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Press Release

Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights
May 6, 2009

As Emailed to MN by Lingling Maranan-Claver
Photo Credits: Mutya Claver

And The Gongs Are Struck
Vancouver, B.C. – The hall at St. Michael’s Anglican Church on East Broadway rang with the music of the gangsa (gongs) and reverberated with the stomping of feet as people danced to celebrate the Cordillera Day: A Day of Solidarity for Life, Land and Rights. This was the first celebration of Cordillera Day in Canada.

At least ninety people came to mark the event organized by the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPS-HR) and Migrante B.C. and helped by the huge support and involvement of BIBAK, the organization of the indigenous people of the Cordillera Central mountains in northern Luzon.
A Successful First Cordillera Day


Co Emcees Beth Dollaga And Petra Durrance

Carol Martin

Nicole Burton Tindungan

Yvette Stephenson

E Maestro From CPS-HR

Traditional prayers and the playing of the gangsa by the BIBAK men and a prayer read by Sandra Baldo opened the Celebration. It was acknowledged that the event was being held in unceded territory of the Coast Salish Nation; First Nations elder Carol Martin and two other Native guests Felipa and Debbie were the first to offer heartfelt messages and well-wishes to everyone.

Beth Dollaga of CPS-HR and Petra Durrance of the Victoria Solidarity Group helped co-emcee the Celebration. Cesar Castro of the Igorot Global Organization spoke briefly of the history behind the Cordillera Day. From the human rights and the church sectors, Sharon MacGougan, from Richmond Amnesty International Group 92 and Orval K. Chapman from the United Church of Canada personally delivered their greetings. The audience also heard messages from trade union friends, Steward Coordinator Yolanda de la Cruz of the BC Nurses Union and Canadian Auto Workers National Representative Susan Spratt (who also sang to the delight of everyone). Dominga Passmore of the Bayanihan Community Centre in Victoria extended warm greetings from their group who came all the way from Victoria. Yvette Stephenson of the CPS-HR read out the organization’s statement for Cordillera Day.

Nicole Burton Tindungan read the “Open Door,” a poem by Cheryl Daytec-Yangot to remember James Moy Balao who was abducted by state agents in September 17, 2008 and who remains missing to this day. Mable Elmore, NDP candidate for Vancouver-Kensington, took time off from her busy campaign schedule to deliver her greetings of solidarity.

Mable Elmore
Babette Santos and Jules Tindungan with the Kathara Dance Theatre Canada, a cultural performance group, danced and played the music of the indigenous peoples in the southern Philippines with their kudyapi, kulintang, agung and drums. Two other Kathara members presented a short exhibition of arnis, Philippine martial rights form.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Chandu Claver. He is the International Spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the Chair of Bayan Canada, a coalition of progressive Filipino mass-based organizations in Canada. Dr. Claver is a Filipino physician from Kalinga who now lives in Victoria with his three daughters. He survived an assassination attempt in the Philippines that took the life of his wife, Alyce Claver, three years ago.

Babette And Jules Tindungan

Babette And The Kudyapi

Babette Santos Of The Kathara Canada-cultural Performing Group
Dr. Chandu started off with the richness of the land and resources of the Cordillera and the entry of development aggression with the big dam projects in the 1980s and later with the transnational mining corporations. It was within this historical background that Apo Macliing Dulag, a respected pangat and leader of the Kalinga and Bontoc peoples, opposed the construction of the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam. His killing by the Philippine Army soldiers in 1980 only strengthened the commitment of the indigenous peoples against the dam and broadened it into a mass movement of the Cordillera peoples for the defense of ancestral land and self-determination. From 1981-1984, the anniversary of Macliing’s death was called the Macliing Memorial but with the expansion of the mass movement to all the provinces of the Cordillera, the commemoration began to be known as Cordillera Day in 1985.
Dr Chandu Claver

Cesar Castro Igo

On the wide screen, Dr. Chandu showed the black and white images of the Macliing Dulag Memorials in the 1980s which were followed by more recent images of the CPA-led Cordillera Day celebrations. He also honoured and paid tribute to all those who came after Apo Macliing, the men and women martyrs and heroes who continue the spirit, commitment and determination of the Cordillera peoples to defend what is rightfully theirs from the continuing and worsening attacks and intrusion of the state and big business corporations.

Dr. Chandu described the spirit of Cordillera Day celebrations as “political in content and festive in format.” And it was so on that night. In true Filipino and indigenous people’s hospitality, guests also brought food and drinks, including the Cordillera delicacy etag,  Friendships were made and solidarity created and strengthened. And many more people signed the petition to surface James Balao.

At the end of the program, the Cordillera men picked up their gongs. The sound of the gangsa as the Cordillera men struck their pattong on the gangsa and started the dance marked the signal for everyone to join in the collective dancing. The Cordillera women, with their hands stretched out, gracefully danced alongside the men, swept by the cadence of the gongs; the Kathara team and the other guests joined the circle as it went around the room in a dance of unity and of solidarity with the Cordillera people.

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