By Yvonne Belen & Christina Moncado | Photo Credits: Leah-Kleijn Sanchez & Myra Colis

In lieu of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), MABIKAs Foundation joined Stichting Bayanihan (The Philippine Women’s Centre in the Netherlands) in celebrating the achievements of women who have shown exemplary deeds of service for both fellow women and the society in general.

Bayanihan, a 25-yr old foundation focused on empowering Filipinas in the Netherlands by advancing their participation, integration and emancipation in the country, organized and hosted this IWD event held on March 10, 2018 at Dona Daria Kenniscentrum Emancipatie in Rotterdam. One-year old MABIKAs Foundation is privileged to have been invited by Bayanihan to showcase one of the many vibrant ethnic groups in the Philippines. MABIKAs is by far the first and only Igorot group established in the Netherlands as a foundation to help with the preservation of indigenous knowledge and culture.

When asked about the significance of having MABIKAs for Bayanihan’s IWD celebration, Bayanihan Founding Chairperson Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza said that one of Bayanihan’s primary objectives is to promote the cultural identity of Filipinas. Therefore, being able to provide opportunities for our existing indigenous organizations to showcase themselves in events such as this here in the Netherlands is a way to achieve that objective of advancing intercultural communications, especially in a multi-cultural society such as that of the Dutch people.

With this year’s IWD theme, “Gender Equality Awareness: Bringing Up Children Gender Neutral, Gender Equality and Empowerment” coupled with an orientation about the local election (in line with the March 22 local election in the Netherlands), around 70 women and three men attended the celebration, including 10 active participants from MABIKAs Foundation.

The 10 MABIKAs constituents who attended Bayanihan’s IWD 2018 celebration

These 10 MABIKAs constituents played active roles during the entire program. Coordinated by Beth de Wolf, seven of them dedicated their time to practice and to be able to perform an Igorot dance representing the indigenous culture of the Cordillerans. The dance performers include: 4 active members of the MABIKAs Support Team: Janet Barcena, Tizya de Jong, Christina Moncado and Beth de Wolf, and 3 members of the MABIKAs Board: Tessie Gayao, Romelita Heitlager and Rachel de Weerd.

The three others, on the other hand, participated in the day’s workshop activities. MABIKAs Advisory Committee members Yvonne Belen and Cesar Taguba, together with MABIKAs Founding Chairperson Myra Colis, demonstrated and led the Bendian dance. It is a community dance characterized by circular movements that symbolize unity and harmony among members of the Ibaloy tribe in Benguet province of the Philippine Cordillera region.

IWD participants join in merriment, dancing the Bendian dance of the Ibaloys in Benguet.

In addition, Belen also acted as one of the four documentalists for one of the four workshop discussion groups that aim to tackle issues and concerns related to the theme on gender awareness. Meanwhile, Colis gave the Words of Thanks and acted as overseer to help keep the flow of the program intact.

“We, constituents of MABIKAs Foundation, are happy and proud to be part of this celebration that honors the social, political, academic, economic and cultural achievement of women,” Colis said in her introduction of MABIKAs and the cultural presentation. “We thank Bayanihan for not failing to organize such important event on an annual basis, and this time having us- indigenous groups and other Filipino organizations- present here today.”

MABIKAs performers showcase Igorot dance steps.

The MABIKAs Chairperson further shared an excerpt from MABIKAs IWD Statement that was written by Rev. Cesar Taguba (also a member of the MABIKAs Advisory Committee). The statement wishes to commemorate the exemplary deeds of indigenous women who bravely stepped out from their comfort zones and fought to death for their rights to ancestral land and communities during the Spanish colonial rule. Among these women include Gabriela Silang, Ina Petra Macli-ing and the Lumad Women on Mindanao.

… Gabriela Silang was the very first woman general who fought against the Spanish rule in Ilocos-Abra for. She fought for four years, was captured and hanged with 100 of her men. Of recent history is Ina Petra Mac-liing from Bontoc, Mountain Province. She courageously and wisely led the women of various Bontoc-Kalinga tribes against the World Bank financed Chico Dam in the late 80s. Ina Petra received an award from the Women’s World Summit Foundation and the  Asian Women’s Coalition for advancing the rights of indigenous people. We also salute the LUMAD women in Mindanao and various indigenous people communities in the Philippines for standing for  their rights to development, social emancipation, and defense of their ancestral land, life and livelihood…” (See Full Transcript)

Overall, Stichting Bayanihan and the rest of the IWD participants appreciated MABIKAs Foundation for actively taking part in this special event in the form of cultural performance and workshop. A salo-salo (i.e. community eating) to call it a day followed after the fun, review, quiz game led by Bayanihan Chairperson Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza and the Words of Thanks delivered by Bayanihan Secretary and MABIKAs Chairperson Myra Colis.

MABIKAs Founding Chairperson Myra Colis delivers her Word of Thanks to all participants and members of the 2018 Bayanihan IWD organizing team and volunteers.


The workshop participants were enthusiastic in sharing their ideas on gender awareness. In the workshop groups that Belen, Gayao and de Jong joined, the participants were asked to introduce themselves in three words. Some described themselves as: creative, young at heart, church-oriented, helpful, adventurous, responsible, hardworking, loving grandma, perfectionist, caring, intelligent, good mother, strong woman, independent.

One of the four workshop discussion groups with MABIKAs constituent, Yvonne Belen, busy taking notes.

On the question of the manner of how the participants were raised. Many gave interesting answers such as:

  • one given freedom to play with anyone
  • another had no struggle with her identity
  • one woman said her opinion was always considered
  • one shared she was emotionally battered
  • another one said her father wanted her to be a boy
  • one had a good childhood
  • one is the only girl but her brothers listened to her
  • another one was brought up as a girl and did the housework
  • one had a carefree childhood and was never put in a box
  • one said she can have her choice, and
  • another one tried to be a tomboy.

On question about choosing partners, some chose their partners and some shared their experience of parents choosing for them. Following that was a question on the effect on their upbringing on married life; in response, one participant said her upbringing had something to do with how she handled married life and the other said she wanted to give her child the freedom to choose.

In conclusion, participants of the event find the workshop discussion interesting and inspiring. For some, it served as an eye-opener. From all that have been shared and learned, many came to a conclusion that it is always important to develop one’s self as a woman, especially while living in a progressive country like The Netherlands.


Yvonne Belen is a native of Alab, Bontoc, Mountain Province. She is a physician and teacher. Since 2002, she has been helping in planning biennial conferences of Igorot Cordillerans in Europe.
Christine T. Moncado is from the kankanaey tribe of Benguet and Tadian. She used to work as a community organizer, community relations officer and a contributing writer with the Northern Dispatch in Baguio City.