Historical accounts on the earliest periods of community building in areas presently known as Itogon show a constituency which progressed into a conglomerate of ethno linguistic groups who migrated into the current administrative territories more for economic reasons.

Based on the tabulated accounts of immigration by the researchers of the Development Plans of the nine Barangays that constitute the current political territory of Itogon, the earliest known settlers were ibalois.

The early settlers are also known to have predated the arrival of the Spanish colonial missions into the Cordillera and have already established indigenous systems that govern their use of natural resources, various social cycles and structures that make up these communities’ economic, political and cultural landscape.

The ibalois were soon followed by the kankaneys (who are known to hail from Northern Benguet) and the kalanguyas of Buguias and Tinoc.

One ethnic group who earned recognition by the National Commission on Indigenous Communities (NCIP) as an ancestral domain owner have established settlements in the southern territories of Itogon bordering Pangasinan and Nueva Vizcaya. This group is known as the Iowaks or Iwoks who occupy a part Barangay Tinongdan.

The migration of the kankanaey into Itogon can be attributed to the significant economic opportunities brought about by the gold mines. Most of the established kankanaey communities in Itogon are concentrated around established gold mining quarries and by most accounts on their ancestry, they immigrated from the mining communities of Mankayan in Northern Benguet.

It was only during the pre - World War 2 American colonial period that other ethnic groups immigrated into Itogon to fill the demand of the rapidly expanding mining industry that was established by American prospectors.

The knowledge systems instituted by the early indigenous constituents of (the community presently known as) Itogon to regulate the different affairs of community governance can be closely compared to other cultural systems of ibaloi, kalanguya and kankanaey communities throughout the province of Benguet. Most of these knowledge systems are still in practice up to present.

Indigenous Practices in Resource use and management

Knowledge systems related to forest resource use

Forest areas are subdivided by their distinct or dominant vegetation:

  1. Kalasan/kalahan refers to the upland mundane broadleaf forest predominated by oaks and figs densely cover much of the upland mountain areas usually above 1200 MASL. This area is also known as mossy or cloud forests due to its high air-moisture level and abundance of bryophytes, epiphytes, lichens and various fungi.
  2. Belbel refers to pine trees (or dominant forests) that are found in the lower midland altitudes commonly occurring between the upland mundane and lowland broadleaves.
  3. Kaptangan refers to the warm lowland plains below the pine tree Eco tone dominated by lowland tropical rainforest broadleaves, also known as dipterocarps.

These forests (plant, water and animal life) are resource bases for the various necessities that are essential in community sustenance and hence, regulatory measures are enforced as the basic engine of resource exploitation and use. These various control mechanisms established by the early settlers of the area is also closely related to the various social structures that they have instituted.

Hunting, harvesting or extracting of any forest-based product requires prudence and proper consent from the ethereal guardians through prayers, libation and offering. They also enforced territorial boundaries to control incursive or invasive tendencies of neighbor communities by instituting alliances and agreements (among neighbors) to secure a sustainable use of these resources and be able to ward-off undesirable parties.

Felling of trees for lumber must only be limited to the volume required for the purpose lest it be deemed as extravagant and wasteful. It is said that dire consequences emanate from bad resource-use practices and all extractive activities must have an equalizing gesture of gratitude through offering, prayer and reverent regard.

These extractive practices include all methods of hunting and fishing, wild fruit gathering, logging and firewood collection including mineral extraction.

Zone management practices of forest crops and agro-forest areas

1. Pastolan/pastol: This is a zone designated for large cattle ranching. These graze lands are geographically bounded from agricultural areas like rice fields and orchards and are collectively managed through agreements forged between the herd owners and the community. Fence lines, also known as baoks further zonify the grazing area by subdividing it into smaller grazing fields to limit cattle from overgrazing and allowing grazed out lots to regenerate. Baoks also delineate the rice fields and protecting them from herds that may be attracted by the growing rice. These fence lines are usually built by continuously collecting strewn rocks and boulders and piling them to make at least a meter wide fence of considerable height that cows could not jump over.

