Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) is a network of Igorot and Cordillera organizations and individuals in Europe. Established in 2003, the organizations are: BIBAK Barcelona, BIBAK Ireland; BIBAK Marbella; BIBAK Switzerland; BIBAAK Madrid; BIMAAK Sweden, Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel); Cordillera Migrant Workers Association (CMWA) of Milan and Como, Italy; Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena; Cordillerans in Rome (Cordi-Rome); Dap-ayan di I-Montanyosa of northern Italy; Igorot Austria; Igorot Cooperative in Athens Greece; Igorot Frankfurt; Igorot UK, MABIKAs Foundation (The Netherlands); ULNOS di Mountain Province Rome Italy and United Igorot Association of Napoli. Individuals, who are members, are from Germany.
ICBE was set up during the 2nd Igorot European Consultation (IEC) held in Vienna, Austria in May 2003. The first conference was the “Assembly of Cordillera People in Europe.”
In having ICBE as their name, the participants reached a consensus on the following:
(1) Igorot refers to the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, northern Luzon, Philippines;
(2) Cordillera recognizes the political and geographical concept as presently understood and
(3) BIMAAK pertains to the six provinces in the Cordillera region.
The participants considered ICBE as inclusive and therefore, appropriate.
The Network and Its Evolution
The network began with the organizations: Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel), Igorot Organization-Austria, BIBAK Switzerland, BIBAK Ireland, Igorot Frankfurt and Igorot UK. Through the years, other organizations were added, namely: BIBAK Barcelona, BIBAK Marbella, BIBAAK Madrid, Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena, ULNOS di Mountain Province (Rome, Italy), United Cordillera Workers in Rome Italy (UCWRI), Igorot Austria-Cordillera, Cordillerans in Modena, Cordillera Migrant Workers Association (CMWA) of Como and Milan, and Dap-ayan di I-Montanosa of northern Italy. Individuals were from Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Eventually, Sweden was added and Luxembourg delisted.
In June 2015, United Cordillera Workers in Rome Italy (UCWRI) became Cordillerans in Rome or Cordi-Rome. And on the 29th of November 2015, Igorot Organization-Austria and Igorot Austria-Cordillera re-organized and re-united to form one organization: Igorot Austria.
The year 2017 saw other organization that joined like: BIMAAK Sweden, Igorot Cooperative in Athens Greece, MABIKAs Foundation (The Netherlands) and United Igorot Association of Napoli.
ICBE’s objective is to conduct biennial consultative gatherings aimed at preserving the Igorot Cordillera cultural heritage and passing it on to the next generation.
During the Vienna 2003 conference, the participants decided to maintain a loose network and have a consultative character of these gatherings. A host committee plans each consultation. Thus, leadership is shared.
Each consultation usually consists of a plenary session and workshops on the theme, cultural night, liturgical celebration and a historical-cum-cultural tour. Planning for the next consultation ensures continuity.
ICBE has had eight consultations: Gent, Belgium (2002); Vienna, Austria (2003); Aeschi, Switzerland (2005); Dublin, Ireland (2007); Vallendar, Germany (2009); London, United Kingdom (2011); Barcelona, Spain (2013); Vienna, Austria (2015) and Rome, Italy (2017). Except for the first gathering in Belgium in 2002, the conference is held every odd year.
BIMAAK is an acronym of the six provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), northern Luzon, Philippines. These provinces are: Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Abra, Apayao and Kalinga. Another acronym commonly used is BIBAK, which stands for: Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao and Kalinga.
ACPE 2002 (Gent, Belgium)
Igorots and Cordillerans in Europe first gathered at Ten Berg, Merelbeke in Gent, Belgium on 19-21 April 2002. The gathering entitled “Assembly of Cordillera People in Europe” had as its theme, “Strengthening the Cordillera Community in Europe and Fostering Solidarity with the Cordillera People’s Aspiration for Land, Life and Self-Determination.” The host was Cordillera Community in Belgium together with the local Belgian support groups: New World, Filipijnengroep België (FGB) and the Flemish support group for Indigenous Peoples (KWIA). Ricardo Cuyob served as coordinator.
In Belgium, the participants decided to continue with the European gathering and nominated Austria as the next venue. Igorot Organization-Austria delegates with their president, Patrick Bounggick, accepted to host the conference.
IEC 2003 (Vienna, Austria)
For this consultation, Igorot Organization-Austria, named it, “2nd Igorot European Consultation (IEC)” and chose the theme, “Our Cordillera People’s Culture: Our Heritage.” The consultation was held at Jungengästehaus Wien-Briggetenau in Vienna, Austria on 29 May-1 June 2003.
