The Second Grand Cañao in Rome, Italy on June 1, 2014

Written by Francis Kiwang on .

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“Reaching out with our cultural legacy”


“United we stand, divided we fall.” This is an adage that’s been used and abused by authors and aspiring writers ever since man learned how to read and write. It’s a phrase that is a part of millions of articles that chronicle camaraderie and, the struggles and triumphs of the human spirit. And though it may at times appear to be a trivial group of words, in the end, it will always be a truism that you can never exaggerate.

Such is the case of the Cañao; it is a simple word that connotes one of our culture’s great celebrations. The word cañao evokes in us joy and excitement, for we look forward to a celebration of love, great harvest or any momentous happening in our lives. But in the middle of it all, there is one vital thing this event does that goes unnoticed. It brings us, be it family or in-laws, friends or neighbors, or simply some one from the other side of town, closer together. It teaches us and our children the importance of our Igorot culture. It is a constant reminder that long ago, in the northern mountainous side of the Philippines, there was this group of people that persevered and endured so that the present Cordillera is what it is today. And up to this day, it continues to instill in us the virtues of our forefathers that have outlived conquerors, civil wars and worldwide economic depressions.

And so it is with the adventure of the Second Grand Cañao that was celebrated here in Rome, Italy. Not only did we do ourselves a favor of enjoying our free time with friends and acquaintances but we also helped in keeping afloat the culture that make us live. Somehow we’re letting the world know that together, we are proud of our heritage and we are united (naULNOS) as a community. We’re letting our children know the importance of our ethnicity. Through this event, we’re helping them learn the ways and virtues of the Cordillerans. And much like the Indians of the Americas, we are teaching our children the importance of the cyclical relationship of man and its environment by letting them know the true meaning of the grand cañao.

In this age of computer and technological advances, people seem to forget the importance of their heritage due to their pursuit of a better life. In fact, many of our children fail to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of a man in g-string or a woman wearing a native skirt. Nowadays, there are no more men or children sleeping in the ato (dap-ay). Nowadays, there are only barren lands in the Cordilleras. For everything that we learned from our forefathers is slowly fading away as we fail to recognize that we are the bridges that gap our cultural heritage and our children. And for as long as we don’t do anything about it, the very fabric of our cultural foundation will continue to get lost in the wilderness because of our non-action. I, as an Igorot, fear that the day will come when our children don’t even know how to speak our native language.

Nonetheless, we did what we could and made our efforts on the double with the two Cordillera organizations here in Rome: Ulnos di Mountain Province (ULNOS) and United Cordillera Workers of Rome Italy (UCWRI), to organize this 2nd Grand Cañao and push it through. Our work was realized last June 1, 2014. It was a success although we have a lot to improve.

A million thanks to the different Cordillera associations here in Italy: Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena, Cordillera Migrant Workers of Milan and Como, Cordillerans of Modena, and United Igorot Association of Naples, Italy, who gave us a hand in preparing this event. A million thanks to our visitors from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the USA, who in one way or another helped us in making this cañao push through. Without everybody’s presence, this cañao would not have been a success. Most of our visitors especially those from Europe are members of the ICBE (Igorot Consultation BIMAAK Europe) and were representing their own BIMAAK group from their country of base.

We owe the honor to Dr. Yvonne Belen who gave her time and flew from Holland to Rome to be our guest speaker. In her message entitled “Achieving unity through respect and flexibility,” she emphasized that to be one, to be united is great but respecting the differences of others is even greater. Wow! A very inspiring and powerful speech.

A million thanks to Consul Voltaire Pingol from the Philippine Embassy in Rome and Alex Mendoza from the Filipino counselor of region Lazio who shared us their inspirational talks.

There were 300 people or more at the height of the program and people were still coming especially during the cultural presentation. Varied cultural dances of the Cordillera’s five provinces (except Apayao) were presented by the different BIMAAK groups of Italy. As master of ceremonies, Rosmar Gibson-Smith, secretary of UCRWI, saw to it that the program flowed smoothly.

The first performance was sakuting by the youth of Bologna and Modena. Sakuting is a dance using sticks by two or more performers playing the sticks like arnis with the sound of gongs. Como Milan followed with their Benguet Ibaloi dance. This dance was introduced by Attorney Loretta Vergara from the Philippine Embassy in Rome. Attorney Vergara is a lowlander who migrated to Bokod, Benguet since her childhood. She is now head of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in the Philippine Embassy. The Napolitans presented a song. Then Bologna Modena danced the Kalinga pattong. Marilyn Aro, member of Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena, introduced the dance. She cited few descriptions about Kalinga and Apayao using the acronym K.A.L.I.N.G.A. as the dancers had steps forming the letters during their presentation. UCWRI performed the Abra cultural dance, followed by Milan Como with their Benguet Kankanaey takik. The ULNOS members performed their harvest festival dance that was narrated by Pastora Virginia Magalgalit. Attorney Viveca Catalig introduced and gave an insight on the Ifugao dance performed by the UCWRI members. Attorney Catalig is from Ifugao and is the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator-in-charge in Rome. Nobody presented the Apayao province because of lack of knowledge of their cultural dances or songs.

Messages were given by Felipe Kingay, UCWRI president; Grace P. Banto, a member of the Board of Directors of UCWRI; and yours truly, as president of ULNOS.

This article serves as an invitation to each and every Igorot in Italy, if not in Europe, to come and join us in pursuing the legacy of the second grand cañao. Each and every Cordilleran is hereby ordered to heed the “decree of Rome,” the second grand cañao. Soon there will be a 3rd and a 4th and so on. Come and join us impart the legacy of our culture to our children. Come and enjoy the warmth feeling and coziness of being with our Cordillera brothers and sisters. Come and celebrate with us during the 3rd Grand Cañao.

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