Friday, December 13, 2013

Give the Gift of Culture and Positive Inspiration

Looking for something special to give to those special to you? Something other than the normal expected gift? How about a book that entertains, inspires and promotes the Igorot culture? This year, give "Igorotdo: The Enlightened Warrior Within."

Available online at:

For more information about the book: 


"Part mystery, part moral tale and full-on adventure story . . . . unique read . . . a new and authentic genre-bending narrative: a spiritual adventure with a contemporary voice."
- Portland Book Review

Sometimes a book, no matter how well-written and easily read, is hard to pigeonhole. Is it a philosophical novel? A spiritual mystery? A fantasy? An examination of what it means to be human?
Rexcrisanto Delson's "Igorotdō: The Enlightened Warrior Within" is all of the above and more—a many-faceted character study of the value of cultural heritage and, ultimately, what it means to be a good person. It's an easy and fascinating read, which entertains as it broadens your mind.
- Anthropogist Floyd Largent Jr.


Monday, October 14, 2013

A Trio of Inspiration

Ever since I began writing my book, Igorotdo: The Enlightened Warrior Within, I've wanted to inspire others to take stock in their own cultural heritage, whatever it may be.  When it comes to my own heritage, I've come to realize that many Igorots in America seem content with keeping our rich heritage to themselves or within their small Igorot circles of friends.  Every now and then, however, I am encouraged when organizations such as the BIBAK Youth San Diego organize events and activities that are geared to sharing their culture to the American public.  Knowing fully the difficulties involved in rallying others to share their cultural heritage; I find people such as those youth in San Diego more than inspiring.

The Trio behind The Connection Art Project:
Maggie Rife Ponce, Agustina Diez Sierra, Jaycee Gossett
I used to say, "What can be more inspiring than hearing about fellow Igorot-"Americans" sharing our culture with the world?"  Well, I stumbled upon an answer to that question two days ago when I attended the Connection Art Project cultural event by a group of three non-Igorot women.  I was simply amazed by their interest to promote both the Filipino and Igorot culture here in Chicago.

Can you imagine how I must have felt when I stepped out of the elevator to enter the event, only to receive the silent greetings of Kalinga Igorot women adorned in their tattoos and dressed in their native tapis? Even though they were on photo canvas, I still felt their welcoming greetings through their eyes and smiles.  As the event unfolded, I saw the Igorot culture through the eyes and vibrancy of these three women who traveled to Manila and Kalinga and put together the artistic documentary displayed that evening.

Two things impressed me most that night. First, I was taken by the story of Johann Oro, a Filipino-American, who like me, grew up in America and waited many years before connecting to his roots in the Philippines.  It's a story I know all too well.  Assimilation in America has a powerful way of ripping our roots out from under its indigenous soil. Every time I meet a Filipino kid here in America, I seem to always wonder if they would fall victim to the estrangement of their culture, like I once did.

The second most adoring thing was the pictures and video portraying the people of Kalinga.  As I watched a video of the three women with the tattooed Kalinga women dancing both native and Latin dances in their video documentary, the same ancestral feelings I once experienced back home in the Mountain Province resurfaced.  I was so inspired that evening that I immediately wrote a quick article on once I arrived at my home.

More information about The Connection Art Project can be found on their website and Facebook page.  Also, please help spread the word about their Kickstarter Fundraiser, of which a portion of the funds will go to the people in Kalinga.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Miss America 2014: Nina Davuluri - A Celebration of Cultural Heritage

The 92nd Miss America pageant took place recently, and with it came the first Asian-American to ever win the crown.  Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, became the first Asian-American and Indian-American to hold such honor.  Not since Vanessa Williams became the first black Miss America in 1983 did ethnicity make such headlines.  In fact, this year’s pageant included five Asian-Americans – the most in its history, including Chinese-American runner-up Crystal Lee. 

As a daughter of parents who are originally from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India, Nina Davuluri made it clear that her heritage is important to her by performing an Indian-fusion cultural dance on stage for the world to see.  she stood with Crystal Lee moments before the announcement of her victory and said, “We’re both so proud. We’re making history standing here as Asian-Americans.”

Davuluri, whose pageant platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency,” became a testament of ethnic pride when she was asked in her interview question what she thought about CBS’ Julie Chen’s admission of having plastic surgery to look “less Asian.”  She responded, “Unfortunately I don’t agree with plastic surgery, however, I can understand that from a standpoint, but more importantly, I’ve always viewed Miss American as the girl next door, and the girl next door is evolving as the diversity in America evolves.” She went on to say, “. . so I wouldn’t want to change someone’s looks or appearance, but definitely be confident in who you are.”

