Dr. Antonio moderates the discussion with the Teduray, Kamigingnun and Pangasinese delegates. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF KATUTUBO EXCHANGE PHILIPPINES
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Katutubo Exchange (KX), a cultural exchange program that gathers indigenous peoples to showcase their culture and traditions and create awareness among the public, held its eighth edition online for the first time.
Held to celebrate the National Indigenous Peoples’ Month, the annual event is organized by Katutubo Exchange Philippines (KXPH), a volunteer cultural organization of which I am the founder and director. It is composed of indigenous youths and cultural workers with the aim of promoting indigenous cultures and cross-cultural understanding. This celebration of cultural diversity is supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Ibaloy delegates Glen and Dexie explain the significance of their traditional dance.
With the theme, “Indigenous Peoples’ Resiliency in the Time of a Pandemic,” KX this year was a month-long event that showcased different cultural communities in programs that were streamed online every Saturday and Sunday of October. It was able to engage around 20 ethnic groups across the country with over 100 individuals participating. These included the Ivatan of Batanes, the Ilongot of Aurora, the Ifugao of the province Ifugao, the Ga’dang and Balangao of Mountain Province, the Ayta of Bataan, the Isnag of Apayao, the Ibanag and Itawes from Isabela, the Ibaloy of Benguet, the Pangasinense and Bolinao of Pangasinan, the Ilocano from Ilocos Norte, the Tagbanwa of Palawan, the Teduray and Iranun of Maguindanao, the Kamigingnun of Camiguin, the Meranaw of Lanao del Sur and the Obo Manobo of North Cotabato.
Traditional healing and ethnomedicine presentation by an Ayta elder.
The head of the Obo Manobo delegation, Rogelio Icdang Batongmalaki, recounted, “When I read Katutubo Exchange article in Agung magazine, I became so eager to let my community of youth join this cultural exchange program, and it quickly happened by simply messaging them. Our youth delegates were happy to have participated this year and shared their indigenous language, dances, music, songs and artefacts online, and we are grateful for that.”
A special episode was dedicated to the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) — the Katutubo Exchange Global Conversation with representatives from Peru, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Japan, Laos, Indonesia and Egypt and indigenous youths from the Philippines: Tagbanwa, Ifugao, Blaan of Sarangani, Meranaw and Ibaloy. They discussed their situations amid the pandemic, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how they can contribute to shaping the future. The keynote speech was delivered by the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez.
Balangao delegation head Natividad Salcedo teaches netizens words and phrases from their language.
Ibaloy youth Glen Andreigh Senio said, “It’s truly unbelievable to have participated in a remarkable program that happened virtually. We can actually dance even in just a small room in front of the camera via Zoom. I represented and introduced my community online as head of delegation with my partner Dexie Esco, and participated as panelist in the Global Conversation where I shared ideas and gained friends from overseas for the first time. I was also given the chance to host the culminating program in the last episode. So grateful to KXPH for these great opportunities and experiences.”
Another component of KX, the webinar on traditions, was also conducted online, attended by teachers, professionals and students across the country and abroad. Topics included writing the Old Tagalog abugida or baybayin, writing the Tagbanwa script, Ga’dang sinninun weaving and beadworks, Blaan albung (blouse) designs and embroidery, and Maguindanao performance art.
This year’s success of Katutubo Exchange is a manifestation of the indigenous people’s resilience in a challenging time like this. They can rise above the situation. With the help of technology, we can bridge cultures and build a better future.
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