Is there something wrong with being an Igorot? Nothing.
An official of the Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday clarified that it “does not tolerate” any form of discrimination among its ranks as school heads and teachers, as well, as students are constantly reminded to respect everyone.
“We will never tolerate any form of discrimination,” said Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin. “We promote diversity when we teach and we always remind our people to always respect and treat all human beings with dignity,” he added.
San Antonio made this clarification following the clamor for DepEd to correct a learning material which “maligns” indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region who are collectively known as Igorots.
“First of all, it was not a learning module, it was a learning activity sheet and the one that was printed was the copy of the draft,” San Antonio explained in a mix of English and Filipino.
The said learning material, which was used by at least 50 students in a public school in Region 2, was not the final version. “It was accessible to learners who were under the printed modular and other modalities and was immediately corrected already,” he assured.
Last week, Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog sent a letter to Education Secretary Leonor Briones asking the department to ensure that those behind the materials which were “apparently designed and published to malign and discriminate our people for being Igorots” will be held accountable.
In particular, Dalog identified a material portraying Igorots as having dark, and curly hair. “We disagree on such accounts because in reality, a person with curly hair does not truly represent the actual appearance of an Igorot,” he said.
On Facebook, various photos of learning materials that allegedly “discriminate and insult” the Igorots can be found. One material is asking students to assess whether a hypothetical scenario were right or wrong: “Hindi ako makikipaglaro sa aking kaklasi na Igorot dahil iba ang kanyang pananamit (Translation: I will not play with my Igorot classmate because his attire is different.)
Another material, which is asking for a proper response from the students, said: “Nakita mong tinutukso ng kaklase mo ang isang batang Igorot dahil sa kanyang anyo (You saw your classmate teasing an Igorot child because of how he looks).”
These circulating materials also prompted ACT-CIS Partylist Representative Eric Yap to file a resolution that will seek an explanation from the DepEd regarding learning modules that reportedly malign the Igorots.
The hashtag “Proud to be Igorot” (#ProudtobeIgorot) also trended on various social media sites posted by Igorots who are sharing their experiences and photos.