BSU celebrates National Indigenous month through an international webinar

BSU-ISRD hosted the webinar, “Understanding Cultures Across Borders: Showcasing the Cultural Practices of the CHamorus and Cordillera Indigenous People” in celebration of this year’s National Indigenous People Month. The virtual cultural exchange was conducted last October 15-16, 2020. Resource speakers coming from the University of Guam, University of the Philippines- Baguio (UP-Baguio), and BSU were invited to share their knowledge and researches on Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) of Guam and the Northern Philippines.

The two-day activity aimed to highlight and contribute to the understanding of different cultural practices of the CHamorus of Guam, a territory of the USA, and the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples. Further, it is also to strengthen the ties between BSU, UP-Baguio, and the University of Guam. The webinar was participated by 276 individuals from academic institutions, government agencies, and private sectors. 

The event kicked-off with the rationale of the activity delivered by BSU- International Relations Office (BSU-IRO) Dir. Marissa Parao. She emphasized that the event is an avenue to discover common grounds with international partners through researches on culture. She added that the activity would set the tempo for future involvements of BSU with international partners.

Dr. Ruth Batani, BSU VP for Research and Extension welcomed the resource speakers and the participants. She highlighted that the webinar will give space for continuing conversations on IPs and their IKS.

Dir. Gigy Banes of ISRD presented the overview of the activity sharing the previous exchanges between the University of Guam and BSU. She recalled that the University of Guam sent delegates to BSU in March 2019 for cultural exchange. An activity was conducted where BSU students did cultural performances along with the University of Guam students. Another batch of students was supposed to participate in the same activity this year but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the students from the University of Guam were not able to travel to BSU. Despite this, the cultural exchange between the two universities was re-set to be conducted online.

During the first day, three resource speakers from the University of Guam presented on the CHamorus and their IKS, the indigenous people of Guam. Prof. Lisa Linda Natividad introduced the CHamoru people, their culture, and their modern-day struggles that have similarities with the Cordillerans. She pointed out that both indigenous groups were speculated to be of Austronesian descent justifying the similarities in traditions, practices, and beliefs. Prof. Tressa Perez-Diaz discussed the Social Determinants of CHamoru Health and Well-being. She explained that colonization greatly affected the indigenous people of Guam. Lastly, Prof. Tricia Lizama shared on the Indigenous Healing of the CHamuro people. She discussed the healing traditions of Guahan (indigenous name of Guam) and the efforts of the traditional healers to preserve the knowledge. Day one culminated with a synthesis delivered by Ms. Freda Kate Samuel, ISRD section head.

The discussions on the second day focused on the Cordillera IPs. Ms. Matyline Camfili-Talastas a BSU researcher started with her presentation on the Cordillera History and Self-determination. In her discussion, she defined self-determination as self-rule or the right to decide someone’s future. She also enumerated the struggles of the Cordillera IPs in the contemporary world.  

The second presenter was Prof. Leah Abayao, a professor of UP-Baguio with her research “Reflections on the Landscapes Context of Tradition in the Philippines Cordilleras.” In her findings, the knowledge of topographical landscape deepens the understanding of traditions and informs the approach in resource management.

Dir. Stanley Anongos of the BSU-Office of Extension Services (OES) discussed the "Diversion of Material Culture" which is the re-interpretation of cultural objects. For example, the kayabang, a carrying implement in Benguet became an icon used as a representation in the logos of Benguet municipalities. 

Prof. Anne Heather Kiwang, a faculty member of the BSU Department of Social Sciences presented the department’s research on the knowledge and practices of Sagpat women in indigenous healing and reproductive health. She expounded on the challenges of traditional healing knowledge transfer in Kibungan, Benguet.

Prof. Antoni Karl Riva, another faculty member of BSU Department of Social Sciences synthesized the activity, stating that conducting webinars on indigenous culture champion IPs doing research and IPs being research partners. He challenged the participants to do the urgent task of decolonizing research.

The event was to address the Integration of Indigenous Peoples’ Studies/ education into the Relevant Higher Education Curricula (CMO No.2, s.2019. Collaborating with the University of Guam in this activity is also an initiative for the policy framework for the Internationalization of Higher Education by the Commission on Higher Education as embodied in CMO 55 s. 2016.

The month of October was declared as the “National Indigenous Peoples Month” on October 5, 2009 through the Presidential Proclamation No. 1906, s. 2009.