The name of the succeeding consultations has since evolved into “ICBE Consultation.”
ICBE 2005 (Aeschi, Switzerland)
During the 2nd IEC, the participants suggested Switzerland as the next venue. BIBAK Switzerland, headed by Henry Foken, agreed to organize the next gathering called “3rd ICBE Consultation.” The theme was “Our Igorot Cordillera Culture: Heritage and Social Integration” and attendees met at Hotel Friedegg in Aeschi (near Bern) from the 5th through the 8th of May 2005.
ICBE 2007 (Dublin, Ireland)
From the mountains, the next setting was an island, Ireland. BIBAK Ireland, led by Dave Aragones, planned the 4th ICBE Consultation. They decided to continue from the last conference’s theme and came up with, “Preservation and Promotion of our Cultural Heritage and Addressing our Issues in Society.” From 17-20 May 2007, the delegates met at the Marino Conference Centre in Dublin.
In Dublin, the participants asked Severino “Rhino” Oblas from Germany if the next ICBE Consultation could be held in his country of residence. And he said, “Yes.”
ICBE 2009 (Vallendar, Germany)
Contact persons of the 5th ICBE Consultation were: Rhino Oblas, Jane Doga-ong Klee-Morgens, Mario Guinyawan and Norma Bayoya-Wellhausen. They chose Haus Sonnenau in Vallendar (near Koblenz), Germany as the conference site. The consultation was held from 10-13 April 2009 and the theme was, “Igorot Cordillera Rituals: Their Features and Significance.”
During the 5th ICBE consultation, Igorots from Sweden---Michelle Budaden and her son, Kim---attended. It was the first time that delegates from a Scandinavian country attended an ICBE conference.
This conference will be remembered for the publication of a magazine “Cordillera Rituals as a Way of Life.” It includes researches on some rituals of the six Cordillera provinces. The research titles and authors are:
1. Cordillera Rituals: Their Features and Significance by Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.;
2. Mountain Province BEGNAS Ceremony: Its Meaning and Significance by Pamela B. Fiar-od;
3. Tingguian Abra Rituals by Philian Louise C. Weygan-Allan;
4. Keeping the Kalinga Heritage Alive in Rituals by Maria Luz D. Fang-asan, Ph.D.;
5. Apayao Rituals: Their Features and Significance by Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph. D.;
6. The Bulul in the Social Life of the Ifugao People by Serafin L. Ngohayon, Ph.D. & Emily G. Alberto;
7. Ifugao Rituals: Their Features and Significance by Anastacia T. Lannaon, Ph.D., Nancy Ann P. Gonzales, Ph.D., Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.; and
8. Benguet: The Peg-as and Paypay Rituals by Caridad B. Fiar-od, Ph.D.
From the proceeds of magazine sales, ICBE donated US $ 1,085.00 to the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) Scholarship Program.
In Germany, the participants nominated London as the venue of the 6th ICBE Consultation. Conchita B. Pooten, an Igorot UK member, who has consistently been attending ICBE conferences, accepted. She would later become one of the conference organizers.
ICBE 2011 (London, United Kingdom)
The 6th ICBE Consultation was held at the Woodford County Hotel, Woodford Green in London on 22-25 April 2011.With the theme, “Living our Igorot Values,” the conference was hosted by Igorot UK led by Robert Balagtey.
Many Igorot and/or Cordillera organizations performed during the cultural night on April 24th. The evening before, the delegation from the Ifugao State University led by their president, Dr. Serafin L. Ngohayon, presented Gotad ad London, a series of dances and rituals from Ifugao.
The conference has two accomplishments:
(1) A donation to the Ifugao State University to launch the ICBE Scholarship Program. The monies were collected from participants (as members of their organizations and as individuals) and from the church collection during the mass held at the St. Stephen’s Church on April 25th and
(2) Publication of a pictorial proceedings. Dr. Caridad B. Fiar-od wrote the book entitled “Igorot Value Systems and Cultural Protocols.” Conchita B. Pooten reviewed the book and yours truly edited it.
During a planning workshop on the 7th ICBE Consultation, the participants proposed that the next conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain on 9-12 May 2013. They agreed on the theme “Appreciating the Similarities and Differences of the Cordillera Ethnic Groups” and recommended Dr. Serafin L. Ngohayon as keynote speaker. The participants suggested that ICBE will request BIBAK Barcelona to host the conference.
