A lot has happened since my last post. I think that was around the week of the 23rd of June. It seems I haven’t gotten some down time enough to post anything here. The journal under my bed however, is well fed with words.
Last month, I attended the 3rd Kapwa Conference in Baguio for a week. Its focus was mainly about IP awareness, and the strengthening of ancient cultural roots as different SLT’s had attended after being formed from the previous 2 conferences. Over 300 guests from around the world came together to experience this event that leaves my mind blown to this day.
Here is a photo of the guests from several parts of the world collaborating to the sound of Kawangis ng Tribu from Palawan at the Bencab Museum where a retrospective was held on the culture bearers of Baguio. Here you have the different IP’s dancing, including the T’boli’s from South Cotabato whom I also had a chance to spend more time with after the conference. What I found attractive about them was the strength of the women leaders of the tribe. So far they have no problem sharing their strong roots as they have Schools of Living Traditions now where they are able to teach the younger members of the tribe to preserve their ancient ways.
On the 3rd day, I met some members of the Ainu’s from Japan. The Ainu People are the direct descendants of the Jomons and are known to be the first inhabitants of the island who reside in the northern portion of Japan (Hokkaido).
Having been heavily discriminated upon by most Japanese over time, the Ainus have since been repressed like some of our very own IP’s. Despite this, they were able to preserve a high sense of humanity and still a strong sense of culture. What I found striking was their way of greeting each time they passed one another on the street. They would say, Irankarapte which means, “May I touch your heart”.
It completely set me off to tears the moment I heard this. I mean where I’m from, we got by not even looking at the people we come across everyday. Since then, I look back at the experience of having heard how it was to become part of an ethnicity that runs on minority, and I couldn’t help but for a while there, get confused.
I know my roots are in Bicol, but my grandmother was Turkish. Unfortunately Lola hardly ever spoke of her past; she ran away from home (so did my grandfather who was from Mainland China) so I guess I’ll never know. Obviouisly something draws me to question where our bloodline really started or what part of Turkey exactly she was from but safe to say I’d like to be addressed as Filipino and I’d probably have a bigger problem, otherwise.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Banks, Native American leader who co-founded the AIM in the late 60′s. On the 4th day of the conference, he sat there and told everyone his story as a young Native American boy being sent to boarding school, by force, taken away from his family at such a young age along with other Native Americans and how they were discriminated upon by the kids at school for being who they are.
One anecdote that really set my floodgates open wasn’t even that time he was speaking about how some of his friends at such a young age being beaten up to death. It was that one about him harboring ill feelings towards his mother who never wrote to him while he was at boarding school. After 3 decades, his children went up digging for his records and showed him what they had found. Apparently there had been a box of letters coming from his mother, with one she had sent to the American Government along with $4.00 so they could send Dennis back home. Of course by the time he saw this, it was too late to change things, and that he had begun mourning the loss of his mother who did write to him but was held back by the American Government.
As I write this I kind of have to stop here and cleanse my palate. That’s just one of the stories I was able to hear in those 5 days. I cannot even begin to mention how heart-wrenching it was being in the circle of the Filipino IP youth, where the Ati’s were asked to speak their minds. The Ati People from Negros as most of us from the conference have noticed, were different from all the other IP’s. They hardly looked up and spoke to us, even to the other delegates.
When one of the girls had the courage to speak, I couldn’t help but cry as I had to translate for the british sociologist. She said that most of the time they would get laughed at and made fun of in their faces for the way they looked. And that they know they have nothing on fair-skinned girls and their tall physique, those who have lived in the cities and have no problem about their appearance. She insisted that they have accepted their fate, for as long as people, in their hearts, were reminded that despite their looks, deep down inside their only wish is to be seen as people who have feelings. Because that way, people can stop seeing them differently.
Again I have to take a breather as I write this. It’s already been over a month since all of this happened and I was fearful enough to think that I would forget everything I had experienced there. So far it remains clear, but at the same time it’s 2 minutes ’til 3 in the morning and I’m getting more pensive as I continue writing. I suppose its not such a healthy task to do at this time of day. I have to pick up an instrument I have been waiting for, for the last 8 years after I take my parents to the airport, and then run to music school after.
Perhaps I should stop here. I decline the urge to retract my words and redesign the nature of this entry. It may have taken me quite some time to deliver a promise of consistency, but it takes a lot of pondering and digestion for something this big. Often I would find myself questioning the purpose of this blog and why I should even let out my thoughts on the internet for most people to judge me by, but I think I should just use this blog for what makes it more useful than everyday musings without much thought and substance. All I know is that after the conference, I am not the same person. It brings heavy light on how much I personally dislike discrimination and bullying. How far humanity should come from disassociating themselves from each other.
To me there is no one race. Whether we like it or not, we will have to switch bodies with someone else over time when this flesh expires and until then it’s only a matter of time when our Karma shall speak to us and tell us we should’ve fought for the homogenous understanding towards every kind of people. Whether its the 3rd sex or a genetic coincidence, I think we should open up to the possibility of the future as a bigger minority: one that becomes the beautiful majority.
Until the next, this is me signing off. I’ve got a pretty long day ahead. I wish you all good energy and positivity.