November 30, 2023

Once upon a time, a witch named Cecile Cariño Afable was born to a Japanese father Teruji Okubo and an Ibaloy mother Josefa Cariño. She was born and lived all her life in her hometown Baguio City.
This is her story and the magic wand she waved, together with two witches, Virgina O. De Guia and Leonora San Agustin.
Hearing the laments of the Ibaloy people on the loss of their ancestral lands, their ranches, farms, and cañao grounds to the American colonizers and new settlers and to legal cases, she involved herself in the passage of the ancestral land law.
With her magic wand, she mobilized the indigenous peoples of Baguio City and Benguet.
Eventually, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) or Republic Act 8371 of 1997 passed on Oct. 29, 1997 with former President Fidel V. Ramos signing it and became effective on Nov. 22, 1997.
Auntie Cecile actively lobbied for the IPRA passage on its third try when the law was at the bicameral committee of the Senate and House of Congress She delivered hand-written notes to members of both chambers to ensure its passage.
Senate friends, former Justice Marcelo Fernan, Senators Franklin Drilon, Gringo Honasan, Reps.Gregorio Andolana and William Claver, to name a few. Her errand girls were myself, Briggs Hamada, and Jessie Alos.
A carefully crafted provision on Baguio City was provided with the help of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. -Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KSK)headed by now Justices Marvic Leonen and Gus Gatmaytan. Atty. Dan Gatmaytan helped and advised us with the provision.
Auntie Cecile waved her magic wand and IPRA became a reality.
Her second and final magic she waved over the Onjon Ni Ivadoy Association, Inc. from 2009 to 2012.
She said “let us find our cañao grounds and let us celebrate Ibaloy Day.”
She called organizational meetings from 2009 to 2010, inviting the Ibaloys from all walks of life and clans from Baguio City and Benguet. Meetings were held at the Baguio Midland Courier office, Orchidarium, and Pop and Mac Café.
Let us organize to celebrate Ibaloy Day, perpetuate Ibaloy customs and traditions and our language. Let us create an organization focused on Ibaloy culture and unite the Ibaloys. Let us include hybrid Ibaloys like you and me, and she cackled like a true witch.
That is why Ibaloys all over the world can be a member, wherever domiciled as long as they have a drop of Ibaloy blood.
Auntie Cecile wanted the organization to be a non-political, non-profit, and non-sectarian. She had envisioned a garden where Ibaloys can dance, play, laugh, and have fun.
She must be waving her magic wand over us. Let us pursue and fight for her vision.