The ICBE Consultation Gala Night: A Cultural Integration among the Swiss and Igorots (Cow bells and the Igorot Gongs in Unison)

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3rd Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation

5-8 May 2005

by Caridad Fiar-od

The Gala Night, which was part of the 4-day Igorot Cordillera [BIMAAK] - Europe (ICBE) Consultation in Hotel Friedegg, Aeschi, Switzerland was held on May 7, 2005. This was well attended by Swiss families with Igorot in-laws and their friends, the Swiss-Philippine Embassy staff, in addition to the more than 70 registered participants of the conference.

A special feature of the ICBE Gala night that surprised most attendees was the impressive grand entrance in single file of the Swiss Alps Yoddlers of about 33 members with the striking sound of the cowbells. The Yoddlers synchronized the swinging of the cowbells left and right that produced marching music. As the Yoddlers entered, the music went on from slow and soft sound then fast and loud. The Yoddlers then gave way to the usual Philippine opening program protocols of having the opening prayer in the form of Uggayam, the singing of the Philippine national anthem followed by the singing of the Swiss National anthem. The Yoddlers then expressed their heartfelt welcome with their yoddles and the playing of the accordion.

Likewise, the Igorots had their equally impressive grand spiritually-inspired entrance led by the supposed Igorot men of elders holding the torch of fire, the man striking thekalasagand another with the gongs met by two women bringing the jars of rice wine. As they reached the stage as the supposed meeting point, the lead elder recited an emphatic prayer and opened the jar of rice wine with his wishes that Kabunian grants safety, happiness, success, more inter-marriages between Swiss and Igorots .... Then as a symbol of social integration, the lead elderly man shouted the coming of Igorots to join the Swiss. This was now the grand entrance of the men and women Igorots representing all provinces in Cordillera as the men came with their gongs and the women at their sides. The Igorots played the gongs to the tune of the different dances in Cordillera, one dance after the other.

After both tribal presentations (Swiss Yoddlers and Igorots), the Yoddlers held their cowbells and the Igorots held their gongs to produce music. This time everybody (Swiss or Igorots) danced as a group or by partners then there was the exchanging of instrument so some Yoddlers played the gongs and some Igorots played the cowbells all together. Dancing varied fromtadekorsadngiortayawto swing, foxtrot, and all sort.

In appreciation, the Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland, Honorable Rora Tolentino, expressed her amusement and excitement as well as her closeness to the Igorot people, the Swiss, the supportive Swiss spouses of Igorots, the ICBE organizers for such a very impressive and successful cultural integration.

More presentations were performed by country participants and followed by picture taking. Hence, the Cultural Gala Night turned out as an avenue for the Swiss and Igorots to be familiar with one's cultural dances, songs and traditions. While there was language barrier since the Yoddlers can not understand English, we were able to understand the importance of cooperation, solidarity, relaxation, happy marriage among the Swiss farmer yoddlers who came with their wives and cowbells.

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