Human Face

IPs are us

/ 05:28 AM October 12, 2017

This month is National Indigenous Peoples (IP) Month in the Philippines. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts is taking the lead with “Dayaw,” a festival.

Note, too, that the Catholic Church in the Philippines designates the second Sunday of October as Indigenous Peoples Sunday, with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) encouraging the clergy and lay faithful to observe the day in various creative ways. The CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (Ecip) is supposed to oversee various ministries among IPs.


Redemptorist Bro. Karl Gaspar has written about how the Ecip came to be in 1978. It would be safe to say that the government’s designation of October as National IP Month might have been a way to sync with the Church’s practice.

Although it was on Aug. 9 that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was celebrated, our national celebration this month should take cognizance of our IPs’ foreign counterparts. Worth mentioning is that Sept. 13 was the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


The declaration, a UN statement said, “is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It embodies global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.”

(Note that we use the double plural “peoples” to refer to the various distinct groupings, and the regular plural “people” in referring to IP individuals.)

The UN reminds that: “There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than five percent of the world’s population, but account for 15 percent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

“Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live…

“Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.”

I am pleased to say that over the years, I have written a good number of long feature articles and column pieces on the Philippines’ IPs (Mangyan, Kalinga, Tingguian, T’boli, B’laan, Aeta) and I even thought of putting these together in one book. (Some have found their way into my anthologies.) They might sound dated, I thought, but they are also a slice of the IPs’ history (with photographs and all). As in once upon a time…

Immersing oneself among IPs, even for a very short while, and learning about their struggles and dreams, have been very unforgettable and enriching, and sitting down in solitude to write about them a profound contemplative experience.


Don’t we all have IP roots? When do we cease to be IPs?

Speaking of tattoos that make our IPs culturally distinct, University of the Philippines Baguio anthropology professor Analyn V.

Salvador-Amores has written an award-winning book, “Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities” (UP Press, Cordillera Studies Center), which tackles “tradition and modernity in contemporary Kalinga society, North Luzon, Philippines.” It is thick and rich with well-researched information, made richer by old and recent color photographs plus illustrations.

Much has been said recently about tattoos, in reference to whether or not Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, a son of the President, has on his back a dragon tattoo signifying membership in the so-called Chinese drug triad. At a Senate hearing, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had dared the vice mayor to bare it for all to see. No way, the vice mayor said.

And what was that about—the House’s proposing an insult of a P1,000 budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for 2018?

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TAGS: CBCP, dayaw, ECIP, Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Human Face, Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Peoples Sunday, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, National Indigenous People's Month, NCCA
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