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Festival & Development Forum

Hosted by the Malay Highlander Foundation (MAHIFO Inc.) in Malay, Aklan Covered Court opposite the Malay Town Hall February 25 - 26, 2012

Grand parade of Agta Dumagat during earlier Panuppoy festival in Infanta Quezon Province (April 2010)

i. Background
The different IPs with a hunter gatherer background, collectively referred to as Negritos represent the most ancient civilization in the Philippines, with an uninterrupted presence going back more than 30,000 years in time. Few in numbers overall , small pockets are scattered over much of the country. Their distinctive cultures and forest related way of life is as yet little understood in much of mainstream society and they have since long been marginalized and pushed aside - even if compared to other larger IPs. These ethnic groups among which the Eata/Ati and Ayta of the Western Visayas and the Batak of Palawan - have a strong relationship with the natural environment in which they live. And many cultural traits reflect this relationship, while relevant knowledge and skills are unsurpassed. Furthermore, their society is highly egalitarian and decision making is traditionally most inclusive. For the Negritos, everywhere, foods wild gathered from forests, rivers and brooks and coastal waters, traditionally are a key element of the diet. Food items include leaf and root vegetables (the former including different species of ferns, the latter various Dioscorea yams), mushrooms, wild banana flowers ( Musa sp.) and palm heart (ubod, a generic term referring to a range of palm species), as well as, fish, molluscs, crabs and other aquatic animals. In fact, the nutritional value of organic plus natural foods is in no way inferior to that of farm crops. On the contrary, recent research findings increasingly point to the superior health benefits of these foods . Another undeniable forte of wild foods is the much greater (variation of) taste. However, the consumption of wild gathered foods, is often perceived as a sign of backwardness. On the other hand, modern processed and comparatively nutrient poor items are now widely available in the communities and have (e.g. in the form of snacks) become a significant staple of day-to-day diets. Still, even today, wild foods, albeit a minor component volume-wise, are a healthy and enjoyable part of the diet, while the related knowledge base is still largely intact within the tribes. Some of the skills involved in hunting or gathering also serve as pronounced identity markers. However, in the context of persistent erosive cultural pressures, it seems timely to set affirmative action in motion. Therefore, the scheduled February event, which aims to: 1) Enable the revitalization of the distinct cultural identity of the participating Eata/Ati, Ayta and Batak. 2) Encourage cooperation among communities and create a platform for sharing their aspirations and concerns in relation to the development agenda. 3) Have a productive dialogue with, and provide grass root inputs to, LGUs and other government agencies, in order to provide those key actors with the tools to be optimally effective in inducing positive change. 4) Invigorate the healthy food tradition and foster greater pride in related skills, knowledge and customs. Finally, the festival cum forum is part of a larger effort to strengthen the capacity for self-determination of the IPs with a hunter gatherer background of the Philippines. It will build on the experience with two earlier and hugely successful festivals, one organized by Agta-Dumagat in Quezon province (SAGIBIN) and the second by the Aeta of Tarlac (KAKAI).

ii. plan of activities

It concerns a two day event, comprising of a food-themed cultural revival festival and a multi-sectoral development forum. Over 250 Negrito participants (not counting children) are expected to attend, coming from the islands of Panay, Boracay, Guimaras and Palawan, with a smaller contingent from Luzon (Agta and Aeta). During the first day, a cook and taste session of traditional foods will take central stage. For this session, participants will be encouraged to contribute specialty food items from their respective areas. Apart from the actual tasting, recipes, rituals and information related to the ingredients will be shared. In addition, participants will be invited to engage in story telling and singing related to the food served, while before and after the C&T session, other survival skills and cultural expressions will be demonstrated. The 2nd Day, a multi-sector development forum will take place, involving representatives of government (municipality, province, NCIP national/regional, DENR, DST, Dep. of Health/Education); civil society and local/national media. The forum, with Eata leaders in charge, aims to provide a platform for sharing their aspirations and concerns - including those in relation to: Ancestral domain situation and ecosystem rehabilitation; Food security and ecosystem-based livelihood development; Education and health care issues. The forum is also to function as an occasion to discuss appropriate bottom up terms for future collaboration with relevant stakeholders. Finally, it is foreseen that the sharing will lead to a better appreciation for an unique and ancient cultural heritage, which is at the roots of the regions rich and appealing fabric. Meanwhile, expectations are high, as the festival initiative appears to resonate remarkably well in the Western Visayas, not only in communities, but also with policy makers, local entrepreneurs and others.

Among the speakers at the Aeta Development forum in Tarlac (April 2011), NCIP Commissioner Conching Calzado, Tarlac Governor Victor Yap and Congresman Teddy Baguilat.

iii. tentative programme

February 25 (saturday) Arrival of participants from outside the province of Aklan
February 27 (Monday) 7:00 9:00 Breakfast & preparations for the day. Welcome words and intro MAHIFO. followed by presentation of development aspirations and issues by speakers from different areas. Aklan Other provinces of Panay plus Guimaras Q&A Negros Palawan

February 26 (sunday):
8:00 10:00 10:45 Festive Parade from Caticlan to Festival venue. Opening Ritual, Welcome words and song. Games, among which competitions in archery, javelin throwing, stilt racing (youth) and fire making. (The latter in 3 tool categories: flint, iron and bamboo.) Lunch Continuation games and demonstration of skills incl. of hilot midwifery and honey hunting. Music/dance & start preparation of specialty foods. Intro to the food served, followed by tasting and more much more music, song and dance. 9:30 10:00 10:30 10:50 11:15

12:30 14:00

11: 25 Luzon (Agta Dumagat, Aeta): response to presentations 11:00 12:30 14:00 Q& A Lunch Welcome words Mayor John P. Yap

16:00 18:00

14: 10 Summary morning 14:30 15:00 15:20 15:40 16:00 17:30 NCIP Commissioner Dionesia Banua (with Regional Director Catolin) DENR HQ representative Joey Austria Aklan Governor Carlito S. Marquez Mayor John P. Yap Plenum Joycie Dorado-Alegre, head of the NCCA subcommision on cultural minorities and the arts:Relections on the day and closure Dinner and departure of most participants


February 28 (tuesday) Negros participants travel back to Bacolod for museum event

February 29 (Wednesday) Last day of National Arts Month, at 18:30, opening exhibit related to the festival in The Negros Museum, Old Agricultural Bldg. Gatuslao St. Bacolod City. (Until May 2nd, 2012.)


organizers and supporters

The event is hosted by Malay-based Eata PO MAHIFO and has been organised in close collaboration with and/or supported by: NTFP-TF, National Commission on Indigenous People, Mayors office of the municipality of Malay, Both ENDS, The Negros Museum, AnthroWatch, NCCA/LAHI, and SAGIBIN/KAKAI/NATRIPAL.

Sumptuous food from the fiorest & swiddens