ICBE 2013 (Barcelona, Spain)
On the 11th and 12th of November 2011, some from ICBE (Cristabel Bounggick, Conchita Pooten and yours truly) met with members and officers of BIBAK Barcelona headed by Gil Tiban Catimo. ICBE representatives explained the reasons for proposing Barcelona as venue and BIBAK Barcelona as host; they also answered questions of the organization’s members. After clarifying BIBAK Barcelona’s role, the officers and members, who were present, agreed to host the 7th ICBE Consultation. Initial plans for the conference were discussed.
Since the first quarter of 2012, BIBAK Barcelona and ICBE coordinated the conference on different aspects, i.e., venue, overall program and program for the cultural night, historical cum cultural tour and so on.
The 7th ICBE Consultation was hosted by BIBAK Barcelona headed by Gil Tiban Catimo. With the theme, “Appreciating the Similarities and Differences of the Cordillera Ethnic Groups,” the conference was held at Centro Aragones, Barcelona, Spain on 9-12 May 2013.
To fulfill a workshop’s recommendation of the conference, Conchita Pooten of Igorot UK initiated the “Balik Ili Reforestation and Cultural Exchange Programme.” She coordinated the program with Dr. Serafin Ngohayon, President of the Ifugao State University in Ifugao, Philippines. In Conchita’s report, she wrote, among other things, that on the second day, which is 16 December 2014, “we were able to participate in a well-organised tree planting progam. During the planting of seedlings, participants were also allowed to hand mark each seedling planted in honour of a dignitary of our choice. It was a heart-warming occasion. … The ICBE Balik Ili group also donated 30,000 Php to the ICBE scholarship fund.”
ICBE 2015 (Vienna, Austria)
While activities of the 7th ICBE Consultation were being discussed in 2012, planning for the 8th ICBE Consultation began during the last quarter of the same year. The first step was to look for a host. Cordillera Community in Belgium was requested to be the host. They declined and preferred other organizations to host. Igorot Austria-Cordillera was approached and their president, Leonida Ostermayer-Lunag, agreed.
The 8th ICBE Consultation was held in Vienna, Austria on 13-16 August 2015 with the theme was “Appreciating Ifugao (People, Land and Culture) in the Philippine Cordillera and Highlighting Experiences on Integration in Europe.” Igorot Austria-Cordillera, headed by Marjorie Abeya-Soaygan, hosted the conference. Some sessions were held at Hotel Ibis Wien Mariahilf and other sessions at Pfarre Akkonplatz.
Worth noting in this conference are the following:
- Souvenir Program, which is the first to be published in an ICBE consultation. Cristabel Olat-Bounggick headed the Souvenir Program Committee;
- Photo Exhibit of the past seven ICBE Consultations held from 2002 through 2013 produced by Rhino and Mechteld Oblas. It was exhibited during the “Igorot Cordillera European Cultural Night;”
- A delegation of around 50 persons from Italy who attended the “Igorot Cordillera European Cultural Night.” They are members (first and second-generation) of Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena. Marilyn Aro coordinated the delegates’ participation; and
- Donation of US $200.00 to the 11th Igorot International Consultation (IIC) 2016 Golf Tournament aimed at raising funds for the Igorot Scholarship Program.
ICBE 2017 (Rome, Italy)
During the 7th ICBE Consultation, participants from Italy were consulted about the possibility of hosting the 9th ICBE Consultation in 2017. Francis Kiwang, president of “ULNOS di Mountain Province,” came forward and said that their organization is unable to commit anything yet because he has to consult the members. Afterwards, Marilyn Aro of “Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena” stood up and said that if Rome will not take on the hosting, then Bologna will. The audience clapped.
Months after the conference, Marilyn wrote that the venue will be in Rome. After negotiations between ULNOS di Mountain Province and Cordillerans in Rome, they reached a decision.
In a letter from Rosmar Smith, president of Cordillerans in Rome, last June 1st 2015, she said, “We had our meeting yesterday and we are accepting the hosting of the 9th ICBE consultation in 2017 here in Rome.
During the turnover ceremonies in Vienna, Marjorie Abeya-Soaygan turned over hosting of the ICBE consultation to Grace Banto, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Cordillerans in Rome. Grace said they have tentatively set the conference sometime in August 2017.
The 9th ICBE Consultation was held in Rome, Italy from 28 April-1 May 2017. The theme was: “Appreciating Benguet: Land, People and Culture; Highlighting Cordillera Issues, and Experiences of Cordillera Migrant Workers in Italy.”
During this conference, a Steering Committee was formed from the participants. Its tasks are:
- Ensure the smooth management of the consultation;
- Attend to problems that may arise;
- Certify the validity of the resolutions and financial report;
- Officially open and close the consultation and
- Take actions to ensure the holding of the 10th ICBE Consultation.
