MANILA, 30 October 2020 — Representatives from indigenous peoples (IP) groups featured their unique ways of preserving culture and heritage and called for more support to enhance their resilience to the pandemic and climate impacts, during the 24th episode of “Stories for a Better Normal: Pandemic and Climate Pathways.”
The online conversation hosted by House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda featured indigenous and cultural advocates, including Waway L. Saway, member of the Talaandig in Bukidnon and Head of the Family Food Security Cycle program of Hineleban Foundation; Delia Pauden, Cluster Head of Ati in Antique and Aklan; and Renee Talavera, Head of the Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Dedicated in celebration of the National Indigenous Peoples’ Month this October and the 23rd anniversary of the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, the episode aimed to raise awareness on the interventions needed from all sectors to further promote traditional culture and rural livelihoods of IP groups and communities.
Mr. Saway, an international-renowned artist for music and arts, introduced the Hineleban Foundation, which aims to secure Mindanao’s sources of water by reforesting the buffer zones surrounding the high mountain ranges and to provide sustainable livelihood options for the Bangsamoro and IPs of Mindanao. Rooted in the belief that neither the forest nor the people can thrive without the other, the foundation approaches its goal in three aspects—food security, sustainable livelihood, and reforestation. He also discussed how the various groups in Bukidnon and other areas in Mindanao converge to do sustainable rainforestation work, especially during this pandemic.
“Simula lamang ito dito sa Bukidnon, subalit ito ay gagawin natin sa buong Mindanao dahil ang Hineleban ay one of the key players of Mindanao rainforestation. Ibig sabihin nito, buong Mindanao ang ating ginagalawan, kasama na rito ang mga pamayanan ng mga kapatid nating Muslim,” said Saway.
Ms. Pauden, member of the Pandan-Ati organization that teaches dance, music, weaving and Ati language to the young members of Ati, shared how the government helped them in preserving their traditional culture and sustain their livelihoods,.
“Sa ngayon, unti-unti nang nawawala ‘yung tradisyon namin. But through Deputy Speaker Legarda and NCCA’s support, we’re praying and hoping na makatulong na maibalik ‘yung kultura at tradisyon namin,” said Pauden.
Ms. Talavera introduced the programs and projects for the IPs, such as Assistance to Artisans Program and School of Living Traditions (SLTs) to revitalize IP culture and heritage. SLTs are non-formal centers of learning in the communities where cultural masters transmit their knowledge and skills on a particular art, craft, and tradition to the young members of the community for their appreciation and learning.
“Ang SLTs, five years na nitong natutulungan ang communities hanggang sa maging sustainable na ang mga ito. Ganu’n din sa Assistance to Artisans, ang mga natulungan nito ay malaki ang pasasalamat dahil nari-reach natin kahit ‘yung mga nasa pinaka-liblib na lugar kung saan meron pala silang mga pangangailangan na hindi kaagad nila mailapit dahil mahirap ang sitwasyon. Dahil dito sa Assistance to Artisans program, maraming mga tao at mga komunidad ang napasaya, lalo na ngayong panahon ng pandemic, hindi tumigil ang ating mga programa at tuloy-tuloy pa rin tayo,” said Talavera.
Legarda showed several photos of her programs, activities, and projects for the IPs whom she considers as frontliners in the preservation of indigenous culture. She also reiterated the need to preserve the cultural wealth and heritage bestowed upon by the IP communities and their indigenous knowledge, systems, and practices. She also stressed the need to ensure that budgets allocated for IPs are properly utilized and spent to further protect their rights.
“There should be adequate safety protocols and support mechanisms in place for our IPs, the NCCA, and the NGOs we work with in the preservation of our indigenous culture and heritage. We also need to ensure that the budgets intended to support our IPs are used fully and efficiently. We should always respect the culture of our IPs. Huwag tayong gagamit ng kanilang kaalaman nang hindi nire-respeto ang kanilang karapatan, kultura, at kabuhayan,” Legarda concluded.
As an online discussion to promote health, environmental consciousness, and climate-adaptive practices, "Stories for a Better Normal" aims to change the mindset of individuals, families, and communities by demonstrating ways in which a ‘better normal’ can be realized within our communities.
This online discussion is organized in partnership between the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda and the Climate Change Commission, with support from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, The Climate Reality Project-Philippines and Mother Earth Foundation.