The 7th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation

Written by Ricardo Cuyob on .

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 The Consultation Went Through

 The 7th ICBE consultation was held in Barcelona, Spain on May 9 to 12, 2013 and hosted by BIBAK Barcelona under the leadership of Gil Tiban Catimo.  The theme was “Appreciating the Similarities and Differences of the Cordillera Ethnic Groups”.  The Igorot participants came from different countries in Europe like Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands and United Kingdom. Some came with their non-Igorot partners. There were also participants from U.S.A. and Canada. There could also have been delegates from the Philippines but regrettably their visa application was disapproved.

This 7th ICBE consultation went through according to the planned program except the personal appearances of two main guests: Dr. Serafin Ngohayon, President of the Ifugao State University (IFSU), due to the election in the Philippines and Maria Cristina Antero Apolinar-Abeya, president of Igorot Global Organization (IGO), due to illness.

 The Key Word

Satisfaction was the keyword of this three-day consultation. Even before the consultation proper, some delegates arrived a day earlier and immediately started doing gastronomic visits and degustation of paella and chorizos. Of course, Gil Tiban Catimo and his family, Marvin Mones and others of the BIBAK Barcelona were ready to welcome and assist the early-arriving delegates. On May 9, there was already an organized mini-tour outside of the consultation program so the delegates who came early could maximize the day. They joined those who rented a bus to visit the Montjuic castle where Dr. Jose Rizal and other freedom fighters of the time were incarcerated. Another place visited was the Barcelona Olympic stadium on the way to Montjuic. Returning to Barcelona, they passed by the city center and stopped near the Cathedral of the Sagrada Familia so the delegates could walk around and take pictures of this work of the famous Spanish architect, Gaudi. The mini-tour ended in front of the Universidad de Cataluña where the participants walked to their respective hotels to prepare for the first session of the 7th ICBE consultation.  

Opening Ceremonies

At the venue, Centro Aragones, the ICBE delegates gathered at 17:00 hours for the opening ceremony. Activities were the introduction of delegates according to their host country as origin. The symbolic turn-over of responsibility that should have been done in London during the 6th ICBE Consultation was only done on May 9 because BIBAK Barcelona was chosen without them being informed. So, the Igorot UK delegation headed by Conchita Pooten turned-over the responsibility to BIBAK Barcelona accepted by Gil Tiban Catimo and assisted by some members. Maria Cristina Antero Apolinar- Abeya sent her power point presentation on the topic, “The Igorot Global Organization”, which was presented by Yvonne Belen. 

Sightseeing Tour

May 10 was the scheduled tour and sightseeing, an integral component of the consultation, so all registered participants assembled in front of the Universidad de Cataluña gate at 9:00 hours. The sole destination was the wonderful Montserrat. Each one received a packed lunch prepared by BIBAK Barcelona, which everybody was thankful for. The delegates spent four hours in the area. Each one walked, visited, viewed, touched, heard, felt and tasted anything that Montserrat could offer. Surprisingly, the four hours seemed to have passed so quickly. Two delegates were unable to board the chartered bus at the scheduled departure so, Annette Banya-ao volunteered to look for them and they would return to Barcelona by train. As for other delegates already in the bus, the driver took another route on the way back to Barcelona and it added more sightseeing for them. In the bus, Gil asked, “Is everybody satisfied?” The answer was not only yes but boldly, “YES, VERY SATISFIED!” 

With some delay and traffic problems, the bus reached the designated arrival place – in front of the Universidad de Cataluña gate at 15:30 hours. The participants walked back to Centro Aragones and took their lunch at around 16:00 hours. As far as the Spanish tradition is concerned, this is still lunch time. After the good lunch, there was a rehearsal for the cultural night on May 11. Since the delegates from the IFSU/Cordillera Philippines were unable to come, the cultural presentations needed adjustment but there were discordant suggestions. Thereby, some participants had to go to bed with some worry on how the cultural night would be. However, with the exhausting Montserrat tour, everyone got a good sleep.

