The apology offered to the aborigines of Canada by that democratic nation’s prime minister is something that the Philippine government should emulate in order to return the dignity of the country’s indigenous peoples. I say this because these culturally minoritized tribes are admirable enough for having kept modernization at bay and have preserved their most ancient culture, laws and practices despite the onslaught of numerous social factors like cultural mainstreaming, poverty, banishment from their ancestral domain and neocolonization. Their tribal character’s closeness to that of the earliest inhabitants of the archipelago is now diminishing at an alarming rate because of the abovementioned reasons and yet, the very institutions that are supposed to protect the nation’s most uncontaminated identity are often the very perpetrators of these peoples’ oppression. It is unthinkable to impose homogenization among the heterogeneous components of the Philippine society, as may be gleaned in the cases of Canada and Australia, two formerly Commonwealth countries that have been able to translate their economic development to social development. It is a telling fact that all citizens have rights enshrined in the constitution, indigenous peoples included. If these peoples are denied of their basic rights to, say, ancestral domain (an example that is very true in the context of the Mindanao crisis), a domino effect of cultural tyranny will ensue: they will find it difficult to get by economically, at least, and they will suffer from a classic case of ethnocide, at worst. They should let be, the way they live freely and idiosyncratically. They should be respected for their uniqueness instead of being forced to dissolve their difference if only to be integrated and identified with the mainstream society. In a hopeful pursuit of political maturity, the government and its bureaucratic agencies like hospitals, schools and the like must stop ethnic discrimination because by virtue of their heritage, they are truer Filipinos than the rest of us.
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