Celebrating 17 Years of ICBE’s Existence & 10th Series of Consultations

Written by Yvonne Belen on .

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10th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

July 26-29, 2019

Celebrating 17 Years of ICBE’s Existence & 10th Series of Consultations 

Yvonne Belen


I am honored to deliver the keynote address of the 10th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK-Europe (ICBE) Consultation. My long experience in helping organize previous ICBE consultations gives me confidence to set the tone and perspective of this event. 

Most of us are familiar with the ICBE consultations since we began in 2002. I say most and not all because for our host, MABIKAs Foundation-The Netherlands (MABIKAs), it is their first time to know more about our network and consultation. I would like to express my gratitude to the MABIKAs Board and constituents for hosting this event. For the past two years, they helped in preparing other aspects of our consultation. Some of these are:  Venue, Catering, Committees, Souvenir Book, Raffle tickets. 

I would also like to thank the 10th ICBE Consultation Preparatory Committee. They have been an enormous help in preparing and managing the event. For example, whenever issues arose on parts of the programme, they were there to help resolve them. We were a team.    

We are celebrating 17 Years of ICBE’s Existence and 10th Series of ICBE Consultations. The number 10 sounds good while 17 sounds somewhat awkward. Anyhow, it will be difficult to have a combination of round numbers. When we will have our 14th ICBE Consultation in 2027, our network would have existed for 25 years. Do numbers matter? I believe not. What is important are the milestones we have had in the life of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe.

So, considering a part of the theme of our consultation, there are three questions I will deal with: 

First, what is the significance of the celebration of our 17 years of ICBE’s existence?

Second, what are the reasons that enabled us to go this far? 

Third, how de we envision the future?

Let us take these topics one by one:

Significance of our Celebration  

Unity, perseverance and hope have sustained us. These made us grow strong in going beyond our goal of “preserving the Igorot Cordillera cultural heritage and passing it on to the next generation.”  In carrying out our goal, we achieved mutual respect, recognition and acceptance regardless of clan, ethnolinguistic affiliation, and economic status. Our achievements are based on shared knowledge through a series of well-researched presentations on “ Land, People and Culture” of the major Cordillera ethnolinguistic groups. Through these lecture series, we came to know how our ancestors have evolved a culture to develop and protect their land and livelihood, and to sustain a self-sufficient economy. 

Our cultural performances, done with dignity and grace, affirmed our  historical roots. They are an effective way to inform our Filipino compatriots and European friends of who we are. In our ICBE gatherings, we did conscious effort to introduce our culture to the second- generation Igorot Cordillerans. We also enjoyed our liturgical celebrations making use of our traditional art forms.

Our resolution on the 1887 Madrid Exposition expressed our level of historical awareness. More importantly, we came up with proposals: to rectify Spanish colonial abuse and misuse of our Igorot identity and culture; to have closure and move on. In various ways, we shared our dreams and hopes for the Cordillera we want. We addressed specific issues of the impact on our ancestral land and the right to self-determination by signing the “Petition Against the Philippine Mining Act 1995.” We also called for education on the issue of Federalism as it impacts on our right to self-determination.  

Aware of our identity as Cordillerans and Filipinos residing and working in Europe, we discussed migrant rights and welfare issues, which connect us to the wider community of migrants. We called for the setting up of migrant desks in the Cordillera provinces. We became more aware of our contribution in sustaining the Philippine economy. We honored the Cordillerans who bloomed as Achievers in their work and community, and in raising their family.     

On the global level, we established ourselves as a regional center within the “Global Igorot Nation.” We shared our financial resources with the Igorot Scholarship Program (ISP) of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO). During Igorot International Consultations (IICs) sponsored by the IGO, some of us from European countries attended. We congratulate the Igorot UK for hosting the IIC-4 held in London, UK on 28 June-1 July 2002. We also congratulate Igorot Austria for hosting the 10th IIC held in Vienna, Austria on 7-10 August  2014. For ICBE, we were able to bring together Igorot Cordillerans from 11 countries throughout our several ICBE consultations. Women were and are in the forefront in planning and management of our consultations. We have taken up the task of enabling the second-generation to connect with their roots in the Cordillera.

