FEBRUARY of 2014 saw the launch of the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) Katutubo Desk’s annual Desk Session for school year 2013-2014, themed “Ka-Tribo Ako: Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Contribution to Philippine Culture and Society,” composed of several activities all aiming to raise awareness and appreciation of Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) culture and rights.
Atty. Tanya Lat, speaking on the contributions of IPs to society at large, said that indigenous communities are seen as both protectors of the forests and the environment and preservers of national culture. She mentioned that five Filipino tribes were participants in this year’s International Folk Arts Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States. On the issues plaguing IPs today, Atty. Jan Perry Eugenio of Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) discussed the Aurora-Pacific Economic Zone (APECO), brainchild of former Senator Edgardo Angara and his son, Congressman-turned-Senator Juan Edgardo Angara.
Some major arguments against APECO are the displacement and loss of livelihood of thousands of families in Casiguran, Aurora and the danger posed to the ecosystem of Sierra Madre. In connection with this, an online petition on Change.org addressed to President Aquino was initiated by the Katutubo Desk entitled, “Protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Casiguran, Aurora. Suspend the Philippine government’s funding of APECO.”
The forum also featured a sampling of indigenous culture. Apart from sharing his folks’ experiences, Bricks Sintaon, a Talaandig from Bukidnon, also demonstrated traditional dances and songs of the Talaandig. Sintaon has worked in institutions such as the Cartwheel Foundation, Inc., which aims to promote education for marginalized members of indigenous communities.
A highlight of the forum was the Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir, which won won first place in the children’s folk choir category and garnered the Children’s Choir of the World Award in the 67th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod Children’s Choir Festival held last July 2013. The children performed one of their winning pieces, Orde-e, a Madukayan Folksong from the Cordillera Region which starts off with a peaceful chant, interrupted in parts by animal calls and sounds of children playing, and finally ends with the same peaceful tone with which it began.
The event was capped off by the opening of an exhibit of photographs by Katutubo Filipino Project at the APS Building Atrium. The project, conceptualized by Jacob Maentz and his wife, Nahoma, documents different indigenous peoples around the Philippines in order to raise awareness of the slowly changing and disappearing cultures of indigenous peoples in the country.