The Steering Committee is composed of those in the leadership of previous ICBE consultations, member of an organization that hosted an ICBE conference, leadership of the host organization and a volunteer for communications of ICBE conferences.
The members of the Steering Committee are:
- Ric Cuyob - 1st Assembly of Cordillera People in Europe (Belgium);
- Rick Kilongan - 3rd ICBE Consultation (Switzerland);
- Jane Klee-Morgens - 5th ICBE Consultation (Germany);
- Conchita B. Pooten - 6th ICBE Consultation, United Kingdom;
- Gil Tiban Catimo - 7th ICBE Consultation (Spain);
- Marjorie Abeya-Soaygan - 8th ICBE Consultation (Austria)
- Rosmar G. Smith and Grace Banto - 9th ICBE Consultation (Italy) and
- Yvonne Belen - Volunteer for communications of ICBE conferences (The Netherlands).
The Steering Committee constituted itself as the Preparatory Committee of the 10th ICBE Consultation to be held in the Netherlands in 2019, with the addition of those in the leadership of the next host organization: MABIKAs Foundation (The Netherlands.) They are: Myra Colis, Chairperson of MABIKAs Foundation and Yvonne Belen, who volunteered to coordinate the conference.
In the meantime, the following organizations were added to the network: BIMAAK Sweden, Igorot Cooperative in Athens Greece, MABIKAs Foundation (The Netherlands) and United Igorot Association of Napoli.
The 9th ICBE Consultation donated EUR 100.00 to the Igorot Scholarship Program. Cordillerans in Rome donated EUR 50.00 and an ICBE member donated EUR 50.00.
ICBE 2019 (The Netherlands)
It was also during the 7th ICBE Consultation in Barcelona when Julio Allidem, president of BIBAK Marbella, was asked if the 10th ICBE Consultation could be held in Marbella, Spain in 2019. A few months after the Barcelona conference in May 2013, Julio wrote that he asked members of their organization if they would like to host an ICBE consultation. The members agreed. On June 28, 2015, a follow-up was made to Julio Allidem asking if their offer still holds. Julio replied, “For me, it would be a great pleasure to host 10th ICBE. Also good for the BIBAK of the south of Spain, especially the young generations. Hope to give you a confirmation before the said date.” (Deadline set for his reply is July 31, 2015.) In August 2015, Julio wrote that they regret they’re unable to host an ICBE consultation. He said though they will attend future ICBE conferences.
Meanwhile, Igorots in The Netherlands volunteered to host the 10th ICBE Consultation in 2019. The host is the newly-formed organization of Igorot Cordillerans in the Netherlands: MABIKAs Foundation-The Netherlands.
ICBE 2021 (Madrid, Spain)
During the 8th ICBE Consultation, Michelle Budaden, an Igorot residing in Sweden, mentioned they would be willing to host an ICBE conference. So, while plans for hosting other conferences were being discussed at the ICBE forum, Michelle offered to host the 11th ICBE Consultation either in Stockholm or Uppsala in 2021. After some mail exchanges, it was proposed that Stockholm might be a better place and preferably in the summer. This way, participants could combine their attending the conference and afterwards, going to places of interest in Stockholm.
In September 2017, some Igorot Cordillerans in Sweden began meeting to set up their organization in Sweden. On March 20th, Michelle Budaden wrote:
“We are pleased to inform you that we now have an organization of cordillerans here in Sweden. Last March 18, 2017, we had our first general assembly where we discussed our Constitution and By-Laws and elected our officers. We named our organization as BIMAAK Sweden. We hope to unite all cordillerans living in Sweden, as we are geographically spread in this long country. Through this organisation, we also hope to work for the promotion and preservation of our culture and identity.
We look forward to actively participate in ICBE gatherings as a united body and to get inspiration from you all for a dynamic and self-sufficient organisation.”
Michelle Budaden was elected president. As to hosting the 11th ICBE Consultation in 2021, they begged off and opted to host the 12th ICBE Consultation in 2023.
On 28 March 2017, Josephine Segundo, president of BIBAAK Madrid, wrote: “Good evening, we, the BIBAAK MADRID would love to host the 11th ICBE in 2021 if it's still available. Thank you very much.”
ICBE 2023 (Sweden)
While an ICBE conference was held in Rome, Italy in 2017, another conference could be held in a different part of the country. According to Marilyn Aro’s letter of September 14th 2015, she said, “For our Hosting in the future, we can decide it in the next years. Uray umuna pay dagiyay haan nga nakapag-host. Dibale ta next ket dakami amin ditoy Italy. Anyway we are very happy we already have hosts for the next years. (Translation of italics: “…Let the ones who have not yet hosted be the first. Anyway, the next will be us here in Italy.”)
