Sunday, November 19, 2017

Quick Thoughts On Cordilleran Culture In The 21st Century

Cordilleran culture evolves. It's malleable. It's pliant. It changes. It adapts to the times. It adds. It subtracts. I personally believe that being a cultural purist in this age of globalization is tantamount to putting up a wall against the advance of civilization.

There's a reason why we don't wear the "wanes", "tapis", or "ingay" in our daily lives. Our culture has evolved.

There's a reason why our traditional textiles have made the jump to tablecloths, curtains, and modern bags. Our culture is malleable.

There's a reason why traditional Cordilleran weddings are merged with Judeo-Christian practices (sometimes to the point where you can't identify which is which). The priest does his duties. The elders perform their chants. Our culture is pliant.

There's a reason why activists among us use our indigenous identities to stage rallies with political underpinnings. Our culture is adapting to the current times.

There's a reason why we wear cowboy hats, put on customized leather boots, and listen to good old country music. Our culture adds to itself by borrowing from other cultures.

There's a reason why we go to doctors instead of village healers for illnesses of the body and the mind. Our culture subtracts from itself. Essentially, in the words of the great Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin'.

I'm currently writing an article that further explores these talking points. In a way, it's my response to several issues concerning Cordilleran culture and Cordilleran identity that had people talking during the last few weeks and months. At the forefront of these issues are the Whang-od controversy and the activists wearing Igorot garb during political rallies here in Baguio City and at the recently concluded ASEAN Summit in Manila.

Allow me to make clear my positions on said issues. With regards to our brothers and sisters wearing Igorot attire during their protest activities, I support them. I may agree or not agree with the things they are fighting for but they have every right to voice out against the government. And they have every right to wear their traditional attires during such activities. To say that they can't wear Igorot attire during these rallies borders on foolishness. It's their identity as much as ours. In this day and age, you can't separate culture and politics. You can't order a fellow Igorot not to wear the traditional attire just because he has different political leanings or different methods in expressing such leanings.

As to the Whang-od issue, it's as muddy and murky as it gets. As someone who has personally went to Buscalan, Kalinga and saw the tattoo artist in action, I saw where culture, commercialization, and (you might say) capitalism merged to create both positive and negative effects. The thing that saddened me most about the discussions that ensued after Whang-od's Manila stint is that a lot of people looked at it with a black-and-white lens. This breeds unnecessary hate and division especially at this age of social media where it's rather too easy to hate on a person you haven't even met. People are too bent on trying to disprove each other instead of discussing each other's contentions with logic and rationality.

I'll try to explain further my arguments about these issues in the upcoming article. Until then, have a good day. Matago-tago tako am-in!

Photo: I took this snapshot of a glass-encased exhibit during a visit at the Museo Kordilyera at the University of the Philippines Baguio campus. I chose this photo because it sort of props up some of my arguments. The book, the hoodie with traditional tattoo designs, and the tattooed girl which strangely reminds me of pop art.