Workshop Discussion Group Report on “Our Advocacies, and ICBE Consultation and its Future”

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10th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

July 26-29, 2019

Workshop Discussion Group Report on “Our Advocacies, and ICBE Consultation and its Future”  

By Averil Pooten-Watan 

On day 2, Saturday 27th July, in the morning the delegates were split into two large groups to each discuss “Our Advocacies and the ICBE Consultation and its Future”. 

The group discussion with Averil, called on each participant to give an account of the current advocacies in their country. This served as an update but also an opportunity to learn and share good practices amongst the organisations.

Mark Watan from Igorot UK and BIBAK Northern California opened up that since he never had a grasp of his mother-tongue language, his passion for the culture was poured into learning the music and dance. As a result he was teaching indigenous cultural music and movement, based on his experience from the elders, to anyone and everyone that was interested! He had been asked to deliver a paper on Indigenous Music and Movement during Cordillera conference held in University of London SOAS last July 2018. He conducted interactive workshop in IIC-12 in Hawaii in August 2018 and was preparing to partner with Filipino author, Costa nominated and BookTrust Writer in Residence, Candy Gourlay, to deliver an interactive cultural music workshop in London on July 2019. He is currently working on accessing British Library grant funding to look at documenting ethnomusicology. Mark’s desire is to teach the next generation to look beyond the performance aspect of the music and dance. To have the next generation have a deeper connection with the music and dance in that it becomes a “way of life”, which he believes will “help connect us to our ancestors”.

Nellie Comiles from Igorot UK conveyed her experience to the culture. She was born in the 1950s and recalled, growing up in the Philippines, a time when the elders would not allow them as young children to even touch the gongs! She is a proud Igorot and has tried to impart this on her own children and grandchildren – to remind them of their roots.

Jane Klee-Morgens of Kawayan (Germany) was proud to report the organisation of which she is chair, has a strong 20 year history in Germany! She explained it was a cultural group that is open to all and everyone in Germany. It has particular interest on the Philippines but it is also connected to other international groups. They are currently supporting a group in Sagada, that is challenging a private landowner that has taken unlawful ownership of a communal forest in the area.

Archie Nabus of Benguet Organisation UK shared how he really appreciated ICBE and its purpose to build up international connections. He explained that in the UK, the normal practice for fundraising is the organisation would create an event wherein which they charge admission. The admission would typically cover expenses so that there is very little to raise money after the expenses are paid; therefore, raffle tickets and pledges are asked from donors – in order to raise funds. In Benguet Org they are looking to 3 things: (a) Promote the culture; (b) Help members in the UK; (c) Help people in the Philippines. With respect to the last point, he shared how they were supporting fundraising efforts for the Cordillera through the power of social media, in particular FaceBook. During the devastating effects of Typhoon Ompong they had raised over 1.1 million Php in 10 days through the FaceBook fundraising drive. Most recently, the FaceBook fundraising drive for the fire victims in Betag, La Trinidad, Benguet raised £2,100.

Evangeline Soriano Martinez of Benguet Org UK explained she had attended the Cordillera conference in SOAS last July 2018, wherein which she had enjoyed the papers and talks presented from a delegation of UP Baguio and Museo de Kordillera. She commented that “we are learning more abroad than back home!” She was advocating promoting local business and tourism by learning more about Benguet. She recognised that there was a challenge for the younger generation born outside of the Philippines but felt that by getting to know her roots and sharing this with her son allowed for both of them to benefit. She had recently taken a family vacation in the Philippines, and instead of visiting areas outside of her hometown, she intentionally visited and explored beautiful sights in Benguet.

Maureen Loste from the Philippines shared her current advocacy in land rights and self-determination. She impressed upon the group to really consider the current land rights affecting the local people, and how it was having negative impact on the indigenous groups in the Philippines. She also shared the plight of some of our indigenous brothers and sisters in the South of the Philippines i.e., the Moros, Lumads, etc. She also talked about the partnership with local groups in the Philippines with Filiipinos abroad e.g., Sandiwa – advocacy group in Philippines, which was formed in 2017.

