ABT Statement on Aldaw ti Kordilyera (Cordillera Day) 2013

Can a revolutionary indigenous culture break capitalism’s momentum?

Is it imaginable that our indigenous youth who have been born in Canada or have been hyphenates, claim that they can empower themselves today through their decolonizing psychology, practice and constant self-identity? Can culture alone allow the next generation to come to the fore as active participants in shaping our times?

Sisters, brothers, comrades and kasamas, revolutionary greetings from the youth section of progressive Filipinos in Canada.

The roots of the struggle of the indigenous peoples had resulted in a push by the American regime for direct control over the Cordillera region. The solution to the US Great Depression of the late 1920s was contracted in the mineral-rich mountains the Philippines. This would mean the start of “the real gold rush,” which had been in slack primarily because of the panned resistance to the Spanish conquistadors by the disparate peoples. This would mean that the northern region was the predestined subject of “benevolent assimilation” and cultural disparagement.

American colonial authorities propagated the idea of a pan-Cordillera identity and the meaning of a single “Igorot” inhabiting the highlands to separate them from their lowland counterparts and pacify them. This homogenous regional consciousness was used to constitute America as modern to justify its imperialist occupation. In the turn of the 20th century during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, descendants of tribal peoples were put as ‘living exhibits’ — especially the Cordillerans whose main draw was their custom of eating dog meat. However, prior to their coming, these peoples were richly diverse, as is still now, in different terms.

Our history has taught us lessons that are very significant to our present identity. The role of instituted policies have demonstrated us how ethnic imaginings are constantly constructed and reconstructed. It is precisely the clash of interests that shape the dynamics of history.

Has the bourgeois government in Manila ever effected a progress without dragging away peoples through dirt and blood, forced disappearances and forcible dispossession from their domains?

Perennial mining disasters and controversial mining impacts including those by Canadian firms operating in the homeland show us clearly: the 1996 Marcopper tragedy in the small island-province of Marinduque, whose main waterway Boac River was declared not usable even after more than 10 years since the mine closed; then 2005 Lafayette mine which caused cyanide spill and fish-kill off the coast of Albay, in which local fisherfolks’ livelihood and health were devastated; and most recently, the Philex tailing pond leak which is probably the largest mining tragedy in the Philippines, causing displacement of thousands of our brothers and sisters from the Cordillera region.

From north to south, indigenous peoples must arise out of the fact that their formal equality only covers up their real inequality.The concentration of economic and political power among a few families should not be an acceptable option to the majority Filipinos. Our people in the diaspora must also stand firmly on the question of sovereign land in the context of impoverishment. Altogether, we must ultimately allow healing the economic wounds inflicted by peripheral capitalism by pushing for true democracy and national industrialization.

Cordillera Day gives us a chance to reflect the sacrifice that have been made by our fallen hero Macli-ing Dulag. This day also should make us act on behalf of our indigenous compatriots who have been disappeared such as James Balao and politically imprisoned like Kennedy Bangibang. Culture of impunity persists after the extrajudicial killings of Romy Sanchez, Albert Terredano, Pepe Manegdeg, Jose Doton, Markus Rafael Bangit and Alice Claver. Against the backdrop of centuries-old culture of resistance of indigenous peoples, justice has not been served to these human rights defenders.

We, together with the people of Cordillera, do not sit idly by as we continue to ward off capitalists who plunder their lands and lives for the benefit of the monied few. We will keep exposing and opposing the complicity of Canadian corporations in this conflict. We reaffirm our fight for land which is life and for life that is the land.

We at Anakbayan-Toronto are in solidarity with the people of Cordillera! Down with imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism!!!

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