Representatives of government agencies at the national, regional and local level gathered recently in Banaue, Ifugao, to participate in the Regional Conference on Culture and Arts in the Proposed Autonomous Region of the Cordillera.

The conference, conducted on 13 October, aimed to strengthen the practice and promotion of culture and arts in the Cordillera Region, and appreciate and recognize culture-related initiatives at the national and local levels, including the region’s pursuit of autonomy.

Together with Ms. Maricel Diaz of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, some of the distinguished national and regional personalities who shared their thoughts on the relevance of culture in the development of the Cordillera Region and the pursuit of regional autonomy were Commissioner Basilio Wandag of the NCIP, Ifugao Congressman Teddy Baguilat Jr., Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso, and NEDA-CAR Director Milagros Rimando.

Both Commissioner Wandag and Congressman Baguilat expounded on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) and the provisions of HB 5343 that recognize cultural integrity as a basic right of indigenous peoples and its role in the development of any region. Culture, according to the Congressman, involves much more than cultural artifacts, art, dances and traditions of a people.  It is their way of life, how they decide, and the manner by which they utilize and manage their environment and natural resources.

Meanwhile, Dir. Rimando presented the various initiatives at both the national and regional levels to promote and protect culture.  She explained that the Philippine and Cordillera Development Plans 2017-2022 identified the promotion and protection of culture as a key development strategy. She also encouraged everyone to respect each other’s culture, regardless of where he or she comes from, as this is a key to a truly unified Cordillera Region.

The participants were also informed about the possible areas by which LGUs and RLAs can collaborate with the NCCA. These include support to the establishment of  Schools of Living Traditions, enhancement of museums and other similar places, the conduct of trainings, festivals, workshops and other activities that promote the appreciation of culture and arts in the locality. Presenting her agency’s programs and projects that promote the appreciation of culture in arts in the country, Ms. Diaz also encouraged the RDC and LGUs to establish a Committee on Culture and Arts, and for LGUs to appoint a focal person for culture and arts concerns.

The conference was also an opportunity for the provinces of Apayao, Benguet and Ifugao to present culture and arts-related programs and projects that have been initiated and implemented in their respective provinces.

Coordinated by the Cordillera Regional Development Council, the conference is part of the region’s celebration of the Indigenous Peoples’ Month.