BAGUIO CITY – On September 30, the Regional Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) launched the planned activities for this year’s Indigenous Peoples’ Month Celebration with the nation-wide theme of “Correcting Historical Injustices for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Welfare”. Regional Development Council IP Concerns Committee (RDC-CIPC) Chair and NCIP Regional Director Manuel Jaramilla detailed over 90 activities planned across the six Cordillera provinces and the City of Baguio which were led by the different private and government organizations throughout the month. The activity was organized by NCIP and the NEDA-CAR as secretariat of the RDC and CIPC.

RDC Chair and Abra Governor Joy Bernos opened the activity with a reminder that while IPs of the nation have come a long way in representation and development, there is still much progress to be made. “We struggled for rights over our resources; we seek genuine autonomy and development”, she said. Bernos detailed that historical injustice against Cordilleran IPs has left a lasting negative impact. “Over the course of its history, its people have been subjected to many forms of injustice and discrimination which have impeded the growth and development of the communities within the region”, she continued.

Likewise, Guest of Honor Kalinga Congressman and House of Representative Committee on Indigenous Peoples Chairman Allen Jesse Mangaoang recognized that while Indigenous Peoples in the country have been empowered since the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, he urged IPs to continue to assert “the right to be involved in decisions that affect us”.

Benguet Caretaker Congressman Eric Yap, represented by Anthony Kuan of Buguias said that while Cordilleran IPs have been deprived progress and development as defined by contemporary standards, Igorots remain rich in natural resources and culture. “Ti gameng tayo haan nga lang kwarta wenno ballitok, adda gameng tayo iti puso [or] culture (our wealth isn’t just money or gold but richness in heart[or] culture), a precious culture that we should take care of”, he said. Kuan said that this culture is something we can be proud of and develop for the next generation. Kuan also emphasized the importance of past leaders in guiding his personal journey; a trait which is crucial in indigenous communities especially in the Cordillera.

The IP month celebrates the passage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act on October 29, 1997, a landmark law which recognized the legitimacy of the plight of IPs across the country. It is based on the four bundles of rights: Right to Ancestral Domains and Lands, Right to Self-Governance and Empowerment, Social Justice and Human Rights, and Cultural Integrity.