April 14, 2024

“Saan ko ammo”, “Adik amo”, “Akak amta”, and “tawi a” are native words in the which all mean “I do not know” in English.
This phrase is frequently used as our response to questions or statements that we do not know. To narrate when the elders say “Man tayaw kayo!” which is an invitation to dance at the cañao or any ceremony of the indigenous peoples in Cordillera, most of the younger generations respond, “Saan ko ammo uncle.” Even while speaking in our native dialect, we often use the phrase “saan ko ammo.” For instance, when the elders communicate to the younger generations in their native dialects such as Kankanaey, Ibaloy, or Kalanguya we often say “makaawatak ngem saan ko amo agsao” or, in English, “I understand but I cannot speak the dialect.”
Sadly, this emphasizes the signs of our gradually vanishing culture, which is evident in Baguio City, although this seems to happen in almost every part of the region.
It’s great that our culture is celebrated during the Cordillera Month, Gong Festival, Panagbenga, and Ibaloy Day, but what we need is to teach the youth and our kailyans how to dance and play our cultural instruments since simply watching is insufficient. For most circumstances, we often see school organizations perform cultural dance and music, but when each barangay has its youth-led cultural organization, it is on a completely new level. A small number of performers are not enough to prove our still-existing culture. It is a must that each one of us is knowledgeable about our culture as it is something that we will pass on to the next generations.
In a recent consultation with the indigenous peoples mandatory representative, I discovered that even adults agree many Igorots need to learn more about the traditions and customs of their ancestors because even adults are gradually losing touch with the traditions that their ancestors have long observed. For instance, they cannot speak fluently in their native dialect or even dance and play the gong.
Further, despite the existence of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), it appears that less emphasis is being placed on our indigenous culture in the majority of projects and programs run by legislators.
The IPRA has its flaws as it does not cater to all the different tribes in the Cordillera. Our legislators should identify the best laws that would help in preserving our culture.
In September 2022, during the second Youth Parliament, I presented a draft resolution that requested assistance to cultural groups comprising youth members in each barangay. The youth’s transportation and meal allowance will be covered under the proposed financial assistance, relieving them of the strain and burden of the costs associated with entering dance organizations. Additionally, it will benefit the elders who will teach the cultural performances because it will open up more job prospects.
It is important to stress we must take the loss of our culture seriously because without it we would never reach the development and growth we have in the present. Reiterating a statement from an online article, if we do not take measures to protect and advance our culture, it could vanish along with our elders, who are the last keepers of our heritage and customs.
As the years pass by, I hope we become a manayaw in promoting our culture. Let us envision a future where more young people will confidently stand forward and dance along to the beat of gongs when they say, “Man tayaw kayo.”
Let us celebrate the beauty of our culture through the promotion of cultural youth groups in our barangays.