No longer silent
by Jayden Cadag
Jayden Cadag was awarded the 2021 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship for Leadership Excellence based on high school GPA, a group interview, and an essay in response to the question, “How do racial biases in the Filipino community manifest in your daily life and in what ways are you complicit?” The following was the essay submission.
The Igorot people of the Philippines and the Indigenous people of Canada share many similarities. They both survived European colonization, both groups protected many of their traditions and culture, they are both discriminated against in their own country, were seen as savages by past generations, and their history is not well covered in both countries’ education systems. My parents are Igorot and I learned early on that our people were historically differentiated from the majority of Filipinos because of our strong and successful resistance to Spanish colonization. There is an obvious cultural divide between Igorots and the rest of the Philippines, which often leads to racial biases within the Filipino community.
I asked my cousin, who immigrated to Canada in 2014, what her experiences were like growing up as an Igorot in the Philippines. This is what she shared.
“There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about Igorot people. Some Filipinos think that we are dark and short, have curly hair, are poor, uneducated, and a primitive species of humans. When you introduce yourself in school, people are shocked when they say you are an Igorot because you don’t look like what they imagine in their head. People think we still practice headhunting, and they are scared of us. Many think they are superior to Igorots; this is why we tend to be quieter and show fewer emotions. When we get high grades, they are surprised, so we don’t like to show off. People are uneducated about our culture because it is not taught well in schools. That is why they create and spread many insulting and hurtful assumptions.”
It was shocking to learn these racial biases still exist within the Filipino community.
Angelica McLeod shares her experience living on Shoal Lake 40. She would often feel ashamed to be Indigenous, especially when seeing people living on the streets and battling addictions.
“So, when I came to the city here and I noticed that I always wished that I was born non-Indigenous so that I could have clean drinking water and I could have all these things that we don’t have back home” (Ward). This is something as an Igorot I can relate to; we are often perceived as uncivilized and get stares when we are in our native costumes. This leads to some Igorots being reluctant to share with others about their culture or wishing they weren’t Igorot. I was complicit by not educating others about my culture and staying quiet.
The article, “Home is at the Heart of the Indigenous Prison Crisis,” exposes how years of intergenerational trauma and complex disadvantages have led to the Indigenous prison crisis today (Beardy). As an Igorot, this saddens me because what if this happened to us in the Philippines? What if the Spanish successfully colonized us and tried to erase our culture just like the English and French did to Indigenous people in Canada? I truly sympathize and understand the complex issues facing Indigenous communities today.
In the last article, “Black Lives Matter Toronto Calls for Police Defunding, Protesters Charged” (CBC News), protestors were arrested for defacing statues of racist figures in Canadian history. Supporters questioned why the police cared so much about these key architects in the creation of residential schools and not about the black and Indigenous lives being lost today. This exemplifies how Canadian history is still being taught from the mainstream, Eurocentric point of view, with much change still needed. In both countries, the history and culture of Igorots and Indigenous peoples are not thoroughly covered. No statues are commemorating Indigenous or Igorot people in either country.
By comparing the similar experiences between Igorots and Indigenous people in Canada, racial biases in both the Filipino community and Canada are being brought to light. For years I was complicit by the fact that I stayed silent when I heard Filipinos spread misconceptions about Igorot people because I felt scared to speak up. But now, I have grown into an individual who is proud of my culture and proud to be an Igorot. I will continue to educate others on my Igorot culture and share what I have learned about the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
- Beardy, Ryan. “Family matters: Home is at the heart of the Indigenous prison crisis.” The Globe and Mail, 30 Oct. 2020, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-family-matters-home-is-at-the-heart-of-the-indigenous-prison-crisis.
- CBC News. “Black Lives Matter Toronto calls for police defunding, protesters charged.” CBC Radio-Canada, 19 Jul. 2020, https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1765588035817.
- Ward, Dennis. “‘Spirits of our ancestor’: Shoal Lake 40 is rectifying a century of hardships.” APTN National News, 24 Nov. 2020, https://www.aptnnews.ca/facetoface/spirits-of-our-ancestor-shoal-lake-40-is-rectifying-a-century-of-hardships.
Jayden Paul Cadag graduated from Windsor Park Collegiate and entered into first year of studies at the University of Manitoba. Visit www.anak.ca to learn more about the 2022 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship, as well as other ANAK programs, opportunities, and ways you can get involved or support our youth.