UBCHEA Study Team Conducts Forum on Teaching Philippine Indigenous Culture



“Who is ‘Indi’? Who is ‘Indi Genius’?”

            These were the questions raised by UP International Studies professor Dr. Cynthia Zayas, one of six practitioners invited to speak on the relaying of native customs and traditions in the classroom, during her presentation at the Forum on Teaching Philippine Indigenous Culture held on April 8, 2016 at the DLSU Yuchengco Hall. Sponsored by the United Board for image 1Christian Higher Education in Asia in cooperation with the De La Salle University-Social Development Research Center, the forum was the first of its kind to be conducted at the University, and was organized by the research team of the project “Reclaiming Filipino Indigenous Culture through Teaching and Learning” and the SDRC staff. According to project director Dr. Hazel Biana, one lesson that surfaced from the project’s 2015 workshop conducted in Manila, with thirty faculty members from state universities and colleges in attendance, was that most teachers still require training with regard to indigenous culture. It was decided to hold the present forum, rather than a conference, in order to have a venue at which experts could share knowledge in their chosen fields.

The day’s presentations kicked off with Mr. Rozzano “Butch” Rufino, Coordinator of the Department of Education’s Indigenous People’s Education Office, who spoke on “Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) in the Basic Education System.” Regarding the implementation of K-12, he stressed that Filipinos should appreciate the broader context beyond the two years when the program will begin, and a loss of jobs will be incurred. What will be more important is the reforms that will be brought about in terms of curriculum.

            Speaking of the need for Filipinos to widen their philosophy of education in teaching art, Dr. Beverly Sarza of the DLSU Philosophy Department, in her presentation “Nang Hinabi ni Makulot si Sabel: Isang Hamon sa Pilosopiya ng Pagtuturo,” listed the areas to be addressed in defining Philippine art. These are the need to relate arts with crafts, to determine why paintings as art are only affordable to the wealthy, to understand why all art masters are male, and lastly to look into who it is that defines art.
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Dr. Zayas’s talk entitled “An Inclusive Syllabus on Philippine Indigenous Cultures: From Theory of Wave Migration, to Ethno-Linguistic Identities, Gastronomic Culture, and Music in the 19th Century” included a discussion on how Filipino indigenous culture could be defined based on what she called “relics”: ulam and kanin (food); northern music with flat gongs and southern music with bossed (music); culture bearers who identify themselves by the languages they speak (ethno-linguistic identities); and indigenous culture bearers who are not only those named in the 1997 IPRA Law, but also those who are also mobile and have fished the islands’ waters since the time of their ancestors.

image 3            In “Learning and Teaching Other Cultures: The Philippine Indigenous Peoples,” Xavier University Professor of Anthropology Dr. Erlinda Motillo-Burton observed that many of the country’s teachers who do not know anything about IPs misinform their students. She listed the requirements for teaching IP culture as being preparation; taking a basic anthropology course; taking other courses like Peoples and Cultures of the Philippines; learning the culture of the IPs; reading the ethnographic literature of the different IP communities; and studying their Indigenous Knowledge System and Practices (IKSP).

            College of Liberal Arts Research and Advanced Studies Director Dr. Leni dlR Garcia, speaking on “IP on IP: Teaching Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions as Intellectual Property,” informed the participants about the establishment of the Convention on Intellectual Property Rights, which involves copyrights, patents and trademarks, and explained that policies stemming from the Convention are still to be drafted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). She asserted that teaching IP culture is part of its preservation, agreeing with Dr. Burton that it requires immersion in and perpetuation of the cultures so that they do not disappear.

            Sharing that “teaching about IPs is an exercise in ‘othering’,” Catanduanes State University Research Services Director Dr. Ramon Felipe Sarmiento relayed that normally, the anthropologist who is not a native enters the indigenous community, producing a sense or awareness of difference. His talk “Bringing to Life the Filipino IPs Inside the Classroom through Independent Films” revolved around a study he conducted some years ago to content analyze 60 films shown in the Cinemalaya competition from 2005 to 2011. The study was conducted to determine how indie films project culture. Upon discovering that a few of these films were about IPs, he made use of them in classes he held with anthropology students.

            SDRC Director Dr. Maria Caridad H. Tarroja, in closing the event, thanked the participants for taking the time to attend the forum. She expressed the hope that as they returned to their respective institutions, they would bring with them what they had learned, and find ways of integrating indigenous programs and revisiting current programs in teaching indigenous culture. In this way they could advocate for the IPs, and see how they and their students could have a better appreciation of IP culture.

The forum ended with a screening of the Kapampangan indie film “Ari: My Life with a King,” which continues to reap both local and international cinema awards. Director Carlo Catu relayed that the film is the first for Holy Angel University, and is the story of an old and a young Kapampangan, and the friendship that forms between them. It also involves characters representing the Aeta tribe indigenous to Pampanga. A question and answer session was conducted after the screening, during which the participants shared that they were unaware of the tradition of oral poetry in Pampanga—depicted through the character of the King (played by real-life poet Francisco Guinto)—and appreciated the filmmakers’ attempts to revive interest in the form in an effective way.

image 4The Forum on Teaching Philippine Indigenous Culture was participated in by educators from Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Ateneo de Davao University, Eastern Samar State University-Borongan, DLSU-Dasmariñas, Lyceum of the Philippines, Cavite State University-Imus, Our Lady of Fatima University-Quezon City, Quezon City Polytechnic University, University of Caloocan City, Navotas National High School, San Juan de Dios Educational Foundation, Inc., Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela, Espiritu Santo Parochial School, University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development, UP Diliman, University of Makati, DepEd Virginia Ramirez Cruz High School, St. Paul University-Manila, and the Center for Community Transformation-Visions of Hope Christian School. Also in attendance were representatives from the US Peace Corps-Philippines, Museum of Philippine Social History-National Historical Commission of the Philippines, National Museum, Rice Science Museum-Philippine Rice Research Institute, Congregation of the Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus, and the San Juan de Dios Educational Foundation, Inc.