U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. in an undated photo.


BAGUIO CITY — The United States through U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. has apologized to Cordillerans for the cultural slur last November at the Manila Hotel where former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke.

Thomas, in a letter to the government tribal body National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on Dec. 14, expressed “sincere apology and regret for the offense made by U.S. agents’ discriminatory act” against native Cordilleran Dr. Vladimir Cayabas, administrator and Board director of the Baguio-based National Institute for Information Technology (NIIT) who was with two students of the NIIT — Moshe Dacneg, an Igorot from Taccong, Sagada town, Mountain Province and Joneelyn Aparri.

Dacneg, who wore an Igorot wanes (g-string), Cayabas and Aparri were already inside the hall where Clinton was to speak when a U.S. Secret Service agent approached Dacneg and ordered him to leave.

The “cultural bias” enraged Cordillerans, including Cordillera congressmen, prompting Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat, chairman of the House committee on cultural communities, to file a resolution in the House of Representatives last December for an inquiry.

Cordillerans demanded an apology not only to Cordillerans but all indigenous peoples of the world, sensing “discrimination at its height.”

“Unfortunately, in situations such as this, those unaware of the richness of the Filipino culture and tradition often fail to appreciate its historical significance and value in the treasured partnership of our two nations,” the U.S. ambassador stated in his letter.

‘Admission of guilt’

Cayabas said he was honored by the letter of the U.S. ambassador.

“That is a clear act of admission of their absurd deed.”

But he was quick to retort, “however, based on accountability, the apology should come from former President Clinton (and) the event organizers.”

Cayabas also said the letter “did not specify what actions or reprimand (would) be given to the Secret Service agent to give him a lesson.”

He hopes that the letter of apology “is really a sincere one, not just an act in compliance with the elements of diplomatic protocol just to wash their hands (of) their guilt.”

Baguilat also said that with the apology, although late, an inquiry at the House is already moot and academic.

“I hope it won’t be repeated again.”

Earlier, Baguilat proposed that the U.S. Secret Service should be educated when in other countries.

Ironically, Clinton’s talk last November in Manila was on “respect and interdependence among the inter-cultural and ethnic groups around the world.”

The forum was themed “Embracing Our Common Humanity.”