FORTY indigenous Filipinos got selected and invited to showcase their culture and tradition to the annual cultural exchange program Katutubo Exchange held this year in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur last October 5 to 7 to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Month.

Cultural bearers from thirteen indigenous communities from all over the country performed their unique traditional dances, musical instruments, songs, chants, and attires for the Ilocanos to better understand our cultural diversity as a nation and thereby revitalizing the recognition of ethnic identity and preserving cultural heritage.

This year’s program is dubbed as Akhad Eskwela Katutubo, advancing the indigenous peoples education where the participants have to share their indigenous cultures to students and teachers of the mainstream society of the Ilocos provinces as it was awarded with a grant by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and supported by the Barangay Government of Casili and the City Government of Laoag under the able leadership of Mayor Chevylle Fariñas.

2018 marks sixth year of the program as well as the 5th anniversary of the volunteer organization Katutubo Exchange Philippines founded by Dr. Edwin V. Antonio with the theme “Limang taon na tuloy tuloy na pagpapalaganap ng katutubong kultura.” The first three years of the program was staged in Manila, then Sarangani and Iloilo in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Dr. Edwin Antonio, founder of Katutubo Exchange Philippines, said that “the annual program Katutubo Exchange now on its sixth year continues to serve and empower indigenous young people. It is a way to make them realize their potentials especially that it’s the first time of the majority of the participants to travel outside their communities and made it far to the extreme north of the country. They were able to experience local culture and in turn shared proudly of their indigenous cultural heritage to the mainstream people of Ilocos region.”

This year’s participants are the Blaan of Sarangani, Yakan of Basilan, Maguindanao of Cotabato, T’boli of South Cotabato, Panay Bukidnon of Iloilo, Tagbanwa of Palawan, Mangyan of Occidental Mindoro, Bugkalot of Nueva Vizcaya, Gaddang of Mountain Province, Ifugao of Ifugao, Ibaloi of Benguet, Ayta of Bataan and Tinggian of Ilocos Norte.

The IP pride parade on kalesa around downtown Laoag was a great welcome to the delegates. James Gonzales, adult leader of Tagbanwa said that, I was truly amazed to experience my very first calesa ride with my youth delegates. It’s the first time of the majority of the participants to ride on a calesa as well to be in Ilocos.

Opening program was held at the Laoag City Multipurpose Hall with Mayor Fariñas as guest of honor and speaker while the participants performed one tribe after another. It was attended by students of higher institutions and Laoag City government officials and employees. In the speech of Mayor Farinas, she said, “if there are things that anybody can be proud of, that would be the history, culture, and tradition of every individual, regardless of human race or skin color. She added that, “the Katutubo Exchange program serves as a significant instrument in the campaign for the promotion of indigenous cultures and people and we can learn more about and appreciate more of our Filipino heritage with a real interaction with the katutubo delegates.”

In the afternoon, the participants graced the launch of the Sentro Katutubo, the head office of KX Philippines and home of the Museo Katutubo then proceeded to Casili Elementary School for cultural workshops to the pupils and teachers and installed the Katutubo gallery where IP photos were put up and displayed for the students and teachers to use.

The delegation visited the Unesco World Heritage Site Paoay Church and were awed by its grandeur and rendered an evening of Philippine indigenous performances to the locals of the heritage town at the site itself.

Day two, was another interesting day for the delegates. They met in person and interacted with National Living Treasure Magdalena Gamayo and her weavers. Abel is a local textile made of cotton thread fabricated with the use of wooden loom. A lunch program was held at the weaving center hosted by Mayor Samuel Pagdilao Sr. with other Pinili LGU officials. At the nearby town of Nueva Era, the delegates continued showcasing and teaching their indigenous culture this time around with the Tinggian indigenous community held at the scenic and serene Eco-Cultural Park and did community dancing.

Capping off the cultural exchange program with a visit to the Historic town of Vigan, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where delegates did flash mob and the site visitors joined in for some dance steps and snapshots.

Katutubo Exchange was concluded with a lecture and workshop at the National Museum Ilocos Region to celebrate the National Museums & Galleries Month as well to students, teachers, media, museum personnel and other guests. Each of every participant were awarded with certificates of participation with a word of gratefulness from adult leader Maria Seraida Caga saying, “the program has touched the hearts of the young katutubo delegates giving them opportunity to explore and grow with their own indigenous culture.”

For queries on this press release, you may reach the Public Affairs and Information Section headed by Mr. Rene S. Napeñas through numbers 527-5529 / 527-2192 loc 628-630 or email ncca.paio@gmail.com