The Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) joins the indigenous peoples in the country in celebrating October as indigenous people’s month thru the Presidential Proclamation No. 1906 in 2009. CEA welcomes this development in times when the rights, welfare and culture of indigenous peoples are violated, neglected and disintegrating. But more than a celebration, the Cordillera elders held their 3rd Congress during the first week of October 2015 in Baguio City to reaffirm their important role in defending land, life, resources and preserving positive values and culture of the Igorots.
Aside from recognizing the important role of Cordillera elders for the defense of land, life and resources, the congress also highlighted the elders as one of the primary keepers of indigenous culture, traditional knowledge, wisdom and conflict-mediation; the gathering also became a crucial caucus in drawing up programs and declaration as guides for their continuing work in their own communities. The congress also served as an educational and solidarity activity for the elders. Ms. Jill K. Carino, 2nd Nominee of the Sulong Katribu Party list presented the updates and situation of indigenous peoples in the country.
On the other hand, Mr. Ben Solang, member of the Advisory Council of the Cordillera People’s Alliance gave the keynote address during the congress. In his speech, Mr. Solang discussed the traditional socio-political structures, values and culture in the region. He cited good examples such as 1. Adi tako Bokodan di Gawis/Ipeyas nan Gawis (Share what you have), 2. Alaen Laeng ti Kasapulan, Bantayan ken Aywanan ti Aglawlaw ken Kinabaknang para ti agdama ken dagiti sumaruno nga henerasyon. (Get only what you need, Preserve and Nurture the environment and resources for the present and future generations.), 3. Ayew (Use only what you need and Nothing is gone to waste), 5. Inayan /Paniyew (A cultural belief not to do things at the expense of other people, ili and environment.) 6. Betad/Fetad (Mobilization of community for whatever purposes such as search and rescue, fire prevention, defense of land, and during tribal war.
Furthermore, Mr. Solang also explicitly discussed the historical and important roles of the Cordillera elders for the defense of land, life and resources in the region. He also cited the crucial roles of elders during big campaigns on such as Regionalization and Beyond of the Cordillera, Lobby during the Constitutional Commission specifically on the law for Regional Autonomy, Taloy Ibaloy Ancestral Land Recovery, Communal Pastureland in Tadian, Ancestral land such as People and Area Specific, Conflict Resolution during its application, -Itogon Open Pit Mining, San Roque Dam, Militarization and Ethnocide, Genuine Regional Autonomy and Politics of Change.
Mr. Solang went to challenge the elders to continue their role in exposing the crimes committed by the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) against the people, their absurd political line of a “Cordillera Nation” and Bodong as form of government in the region. He also added the crucial role of elders in conflict mediation in times of clan and tribal conflicts; and their strong support in the campaign to stop tribal wars. Instead, the elders should use their influence to strengthen inter-tribal unity for the common good of everyone. Mr. Solang also noted their role in excluding combatants in the bodong system.
Lastly, the elders came up with an important declaration to continue their historical role in caring and nurturing land, life and resources. Included also in the declaration is their firm opposition against the proposed House Bill 4649 on the Regional Autonomy and their call for a genuine implementation of the Genuine Regional Autonomy. The declaration also recognizes the role of elders in advancing the politics of change in the coming election. ***