Another barrier is what is commonly called a pasbol – a constricting gate that can allow person to pass through but narrow enough to keep cows from passing. These keep trails from being destroyed by the hooves of a mobile herd. Spring wells used by the community are also protected by installing these barriers.

2. Uma: This is generally an agro-forest area designated for supplementary crops for household use or cash-crops. Umas are established usually below the Pine forests but has now evolved and umasmay be seen at elevations within the mossy or cloud forests.

Traditional Umasor swidden farms are established in second growth forests that have been allowed to regenerate and recondition its topsoil after a fallow period of two to five years and the saplings or regenerative cover is cleared for the cropping season.

Umasare usually worked on at the beginning of the dry season by clear cutting and burning the dried material. Crops could range from corn, cow pea, bananas or common root crops like camote, cassava or ube. These crops usually have an annual harvesting period and may continue for as long as the soil condition allows a good yield. Owners of these Umas may be transient farmers who need the extra acreage to compensate their needs as they may not own rice farms

      itogon clip iksp

Agriculture as a sustainable enterprise entails optimized and efficient use of land thru various utilization methods.

The various levels of land utilization is evident in the different establishments of plantation and method of land zoning. This picture shows residential lots that are strategically interlaced with fruit bearing trees that are also used as shade and wind breaks. Other fruit bearing plants may also be seen well within wood lots or yards.

Contouring of the rice farm shows maximum use

of irrigation that drains from a nearby gully that is

not interrupted by any structure that may constrict

water even at maximum flow. Knowledge entailing

such technology is found in the cultural domain of

the Igorot

3. Baeng or Baengan: these are the woodlots situated near the household. These lots are usually planted with fruit bearing trees that are essential to the household.

4. Payew or Papayew: The rice fields. There are the rice fields that are bounded immediately by house lots or the baenganand there are rice fields that extend into the forest buffer zones. Some rice fields are owned by families from other communities but are duly recognized and respected by the local constituents. These rice fields may be rented or be let by the owners to an interest party however, these arrangements differ from the common landlord-tenant relationship as usually known in the vast lowland farms.

5. Anufan:The hunting grounds. There are areas in the forests that are beyond hunting, logging or frequent human disturbance while there are forest zones allowable to entry for hunting, fruit gathering and fuel wood harvesting. Hunting grounds however are kept well away from any forest visitor due to safety reasons as there are high risks of falling into a trap or being mistakenly fired upon.

Hunting, (in indigenous thought) is a livelihood and would require prudence from the huntsman and due respect to the guardians of the forests. Hunting for sport or for selfish reasons can cause dire consequences to the person or his/her immediate kin.

Indicators of zone management practices in indigenous knowledge systems can also be traced to the way particular tools are utilized and how rituals are performed. Knowledge of the annual weather patterns are also essential indicators in resource use and management.

