With a vision to unite the Igorots in Austria and to organize themselves, 35 Igorots gathered for the first time on October 31, 1999 at the residence of Patrick and Cristabel Bounggick. They came from different provinces of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines namely, Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Abra and Kalinga. Unfortunately, there was no one from Apayao. They felt excited and nostalgic. Everyone was longing to find solace and comfort as the group got acquainted with their fellow Igorots.
With a desire to uplift their group identity, they reached a consensus to name the group,IGOROT ORGANIZATION IN AUSTRIA.They formulated their Constitution and By-Laws (CBL) and had the following objectives:
- To unify and strengthen the Igorots living in Austria.
- To cultivate and preserve their cultural heritage.
- To establish links and good relations with other organizations.
- To integrate with the Austrian law.
They also took up one of the traditional aspects of the Igorot culture, which is Death Aid to an immediate member’s relative. CalledOb-obbo,it’s a form of Igorot spirit ofbayanihan or badangand means Igorots helping their fellow Igorots spiritually, morally and financially. The members of Igorot Organization in Austria follow guidelines in the practice of their Death Aid.
The organization is legally registered under the Austrian law and is self- reliant. Thus, expenses incurred in any activity come from voluntary contributions of members, solicitations from business establishments and grants from government agencies. To attain the goals of their organization and to raise funds, the members perform during cultural presentations.
To further foster the spirit of cooperation, understanding and commitment, members were updated on March 24, 2008 on the qualifications for membership as stated in the CBL. These are:
- 18 years of age and above, and of Igorot descent,
- Spouse of Igorots,
- All persons who have adopted the Igorot way of life, and
- Regular payment of membership dues.
The organization has accomplished several programs and projects; they have extended support to our homeland. The first major activity of the organization was integration with the Filipino community in Austria during the 102ndPhilippine Independence Day in June 2000. Igorot Organization in Austria received a trophy for garnering first place in the cultural presentation. Thereafter, the organization has received trophies frequently. They sent P50,000.00 (fifty thousand pesos) to Easter College in Baguio City, which they raised during the Kanyaw/Canao presentation on September 7, 2002. From the proceeds during cultural presentations, they support the programs and projects of the organization.
On October 24, 2009, the organization held a Grand Canao with Philippine guests. Dr. Caridad B. Fiar-od was the guest speaker and resource person while Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yangot shared her knowledge of the Cordillera indigenous peoples. Guests from Switzerland, Frederick Baldo and Rick Kilongan, displayed their talents on ethnic dances. From cash proceeds during the activity, Igorot Organization Austria sent an amount to the victims of Typhoon Pepeng in the Cordillera Region; they also sent clothes, shoes, and others through a forwarding corporation. The organization also sent a part of the cash proceeds to the Igorot Scholarship Program, a project of the Igorot Global Organization.
The second generation have been active in the organization. They have been presenting the richness of their culture and proudly tracing their roots not only within the Filipino community but also, in the Intercultural Model Show. As incentive and motivation, the organization’s officers sponsored two youth during the 5thIgorot Consultation BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) held in April 2009 in Germany. In May 2003, Igorot Organization in Austria hosted the 2ndICBE Consultation. ICBE is a network of the Igorots in Europe and their objective is to hold conferences (called Consultations) biennially. Igorot Organization in Austria has had regular participation in these Consultations.
Members and officers gather not only during meetings and general assembly but also, during summer time when they hold family grill parties or go to excursions. They participate in different religious activities such as “Misa de Gallo,” church anniversaries and some activities of the Vienna Christian Fellowship.
The induction of pioneer officers, with Patrick Bounggick, Sr. as the founding president was held during their acquaintance party on September 23, 2000. From then on, the organization has grown rapidly to around 100 members. They have led the banner forward in every involvement with different Filipino organizations, particularly during the annual Barrio Fiesta. For Best Booth, costumes and cultural dances---the organization has been given a “Hall of Fame” award.
*The author held the following positions in theIgorot Organization in Austria:
President 2008 - 2009
Coordinator 2002 - 2007
Adviser 2000 - 2002