Conference Proper and Workshops

On May 11, delegates of BIBAAK Madrid arrived all the way from Madrid and BIBAK Marbella from Marbella. On the same morning, representatives of Rome and Como, Italy arrived also in time for the input and discussion sessions. In accordance with the program, the whole day was dedicated to a sort of classroom activity for the delegates. The input on the theme was the speech of Dr. Serafin Ngohayon that was read by Ric Cuyob. A workshop discussion on the three questions proposed by Dr. Ngohayon followed. There were three groups wherein each group tackled one of the three questions: (1) What is Cordillera without the forest or the watershed? (2) What is Cordillera without the variety of culture and the cultural values? and (3) What is Cordillera without good governance?

Reporting of the groups on the workshop was accomplished before lunch break.

The scheduled 20-minute discussion for the 8th ICBE was facilitated by Yvonne Belen at a marathon pace. At this point, it was formally announced that the 8th ICBE Consultation will be hosted by the Igorot Austria-Cordillera. So we in ICBE look forward to being in Vienna for the second time come 2015. Announcement of details will follow. 

For lack of time, what followed was a plenary session on Cordillera concerns and migrant issues. The facilitator, Ric Cuyob, proposed that everyone consider the questions posed by the guest speaker and the workshops on it as enough aspect of the Cordillera concerns, and the body accepted. On the migrant issues, the facilitator started saying that though ICBE is apolitical in nature and the central theme of concern is about our Igorot culture and values and how to pass them to the next generations, there is a culture/practice in the Philippine election that undermines our Igorot values that we want to uphold like “Inayan”, honesty, and so on. But as soon as the floor was opened for opinions and suggestions, the discussion and exchanges of opinions got quickly excited and flaring up like a fire in a forest. However, due to time constraint, the discussion had to be interrupted by a film presentation of the Swiss delegation as a sort of intermission. After this short film, the facilitator summarized what transpired.

(1) That all suggestions and opinions such as voting for a particular candidate who has sympathy on the migrants and their families, voting for a party list or having a proper migrant representative, creation of overseas welfare desk in each province of the CAR, and linking with concerned people of the host country like the “Kaibigan, Kababayan at Kaisa” experience of some youth in the Netherlands, are all true and worth doing.

(2) That let us not allow our Igorot values like the “Inayan”, generosity, open-mindedness, resilience, oath to duty and truthfulness to compromise the current practice or the culture of election in the Philippines where candidates with fame, power and money get the big votes.

(3) That as one brought out, let us note that in Philippine politics where traditional politicians have been speaking for the migrants, it is high time that migrants will speak for themselves.

Afterwards, Cesar Taguba read a resolution he drafted on “Calling for the Commemoration of the 1887 Madrid Exposition.” With minor amendments, it was approved by the body to be passed on to the proper authority of Spain with BIBAK Barcelona as the lead proponent and BIBAAK Madrid as a co-proponent.

The last of the afternoon session was an update on, and an invitation to the 10th Igorot International Consultation (IIC-10) presented by Cristina Malani-Suanding, vice-president of Igorot Organization-Austria. The host of the IIC-10 is Igorot Organization-Austria. For more information regarding this event, we are invited to visit Igorot-Austria’s website at  or email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will not only be updated on their hosting of the IIC-10, but will also see and learn many more from their postings.

Meanwhile, Sandra Sotelo a Barcelona-based correspondent of the ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau was invited to cover the on-going consultation and her report was aired in the ABS-CBN Balitang Europe. It was interesting to note how she was able to follow the flow of activities because the language used shifted from English to Tagalog to Ilocano to Kankanaey or other vernacular in the Cordillera and back to English.

