'Rebranded' slippers get more flak

AN ATTEMPT to appease ethnic communities has caused more outrage, as groups continue to slam the lack of sensitivity and ethics by a footwear company.

Beverly Longid, Cordillera People Advisory Council and first nominee of the Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino, said indigenous peoples' identities are not subject for privatization or exclusive use as a brand name of a private commercial enterprise.

"No one can claim ownership and exclusive use of our collective name as a people. It is for the concerned community, clan, or tribe to use as a collective identity. It is not a question of legal process and permission. Even the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) does not have the power to allow such use regardless if it has the legal authority to do so. Our identity as a people is not a brand for slippers regardless of quality. It is simply not a brand. It is not a subject of commerce. Our indigenous identity is not for sale," Longid said.

Last week, footwear company, Tribu Nation, labeled its newest line of slippers after tribes in the county, with one branded as "Kankan-ey," an indigenous people's group in the Cordilleras.

After backlash from indigenous peoples organizations, the company immediately re-branded the slippers to acronyms of tribes and areas, while one was labeled as "Apayao," a province in the highlands.

Before posting the rebranding, an apology was also issued by the footwear company.

"But still, they don't get it! In the last part of the apology, Tribu Nation mentions a certificate of precondition from the NCIP to use the intellectual property. It seems that Tribu Nation does not really understand the basis of the reaction to the use of our identity as a brand name," added Longid.

Tribu earlier said that to address the complaint, they have immediately changed the names of these products until such time they will get a certification of precondition from the NCIP to use the intellectual property.

"We are hoping that through this experience, we can continue to create awareness and collaborative projects for the indigenous communities in the future," Tribu Nation added.

Longid, meanwhile, invited the company to a discussion with Indigenous Peoples (IP) organizations and communities for them to have a better understanding of IP identity and culture and explore a culturally sensitive alternative and better ways of raising awareness on the situation of the Philippines IP.

"As a start, Tribu Nation can contact the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance, the Kalumaran Sa Mindanao, the Sandugo-Movement of Moro, and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination or the Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas," Longid added.

Tribu Nation's statement was made public and directed "to all customers, partners, friends and critics and most especially to Indigenous People of the Philippines. Tribu would like to address the complaint against the misuse of the Indigenous Cultural Communities in some of the products which ensued a criticism from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples [NCIP], specifically the Blaan in Southern Mindanao and Kanana-ey in Benguet and Mountain Province."

"We humbly apologize for the misuse of the names of these Indigenous Cultural Communities and take full responsibility. Naming footwear after them was never meant to degrade, humiliate, trample upon, or disrespect the indigenous people. We recognize and understand the anger and insult this might have caused. We would like to acknowledge and appreciate those who have forwarded and addressed this pressing issue as it has taught us to even be more aware of our influence throughout the country. The incident was accidental in nature, but we do not discount its seriousness," the company added.

The statement relayed the start of the company brand in 1995 which was out of interest in the culture of the different Indigenous Communities in Mindanao.

"Our founder encountered them as a child being born in Tagum, Davao and growing up both in Agusan and Davao. Through his love for the outdoors, participating in Filipino theater arts and coupled with firsthand interactions and experiences with these communities, he had developed a deep reverence and utmost respect for them to the point of naming his brand Tribu. Having moved to Manila for theater arts, he realized a lot of people were not aware of those communities and hoped that through his business, he would raise awareness of them," it stated.


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