Bigotry on Cordillerans Keeps Rearing Ugly Head

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CORDILLERA ADMINISTRATIVE REGION — Mountain tribal folks in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), in tandem with their congressional  representatives  and  a Philippine senator,  expressed last week  outright displeasure at some Department of Education (DepEd) officials who they felt slighted the Cordillerans by miserably  failing in their jobs to halt prejudicial statements against the Igorots in learning modules for schoolchildren, and even allowed these to be printed and distributed nationwide, echoes of narrow-mindedness against  highlanders, that continue to resurface.

Mountain Province Representative, Maximo Dalog, Jr., Benguet Caretaker-Congressman Eric Yap, Kalinga Congressman Allen Jesse Managaoang and Philippine senator Win Gatchalian took DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones to task to seriously address the matter.

Dalog, in part of his communication to the DepEd Secretary, asked Briones, “to look into the matter, investigate and reprimand those responsible and correct errors stated in the books and modules.”

Mangaoang made a point that DepEd facilitate correction of the modules and not balk, lest a House inquiry can be triggered that can reflect badly on DepEd.

Gatchalian urged DepEd to conduct nationwide assessment of all learning materials. “Worse, these exercises (the modules) which provoke outrage, perpetuate stereotypes that have long hounded different sectors of our society,” Gatchalian further emphasized.

Cordillerans have long experienced the fact of being discriminated because of erroneous information about their culture and identity. Yet, many, wise beyond their years and even exhibiting the sageness of scholars are showing, they can inflect clever satire and humor upon any intolerant about their culture, tradition and ethnicity.

“Such atrocious, unbelievable lapse in judgement on the part of DepEd authorities regarding children’s reading materials that have connotations of discrimination when these authorities should walk the straight line of deterring any thoughts of prejudice,” as Bailen Dumed-as, a Cordilleran wondered out loud, Monday.

Darius Joya who studied at the University of the Philippines, Los Banos and previously worked with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said, “There must be something absolutely excellent about us, Igorots, that is why we are always being bashed and bullied especially in those education books. We are mighty proud that we belong to the First People.”

Such latest prejudice against the Cordillera indigenous people has set Gina Dizon, from Sagada, Mountain Province, of seriously thinking last Monday, “I am wondering what case to file against (the persons who wrote the modules) and DepEd!”

Which prompted Joya to intimate that same day to Dizon: “Ahuh! Nagpintas nga multa. Ta sampelan tayo DepEd and those I – – – – – who wrote those stupid questionnaires ta awan pay samet namulmulta ti kastoy.”

Joya is very right. Joya was apparently talking about Chapter XI of Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), under Penalties, Section 72 of Prohibited Acts mentioned in Section 21 and 24, Chapter V, Section 33, Chapter VI.

To any who harbor any thought of committing discrimination on indigenous persons, please take heed. The law will come down hard on anyone doing so.

Section 21 of Chapter V of Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as “The Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997,” states, among others: “Equal Protection and Non-discrimination of ICCs/IPs. – Consistent with the equal protection clause of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and International Human Rights Law, the State shall, with due recognition of their distinct characteristics and identity, accord to the members of the ICCs/Ips the rights, protections and privileges enjoyed by the rest of the citizenry. It shall extend to them the same employment rights, opportunities, basic services, educational and other rights and privileges available to every member of the society. . .”

Section 27 of R.A. 8371 also states, “Children and Youth – The State shall recognize the vital role of the children and Youth of the ICCs/Ips in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being.  Towards this end, the State shall support all government programs intended for the development and rearing of the children of ICCs/Ips for civic efficiency and establish such mechanisms as may be necessary for the protection of the rights of the indigenous children and youth.”

“. . . if the offender is a juridical person (like, say, DepEd), all officers such as, but not limited to, its president, manager, or head of office responsible for their unlawful act shall be criminally liable therefor, in addition to the cancellation of their certificates of their registration and/or license. Provided, that the offender is a public official, the penalty shall include perpetual disqualification to hold office.

Many Cordillerans wonder whether DepEd, whose mission is, “To protect and promote the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based, and complete basic education. . .” is aware of IPRA.

