Welcome Remarks!

Good evening to each and everyone of you.

Welcome to the last activity of GOTAD AD SMU 2009.

The theme for this year's GOTAD AD SMU 2009 which is "scaling up Indigenous Youth Participation Ensuring the Nation's Wealth" is fitting enough as the theme implies sharing, learning and rekindling the hopes and commitment of the indigenous peoples especially the youth. It attached the youth not only to a search for national cultural expressions but also led them to a re-evaluation of set of beliefs and ideas they have inherited.

But tonight is also a time to remember those indigenous peoples who continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty and conflict; who face dispossession of their traditional lands and livelihoods, displacement, destruction of their belief systems, culture, language and way of life -- and even the threat of extinction.

Like you, I am an IP. I belong to the Kinaray-a of the Visayas. Both my parents are Kinaray-a, one of the more than 100 IPs group listed in the Philippines. Thus, we as Indigenous Peoples should assert our inherent rights to self-determination. Our control over our lands, our resources, our spirituality and physical health, our histories, our identity, our languages and our governance structures is crucial for our survival. The rapid expansion of urbanization has perpetually undermined our Indigenous communities that began with the historical process of colonization.

Our Indigenous knowledge has developed through our inseparable relationship with our Mother Earth. Our traditional and ancestral knowledge systems enable holistic approaches to sustainable development. Indigenous knowledge must always be applied to address the alarming growth of poverty, homelessness, lack of adequate and affordable housing, inadequate sanitation and water needs, and all forms of violence against Indigenous Peoples, particularly within the realm of urbanization. This is in fact our attempt in the IKAT Institute. Together with you, we can preserve our IKSPs. The true success of the activity like GOTAD and other activities must include the attempt to preserve and perpetuate our Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous best practices.

In closing, I pose a challenge to you my fellow IPs, I learned that indigenous peoples, especially indigenous youth, are facing struggles and experiencing triumphs no matter how far apart they live. One of your biggest concerns is the loss of language and culture. You are living in between two worlds. Many are educated in both the Western world and in traditional way of life as well. As Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote in the late thirties of last century, "Those who regard themselves as educated persons in our country are in fact conditioned by an education which has its basis in the pragmatic ethos of an alien historical tradition." It is a great challenge to keep a balance between the two. The cultural integrity of the indigenous peoples youth is threatened by poverty, marginalization and discrimination. The indigenous youth are especially vulnerable as they begin to lose touch with their identity and culture. Will you allow that to happen?

Welcome again and Good evening.