By Cesar Tomilas Taguba

The commemoration of the First Indigenous Peoples Sunday (IP Sunday) was successfully held at the Old Catholic Church in Amsterdam last 28 October. The event organized by the Filipino Parish Netherlands (FPNL) and the active participation of the MABIKAs Foundation (The Philippine Cordillera Connection in the Netherlands) was an international component  of the annual IP Sunday observed by the churches in the Philippines since 1978.

The Liturgical Celebration which opened and closed with Bendian (a dance of celebration and unity), featured IP songs Garait and Danum by Mercedes Dewalan, interpretative dance by Leticia de Jong, prayers (praise, intercessory, commitment) and collection for the Typhoon Ompong victims.

Rev. Cesar Tomilas Taguba

In his homily on “Church and the Indigenous Peoples ” Rev. C. T. Taguba mentioned an observation that “ Spanish colonizers came with the sword in one hand and the rosary on the other, while the Americans came with the Krag rifle and the Bible.”  He said that a historic turning point in the relationship of the church and the IPs was made by Pope Francis in 2015 with an apology for the “many grave sins  committed against the native people in the Americas in the name of God and  justified under the Doctrine of Discovery and Rights to Conquest in the 1450s, which granted Christians of the world to conquer, invade, seize IP lands.”

He also called attention to the  inspiring message of Pope Francis to IPs  in his visit to Baguio City, 2015, who said “you IPs of these beautiful northern region of Luzon , as well  other Filipino tribes, represent a rich diversity of culture which have been handed to you though countless generations. May you always have deep appreciation of these cultural treasures which divine providence has destined you to inherit. May these  treasures which are your heritage be always respected by others. May your land and worthy family traditions and social structures be protected, preserved and enriched”.

Rev. C. T. Taguba ended with the call for IPs to take firm hold of the resources of the faith and the Bible in their  struggle for justice, peace, human dignity and compassion. The Liturgical celebration ended with the Commission and Sending Off  prayer “ In our rising, we become a people. In  our speaking, we declare our humanity. In our solidarity, we break the walls that divide us. In our struggle, we celebrate the justice and righteousness of the Most High.  Let us go now commissioned as one with the Indigenous Peoples in their struggle to life, land and self-determination. Let us go now commissioned as stewards of Life, Earth, and Nature. Amen” and the singing of Pananagutan.

The Liturgical celebration was followed with a Forum on IP Situation, Rights and Hopes. A candle-lighting ceremony was held to remember and honor IP martyrs in the struggle for life, land and right to self-determination in the Philippines and their solidarity martyrs like Fr. Peps Tentorio (Italian)   and Willen Gertman (Dutch) both IP advocates killed in the Philippines, and the IP martyrs in the Americas, which ended with the singing of “We Shall Overcome”.

A short presentation on “Who Are The Indigenous Peoples” was made, followed by an informative presentation on IP RIGHTS by Christine Moncado, a Cordillera migrant. She cited and critiqued the UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples), Philippine Constitution and the IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act).

Myra Colis, chairperson of the MABIKAs Foundation-Netherlands took up the issue of “ IP Empowerment through Self-Organization” by narrating the history, mission/vision of the MABIKAS Foundation and Yvonne Belen on the ICBE (Igorot-Cordillera-BIMAAK-Europe) an Europewide network of Igorot/Cordillera organizations which will have its 10th Assembly in Amsterdam July 26-29, 2019.

Written and verbal Solidarity Messages were received from the  IUCN-NL (international Union for Conservation of Nature), SINCHI-Tribe, FILMIS, Nature’s Narrative, Anakbayan-Europe, Migrante-Amsterdam, Migrante-Den Haag.  The program ended with the singing of “Ang Bayan Ko”.Boiled sweet potato (camote), a staple food of the Igorots was served in the dinner.

There was a consensus among the participants to commemorate IP Sunday 2019 with the participation of other IP organizations/NGOs in the Netherlands.

The indigenous women from the Philippine Cordillera Region and pioneers of MABIKAs Foundation-The Netherlands in their traditional attires.