And Garcil Dumayab, a Cordilleran, having been appraised of the mission of DepEd, told this column, seriously, “Culture-based. Hmmmnnn, I wonder. Culture-based. (he repeated) I really wonder, where that part culture-based of their mission went when the DepEd authors wrote about the modules. It was nowhere applied in the modules. It went to the garbage.”

When   Ursula Padiles, 37, a housewife and highlander was appraised about the core values of DepEd, being: “Maka-Diyos, Maka-tao, Makakalikasan and Maka-bansa, Padiles interrupted by saying, “Apay idi inaramid da didyiay modules, maka-tao ba? Saan samet!”

That set Mariz Gumangan Mabalot Bumogao, a Cordilleran of saying, “Our culture resides in our hearts and our souls; let’s respect each other’s identity and ethnicity.”

A pretty lady from Mountain Province and Kalinga, who wants to be presently identified as Shalom Montanosa presented a deeper thought about what she   thinks of our culture (without discrimination): “I am a grateful descendant, iyaman, Kabunian.”

Many who have come across the reading modules in question believed these reading materials were insensitive, or some DepEd personnel needs lessons on sensitivity.

Dr. Maria Luisa Paran, from Benguet, thinks the DepEd “needs module on sensitivity,” or, “Is there someone (at DEPED) who is angry at the Igorot”. And she challenged the DepEd, saying, “Give module on Igorots.”

Paran lamented the fact that without social media, the blunder of DepEd would never have been corrected. She said they have the highest education degree and still they lack the basic ethics on sensitivity.

Paul Cuyopan from La Trinidad, Benguet added his thoughts: “We should gather all these people who signed including the authors in one classroom and educate them properly.”

“It’s ironical that these highly touted educators with royal titles are actually the ignorant ones,” Cuyopan added.

Eduardo Escorpiso, Jr, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Schools Division Superintendent, wrote February 2, Estela Carino, DepEd-CAR Regional Director and in which the letter said in part: “The SDO Quality Assurance Team of Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao Grade 5 Learning Activity Sheets (LAS), deeply expresses its sincerest apologies for making use of your tribe Igorot as an example in our developed learning materials for Quarter 2. We admit that we were not able to look into the social contents of the materials during the quality assurance process.”

“The teacher-writer did not intend to degrade anybody in her examples and not aware of the impact that it brings to the Igorot tribe. Rest assured that it will not happen again. We hope for your acceptance on our apologies.”

Merzon Bayeng, a Cordilleran, from La Trinidad, Benguet, having read the apology letter said, “It’s good you have seen your lapses and willing to apologize to the Igorot tribe. The problem now that you need to face and fix is the destroyed reputation of the Igorots damaged by your erroneous information. I hope that you could gather those feathers you scattered and bring these to their original place.”

But Jan Go could not force himself to believe the apology when he said, “Puro hangin. What a joke to a so-called educator or PhD. A mockery to Philippine education system rooted with incompetence and ignorance. Bakit walang quality control ang DepEd? Laki ng budget mo, Briones, di mo magawa ipa-review lahat libro or learning systems kaya nakalusot.  TABLOID na to sa paaralan.”

Carol Rimando, a Cordilleran, said, “Educators at DepEd who try to educate the innocent and ignorant, when can you be right? You are so foolish trying to fool the innocent minds. Why do you allow these to happen? Carol Rimando was referring to “Pagsasanay 16, Ang Bahay Ng Igorot.”

Ed Bugnosen, Sr, more placating and understanding, said, “. . .let us all try to work together on this important learning tool because a misinformed child today could end up as a misguided adult of the future.”

A learning module authored by Dr. Felicidad Remo and Ms. Avelina S. Espelita and published by St. Mathews Publishing Corporation portrayed the Igorot as having curly hair: “Ako ay si Digo. Isa akong Igorot. Kulot na kulot ang itim kong buhok.”

Such account is actually misleading, if not, false for in reality, a person with curly hair does not exemplify, in reality, the absolute appearance of an average Igorot, who are generally similar with mainstream Filipinos.

Paul Sapaen, from Sagada, Mountain Province summed the controversial acts of the DepEd authors by saying, “Nothing is wrong in using the Igorot tribe as an example so long as it is in factual perspective.”

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