  • Weather patterns: Itogon farmers, uma owners and hunters are deeply aware of detailed characteristics of the annual weather that cyclically occur. These knowledge systems include the seasonal onset and outset of wild fruits, the different varieties of edible plants and fungi found on the forest floor, mating seasons of wild animals. The arrival of various avian species are also indicators of the onset or end of each season. Knowledge of the seasons also provides vital information for what are the best varieties and species to plant or to prey on. One example is the Puwek ni Kiling (storm of the kiling), a tropical storm that occurs late in the year and usually coincides with the immigration of the bird locally known as kiling. A brightly shining moon with a rainbow encircling or a bloody red sunset it may indicate a coming storm.
  • Knowledge of Indicator species of plants or fungi that show signs of the various annual seasons are also well ingrained into the indigenous knowledge of the igorot huntsman, cow herder or farmer. Countless surveys have already been conducted by various interest groups on a multitude of medicinal plants that abound in the igorot’s territories.
  • Customary rituals: Most Igorot rituals are well stitched into the annual events that influence fortune and tribulations revolving around the igorot’s welfare. These belief systems precipitate the particular (prescriptive) rituals as responses to such annual events. As for instance, the events behind the performance of a pechit may be cause for one family to suffer from an unexplained illness and thus a mansep-okis summoned to seek the cause behind the illness. The mambunong is called to perform the prayers upon the offerings as prescribed. The pechit may also be performed as thanksgiving for the good fortunes that may have blessed a family. In these two instances where the pechitis performed, it is very important to strictly follow the prescriptions as to the number of animals to be butchered as offerings to the guardian spirits or upon those that cause such misfortunes. The foundations of these rituals spell the ingrained relationships between the mortal, resource-consuming kind and their ancestors and spirits that own and guard such precious resources. These belief systems also show the Itogon Igorot’s world view on resource utilization as being that of a steward or a tenant who is only allowed to partake of such natural resources while having the ingrained responsibility of also conserving and protecting such from extravagant and wasteful exploitation. Sustainability of resources is reflected in this view. There is the consciousness of providing even for the unborn generation while ensuring the survival of the present generation. This survival is sustained by staying faithful to the ways of the past generation in their utilization of the resources that come from goodness of the spirits and the ancestors. Rituals of offering to the spirits when they exploit the natural resources (i.e. water and forests) kept them from getting more than what they actually needed.


  1. Silo – The cowboy’s noose usually strung from a two meter pole with its lasso hanging at one end. A good handler can easily snare a head and the noose would tighten and lock around its neck or the horns.

Another trick employed with the silois to set up a sizeable noose among the low brush found along the cowpaths. One end of the lasso is knotted tout around a deep rooted brush a peg made from a tree branch and droven deep enough to keep the snared animal from pulling it off.

  1. Bitad – A single strand harness of about an inch wide made from tanned cowhide. It is usually used as an alternative to rope. It is said to be the best tout line to hold down the wildest cow or bull by snaring one of its feet with it. Guiding a wild cow with the bitad is usually by controlling the movement of the hind foot where the bitad is harnessed on.
  2. Busal – The muzzle commonly crafted from rope. A well measured busal could easily keep an animal well within good reign and keep a herder from getting dragged by a wayward cow or bull.
  3. Marka, malka> – A branding iron usually used for registry purposes. Branding irons bear the distinct mark of the herd owner. This implement is registered in the local municipal registrar and cattle bearing this distinctive mark are known to be belonging to an individual herd operator with appropriate legal recognition. Cows are skillfully singed by this marka during branding activities.
  4. Etak – The universal bolo.
  5. Ta-ed – A short handy knife usually used in the kitchen by women
  6. Kalapyaw – A rain coat hewn from grass or (in the lowlands) coconut leaves
  7. Eket/gwanet – Stranded rope usually from abaca hemp, silag, bamban or plastic and nylon.

TABOOS “Pejew” – Loud and whimsical talk of what part of the animal is good to eat during or when catching an animal enrages the spirits who oversee the herd’s upkeep. They appropriately alarm the animal and it would be almost impossible to snare it. If it is snared, it often will not move and may even just lay still. It would be impossible and ridiculous for a team to carry it. Unceremonious slaughter of an animal in the range due to imprudent and foolish behavior may cause dire consequences.


  1. Bawek/Baok – A physical barrier that keeps animals from intruding into other designate areas in the rangeland.
  2. Coral – A physical enclosure, usually natural enclosures a fenced-in structure where animals are driven into and entrapped for various purposes like branding and snaring individual heads for the market.
  3. Asinan – An often used gathering area where cows are herded-to by blowing a horn or yelling “asin” for purposes of periodically providing supplementary salt licking that is essential to the overall health of cattle.
  4. Pastol/Estancia – the common designation for grazing land.
  5. Nanpitdawan – A usual waterhole made by the carabaos wallowing in muddy fields. These eventually become periodic watering areas until it dries up.


