One of the core messages of the RDC– CAR’s IEC IEC) program on regional autonomy is to strengthen the Cordillera identity. One way to do this is by preserving and protecting the unique culture of the Cordillera people.

With this in mind, NEDA-CAR as the RDC Secretariat conducted a three-day seminar on March 25-27, 2015 at the DBP Training Complex in Baguio City.   It focused on Cordillera’s unique culture and traditions and how these were practiced over time.

RDC-CAR sought the proficiency of renowned experts on Cordillera’s history and cultural heritage to elucidate the underlying values in Cordillera’s history which are relevant to effectively communicate the goals of the autonomy movement.

Anthropologist Dr. June Prill-Brett articulated how the Cordillera justice systems were practiced before, and explained the earliest forms of customary laws that were anchors of the pioneer Cordilleran identity. She highlighted legal pluralism as a contributing factor that shaped the contemporary Cordillera, inferring that today’s Cordilleran social system is the outcome of the interaction between Cordillera’s indigenized customary laws and two or more legal systems which greatly influenced how the age-old Cordilleras cope with the demands of modern society.

She was joined by History Professor Leah Abayao, from UP Baguio, who talked about the perpetuating practice of the rituals that are pillars of authentic Cordilleran identity, and Professor Isikias Picpican, from St. Louis University who shared his knowledge on Cordillera music, native fabrics, and indigenous dances which are benchmarks of genuine Cordillera heritage.

An integral part of the seminar was the cultural dances performed by students from BSU, UC and SLU which the seminar coordinators hope to be passed on from generation to generations.

Another objective of the seminar was to help the RDC formulate protocols for the July 2015 Cordillera month celebrations.

Cordillera’s uniqueness as a region granted it the privilege and the mandate to pursue an autonomous status. The RDC-CAR strongly believes that regional autonomy will bring about boundless opportunities for the Cordillera identity to thrive and continuously evolve alongside the demands of modern legal systems without foregoing the distinct features that had defined this identity for ages.

Mark Allen Ponciano, SPCAR