May 23, 2024

‘COMMODIFYING CULTURE OF IPs’

A male pageant that supposedly aims to popularize the culture and tradition of indigenous peoples of the Philippines by tweaking how the traditional Igorot attire is worn has gene- rated a lot of buzz for the wrong reasons.
To those used to seeing men in their loincloth, looking at how the participants wore theirs was, to say, the least, made them cringe.
The widespread observation was that the loincloth was deliberately worn the incorrect way and in effect, has not only devalued the attire but also the tradition of weaving, the ethical usage of the loincloth, and the culture of the IPs in general.
But the organizers of the event reasoned that before they showcased the different types of loincloth, they hired a consultant and approval of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples with the intent that along with the creative aspect of the event would have been an accurate portrayal of how the attire is worn.
They further reasoned since culture is dynamic, variations on how traditional attire are worn are bound to happen.
As it is now apparent, things did not work the way it was planned. The organizers have been censured by IPs and non-IPs alike, and have been called out by the NCIP for deviating from the commission’s advice that it is not objecting to its use in the pageant as long as it is “properly worn”.
The organizers claim they have the best intentions but to the public at large, it does not seem that way. Other than the incorrect depiction of how it is worn, the loincloth was also inappropriately shown as an undergarment.
It is our wish the pageant organizers and their cultural consultant/s will settle this matter with the NCIP following recent reports that an NCIP official did not exercise due diligence when it issued a statement without watching the whole segment of the pageant when the loincloths were used by the contestants.
The issue reminds us of the well-publicized stories of Whang-od and Nas Academy, and an apparel company’s pull-out from using indigenous designs because of the public backlash resulting from the lack of or absence of consultation and knowledge about the appropriation of indigenous cultural properties.
It has been 25 years since the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act yet to this day, many are still ignorant about the law that sought to protect indigenous peoples, their land, their culture and tradition from exploitation.
To this day, many are still unaware that use of tangible and intangible indigenous cultural properties require the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous cultural communities.
The Man of the World 2022 pageant is just one of the many instances where the tradition and culture of IPs have been used allegedly to make them more “accessible” or “interesting” to the public.
While this is premised on good intentions, such move continue to treat IPs, their culture and traditions as something exotic rather than being a part of our heritage.
As many remain ignorant about the laws and issuances governing indigenous culture and tradition, concerned agencies led by the NCIP, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, indigenous peoples mandatory representatives, media, social media influencers, and IPs themselves should step up the campaign on educating and enlightening the public about how culture and tradition should be treated.
It is not enough that we condemn and criticize. After the controversy has mellowed, another issue similar to this will happen if the public is still clueless about laws concerning IPs.
Only when we, the public, is properly educated and enlightened about our heritage can culture and tradition be accurately depicted and used not for just entertainment purposes but more for educational purposes.