NSIIP News

Conference to ‘bridge’ indigenous and Filipino cultures

August 30, 2016

Metro | A Filipino-Canadian arts group in Vancouver is hoping to add a new word to our lexicon — and build deeper ties to local First Nations at the same time.

“Indipino” is a new term coined to denote someone of mixed indigenous and Filipino ancestry. That could mean First Nations and Métis people here in Canada, or any of the numerous tribal cultures indigenous to the Philippines, said JR Guerrero, who is organizing a conference on the topic next month in B.C.

“It’s pretty unique, at least for us in the Filipino community,” he told Metro in a phone interview. “It’s some of the first major work on this within our communities to actively engage indigenous people from the Philippines and from here on Turtle Island.

“We’re really, really proud of this project.”

Guerrero is a co-founder of the arts group Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society, and also its theatre wing’s musical director.

He’s also helping organize the International Babaylan Conference on Squamish Nation territories from Sept. 23 to 25.

The Tagalog word “Babaylan” means shaman — one of the most important roles for many indigenous cultures of the Philippines, he explained. Guest speakers will include shamans from that country, as well as people of mixed ancestry with Métis and First Nations from Canada and the U.S.

The event will launch with a traditional canoe and blanket welcoming ceremony to Squamish territories including Chief Ian Campbell, who has been involved in his First Nation’s opposition to oil tanker traffic increases associated with the proposed Kinder Morgan bitumen pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands.

“It’s basically about being in the same boat together, First Nations and Filipinos,” he said. “This is a very big opportunity that entailed a lot of bridging.

“Like Canada, the Philippines is also a colonized nation — by Spain and the U.S. — so we felt a natural direction was to go towards First Nations in solidarity more intentionally in the last year or so. Indigenous peoples of the world are very similar in their challenges to reclaim ancestral territory, and discrimination they face.”

But the conference’s tagline, “Filipinos and indigenous Turtle Islanders revitalizing ancestral traditions together,” also hints at organizers’ hopes to have a space for arts, cultural sharing, traditional ceremonies and healing.

“Being a shaman is not just being a medicine person, it’s also about being a leader and being connected to the land, all the elements in nature and all the members of the tribe and of society … It’s a sacred way of living our lives.”

Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society’s Third International Babaylan Conference is planned from Sept. 23 to 25 at the YMCA Camp Elphinstone, on Squamish nation territory. For more information see the event’s website.

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