Mining in the Philippines is said to be about ten centuries old. Written history says it had long preceded the colonial periods of the Philippines.

Upon the arrival in of Spanish colonialists in the 16th century it is said that the conquistadores saw, worn in abundance, as normal attire, by people whom they thought to be primitive – gold hewn ornaments. They did not know that as early as the 10th century, these supposedly primitive people had been participating in an Asian trade in which gold figured as both a commodity and a medium of exchange.

It is said that Chinese and Japanese traders before the advent of the Spanish conquest knew of the mines of Mankayan and were said to even have (at one time before the discovery of the mines by the Spanish conquest) a direct hand in the operation of extracting and processing of ore.

A Spanish expedition in 1623, (after a series of earlier expeditions failed) records some description of the the Antamok gold fields but this visit was said to have been met by fierce opposition from the Igorots.

One detailed observation of an early missionary who sought the mining communities of Itogon by tediously ascending the Agno river tells of deep tunneling methods being employed in Antamok and even during those early times, the igorot miners had a well in-depth knowledge of exploration, digging with the crudest (but most appropriate) of tools and having institutionalized systems of ownership and inheritance.

Various indigenous terminologies in the different steps of mineral processing may be found in the dialects of the Igorot miners. Social institutions are also instilled in the cultural fabric of the indigenous mining community and most of these rites of passage are still in good use up to these current times.

Various conservation systems are also observed most especially the recirculation of waste water and recovery of mine waste for reprocessing. Other social structures like sharing, keeping profits and investing are also deeply instilled into the culture of the indigenous miner.


  1. Naba: The general term for unprocessed ore. Ore that is extracted from the by mining is called naba. Extraction of naba may be in the form of panag usok or tunneling or extracting them through abucaya low impact method of strip mining.
  2. Balkes: Placer mining using sluice boxes and channeling of waterways along sand bars and gravel pits.
  3. Sayo: Gold panning in its simplest form. Sayo is also used in exploration, sampling pay dirt, alluvial deposits, river sand bars and gravel pits.
  4. Abucay: This may also be a form of naba but are usually found on shallow surface outcrops usually weathering extrusive basalt bedrock. Abucay can be worked on by young men or teenagers who are not employed in the mines by other reasons. Elder, able bodied men are usually employed or would preferably work on tunnels as yields from abucay can be very low and working on its ore is often not economical.
  5. Usok: The tunneling method of mining. The method entails a long term investment plan requiring usokowners to provide supply for the mine workers. Partnership agreements are forged and work assignments are well designated with none airing grievances of unfair labor load.Panag usok requires experience, skill and a lot of courage to endure the long hours in usually squalid conditions and dog-house like confines. Dangerous exposures to toxic gas that may suddenly gush out from a collapsed dig or slowly accumulate to lethal levels can happen at any moment. Only skill and experience can save a work team from such exposures. Again, only the exclusive skill and knowledge of the seasoned miner can know when timber props ought to be replaced or be put in place to keep tunnel ceilings from collapsing. Vents, adits, raises and columns are made for safety measures inside the usok.

Advances (abante)in the tunnels’ depth are often by controlled blasting or by manual pick and hammer. The lode or naba is loaded onto a wheeled bagon-- a modification of the classic mine rail wagon.

Naba from dog-holes are carefully loaded into sacks and painstakingly dragged out.

            women iksp

The participation of women in traditional mining is an important

aspect in the overall process of ore extraction, processing and


Women’s’ roles (may) include hauling out ore from the tunnels, crushing the ore into smaller sizes, separating the free gold to smelting and purifying it.

