THE colonization by the Spaniards initially paved way for the Indigenous People (IPs) to be placed in a pejorative light, even to the demonization of their culture. IKSP or Indigenous Knowledge,Systems, and Practices have been bastardized and slandered in order to flush out the people from their mountains and into their house of praise - calling IPs Infieles (unfaithful) or Salvajes (savage or wild).
The Americans, with the soft power of education, further meld and imbibed in us a culture of white-washing and shaming those who would not meet their pigmentation standards - and while both Caucasian races wounded not only the IPs in their pursuit of acculturation, they too, transferred our pride from rooting the IPs to the mere pride of being colonized by them (Montanyosa, 2014).
Stepping on our IP heritage also envelopes the problem of lowering our women’s value: the status of babaylans and binukots for example, who wielded cultural, spiritual, and sometimes politico-economic prowess became diluted as the aswang, manananggal, and other evil creatures permeated our culture in the attempt to solidify Christian Patriarchy.
The question then needs to be asked - has our sovereignty and freedom for the past century been beneficial to our already shrunken cultural minority? Did it create positive change for our indigenous brothers and sisters?
In this day and age, the not-so-socially aware Filipino might even ask an Igorot or an Aeta, or any IP some very bizarre and superfluous queries such as: is it true that you have tails attached to your bodies? How did you learn to speak Tagalog? Do you live in trees? - such questions not only insult the ones asked, but it is a perfervid indication that most of our countrymen remain ignorant and obviously lack the proper information (as it can be pinpointed to our colonial and commercial education system).
It seems that we are doing nothing, but many officials say otherwise.
The government, of course, plays an important role in the promotion of IP culture as well as engendering the 14 percent of our population to be well heard in regulation making and implementation -specifically the distribution of their ancestral lands (Hechanova, 2015).
The Office on Northern Cultural Communities and its southern counterpart, the Office on Southern Cultural Communities have been merged into the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) with the Republic Act 8371(Indigenous Peoples Right Act) of 1997 as its forerunner in strengthening and supporting its existence in the executive wing of our government. The main purpose of this RA is to acknowledge and recognize in the legislative aspect, the rights of the IPs to their ancestral domains. Unfortunately, the gap between the de jure or lawful recognition of IPs’ rights and their de facto or in-reality concretization of land claims merely mirror the fact that there is no clear on-ground implementation of said act (“Philippines Indigenous Peoples ICERD Shadow Report”, 2009); to add to this troubling realization, the Regalian Doctrine often times encompasses the ancestral claims - as it is present from the governing laws of the Spanish colonization in our country and even in our current constitution (“WHAT IS THE CONCEPT OF JURE REGALIA?”, n.d.):. The aforementioned doctrine states:
“All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State...
”With the constitution being the father of all governing laws, this therefore prompted many legislators to view the IPRA law as unconstitutional. To add salt to the absence of land claims, foreign investors enjoy the conviviality of Filipino hospitality with their 40-60 (only in paper) divide of shares in corporations that hold large scale mining as well as logging activities that not only destroy the natural resources of our mother land, it also deters and inhibits appropriate development of IP communities that live in these areas (Collas-Monsod, 2015).
How does it continue? Some Agusanon Manobos (and surely not just this tribe) have been given the duplicitous choice between 500 thousand pesos or 2 percent royalty share - of course the Datus would opt to see the former as the better option for they do not know that billions are garnered every year.
We can view this as exploitation of the low education of the tribal leaders and irony in the billions that onerous companies rake but only give 2 percent in tax as stated in the Mining Act of 1995.
Many tribal leaders are even converted by conglomerates into profiteering peons in exchange for their go-signal in ransacking the tribal communities; those who stay true to the interests of their chiefdom are either falsely accused of communist inklings or either spot-on fatally extinguished.
Among the pressing issues that bombard the IPs on an everyday basis, probably the most excruciating and heartbreaking is the fact that only a few countrymen truly care for them. The NCIP,which should aim to protect and acknowledge their rights, deviate from their true purpose and even facilitate the one-way partnership of conglomerates and tribal leaders. The current president is the first, if not mistaken, to acknowledge the plights of the IPs in his State of the Nation Address yet the actions of the current administration are antonyms of their pledges - red tagging is still rampant and land claims still persist to be in the minimum.
What needs to be done? Aside from the answer that the government needs to pick up its slack and produce and implement more nationalistic laws, the individual Filipino should also inform himself/herself with who the IPs are. It is a small step, that hopes to change the perception of every citizen, despite incremental.
When we acknowledge the fact that 14 million countrymen belong to the IP community, we will therefore know that they should no longer be called a minority. If every Filipino are compelled to study more of IP resistance against colonizers, we will find that lost spirit and pride in our roots that we once had. The moment we realize that our indigenous brothers and sisters scream for justice every day in the hopes that we may hear them, perhaps we will not remain deaf.
The dichotomy that has been set between the IPs and the non-indigenous promotes a conflagration of ideology and cultural identity.
Lest we forget, before anything and above all else: we are all Filipinos. (firstname.lastname@example.org)