Earlier, she wrote that when a conference is held in Bologna, there are other places to visit like Venice, Florence, Verona or San Marino.
In the meantime, we hope that members of Igorots in France Association (IFA) will join our ICBE conferences.
Grace Nabus of Igorot UK said in her September 9th 2015 letter: “…Anyway, I’m not speaking for the whole IGOROT UK, but I’m pretty sure our doors are just open for future ICBEs ...... If you ever get stuck with possible hosts, we are always here.....”
Organizations and Institutions Present during ICBE Consultations
Since the 1st Assembly of Cordillera People in Europe (ACPE) in 2002 until the 7th ICBE Consultation in 2013, a member(s) of the following organizations have attended:
- AMISTAD (Women’s Organization in Barcelona),
- APIT-TAKO (Alyansa iti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera),
- BIBAK-Ottawa Organization,
- BIMAK DC (USA),
- Filipijnengroep België (FGB),
- Igorot Global Organization (IGO),
- KAWAYAN (Filipino-Deutsche Interkulturelle Gruppe),
- KWIA (Flemish support group for Indigenous Peoples),
- New World (Belgium),
- IGO Philippines and
- Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks).
In addition, participants from these academic institutions have graced the events:
- Ifugao State University and
- Mountain Province State Polytechnic College.
Finally, some participants have come from Bonn, Germany; Canada; Israel; Luxembourg; Philippines; and Scotland, UK.
Personalities who have Attended (or could have Attended) ICBE Consultations
According to Ric Cuyob of Cordi-Bel, he said, “Another thing that we could add that I have in mind was the presence of some of the Philippine officials like the ambassadors of the Philippines to Austria (2nd and 8th ICBE consultations had two different ambassadors) and to Switzerland (3rd) plus the consuls for Catalan during the 7th ICBE consultation and the consul in Ireland during the 4th ICBE. There was also the pastor in Ireland who came during the cultural night and offered their church for our concluding activity. May be it will be good to acknowledge their presence for the record…”
And Gil Tiban Catimo of BIBAK Barcelona said, “I like to add, aside from the presence of the Catalan Honorary Consul Jordi Puig and Consul Catalino Dilem representing the Philippine embassy, there was also the presence of Bishop Felicisimo Cordero of the Episcopal Church in Barcelona.”
In summary, except for Ambassador Domingo-Albert, who sent her regrets for the cultural night of the 5th ICBE Consultation in Vallendar, Germany and CAR Regional Director of Tourism Marie Venus Q. Tan, who was unable to attend the 9th ICBE Consultation, the following ambassadors and honorary consuls attended the cultural night of the ICBE consultations:
- His Excellency Ambassador Victor. G. Garcia III (2nd IEC, Vienna, Austria, 2003);
- Her Excellency Ambassador Rora Navarro-Tolentino (3rd ICBE, Aeschi, Switzerland, 2005);
- Mr. John Ferris, Honorary Consul of the Philippine Embassy in the Republic of Ireland (4th ICBE, Dublin, Ireland, 2007);
- Her Excellency Ambassador Delia Domingo-Albert (5th ICBE, Vallendar, Germany, 2009);
- 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 (7th ICBE, Barcelona, Spain, 2013); and
- Her Excellency Ambassador Maria Zeneida Angara-Collinson (8th ICBE, Vienna, Austria, 2015).
Church personalities present during the cultural night are:
- The Rev. Katherine Poulton, parish priest of the Parish Church of St. George and St. Thomas (an Anglican Church of Ireland Parish). She attended the Cultural Night and offered their church as part of the concluding activity of the 4th ICBE Consultation.
- Bishop Felicisimo Cordero of the Episcopal Church in Barcelona. He was present during the “Igorot Cordillera European Cultural Night” of the 7th ICBE Consultation.
- Juerg Hafner of BIBAK Switzerland has been the website administrator since he set up the ICBE website in 2003.
- Glenn Olat Amora of Igorot Austria-Cordillera took over as website administrator in 2013.
- Juerg continues to pay for the domain’s annual dues.
The ICBE consultations have become an effective instrument to link up Igorot Cordillera organizations and individuals in Europe. In future consultations, we in ICBE look forward to having delegates from other countries in the continent.
The theme that has emerged from these conferences is on Igorot Cordillera culture---its preservation and how it could be passed on to the next generation of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe. ©2017YvonneBelen
06 July 2017