It looks like finally, the uproar caused by Candy Pangilinan's statement: "Tao po ako, hindi po ako Igorot (I am a human being, not an Igorot.)!" is waning. As soon as she opened her mouth, we Igorots clenched our fists and went to war. For the enlightenment of our non-Filipino readers, Igorots are indigenous peoples found in the Cordillera region of Northern Philippines.

On May 12, I wrote her a fuming-mad if not arrogant letter (reproduced below) which, I was told, was posted by more than one hundred concerned individuals on their Facebook, Multiply and Friendster sites. Some posted it on their blogsites and on on-line forums. Candy was condemned by Igorots and non-Igorots. On my Facebook site, there were hundreds of reactions most of which were of disgust at her behaviour.

On May 13, she sent me a very remorseful letter of apology saying she would make a public apology on national television. After her public apology, I sent her another letter whose tone was this time calm, unlike the first one which was berserk. In my second letter, I asked Candy to rectify her error by using her relative influence to raise public consciousness of the Igorots.

To be fair to her, she already expressed her remorse on national television. And she also appeared before the Baguio City Council to apologize- a brave act considering that the Council passed a resolution condemning her and declaring her a persona non-grata.

I believe that after the public backlash, she learned her lesson and is now aware of who Igorots are.

I am posting my two letters to Candy and, to be fair to her, her message to me:


The First Letter

Candy, I am a poet and human rights lawyer who happens to be indigenous. In particular, I am a member of the Kankanaey ethnolinguistic group. Kankanaeys are Igorots.

I am currently in Australia attending a training on indigenous peoples rights. Yesterday, I learned that when you had a concert in Baguio, you shouted twice: "Tao po ako, hindi po ako Igorot." This incident was discussed with the participants in the training because I brought it out. Australian aborigines recall the time they were not considered humans and were downgraded by the Australian government to the level of "part of the flora and fauna." How you treated us right in our territory smacks of shamelessness and outright ignorance of who Igorots are. You are as bad as the Australian government which, by the way, had the humility to apologize to the aborigines in 2009.

You can claim that you were joking. Twice, you were joking? Real artists use performance art to inspire noble emotions, not hatred for or discrimination against a particular ethnic group. Since you call yourself an artist, you should know that you have a social responsibility which demands that you should not promote ethnic bias.

It is a good thing that you are not so popular because your very prejudicial statement would have influenced the minds of millions of people. The fact of your stature in the entertainment industry does not however mitigate the vileness of your statement.

I hope that like the Australian government, you will have the humility to apologize on national television to the indigenous peoples whose collective identity you slurred with your careless statement.

Cheryl L. Daytec

Candy's Response

Yes i am scheduled for a public apology.
It was not intended to mean that way.
No explanation naman can calm all of you.
kaya po, i'm sorry... I am actually trying to get in touch with the Igorot community to personally give my apologies. I would like to show my sincere apologies, in any way I can.I do not know how to reach everyone with my apologies. More than I am afraid that you will all get mad, I am so dissapointed with myself that i have hurt people
The guilt is beyond me.
I don't know what to say... I made a mistake. I'm sorry.
If you read the multiply site ang dami pong hurtful words ang nakasulat and I feel I deserve it for causing people pain.
I certainly know that I am not above anyone and would not intentionally hurt anyone.
This is a humbling experience. A lesson learned the hard way. I am praying now that you all just forgive me for once. i assure all of you that his will never happen again.
I am sorry.

My Second Letter

Dear Candy,

I want you to know I feel less bad after reading your message to me to which was appended your statement of public apology.

You did what you did- carelessly as you now admit with remorse. Igorots from all over the globe reacted - naturally with outrage. I hope you understand the ""tumult."

I am sure you wish you could turn back the hands of time and undo what you did. But it is just not possible. So what matters is how you will rectify your misdeed. You are in a position to correct misconceptions. It will be nice if you will emerge from this experience an "artistang bayan," someone who will use her relative influence to effect social change. Forgiveness from the people you wronged may not be immediate but it will come especially if Igorots see that you are making amends beyond your public apology.

I did not watch your public apology as at the moment, I am abroad. Many who did say you "seemed sincere" (The use of the modifier "seemed" means they have doubts, but the inclination is towards believing you.). I believe apologizing publicly was not a baby step for you or anyone in your position for that matter. Although some people may not feel it was enough, it is a portent of good things to come- for you at least.

If there is something good that came out of the incident, it made the Igorots from all over the globe congregate around their besieged identity. In good times, some of us may take for granted our history of struggle for recognition and the importance of continuously raising public consciousness of who and what we are. But in bad times,we revisit our past as a people, claim our roots with pride. We remember with ardor in our hearts that our ancestors resisted Spanish colonization for centuries, that self-determination was a right they were ready to fight for with their very lives. We remember that the present society can learn from our indigenous history and will be transformed if we reclaim the values they held dear. I am not saying however that more ethnic bashing of Igorots - or of any ethnolinguistic group- should happen.

Unfortunately, some of us may have become irrational in expressing our outrage to ethnic slur and I am not an exception. On hindsight, I myself realized that invoking my academic award to stress my point in my letter to you was devoid of rational connection to a principled critical reaction to your statement. When I wrote the letter, I was feeling so horrified that you truly thought we were not humans (and only humans go to school.). Add to this the fact that I was immersed in an activity on indigenous peoples rights where shared experiences of racial discrimination reopened old wounds, exacerbated fresh ones, and created new ones for us who were hearing for the first time the stories of other indigenous peoples from various countries.

Australian aboriginals shared with pain in their hearts that under discriminatory laws, they were classed with plants and animals in the wild, the flora and fauna. Children of mixed blood were abducted from their parents who were thought unfit to care for children. Members of the Stolen Generation still suffer from the psychological damage wrought by their very, very sorrowful experience. In February 2008 however, Prime Minister Steven Rudd apologized. Although the apology did not (and could not) restore the damage done, it eased the aboriginals' baggage. Every time they spoke, they acknowledged the traditional owners of the land where we were holding an activity. I thought that was so uplifting and was hoping the same could be done in our country. Listening to them recount their ordeal as an oppressed people, I was so emotionally affected.You can imagine the state I was in when I expressed my anger to you for what you did in my birthplace which was originally owned by the Ibalois who are Igorots.

I am not going to apologize for people who may have gone overboard, responding to you with similar or equal slur because that is for them to do. But I ask you to understand them and see the shape of the lessons we can all draw from this experience.

I wish you well. As an Igorot, I have forgiven you for the hurt caused me personally.


Cheryl Daytec