum for solidarity among the Igorots is based on shared goals and aspirations among the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera - a region rich in natural resources, diverse in the ethno-linguistic identities of its communities yet closely united by its common identity traced to similar core values, cultural background and the basic root of the Ilocano language.
Today, the Philippine Government has included the Cordillera Administrative Region (or CAR) as an integral part in the Regional Development and Priority Investment Areas under the 2003 NEDA Workplan. Priority projects are being pursued to develop the CAR as a Watershed Cradle; as a major hydropower energy producer; as an eco-tourist destination; as a food basket; as a prime educational center and as a producer of light industry and agro-industrial products.
To the outside world, the Igorots are best associated with the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, often referred to as the lfugao Rice Terraces, which was inscribed in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO in 1995. This historic inscription happily coincided with the time when I was then serving in Paris as the Philippine Permanent Representative to UNESCO. Describing the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras as "outstanding example of living cultural landscapes", the UNESCO noted the following official description: "For 2000 years, the high ricefields of the Ifugao have followed the contours of the mountains. The fruit of knowledge handed down from one generation to the next, and the expression of sacred traditions and a delicate social balance, they have helped to create a landscape of great beauty that expresses the harmony between humankind and the environment."
Indeed, every Filipino shares the pride of the Igorot people in this international recognition of the universal value of their unparalleled achievements. Moreover, every Filipino must be aware and recognize the unique legacy of the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras as the only monument in the Philippines that shows no evidence of having been influenced by colonial culture. In citing this historical fact, the nomination for World Heritage List further stated:
"Owing to the difficult terrain, the Cordillera tribes are among the few peoples of the Philippines who have successfully resisted any foreign domination and have preserved their authentic tribal culture. The history of the rice terraces is intertwined with that of its people, their culture and their traditional practices."
I have taken the effort to share with you this valuable information because it is relevant to the Workshop topics/or questions that you dealt with yesterday, namely: First, "What are the core values and other aspects of the Igorot Culture we hold dear and special, whichwe want to pass onto the next generation?"andsecond, for the 2nd Generation: "What are the core values and other aspects of the Igorot culture thatwe want to have?"
I understand that specific topics of interest were also taken up in your Workshop discussions yesterday, including among others the following subjects:
1. Aging Migrants;
3. Cordillera Concerns and Migrant Issues;
4. andStories of our Igorot Culture.
From these discussions, I am told that participants will be submitting "Workshop Reports" including "Conclusions and Recommendations" for consideration by the entire body. Indeed, this requires serious reflection, evaluation and dedication. In my mind, this is a highly commendable undertaking for which I congratulate every participant in the ongoing “3rd lgorot Cordillera (BIMAAK) Europe Consultation.
May the fervor of your commitment and the patriotism of your endeavors - as you, at the same time provide an important network of mutual support for each other - be forever strong. May you remain united and faithful to your goals through the years ahead. Lastly, may the Almighty bless all of the Consultation participants and the Igorot people in the Philippines and abroad to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow with resounding success.
I look forward to being updated about the deliberations in your future Consultations.
Once again, let me thank you all for letting me be a part of your worthy undertaking.
Mabuhay po kayong lahat! Maraming salamat po!