May their tribe increase



Xikunhati what?

You may have to be a member of a tribe to know what it is.

In that case, welcome to the First World Indigenous Games!

Spread over nine days (October 23 to November 1) at Palmas in the central part of Brazil, the Games gathers more than 2,000 native people from dozens of Brazilian tribes and more than 20 countries, including the Philippines, in what its organizers promote as a scaled-down Olympics, only “cooler.”

Results of the first few days of the tournament in South America had not come in at press time but this corner is expecting that our kababayan will bring home the bacon in athletics (100 meters), archery, canoeing, spear (javelin) throw, swimming, tug-of-war and wrestling—they are not joining “regular” football and xikunhati.

Reports said Team Philippines is composed of nine athletes: Jun Ablong and Dumlao Naval (Aeta); Erlyn Balabal, Jason Balabal, Elvis Julius and Mark Sumalag (Igorot); Marlon Luna and Ricardo Turgo (Dumagat); and Jerry Manalo (Mangyan).

Not surprisingly, no “highlander” from the Visayas and Mindanao is represented, apparently because the lumad (indigenous people) in Mindanao, in particular, have their hands full in a political battle with the government over human rights and ancestral domain.

Essentially, there is not much difference between the Palmas competition and the Olympic Games.

Break down, for example, the Ethiopian squad in any Olympiad and you will discover that its gold medal winners in marathon and other long-distance events are members of some tribe or other.

Do the same with the Kenyan team and you will end up unearthing that its top-of-the-podium finishers also in any Olympics are indigenous people.

At least one US Olympic team, in the Tokyo edition in 1964, had a gold-medal winner in Billy Mills (10,000 meters), an orphan and a native American (Lakota Sioux) and the first and only American winner of the lung-busting race.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Cathy Freeman, an aborigine, ran to victory in the 400 meters, making her the face of the allegedly discriminated against original inhabitants of Australia.

Earlier, it took a while for Canberra and probably the White Australians themselves to embrace Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, another aborigine, until she won seven Grand Slam singles titles—four Australian, two Wimbledon and one French.

The First World Indigenous Games producing a winner among the Filipino athletes would pose a problem to local sports officials.

Under a proposal to reward Filipino Olympic champions (presumably non-tribal) with P10 million, where do their counterparts in the Palmas tournament stand (not that we already have any “lowlander” gold medalist from 100 years of participation in the Olympiad)?

Note that Team Philippines competing in Brazil has been sanctioned by the Philippine Olympic Committee (perhaps the reason why the country’s delegation is headed by retired Col. Antonio Tamayo Jr. of the POC), meaning that the Games there had been green-lighted by the International Olympic Committee and that the Filipino competitors there are Olympians.

Meanwhile, let us just cheer the team because win or lose they represent the country not as Dumagat or Aeta but as Filipinos.

But we insist that they be rewarded accordingly, because after all they are true-blue Pinoys just like you and me.

Xikunhati, by the way, is football, but one that is played using the head, not the feet.


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