UST SIMBAHAYAN puts Indigenous People’s rights at center of advocacy webinar

The University of Santo Tomas SIMBAHAYAN Community Development Office held the Araw ng Katutubo at Ang Panahon ng Paglikha 2021 recently via Zoom. An annual advocacy event, it is conducted to deepen appreciation of the cultural identity and expression of indigenous people (IP) as they respond to environmental threats in a time of pandemic.

The program, held online, raised issues and recommended actions to address environmental challenges considering the co-existence of IPs in societal, environmental, and cultural contexts. It also strengthened initiatives to appreciate the cultural life of IP communities in taking care of the environment.

Anchored on this year’s theme,”Walang Iwanan: Mga Katutubo at ang Panawagan para sa Panibagong Pagtatalaga para sa Sangnilikha,” the organizers invited the Aeta tribe in Bamban Tarlac, Lambangian tribe in Maguindanao, Kankanaey tribe in Cordillera Administrative Region, and the Lumad tribe to share their life experiences and challenges as IPs.

The first part of the webinar was the presentation of Ambag sa Kalikasan videos submitted by students and faculty members from the academic units in UST and partner communities and institutions.

With mass gatherings disallowed, tree planting and coastal clean-up activities which were the customary engagements during Community Service Day, were prohibited due to the pandemic. Instead, SIMBAHAYAN encouraged the participants to have individual and group efforts that showcased their environmental contribution to care for our common home.

Igorota Foundation program coordinator Ms. Arline Ba-a – Santiago from the Kankanaey tribe shared the experiences of their foundation in securing ancestral domain (AD) of IPs in Cordillera, a vital sense of living and indivisible to the identity and spirituality of IPs. The Cordillera alone has 149 ancestral domains located in the different municipalities with 7 registered Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).

Their community also faced threats due to the destruction of their ancestral domain by the influence of outside forces. Some cultural values were not practiced and appreciated and the destruction of ancestral land due to the influence of cash economy continues.

Other concerns were the lack of property deeds/titles on AL, discrimination, development aggression, diminishing values, land grabbing, lack of recognition by LGUs to the IPs/Council of Elders, no harmonization of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) and Bishop of Bontoc-Lagawe and Chair of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines – Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples Most Rev. Valentin C. Dimoc, D.D., delivered an inspirational message. He stressed the importance of dialogue, participation, and co-responsibility especially on the issues of development aggression and red-tagging of the indigenous leaders.

UST Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs Rev. Fr. Pablo T. Tiong, O.P., gave the final blessing.

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