January 29, 2023

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Cordillera cultural values during the pandemic were highlighted in the Indigenous Peoples Month culminating program participated by Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries in the region.

Anchored on the theme, “Defining Cordilleran Resiliency amidst a Pandemic,” Department of Social Welfare and Development Regional Director Leo Quintilla stressed the importance of representing the culture of the Cordillerans which are highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DSWD central office twice visited the region to document and have a perspective on how the indigenous peoples use their culture such as the practice of “inayan” and “far-en” or community rest days to respond to the pandemic.  

Dr. Ryan Guinaran, an advocate on the preservation of Igorot indigenous knowledge and heritage, underscored in his keynote speech the cultural values that embody the IPs during the pandemic. Among these are the sense of wholeness, sense of balance and harmony, and sense of resilience, which keep them strong in this challenging time.

 On the sense of wholeness, the IPs see the pandemic more than health and wellness, physical, social or mental issue. More emphasized among Igorots are health and environment, including the supernatural and good social relationships within the community, Guinaran said.    

These are reflected in the individual and the community in the culture of inayan or being righteous or doing what is right. “Before doing anything else, it must be surmised if it is unbecoming of an IP, an automatic self-discipline,” he said. 

He cited as an example the Social Amelioration Program subsidy returned by some supposed recipients belonging to the fourth and fifth class municipalities. Rather than taking it as they are identified as beneficiaries, they opted to share the assistance to those who are more in need.

The sense of balance and harmony among people, animals, and the environment were affected during the pandemic. But rituals were performed to woo back spirits believed to have a stronghold and protectors of the environment, said Guinaran.

The sense of resiliency among IPs is reflective of how IPs cooperate and share, he said, citing and commending all those who shared and donated personal protective equipment, food, preparation and fixing of isolation facilities, manning of checkpoints, cooking of food for the community without expecting anything in return.

Mental health beliefs and rituals also served as psychological first aid among Igorots that help define IP resiliency.

Instead of the negativities, “we instead focus on the strengths of our culture. Culture is not for emergency use only. We should practice this in our daily lives,” Guinaran suggested.

To do this, he recommended the 4Ps. The first P stands for policies and the codification of the cultural practices not only during emergencies; the second P for people who are the duty bearers – the government workers and the care providers to ensure that the rights of the IPs are looked into; the third P for people, involvement of the rights holders for them to be empowered, be participative and be engaged; and the fourth P for passion to have the persistence, pursuit of achieving equity, productivity, social protection, and a better quality of life for the poor, vulnerable, and the marginalized as DSWD has envisioned. – Susan C. Aro