Cordillera cultural group turns 20

Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY — “Entayo agpabuya, paypayew kalkalsada, salidummay salidummay ay ay. Minas ken kabakiran, teatro pay ti babaknang, salidummay salidummay ay ay. Bannog, pudot ken bisin, tudo pudot ken lammin, salidummay salidummay ay ay. Uray kasta karigat na gana-ganasen tay latta, salidummay salidummay ay ay,” Let us perform on the rice fields, streets, mines, forest and even in the theatres of the rich. Fatigue, hunger, rain, heat or cold. No matter how difficult, let us give our all).

An excerpt from the Salidummay song entitled Kultura ti wayawaya (Culture of freedom). The verses above clearly stated how the Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordiyera (DKK) reached its 20th anniversary. They struggle through art to serve the masses.

Ignited by the Bontok and Kalinga tribes struggle to defend their land, life and resources from drowning because of the World Bank-funded Chico River dams, student activists based in Baguio immersed themselves in the communities and recorded the protest songs of the people in the 1980s. These students formed a singing group called Salidummay and released their first self-titled album in 1987.

Revolutionary art

Through their first album, they were able to share to a wider audience the struggle not only of Bontoks and Kalingas but also that of the Tinggian tribe in Abra in their defense of their ancestral land against the massive logging of the Cellophil Resources Corporation (CRC).

As time passed, development aggression in the Cordillera worsened. Large mining companies continue to exploit the mineral resources not only in Benguet but throughout the region. Protest was met with state terrorism through militarization. Culture is being sold. Workers in mining are gravely violated of their rights to a decent wage and many more.

This prompted the group to form an alliance in 1991 not only of singers but of all cultural workers with a common aim to defend our land, life, resources and cultural heritage of the Cordillera people. The DKK was then formed by Salidummay, Children of the Cordillera (Chico), Shengnget (the open pit mining kids of Itogon), Grupong Binhi and others.

They started educating, organizing and mobilizing not only artists and cultural workers but even the students through street plays, concerts and theatre performances.

Literally, bannog, puyat ken bisin were experienced by the alliance in organizing, integration to the basic masses, educating themselves on social issues through discussions, and advancing their art.

Aside from albums, a lot of theatre and street plays were written and played by the group.

From the younger generation of the alliance, Ivy Annaway, a volunteer member and the Miss Kaigorotan 2011 shared how the alliance opened her mind on urban poor issues. “Through community cultural workshops, I have seen the real situation of the urban communities here in Baguio,” she added.

She also realized that cultural work does not end in performing but it is a continuing process where you learn from communities’ situations, put it any form of art to educate the wider youth and mobilize them to act. She herself experienced the bannog, puyat ken bisin in the night practices, long hours of assessment. These however helped her develop her self-discipline.

Ivan Torafing, a member of the alliance and now the secretary general of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN) said the alliance developed his revolutionary character. He said that he became more creative, more open to new ideas, and more patient. His first involvement with DKK was the play, “Panagsubli ni Gatan” which was presented during the 24th Cordillera Day celebration in Licuan-Baay, Abra.

“I got to know the issues of the Tinggian people and how they struggled for their rights to kick the asses of the CRC. It builds a stronger and militant peoples movement in the Cordillera,” he added.

Warren Mangili, one of the singer/guitarist of Salidummay said their art is not different from the mainstream art when it comes to form. “It only makes a difference when it comes to whom or where our master pieces come from and for whom it will serve,” he said.

With various member organizations from different schools and artists, the alliance celebrates its 20th anniversary this month by providing venues for its organizations to learn and share their skills. It also provides venues for educational discussions that will arm each of the organizations in producing mass oriented works of art.

A culminating activity will be held on July 31 in the city.

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