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:
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
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.
INDIGENOUS IMPLEMENTS USED IN RANGELAND COW HERDING [Click to Read]
INDIGENOUS TERMS OF PLACES AND SPOTS IN RANGELAND MANAGEMENT [Click to Read]
INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE IN GOLD MINING[Click to Read]
TERMINOLOGIES OF METHOD, SYSTEMS AND MANAGEMENT
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.
Data Source - NCIP, Benguet