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Cordillera poets make voices heard

08 November 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

Cordillerans are restive and the poets among them are mincing no words to express their anger, despair, exasperation and even grief over what they perceive as decades-long abuse and destruction of their rich natural resources.

At an indigenous peoples’ congregation called “Dap-ayan ti Umili” held on Ice House St in Central on Oct 7, nine poets from various provinces of the mountainous region in Northern Luzon vied for honors in a poetry writing contest organized by the Pinatud a Saleng ti Umili.

Elna Apao of the Sadanga Organization, reads her first prize winning poem “Cordillera”.
Pinatud, an alliance of various organizations from the Cordillera Administrative Region, held the competition themed “Empowering Cordilleran migrants on their rights and welfare for the defense of our land, life and resources.”

So, on an afternoon when cooler weather prevailed in the concrete jungle of Central, the contestants lamented the vanishing beauty of their land due to environmental havoc blamed on mining giants, government neglect and apathy by younger generations.

The word weavers also grieved the visible environmental and social changes that had damaged or completely ruined the Cordilleran heritage.

“Cordillera,/our beautiful Cordillera,/ do you still exist?/ Brave Igorots,/ Are we still united?” asks Elna Apao of the Sadanga Organization in her first prize winning poem “Cordillera”.
Apao, like the other contestants, mourns that “Some mountains were destroyed, / Some lands have no more use,/ some resources were taken off,/ Many innocent lives have been lost…”

Second-placer Narissa Gaiwen of the Singles & Doubles group scored the greed and negligence of the powers-that-be who succumbed to corruption:

“Mga ganid at makapangyarihan ay nagpakahibang,/ Inuna ang mga abgay na pansarili lamang,/ Nagpadala sa bugso ng pera’t materal na bagay,/ Ni hindi inisip ang epekto ng pagsira sa likas na yaman…/
Gaiwen urged her fellow Cordillerans to stand up and recover their Paradise.

“Hanggang kailan titikisin ang hapdi ng sugat na dala/ Hanggang kailan simulang ipaglaban ang karapatan/ Pag huli na ba at wala nang natira?”

But the poet’s call is not for a violent upheaval; she advocates a united and peaceful struggle. “Lagi lang tandaan na sa bawa’t laban/ Ay di kailangan ang baril o talim ng espada/ gawing puhunan ang boses, at puso ang sandata./
Golda Pay-ong of the Lubuagan United (Hong Kong Zone) takes pride in the united women migrant workers of the Cordillera who showcase their ethnic culture on foreign shores.

“Kumakanta ng salidummay/ Himig ng oyayi ating isinasabuhay/ Sumasayaw, wari’y parang agila sa kumpas ng mga kamay/ timbre’t kumpas ng mga paa ito’s sumasabay…”
But Pay-ong warns that beneath this colorful cultural display “Hindi matitinag ang diwa’t minimithi/ Tuloy sa pakikibaka! Hindi magpapaapi.”

The poems are raw but the genuineness of their message makes up for their rough edges.

The danger of themed competitions is that they contain the writer within a box from which she is expected to bring out her best. But it also serves as a challenge to the poet to weave her words artfully so as not to end up with a piece consisting of broken prose that sounds more like slogans than verses.

Limited by the theme, the raw intensity of the poets’ feelings and clarity of their message – to save the Cordillera’s natural wealth and beauty – make the entries as beautiful as the northern mountain region.   

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