As new realization that the Philippines need not

As each year of this new century unfold, we
are forced to face drastic and incoherent changes as a result of our century-old
bondage with modernization now reinforced by its new and more pervasive form, globalization.
The issues, tensions, and threats that these changes pose evoke an intimidating
question, “How are we going to face all these?”

For developing countries like the
Philippines, the answer to this question entails a re-assessment of the path
that the country has taken in its effort to “modernize” itself for the last
fifty years. In retrospect after WW II, much of the country’s resources were
poured into the establishment and maintenance of structures and systems that
would provide the necessary push to “progress”. And since a great social divide
was created between the so-called “developed” and the “underdeveloped”, with
the western countries as the paragon of the former, the Philippines was caught
in the euphoria of western emulation.

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 The
country’s public school system, for example, was of western archetype. Thus,
after a century of its arduous efforts to enlighten a people who would direct
the Philippines’ most desired development, it has instead raised a literate
population trapped in a complex of inferiority and “rootlessness”. Although
westernized education has made the Filipinos cope with “modernization”, it
“alienated them from their own communities, heritage, culture, and history”.
What formal education in the Philippines unconsciously created was an animosity
between the articulate and the inarticulate, the elite and the masses, the
majority and the minority, and the “modern” and the “primitive”.

How the world is responding to the current
global issues, however, paved a new realization that the Philippines need not
look westward to solve its own problems. The recent trends in the advocacy of
sustainable development has pointed out that the traditional knowledge of the
indigenous peoples (IP), once reinforced by our formal schools as “backward,
primitive, and simple” are now being lauded as the appropriate “alternative
collective wisdom relevant to a variety of matters at a time when existing
norms, values and laws are increasingly called into question.” As the
International Development Research Center has pointed out, “western techno-scientific
approaches are (in themselves) an insufficient response to today’s complex web
of social, economic, political, and environmental challenges.” Thus, the
time-tested, inexpensive, and locally available traditional techniques or our
indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSPs) are what provide sustainable
solutions because they are “in many cases based on preserving and building on
the patterns and processes of nature.”

The IKSP or simply indigenous knowledge (IK)
in other literatures is a key action theme in the UN Decade for Education for
Sustainable Development. Its recognition as an “alternative wisdom in
development initiatives” did not only influence international and national
policies; it also provided a sense of dignity and renewal to the indigenous
culture that generated such knowledge.

But the challenge of maintaining the
integrity of this culture is the pressing issue that every sector of this
country must try to face. Since the past modernization efforts have mostly
corroded the indigenous culture, the revival of our IKSPs including
spirituality is a responsibility of all institutions. How the schools and the
church are now responding to this crucial concern is then important to understand
because these are the two major institutions that endangered the indigenous
culture from the very beginning.

For the Catholic Church, “waking” up from
this realization started in the 1960s as a reflection from the growing
consciousness that culture is inherent to human development. The growing
mobility of people as ushered by modern technology had somehow helped the
church reflect and theologize on how it should associate with the cultures of
the world. This major shift happened after Vatican II as the church welcomed
enculturation that put emphasis more on human dignity and the value of identity
that emanates from one’s culture. So that when it comes to issues relating to
indigenous peoples, the Catholic Church treat them not merely as “technical” matters.
In the Philippines, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has
instituted the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (ECIP) in 1972 to
“work on issues facing indigenous peoples in the country”. The central focus of
ECIP for the past 30 years has been the struggle of indigenous communities for
their ancestral domains and human rights issues, and more recently, in the
articulation and assertion for indigenous peoples’ education.

In a seminal paper released by ECIP about
indigenous peoples’ education, it clearly outlined that IP elders in the
country assert that tribal and community life can only continue if their youth
are rooted in their culture, IKSPs and the ancestral domain, grow up with a
clear sense of identity, are committed to meeting the challenges and issues
that face the tribe, can assert their self-determination, and are conscious of
being inheritors of a heritage and their elders for the coming generations.

The indigenous ways of knowing, learning and thinking are integral
parts of indigenous education. Thus, from these clamor, the Department of
Education finally responded by adopting the national indigenous peoples (IP)
education policy framework through DepEd Order No. 62, s. 2011. This policy
framework “aims to make the Philippine educational system truly inclusive and
respectful of the diversity of learners specially those belonging to the
minority groups”.  The legal basis for
this issuance followed international and national covenants, laws and issuances
related to IP education. These are the following:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1918)

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)

International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights

International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Convention on the
Rights of the Child

International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)

Convention Against
Discrimination in Education (UNESCO)

ILO Convention No.
169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (1987)

Policies of
International Organizations

1987 Philippine
Institution

Republic Act No.
7610 (Special Protection for Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and
Discrimination)

Republic Act No.
8980 (Comprehensive Policy and National System on ECCD)

Republic Act No.
9155 (Basic Education Governance Act, 2001)

Medium-Term
Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010

Executive Order No.
266 (2003)

DepED Order No. 42,
s. 2004 (Permit to Operate Primary Schools for Indigenous Peoples and Cultural
Communities)

Republic Act No.
8371 (The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act IPRA of 1997)

 

While these on-going efforts have already
been made, the introduction of this orientation may demand a whole chain of
societal adjustments, including such correlates as school system, teachers’
training programs, development and access to appropriate instructional
materials and so forth. Participation from the different sectors of society is
equally important to match these on-going policies and programs. For LGUs,
their devolved function in governance provide them the opportunity to enrich
such on-going efforts at the community level by allocating funds, initiating
projects to build the capabilities of its constituents to participate as well
as to implement similar efforts towards cultural regeneration.

Non-government organizations and even
school-based organizations are also seen as active players. Again, the LGU’s openness
to partner and support their efforts ensures the sustainability of such
projects in the community. On behalf of our partners, I want to commend then and
extend our heartfelt gratitude to the municipality of Itogon for being a conscious
and a pro-active frontliner and supporter of programs complementing IKSP
revival in its communities. // Betty C. Listino, Founder, ResearchMate Inc.

ResearchMate
Inc. is a community-based non-government organization for information
management and promotion. Since 2006, it co-implemented the research and
production of Stories of Alapu: Benguet Edition (A Collection of Benguet
Folktales) with Benguet State University’s Development Communication Society
(BSU-DCS). Seven hundred copies of this storybook were donated to Benguet DepED
Division in support of its indigenization program. Some copies were also
donated to the municipality of Itogon. Recently, ResearchMate together with SDS
facilitated the implementation of a storytelling caravan (based on the
previously mentioned storybook) to sitio Domolpos and Lusod in barangay
Tinongdan, Itogon purposely to revive the dying art of traditional storytelling
and to foster intergenerational ties between and among the young and the
elders. This was supported by the municipality of Itogon and barangay
Tinongdan.

You may insert here our photos of the
storytelling caravan, just select from 
this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.395606823788050.108441.100000162074483=3,
please credit it to Gladys T. Maximo, SDS