Unfortunately, her ethnicity and cultural platform is being rejected by many. Immediately after the announcement of victory, racism raised its ugly head in the social media world as people expressed their disapproval.  This is nothing new though.  The pageant has been down this road before when the first Jewish Miss America, Bess Meyerson, won it in 1945 and Vanessa Williams won it in 1983.  Nina Davuluri’s victory just goes to show how much more work needs to be done in America to rid it of hate. 

Nonetheless, her example and message is a great inspiration for countless of girls, the Asian-American community and most important – all ethnic backgrounds that make up the United States of America.  We should all be proud of being American, but we should never forget the positive aspects of ancestry that makes up our identity. 

Photo Gallery of Nina Davuluri

This has been a cross publication from an original article published on

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Important Lessons from the Ainu of Japan

At times it can be a challenge for Igorots who still live in the Philippines to maintain their ethnic identity, but their challenges are nothing compared to those who immigrated to America and other western nations. This is mainly because the assimilation factor for small ethnic groups that exists in these countries is two-fold.  For example, a Filipino from the major metropolitan city of Manila is faced with the challenge of assimilating into the American culture, whereas an Igorot not only faces the same challenge, but also faces the challenges of assimilating into the general Filipino populace without losing their connection to their true ethnic identity.

I thought about this recently when I was in a church filled with over a thousand Filipinos attending the Filipino Christmas tradition called Simbang Gabi.  I wore a traditional Igorot vest over my dress shirt to express my ethnicity, but more importantly so that my children could see that I am proud of being an Igorot.  There were also a handful of other Igorots there, but they wore the traditional Filipino dresses and Barong Tagalog shirts.  Since it was a Filipino event that called for Filipino tradition, it made sense to me.  There was also a time when I wore my Barong Tagalog to Simbang Gabi, but the more I learn about my heritage; the more I realize how important it is for me and my children not to lose our connection to it.  This is why a simple act of switching from the Barong Tagalog to my native attire makes so much sense.

Imagine a long-time Chicagoan who moves to another country and is asked by its people, “Where are you from?”  Does he emphasize Chicago or America?  Does he talk about the unparalleled pizza, hot dogs, sports teams, ethnic diversity, culture and all that make Chicago wonderful, or does he talk in general about America?    I realize comparing this to ethnic cultures is like comparing apples to oranges, but I think the point can be made that smaller ethnic groups are faced with more challenges when it comes to maintaining their ethnic heritage.

So how then can small ethnic groups successfully assimilate in western nations and still keep their heritage alive for many more generations to come?  The answer is both simple and difficult.  Simple in that all we need to do is practice and teach about the importance of our heritage to our children, but difficult because human nature tends to want to be part of mainstream society – in my case: Filipinos and Americans.  This is why it is important for people of smaller ethnic groups to form close bonds with others who share and practice the same cultural beliefs and practices.  

I recently learned about a small indigenous group in Japan known as the Ainu people.  As recent as 2008, the Japanese government officially recognized them as indigenous people.  Prior to that, they have been referred to as “former aboriginals,” according to the Aoteaora Ainumsor Exchange Program (AAEP).

Ainu dancing traditional Tapkaara Dance
The Ainu were forced to assimilate into the Japanese culture many years ago and as a result, many are no longer connected to their Ainu heritage because of deeply rooted discrimination that pervades the Japanese society, or the inability for people to discover meaning in being Ainu. Either way, there are still many people who have yet to assert their Ainu identity.  Surprisingly, a Hokkaido government survey points out that:

There are about 24,000 Ainu people, however in reality there are several times more Ainu people than that figure leads us to believe.  Out of 5,000 to 10,000 Ainu people living in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone, only around 100 of them are active as Ainu.

It’s sad that only 1 to 2% of the Ainu in Japan are active as Ainu.  Now just imagine how much less of a number that would be if they had to assimilate into two cultures like the Igorots in America.  Fortunately for the Ainu, there are many who are trying to revitalize their heritage.

I was inspired to learn about a campaign that is trying to raise funds to send Ainu students to Aoteroa (New Zealand) to learn how its indigenous Maori people have been working to ensure the survival of their culture.  The students will learn how the Maori have advanced their rights as indigenous people of New Zealand since the 1970s.  More important, they can see how the Maori are significantly contributing to the development of New Zealand’s economic, political, cultural and social landscapes.  It is a worthy cause that will raise the consciousness of the Ainu heritage and will help inspire more Ainus to re-connect with their estranged heritage.

The Ainu teaches us two very important lessons.  First, it teaches us that unless a conscious effort is made to preserve our own ethnic heritages, the dreadful decline of one’s heritage is certain.  Fortunately for them, it’s not too late. Second, we can always benefit by reaching out to another culture to better ourselves. We here in Chicago are fortunate to have so many different ethnic cultures that it would be a shame if we didn't try to take the time to learn something from any of them.

This post is cross-published from Read full article HERE.

You can help send Ainu students to New Zealand by contributing to their fundraiser campaign: