Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel)

Written by Ric Cuyob on .

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What is Cordi-Bel?

Cordi-Bel is the shortened term for Cordillera Community in Belgium. In the early ‘80s, a few Igorots started to come to the Benelux (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg) as domestic workers and to some, as refugees. However, it took some years before they got to know each other and start coming together. Thus, it was only towards the end of the ‘90s that the Cordillera Community was formed. Though it was supposed to be Benelux Cordillera, it was named Cordillera Community in Belgium for the simple reason that majority of the Igorots in the Benelux are in Belgium. However, some Igorot families in the Netherlands, as well as the family of Severino "Rhino" Oblas family in Bedburg, Germany, are still counted in the Cordi-Bel.

Spring Ushers in New Beginning

It was towards the spring of 1994 when Peter Agnaonao and yours truly happened to meet in a public transport. Their meeting ignited a simple friendship then to a desire to be with other “kakailians”. Since Peter knew a good number of Igorots in Brussels, he and his family became instrumental in gathering Igorots for birthdays and other forms of socialization. It came to a point when everyone demanded that a constitution and by-laws be drafted. This finally formalized the group as a community during the summer of 1999. In the process, visiting fellow Igorots and other concerned fellow Filipinos got involved and helped in the formation. To record, there was Dr. Abigail Capuyan-Tauli, who happened to be in Antwerp taking up a Masters in Public Health at the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Dominador “Ador” Olavere, residing in Brussels, though he hails from the Bicol region, was so active in supporting and strengthening the community. Of course, we have from the Netherlands, Cesar Taguba and Yvonne Belen who, with their occasional visits in Brussels, gave encouragement and inspiration in the process.

From 2001 to 2005, Cordi-Bel teamed up with FGB (FilippijnenGroupBelgie) and KWIA (a Flemish Support Group for Indigenous Peoples) to carry out a five-year Cordillera Campaign under the support of the Government of East Flanders. This teaming-up helped establish Cordi-Bel, so much so that it has become the backbone of Cordi-Bel in initiating the first Igorot European assembly that took place in 2002 in the city of Gent, Belgium. This evolved later to be what we have now as the Igorot Cordillera (BIMAAK) - Europe Consultation, in short, called the ICBE Consultation.

What Cordillera Means

When the group chose to call itself Cordillera Community in Belgium, we were only thinking of our Cordillera native land in the North of Luzon, Philippines. It was only with more readings and researches that we became aware of other Cordilleras and what Cordillera means. This could have been accidental but we find it appropriate for us as migrants and immigrants since the root word of the Cordillera,1  which is “cord” or “cordilla”, an old Spanish word that means string or rope, means a lot to our Igorot ancestors in their day-to-day life in the mountains. 

Nowadays, we seldom have the dire need of ropes literally but its uses - “to bond”, “to tie-up”, “to attach”, “to connect”, and so on, is real in our daily endeavor in the host country where we are and to our roots back home. As such, may Cordillera community strive to carry the meaning “bonded or attached together” to stand up openly and share whatever blessings or good things to others. Just like the mountain ranges, except when abused, it will let its natural resources flow in order to be shared and enjoyed.

Present and past officers

2011 – Present: 

Chairperson – Sherwin Khayad

Vice-chairperson – Ellen Godio-Bucad

Secretary – Amy Balbawang

2007 – 2010:

Chairperson – Rachel Lagasca

Vice-chairperson – Fely Banggalit-Lindelauf

Secretary – Monica Dango-Pumihic

 2003 – 2006:

Chairperson- Fely Banggalit-Lindelauf

Vice-chairperson – Karen Palangchao

Secretary – Rachel Lagasca

1999 – 2002

Chairperson - Peter Agnaonao  

Vice-chairperson – Pureza Lagasca

Secretary – Alice Pumihic Cuyob

What Are We Busy With

For the whole year round, Cordi-Bel has a sort of routine activities such as socialization within our organization, and solidarity or participating in gatherings organized by other associations or groups.  

Socialization would include celebration of birthdays, baptism, First Communion of children (and maybe weddings in the future). Another would be organizing a simple dinner when there are occasional guests (especially from the Philippines). Over the years, this practice proves to be therapeutic in one’s personal struggle as migrant.

Solidarity or participating in gatherings organized by other associations or groups is an external affair that we join in, as a whole community or by sending representatives or by individual initiative. When it comes to Filipino community affairs in Belgium, we often participate as a community but sometimes we send representatives. The big annual Filipino community affair so far in Belgium is the celebration of Philippine Independence day, which is organized and celebrated separately in different cities by fellow Filipinos. When we team up with other groups, we make it a point to participate as a whole community like the Cordillera campaign from 2001 to 2005 in East Flanders. During the two waves of regularization program of the Belgian government for foreigners in Belgium in 1999-2000 and in 2009-2010 (where the undocumented were given a document), we attended as a community as well as individually especially in informing our fellow Filipinos in Belgium. There are also activities that are often times organized or initiated by our partners where we are invited to attend. Whenever possible, we send representatives or we attend by individual initiative. The ICBE consultation is an event that we strive in Cordi-Bel to always send representatives aside from the wish of full community participation.


1. Word Origin & History cordillera 1704, from Sp., "mountain chain," from cordilla, in O.Sp. "string, rope," dim. of cuerda, from L. chorda "cord, rope" (see cord). Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper


11 March 2014 

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