During ICBE consultations, we sing the Cordillera Hymn, Philippine National Anthem and Hymn of our host country. Thus, we express and affirm the interplay of our levels of identity - as Igorot Cordillerans, Filipinos and European residents. We have defined and continue to define  and to speak for ourselves.

We took measures in defining who we are, not in shame and arrogance but with dignity. Our ICBE Souvenir Book, which is a significant contribution to our 17th anniversary celebration, helps define who we are---our dreams and hopes. We have defined and continue to define  and to speak for ourselves.

Through our ICBE consultations, we are made to realize and thus celebrate our actual and potential of being Achievers and Change-Makers as Cordillerans, Filipinos and Europeans.

Reasons that enabled us to go this far 

We have the spirit of volunteerism, mutual assistance (agtitinulong) and self-reliance--- values that are rooted in our culture. In our Cordillera villages, when there are tasks to be done, there is a call for volunteers. When others are shy to volunteer, they are given an assignment. Among us in Europe, organizations or a group of Igorots volunteered to host the ICBE consultation or they were requested to host it. In the process, hosting has further  developed their leadership skills in planning and management. Several volunteers shared their knowledge, skills and time in organizing our consultations. This way, ICBE promoted shared leadership. 

We have maximized tongtongan or tavtaval practice of decision-making and planning. It is a tradition in our Cordillera communities for the elders to gather in a place called ato or dap-ay to talk on community issues and settle a conflict. Likewise in our ICBE network, we have settled some conflicts by discussing the issues and settling the problems. So far, a committee---that constituted itself as the consultation’s preparatory committee and during the 10th ICBE Consultation, will become its  implementing body---worked out well. 

Ever since we began our Igorot Cordillera gatherings in 2002, we exercised the principle of financial self-reliance. We covered the consultation expenses through our registration fees, we took care of our accommodation and  travel expenses.     

We have maintained the consultative character within our network. We informed the network of our consultations and gave regular updates. Since 2003, we maintained our ICBE webpage to sustain linkages, share information, and project ICBE events and concerns. We upheld our integrity as a self-governing and self-reliant community.

Envisioning the future

Building on our achievements and bearing in mind our being Achievers and Change-Makers,  let us aim at doing the following: 

(1) During the 11th ICBE Consultation in Madrid, Spain in 2021, see to the implementation of the Resolution on the 1887 Madrid Exposition as a significant contribution in re-reading history, rectifying the past and moving on. 

(2) During the same consultation in Madrid, find ways to recognize and honor the Achievers and Change-Makers among ICBE consultation participants.  

(3) Sustain our cultural heritage of community thanksgiving, celebration of life and honoring our ancestors through creative use of our cultural art forms (songs, dances, chants, and so on), even as we learn the cultural heritage and practice of the Europeans.

(4) Pursue a program to pass on to the 2nd generation our cultural heritage and as Achievers and Change-Makers. 

(5) Continue to share our thoughts and feelings in giving shape to the “Cordillera We Dream Of,” and responding to issues and developments impacting on our land and people.

(6) Maximize the benefit of our experiences and levels of identity by sharing and learning from each other, from our Filipino compatriots and European friends.


The future is bright for our upcoming second- and third-generation of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe. They will be the future Achievers and Change-Makers. The future is bright with the vigorous movement among our kailian in the Cordillera for respect, for the right to a dignified life and for self-determination.  

Let me close by congratulating the first generation of Igorot Cordillerans, who have  laid the foundation for the growth in strength of the Igorot Cordillerans in Europe.

Finally, let us continue to celebrate life, pursue our dreams, honor our ancestors and give thanks to Kabunian.

Matago-tago tako am-in!

Thank you.


Keynote Address delivered during the 10th ICBE Consultation in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on 26-29 July 2019.                

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