Celebrating Cordillera Day at Home and Abroad

Distance has never prevented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from celebrating Cordillera Day and taking on issues affecting them and the Filipino people.

Vol. VIII, No. 12, April 27-May 3, 2008

BAAY-LICUAN, Abra? Distance has never prevented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from celebrating Cordillera Day and taking on issues affecting them and the Filipino people.

Cordillera Day is celebrated annually in one of the provinces in the Cordillera region every April 24, a historic and significant date for the Cordillera people. On April 24, 1980, soldiers belonging to the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, under Lt. Leodegario Adalem, fired at two houses in the village of Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga. The purpose of the military operation was to kill two prominent leaders of the Kalinga and Bontok peoples who were opposed to the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Ama Macliing Dulag, a respected pangat (tribal chieftain) of the Butbut tribe, died from multiple gunshots while Pedro Dungoc survived. Dungoc later joined the New Peoples Army (NPA) and died as a guerilla fighter.

Through the years, Cordillera Day symbolized the widening unity and solidarity among the different indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, with advocate and support groups at the regional, national and international levels participating in the annual event.

The 24th Cordillera Day, this year, was celebrated in Baay-Licuan, Abra, the site of a mining exploration project in the province.

Cordillera Day commemoration abroad

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Taiwan and Hong Kong likewise celebrate Cordillera Day, albeit at a different date, the Sunday after April 2 4, to maximize the day off of migrant workers. OFWs in Taiwan would celebrate this year’s Cordillera Day on May 4, while OFWs in Hong Kong would celebrate it on May 5. Filipinos in Macau, Belgium, and Japan also observe Cordillera Day in their respective host countries.

Cordillera Day celebrations in Hong Kong is spearheaded by the Cordillera Alliance, which is composed of migrant groups whose members come from Bontoc, Abra, Kalinga, Benguet and Ifugao.

OFWs Ludy Guinaban and Dolores Dayao said that their Cordillera Day celebration in Hong Kong is both a show of richness of their culture and a means to assist fellow migrants.

Guinaban, 38, from the Binongan tribe of Brgy. Lenneng, Licuan, Abra, said that in Hong Kong, OFWs from the Cordillera region wear their traditional clothes distinct to their province. Guinaban is the secretary general of the Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS). ATIS, a member of the Cordillera Alliance, is a federation of 19 organizations composed of natives of Tinguian and Ilocanos from different municipalities of Abra. The Licuan Hong Kong Association where Guinaban serves as its chair for the past five years is also a member.

Every year, Guinaban said, OFWs from each province in the region present a skit and cultural dance portraying the most pressing issue of their province. The leaders of the member-organizations also give a talk on the current situation in their respective provinces. At the end of the program, the different migrant groups under the Cordillera Alliance sign a unity statement, which is in line with the theme of the Cordillera Day celebration in the Philippines.

For this year’s Cordillera Day celebration, the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-HK), the umbrella organization of OFWs in Hongkong of which the Cordillera Alliance is a member, is conducting a signature campaign to stop mining operations in the Cordillera Region, particularly the explorations in Licuan, Abra.

Since they would hold the celebration in a public place, at the Chater Road or at the Chater Garden, other OFWs who are not from the Cordillera would be able to watch and join their activity.

Taking the opportunity to reach out to fellow OFWs

The Cordillera Day celebration also serves as a venue to assist OFWs and other migrant workers who seek their assistance, said Dayao, 56, an Igorot from Besao, Mountain Province.

Dayao is a member of the migrant group Besao Organization and a volunteer of the Mission Volunteers-United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Movers-Unifil-HK) of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Anglican Church.

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