Renijune Abaya of MABIKAs Netherlands (MABIKAs) expressed she was a member of the board and shared how she was impressed by Igorot UK through the leadership of Archie Nabus. She said she was open to learn more from the other groups and is passionate about sharing the culture.

Cristobal Agnaonao and Marivonne P. Cuyob of Cordi-Bel. Cristobal shared how they were both so young when they first started they admit they “didn’t understand or appreciate” the culture. However, they have grown to appreciate that there is a difference; they are different to other Filipinos even, by virtue of their indigenous culture. They have since created CHICO (Children of Cordillera)  in Belgium, which is a strong group of second- and third- generation Cordillereans in Belgium. It meets regularly for fellowship and to share the culture. 

Marivonne spoke passionately about recent modelling her indigenous clothes for Belgium Fashion Week. Through her interaction in the showcase, she was able to connect the culture with the mainstream Belgium culture which was attended by the Mayor of Brussels. Archie challenged Marivonne to continue with her passion for fashion, but also asked HOW can she promote fashion further in ICBE? Marivonne also expressed her interest in taking a group of visitors from Belgium to visit the Cordillera. She had already planned one trip, which was a success. 

Myra Zymelka-Colis of MABIKAs shared how they started MABIKAs, which was created to preserve the culture. She also explained how it was important for the group to undergo a real listening process on what is the mission and vision of the organisation. She recognised that Igorots were highly educated and affluent and that we need to be involved in the documentation of our history. She also said we have all that we need as Igorots, to empower indigenous people through scholarships in the Cordillera or outside of the Cordillera. 

Archie commented that organisations should also connect to other Filipino organisations i.e., Bicols or Ilocanos, to promote indigenous culture and integrate with other organisations. Myra dovetailed on that point impressing the importance of inviting other organisations. She said how the Philippine Embassy in the Netherlands was now regularly contacting MABIKAs to represent Filipino culture to a broader audience!

Jocelyn Segundo of BIBAAK Madrid shared her experience how growing up in the Philippines, you were not allowed to go near the elders when they were doing the rituals and gongs. She recognised that times have indeed changed and that the culture is being passed down and taught more openly. She shared how her organisation is currently helping a foundation in Itogon, Benguet. They have sponsored school children with educational books and materials. Their next effort will be to support school children in Ifugao and then Bontoc. She mentioned that BIBAAK Madrid do fundraising through selling raffle tickets.

Marilyn Domingo from San Gabriel and also Bauko, now living in East Sussex UK said she felt inspired by the gathering that it would encourage her to become more active with the Igorot organisations in the UK.

ICBE and Its Future

From the interest and passion of the delegates present, it was agreed overwhelmingly that the future of ICBE remains strong and bright! 


Synthesis of Group One Workshop Report 

Averil Pooten Watan

The groups consisted of a cross section of members from across Europe, which included: Igorot UK, Benguet Organisation UK, BIBAAK Madrid, Kawayan, Cordi-Bel, MABIKAs Netherlands, Igorot in France Association and the Philippines.

When discussing the question of what are Our Advocacies, we noticed the following themes emerge. We celebrated the wisdom and strength of our elders, who started ICBE and founded organisations in their European countries of residence. Some organisations were 25 years, 20 years, 17 years strong. We also recognised the positive impact of the organisations have made, for instance, cultural preservation. This could have involved pursuing an active interest in the culture or even encouraging family members to be more aware about the culture. The positive impact of the organisations has also led to fundraising efforts supporting our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, but also to raise awareness of the plights and concerns of our indigenous brothers and sisters throughout the Philippines, and not just inside the Cordillera.

Lastly, the group discussion looked to the future of ICBE and all of the groups in Europe. We congratulated Cordi-Bel for supporting its second and third generations allowing them space to create CHICO, which is teaching the younger generations to be more involved. We also acknowledged the future success of ICBE and cultural preservation will be through intergenerational exchange, through learning, sharing and mentoring. 

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