BALER, Aurora – The 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion, Philippine Army, PNP and local officials manifested their full support to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Project, Epanaw Coffee Table and Photo Exhibit that was held in front of Museo de Baler in Aurora, Quezon on Thursday, April 15.
Lt. Col. Reandrew P. Rubio, commander of 91st Infantry Battalion said that the project reflected the various Filipino cultures, belief systems, and traditions of Indigenous Peoples (IP) through the three-book series Project Epanaw (Journey) that was launched by the NCIP to celebrate, promote, and showcase the Aurora province’s IP culture through photo exhibit and book launching activity.
“The 91st Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army will always be your active partner for peace and development. Since last year, our efforts and activities are within the IP communities as they are very vulnerable to CTG recruitment works. Rest assured that we will continue to support the different programs of the IPs, protect their rights and promote sustainable development in the IP communities,” Rubio said, explaining that the books provide insights on the critical role that IPs play.
Rubio also expressed his gratitude to all who shared in this arduous journey, all hardworking NCIP men and women to include partners, and all Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC)/IPs all over the country.
He also encouraged everyone to join in the journey of Epanaw and invited the people of Aurora for the preservation, protection, respect, and recognition of the rights of the IPs.
Police Colonel Julio S. Lizardo, Provincial Director of Aurora Police Provincial Office, also joined the Provincial Government of Aurora headed by Governor Gerardo A. Noveras and the IPs in the said activity.
“PROJECT EPANAW (Journey) is a three-book series that provides insights on the critical role that IPs have in maintaining the ecological balance of the nation, giving readers a better understanding and appreciation of the ICCs and IPs’ vital roles,” Lizardo said.
Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) deputy administrator and at the same time the battalion commander of Aurora Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion (ARRIBn), Major Edward Pineda, said that his dual offices are always ready to give assistance to the IPs.
“We are here to help the IPs by giving them social services even when there are calamities. We are ready to give them financial and medical assistance, first aid among others. Our different offices and partnered agencies are frontline ambassadors in this sphere to help our IPs,” Pineda said.
Governor Noveras said that the project is an opportunity to discover the meaningful journey of the IPs as he invited everyone to take part in the fulfilment of IP rights.
“Mahaba-haba na rin ang panahon upang makilala ang kanilang kasarinlan at hindi na malaki ang diskriminasyon sa kanila at mga Kristiyano. Ang pag-unlad ay nakasalalay din sa minimithi nating lahat kaya nawa’y patuloy natin silang makasama para sa mga proyekto ng gobyerno at hindi maging sagabal sa pag-unlad. Kapag nabigyan kayo ng pagkakataong maging IPMR, kahit na anong role ang inyong ginagampanan, sa pamahalaan man o sa pribadong sector, kailangan ninyong pagbutihin yung mga ipinagkatiwalang tungkulin sa inyo ng ating pamahalaan,” Governor Gerardo Noveras said.
Baler Mayor Rhett Ronan T. Angara said that the books Pagkilala (Recognition), Paggalang (Respect), and Pagtaguyod (Promote) aim to present a true and accurate picture of IPs, giving readers a better understanding of the Filipinos.
“We give our IPs the recognition, respect and promotion they deserve in the contribution towards our fellow countrymen and women revealing who they really are,” Angara said. “Ang kultura ay isang kayamanan na bagaman hindi maaaring ipagbili ay maaari nating ipagmalaki. Ngayong araw ay idinaos ang launching ng PROJECT EPANAW Coffee Table Books sa Quezon Park, Baler. Isang napakagandang inisyatibo ito na naglalayong magpakilala at magsulong ng proteksyon at karapatan ng mga kapatid nating katutubo. Mula ngayong araw, hanggang sa susunod na dalawang linggo ay maaari po nating matunghayan ang photo exhibit ng mga katutubo sa Museo de Baler,” Baler Municipal SK Federation President Verna Abby Catusalem said.
The activity was also attended by Commission on Indigenous Peoples regional director, Atty. Roland Calde, provincial Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Mary Jane Donato, Baler IPMR Meinrado Carrasco Tropicales, IPMR Dipaculao Randy Salo, IPMR Maria Aurora Crispin Ogean, IPMR Dilasag Jose Wacnang, IPMR Dinaluungan Angelo Bugtong, IPMR San Luis Cipriano dela Torre, IPMR Dingalan Aniceta Aumentado, Provincial Tourism Officer Charlotte Madarang, Baler Municipal Tourism Officer Riza del Rosario, among others.