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Igorot Men Mistaken for Terrorists for Wearing Traditional Attire at Clinton Forum

A group of Igorot men were mistaken for terrorists for wearing traditional attire at a forum hosted by former US President Bill Clinton in Manila.

 |  3 min read

Vladimir Cayabas, a Kankanaey and candidate for councilor in Baguio City in 2019, casts his vote wearing his native attire. He has been casting his votes in traditional wear to show his patriotism during elections. PH Star, Andy Zapata Jr

On November 10, 2010, a group of Igorot men from the Cordillera region of the Philippines were allegedly mistaken for terrorists for wearing traditional attire at a forum hosted by former US President Bill Clinton in Manila. Ironically, Clinton's talk was on "respect and interdependence among the inter-cultural and ethnic groups around the world."

The men, now Baguio City Councilor Hon. Vladimir Cayabas, Moshe Dacneg, and Joneelyn Aparri, were attending the forum when they were allegedly approached by a US Secret Service agent and a Filipina usher. The agent allegedly told them that their attire was not appropriate and that they would have to leave the event.

The men refused to leave, arguing that their traditional attire was not a threat to security and that they had paid to attend the forum. They also pointed out that the theme of the forum was "Embracing Our Common Humanity."

The agent and usher eventually relented, but the men say that they were followed by a Filipino secret agent for the rest of the event.

The men are calling for an apology from the organizers of the forum and the US Secret Service. They say that the incident was a clear case of discrimination and that it is a reminder of the challenges that indigenous peoples face around the world.

"We went there using our tribal gear to represent our region," said Cayabas. "We were not there to cause trouble or to be a threat to anyone."

Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat said that the incident was "humiliating and doubly insulting" as it occurred in the Philippines. He called on the US Secret Service to "be educated" about the cultures of other countries.

Katribu president Beverly Longid said that the incident is "a very harrowing and continuing discrimination against IPs in the country and the whole world." She said that indigenous peoples' traditional attire is "appropriate dress" and that it should not be seen as a threat.

The incident is a reminder of the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding. It is also a reminder that indigenous peoples around the world continue to face discrimination and prejudice.


The US government eventually apologized, although late, to the Cordillera people for the incident. In a letter to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. expressed "sincere apology and regret for the offense made by US agents' discriminatory act" against the Igorot men.

Cayabas said that he was honored by the letter of the US ambassador, but he also said that it was not enough. He called for the US government to take further action, such as reprimanding the Secret Service agent involved in the incident. He also said that he would like to see an apology from former President Clinton and the event organizers.


The incident at the Clinton forum is a reminder of the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding of the challenges that indigenous peoples face around the world. They are often discriminated against and marginalized, and their traditional cultures are often seen as backward or threatening.

This incident is a call for greater cultural sensitivity and understanding, and for the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is important to stand up against discrimination against indigenous peoples.

We must all work to create a world where everyone is treated with respect, regardless of their culture or background.

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