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Ati leader sits as NegOcc town council rep

The municipality of Isabela will go down in history as one of the staunchest advocates for the rights and welfare of Indigenous Peoples in the province of Negros Occidental.

On October 4, Municipal Mayor Irene Montilla swore into office Teresita Enario Sinceda, the town’s first Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in the municipal council. She will represent an estimated 10,000 IPs residing in eight barangays in the town of Isabela..

“The Lord has planned this day so that we, IPs, will feel that we are not slaves but partners for development and a partner of all. We now have a voice!,” she said amidst emotional applause from the audience.

Sixty-eight-year-old Sinceda, or “Dayco,” as she is fondly called, happens to be the first woman IPMR from the Ati tribe in the whole of Western Visayas to be formally installed into office and become a regular member of a Sanggunian.

Kabankalan City was the first to comply with the provisions of the Republic Act 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, on IPMR when it installed Jeorge Largado in its city council, who later rose to become a Commissioner for Island Groups and the rest of the Visayas of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

IPRA Section 16 gives Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous Peoples Structures (ICC/IPSs) the right to participate in decision-making that affects their rights, lives, and future, which prompted the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to provide initial guidelines for the inclusion of IPMRs in local legislative councils.

Also, NCIP Administrative Order No. 3, Series of 2018, as amended by NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 

sabela Mayor Irene Montilla sworn into office the town’s first Indigenous Peoples' Mandatory Representative (IPMR), Teresita Enario Sinceda. Sinceda is joined by members of her family. *PIA photo

 2021, or “Revised National Guidelines for the Mandatory Representation of Indigenous Peoples in Local Legislative Councils and Policy-making Bodies,” reaffirmed this provision.

Sincena said she would champion the IPs’ aspirations for self-governance and empowerment, where people around them respect their unique culture without any discrimination.

“We want to resolve tribe members’ conflicts our own way, and if there is no resolution reached, we will issue a certificate to the barangay endorsing the matter,” she said.

Teresita “Dayco” Enario Sinceda *(PIA photo)

She said an Ati local council is composed of men and women, with ‘Ibu’ meaning man or ‘Kaibuan’ collectively, while a woman council member is called ‘Ubayi’ or ‘Kaubayian’ as a group.

A nomadic feature in their way of lifecalled ‘ranso’ is still very much observed, and Sinceda wants the public to respect this practice.

This means that on particular days of the year, they go to any town or city in the province to sell their products, like herbal medicines and woven products.

They also take this opportunity to gather roots and leaves called “pangalap,” which they use for their concoctions that are abundant in specific areas of the province. They may also hunt non-threatened wild animals, or “pangayam.”

She is thankful for the support of the government in their community, including education subsidies, seedlings, and farm machinery(dryer and harvester).

“With this assistance given to us, it is now our responsibility to take initiatives and be industrious so that these pieces of machinery produce food for our sustenance and livelihood,” she said.

We already have several college graduates working in the government, such as agriculturists, midwives, coast guards, police, and teachers but I would like to have more college graduates from our tribe so we can have more professionals,” she said.

“We want more of our youngsters to become professionals and learn new languages so they don’t suffer discrimination,” she said in a resolved tone.

“Gradually, we feel less discriminated against because we are now better informed and empowered.”

There are two more things on her list, though, that the Ati community would want to have: irrigation and a museum.

“We have 110 hectares of land, and irrigation is essential for us, while a museum will showcase our culture. We want them preserved in that room for our next generation to see,” she said.

She said she is ready to sit at the town's Sangguiang Bayan and urged her fellow IPs to support her leadership for the development of their community.

Isabela town Ati tribal leaders show support for their newly installed IPMR, Teresita Enario Sinceda. Tribal leaders are shown with Isabela Mayor Aireen Montilla, and Jeorge Largado, Commissioner for Island Groups, and the rest of the Visayas. (EAD/PIA-LLjr Negros Occ.)

About the Author

Lorenzo Lambatin, Jr.


Region 6

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