Opening Remarks

Written by Yvonne Kay-an Belen on .

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Myra and co-members of the Book Committee, Co-authors, Kailian from Europe and the Philippines, Our book reviewers: Ms Marilyn Magoo and Ms Dheza Aguilar, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,  

Good afternoon to those in Europe, good evening to those in the Philippines.

We are gathered here this afternoon to celebrate the birth of the first book of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe. In the book, we included two writers from the Philippines, who are Igorot Cordillerans and have stayed in Europe or attended a conference we organized.  

The beginning of this book was in February 2020 and was supposed to be a souvenir book to be published in 2029. However, Evangeline Martinez of the UK commented that 2029 is too far away and by that time, the book might be irrelevant. 

To have a collective effort on the book project, we invited Igorot Cordillerans in Europe to be a member of the Book Committee. We are: Kristine Kawi-Gorans (France); Myra Zymelka-Colis, Christina T. Moncado and yours truly (The Netherlands); Lorena Clerc (Switzerland); and Evangeline Martinez, Grace Nabus and Averil “Wendy” Pooten-Watan from the United Kingdom. 

When we discussed the title of the book, we came up with “Travels, Travails and Triumphs of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe.” We decided on the content of each subject and made a”Call for Submission” in February 2020. Then came the pandemic of March 2020 onwards and we had lockdowns in the continent and the UK. For most of us, this time offered an opportunity to write.

Why travels? As Filipinos in the diaspora, travel is part of our story. Why did we leave the country, especially our Philippine Cordillera? How did we integrate into our  host countries in Europe? How did our Igorotness and/or our being indigenous play a role in overcoming the challenges we were  facing? Or do we have some travel narratives to share during any of our tours or holidays? 

Why travails? Once we arrived in our host country in Europe, what obstacles and challenges did we face? Did we have issues on immigration, family adjustment and mental health? How did we address these issues? What were our coping strategies? How did we enable ourselves to belong to a community of Igorot Cordillerans?  

In overcoming our travails, we have had our triumphs. For the first-generation, they have empowered themselves and have had a better quality of life for their family. For the second-generation, some had issues of finding their identity, which they had to address. 

With these guidelines, we were able to inspire 35 authors to write stories and anecdotes, and compose poems and songs. The authors are from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Philippines.  

The members of the Book Committee became the editors. Myra Zymelka-Colis was in charge of the layout. The publishers were Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK-Europe (ICBE) and MABIKAs Foundation-The Netherlands. 

It took us two years and eight months to publish the book. Since the book is a self-publication, it took us two months to request for pre-orders so we could pay the fees needed for printing, layout and other costs. We printed 250 copies and they were all sold out. 

Some of us donated the book.   

This book, Travels, Travails & Triumphs of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe, had its own journey. We were only able to publish it with the contributions of time, talent and treasure of the authors. 

Thank you.  

Matago-tago tako am-in! (Long may we live.)  

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