Mineral processing

Crushing and milling. Crushing extracted naba is initially by hand using a sledge hammer and a sizeable rubber ring usually about two inches high and eight inches in diameter. The raw naba is placed onto this ring and is hammered to bits. The ring keeps the ore in place and not scattering its valuable contents in the hammering process. A modification of this process is by using a fabricated hammer mill (replicated from the jaw crusher that is used in large scale milling).

Grinding. Traditional fine grinding methods use the gaid, manually grinding the crushed ore between two heavy abrasive stones that are shaped (by continuous use) into a boat-like mortar and a ball-like pestle. The modification is a miniaturized replica of the conventional rod or ball mill.

Gold Recovery. After milling naba into a sticky dough-like texture, ore is washed from the mill and sluiced. Sluice boxes are fitted with either a woolen blanket or a jute sack. The fine concentrated (naba) ore sometimes referred to as linangis further soaked or leached in a pond that is either mixed with natural solutes that enhances the wetting qualities of water and enhancing the separation of metals from the non-metallic elements in the ore. This process of leaching also uses herbal preparations like sunflower leaves or calamansi into the muck.

Modern leaching uses either potassium cyanide or calcium cyanide as wetting agent. The leaching process can take a month to let most of the metallic particles separate from the clay. Traditional small-scale gold producers separate the gold from the ore by means of dayasor yakayak, this is by carefully winnowing the rock dust from the heavier metallic particles. A more cheaper and dangerous method is soaking the final product onto mercury -all metallic particles win into the mercury and the non-metallic particles remain with the wash water. The use of mercury is not encouraged or even totally banned in traditional mining.

Another process of gold recovery can be done on mine tailings as a method of re-processing what is supposed to be thrown away. This process commonly referred to as lugaba is by recovering as much tailings and leaching these into a chemical mixture for a given time to further crack the remaining soluble materiel and concentrate the metallic contents.

Lugaba requires extensive experience in evaluating the minute characteristics of the mine tailings in order to maximize the profitability of recovering gold.

Gold Purification – Panagpuro. The traditional process is by using the common tools in blacksmithing—a furnace (pugon) a crusicble (gangi), borax and a lot of patience.

In the process of gold recovery, it is important to know that work designations do not discriminate gender. Roles of women in the gold recovery process, usually beginning from the panaggiling stage is equally important as the miner and mucker in the usok.

Women are more involved (but not limited to) in the ore cracking process up to the purification process where most known and skilled handlers of the gangi are women. Men nevertheless are not limited to the initial stages of gold ore extraction work as they can also do purification work.

Cleaning up in the pogon work area is a tedious and meticulous process, carefully cleaning the surrounding area of the furnace, gathering all the ash and left-over charcoal, crushing all the used crucibles and reprocessing these wastes for residual gold. This process is often designated to the apprentices who would happily do it to upgrade their skills and earn the reward of owning the recovered gold in the process.

When the gold is assayed and readied for the market, usually all the participants in the process are enjoined to keep together in vigilant watch until the gold is sold.

Proceeds from the sale is initially kept while the process of accounting of expenditures is taken up. Expenses of the supply is totally reimbursed and appropriately complimented by a previously agreed (purcinto). What is left is equally shared. Win or loss, the gang is kept conscious of the whole process of turning rock into gold.


SAGAOK - This is sometimes compared to a practice of social taxation where an usok of fortunate yield (tama)is opened to other miners (traditionally elderly men or women) for a given period for them to extract whatever the bounty that they may be shared Strict protocol also must be observed in sagaok as not to disturb, destroy or unsettle the guardian spirits of the workplace; as like the forests, farms and rivers, the mines is also regarded as a fortunate endowment upon the workers who toil; and to abuse or utter any disrespect must not be tolerated.

Some tunnel operators who may provide sagaok nowadays opt to dole out cash instead so as to secure the tunnels from unscrupulous activities.

NGILIN – Usually a given period of rest and abstinence due to unfortunate circumstances or events that may have stricken a member of work gang. Sometimes a ngilin can be community-wide as it may be deemed so by the community leadership. Strict observance of the ngilin keeps gang members from work for even over a week or sometimes a month.

