Cordi-Bel Celebrated Cordillera Day

Written by Ric Cuyob on .

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Cordi-Bel Celebrated Cordillera Day
on Someone’s Birthday in The Country Fashion Way

Ric Cuyob
Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi-Bel) was unable to organize a rightful Cordillera Day. However, the birthday of Amy Balbawang served as an occasion to celebrate Cordillera Day on April 22, 2023. It is not unusual because Amy is an active member of Cordi-Bel. The fact is, without the Cordillera or Igorotland, we could not claim ourselves to be Cordillerans or Igorots. Thus, Cordillera Day could not be ignored, especially on a birthday that we celebrate so lavishly.

While we enjoyed the birthday party and the show of different Cordillera ethno-linguistic attires, let us take a lesson in history to give more respect and ethical meaning of what we are parading for. At present, we acknowledge different dates of so-called Cordillera Day in the Philippines. 

April 24 was a commemoration of the killing of Macli-ing Dulag, a pangat (chief) of the Butbut tribe in Kalinga, who led the non-negotiable resistance against the construction of the Chico River dam funded by the World Bank. Later, this commemoration evolved into a stronger Cordillera consciousness as our very own national government kept on signing contracts with multi-national companies, so they could have logging projects, construct hydroelectric dams, and engage in mining projects to extract mineral resources. Thanks indeed, to the activists and their tenacity in educating the masses that keeps strengthening the Cordillera peoples’ consciousness. Today, grassroot organizations and people in the villages are becoming aware of a Cordillera Day to affirm their ancestral rights and resist development projects, which would not benefit them. 

On July 15,1987, then President Cory Aquino signed Executive Order 220. The six provinces of the Cordillera, namely:  Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province, including the city of Baguio, were made into one region called the Cordillera Administrative Region. This made July 15 a holiday as declared by the government, which it called Cordillera day. 

These two dates could be utterly confusing and seemingly divisive to some. But let us not be uprooted by the long tradition of resistance for the protection of ancestral land and culture by our ancestors during the more than 300 years of Spain’s colonization of the Philippines. Historical dates may be important; however, we must settle down to mean that Cordillera Day is a commemoration and a continuous call for renewal of commitment for the defense of our ancestral domain and for self-determination.

Back to the birthday party, it was held at Bilzersteenweg 403, Tongeren. This place is in Limburg, Vlaanderen, Belgium. Accordingly, Tongeren is claimed to be the oldest town in Belgium. In ancient times, the area was inhabited by the Eburones which was largely composed of a Celtic-speaking tribe. (The area being referred to here is the border of then Holland, the Rhine River of Germany, and the whole Belgian Limburg.) Famous for this Eburones tribe is the legendary leader named Ambiorix, who led a rebellion against the occupying Romans in 54 BC. Romans’ historical chroniclers honestly admitted this successful rebellion and so narrated that this angered their Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. He then led a revenge claiming to have annihilated the Eburones and made Ambiorix disappear and made no one talk of him since. Today, however, the people of Tongeren erected a statue of Ambiorix at the center of their plaza to remind them of their hero who rebelled against the occupying Romans.

So, a celebration of Cordillera Day was done in a country fashion way during Amy’s birthday party with a show of her various collections of the Cordillera ethnolinguistic attires. There was an interlude of “uggayam” and “pattongs” and a short message on Cordillera day. Then, it was concluded with a parade of her luxuriously westernized fashioned Cordillera tapestries in the land of the Eburones who hail their leader, Ambiorix. They revered him as their prince who dared to lead resistance against foreign occupation during his time. 08/05/2023

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