DURING a symposium at the University of the Cordillera where I was invited as a resource speaker on cultural diversity, I noted several interesting discussions during an ensuing interaction with former NCIP Commissioner Zenaida Hamada-Pawid, writer Wasing Sacla and the mix local and foreign students.

As I was ushered to my seat, Manang Brigit was stressing to the students the importance of any research group to gather facts well, read journals and personally interact with people. She was practically saying read, read, read and write, write, write. It is important to know the diversification of people’s culture and to understand human subject’s cultural origin she stressed.

“You don’t ask Ina Whang-od of Buscalan, Kalinga to tattoo you with your girlfriend’s image and ask people in that community where you can find a latrine and other amenities of city living because there are none. Go take a bath in the river because that is how it is in remote villages” Manang Brigit said.

On the Ibaloi’s known traits of being shy or aloof in comparison to other tribal folks, Manang Brigs said during the forum that they are simply contented with what they have but they, referring to the Ibalois do not beg or ask favors from anybody. Her statement partly answers my question as to why non-Ibalois often win in an election in La Trinidad, Benguet. I am referring to Edna Cuyopan Tabanda and the late Jack Dulnuan.

She then addressed the Ibaloi students at the symposium to change their attitude and mindset to what is commonly referred to as “shayak mango” which is a self-admission to being shy and non-confrontational.

It pays to understand your community and neighbor’s customary practices and attitudes towards outside influences and interventions. I know for a fact that there are practices in Mountain Province like the Inayan which has served as basic village rule. I narrated several of my work related experiences relating to some sensitive customary practices. In wherever you go, I said that you remain a stranger unless you introduce who you are. It is also important that you have somebody introduce you or you first approach the local elders, opinion leaders or Barangay officials to make known your presence and intentions.

I was once told “Saan kayo nga agdurdursok” by a lady tribal representative of one of the governing bodies of the Cordillera Administrative Region on our attempt to consult stakeholder’s sentiments as the government information arm. I knew in those days that even unschooled opinion leaders were regarded with high esteem and the same protocol or due courtesy accorded to VIPs must likewise be applied to them. Visitors, non-residents and even media personalities when entering an IP community or a remote village must observe proper decorum and not be critical on whatever they encounter.

On communicating with locals, researchers or reporters must not poke and aim their boom microphones and recorders right on the face of village folks as they might not know what those are and why suddenly they are the subject of your inquiry. A local translator or interpreter helps to clarify things that may not be explained by you.

One customary practice that I do not fail to observe whenever I stop by any roadside to take a leak or even behind a bush is to say “Kayo kayu umad adayo kayu” or “Bari-Bari” meant to tell whatever unseen being present in that particular place to move a little so they won’t be hit by my activity.

It is like saying “Makikiraan po” which is also a common practice of the Tagalogs.