Strict observance of diet – Gang members are told abstain from everything that is nalangsi or of repugnant smell: Canned fish, dog meat, cat meat, goat meat, horsemeat and the like. This observance is enforced until the end of the mining season, usually when an amount of profitable yield is produced.

TABOOS - Illicit sex, drinking and rowdiness in the work place, loud rambunctious behavior, mocking and ridicule of instituted beliefs.

Any behavior that is deemed offensive to the spirits that keep the gold is strictly culled out of the work place. Any member who breaches protocol is expeditiously taken out of the gang and banned from the work place.


The Benguet Igorot is regarded as having a deep and intricate knowledge in agriculture that is fine-tuned with the seasons that annually beset his or her community.

Physical structures like irrigation canals and ditches, rice terraces and swiddens, woodlots and orchards, residential houses and granaries are evidences of a well-established society that possess a well rooted past of its varied methods of managing life-supporting resources at levels of sustainability.

Agriculture also requires optimum use of available resources that contribute to maximum crop yield. This include soil fertility enhancing material that is mostly found various organic waste that is found in farms – livestock manure, rice hay and other mineral enriching compounds. This practice of utilizing organic inputs for soil conditioning are inherent traits in the igorot agricultural system.

The constituents of Itogon’s agricultural community still practice resource management systems that were imbibed from their forebears. The wisdom of such practice of conservation may be surmised by a local belief that if one partakes of the yield from the first crop, you can never feel hungry, no matter how little the harvest maybe.

In the whole cropping cycle, (as for instance, the method of rice faming) requires the knowledge of preemptive control to ensure security of crops from potentially destructive agents.

In the whole rice cropping season, farmers also take good notice of the various onsets of avian migration and climatic events that make up the annual seasons.

The arrival of the killing brings the rainy season to its near end but nevertheless signal strong and heavy rains that usually grace the end of the tropical monsoon and the arrival of the northeastern cold front.

The arrival of the beshing necessitates installation of scarecrows and traps in the fields that already nearing harvest as the leaves yield into a robust golden display.

In the midseason, rice field dikes are well inspected and cleaned, (gaik) rows are weeded out (kamas) so that rats would not burrow along its dikes and weeds would not compete with the rice for the needed nutrition from the soil. The water level is controlled to keep the paddies from drying. These tedious task of tending falls onto the responsibilities of the rice farmer that sees his individual participation in his community as a duty more than a task. Community involvement in almost all the affairs of the individual member is a common occurrence. Communal participation in harvest through the kamal ensures that harvests are on time and cost -efficient as the farmer is required to only to feed the assisting party.

Kamal is instituted cooperative work that the community is obliged to fulfill inorder to avail of cheap cooperative assistance in most of the heavy tasks of production. Cooperative work is also an important aspect in local governance as most tasks in maintaining common communal structures and administrative territories as like forest areas, pastures and watersheds fall onto the individual duties of the constituents.

Physical structures like irrigation canals and ditches, rice terraces and swiddens, woodlots and orchards, residential houses and granaries are evidences of a well-established society that possess a well rooted past of its varied methods of managing life-supporting resources.

Cultural practices like the peshit, correlate periods of communal feasts and thanksgiving festivities with fortunate harvests or a generous surplus of livestock that can be butchered as sacrificial offering along with ceremonial wine for libation for the spirits of ancestors, the guardians of the forests, water and the animals; to Kabunian the creator…

Agriculture also requires optimum use of available resources that contribute to maximum crop yield. This include soil fertility enhancing material that is mostly found various organic waste that is found in farms – livestock manure, rice hay and other mineral enriching compounds. This practice of utilizing organic inputs for soil conditioning are inherent traits which is also present in the agricultural system of Itogon.

Data Source - NCIP, Benguet