Cultural Night

The “Igorot Cordillera European Cultural Night” followed after a short break where the delegates took time to wear their costumes. The children too were dressed in Igorot native attire. Present were the Philippine Embassy Consul General based in Madrid, Mr. Catalino Dilem and the Barcelona-based Philippine Honorary Consul General for Catalunya and Aragon, Señor Jordi Puig. Each delivered an inspiring message and appreciated the gathering. Despite the absence of the most awaited performance of the “Hudhud” by the Ifugao delegates from the Philippines, the night was still colourful in sight and wonderful in sound. The attires of the different ethnic groups in the Cordillera were modelled by the 3rd  and 2nd generations as well as the 1st. The sounds of gongs and “solibao” reverberated in the hall and the “tadek”, “tayaw”, “dinuyya” and line dancing had shaken the dust off the floor. Favourite Igorot songs were rendered by Jeff Inabiohan and Francis Kiwang. “Sabong ni Bahong” was even sung by Giuseppe Forte, a non-Igorot participant from Italy. Bravo to Jeff, Francis and Giuseppe. Gil prepared and served “tapey”.  Kudos to BIBAK Barcelona!

It was not yet late into the night but the participants had to slow down because they were informed there were other activities going on in the other hall of the same building. It was quite unfortunate but the guests and delegates were satisfied. For posterity, the delegates took turns having their pictures taken with the guests towards the late evening.

Closing Day

As the last day of the consultation falls on a Sunday, Violie Gacao Doguil of the Free Believers in Christ-Barcelona led the prayer service after the breakfast at about 10:00 hours. Afterwards, the remaining participants gave their evaluation of the conference  from its preparation to the main event. Gil presented a partial financial report. An amount of 145.00 euro was raised from the Sunday worship collection and sales of the ICBE magazine, “Cordillera Rituals as a Way of Life”. The amount will be sent to IFSU for the ICBE scholars. On this last day, some delegates had to leave early like those from Austria, Belgium and Italy due to difficulties in arranging a much later flight.

Number of Delegates

The number of Igorots and some with their non-Igorot partners are as follows:

Austria = 21; Belgium = 8; Canada = 1; Italy = 5; Spain = 42; Switzerland = 4; the Netherlands = 5; United Kingdom = 7; USA = 1. Total participants are 94 including children ages 2 to 11 years old.

Led by Mothers

It has been mentioned several times during the consultation that when the delegates of the 6th ICBE consultation in London decided on the 7th ICBE consultation, they unanimously suggested BIBAK Barcelona to be the host, even without their knowledge. Later on, BIBAK Barcelona was informed and three of the pillar women of ICBE – Yvonne Belen, Cristabel Bounggick and Conchita Pooten, went to Barcelona, Spain. They had a meeting with the officers and members of BIBAK Barcelona where they explained what ICBE is, and talked about the 7th ICBE Consultation and expectations from the host. Only afterwards did BIBAK Barcelona formally accept to host the 7th ICBE consultation. During the same meeting, initial planning was done since the theme, “Appreciating the Differences and Similarities of the Cordillera Ethnic Groups” was already decided by delegates of the 6th ICBE consultation. Another thing to note and worth mentioning in this report is the process during the preparation period up to the last minute which was mainly led by mothers (Yvonne, Cristabel  and Conchita). This 7th ICBE consultation was like a home affair that is usually managed by mothers but having said so, it did not excuse the men from bringing in their contributions.  

The skills of coordinating and delegating tasks to ICBE member organizations and individuals are essential. In this conference where it’s the first time for BIBAK Barcelona to host a gathering of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe, Yvonne volunteered to coordinate the conference preparation. Her skills and efficiency is a trait worth passing on and worth acquiring and practising by individuals in ICBE. According to her, she is only able to coordinate knowing the host is doing the work on the ground and the participants will be around to implement the program.

And so, the 7th ICBE Consultation ended with the keyword, satisfaction. It could be seen in the participants’ impressions and evaluation. It could be seen in the number of photos that were shared.                                                  

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