| “Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples in accordance with their cultural patterns.
This historical continuity may consist of the continuation of, for an extended period reaching into the present, one or more of the following factors:
On an individual basis, an indigenous person is one who belongs to these indigenous (group consciousness) and is recognized and accepted by these populations as one of its members (acceptance by the group). This preserves for the communities sovereign right and power to decide who belongs to them, without external interference.” (UN DOC. N°E/CN Sub.2/1983/21)
LAND USE and MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Indigenous peoples of La Trinidad traditionally managed and used a very wide range of land and other natural resources including forest lands, agricultural lands, water resources, etc. Most of them have been conducting rotational swidden (uma/numa) agriculture for a very long period of time and in most cases it is an integral part of their culture. The traditional boundaries of forest and communities were clearly defined by mountains, streams, ponds, etc. According to interviewees, the people did not have boundaries to show properties because the land and forests were free for them to use according to their needs.
Our early ancestors were pre-occupied with agriculture. Their forests, generally pine clad, provided construction materials for their huts, stables and household paraphernalia. They maintained swidden farms on the hillsides, carved rice terraces along mountain slopes, along rivers, creeks, streams and rice fields in the marshy valley. Rice and root crops comprised their diet, which they fed on alternately, accompanied by meat from the wild game which they hunted from the surrounding forest and fish from the rice paddies and rivers in the valley. They also hunted wild birds which flocked on the lake located in the middle of the valley. Meat from pigs and other large animals like cows, carabaos and horses were plentiful and shared during the year-round prestigious feasts tendered by the bacnang (wealthy) or from less prestigious feasts tendered by the neighbors.
The pasturelands (pastolan) or estancia (borrowed from Spanish word) were located on the hillsides primarily for cattle and horses. In their backyards, the Trinidad Ibaloys domesticated pigs mainly for canaos and chicken for household consumption. It was common among villagers to fence their home lots to prevent their domestic animals from straying to their neighbor’s yard. Their home gardens (baang,), abounded with vegetables, rootcrops, fruit trees, medicinal herbs and spices.
Generally, the Ibaloys/Ivadoys of La Trinidad maintained the following land use patterns:
Pastolan – where large animals such as cattle and horses are free to graze and an enclosure called “coral” is located.
Payew rice fields planted to kintoman (native rice) used for making tapuy (native rice wine). Along the canals or edge of the rice fields, taro is planted. This practice is called teneng to the Ibaloys.
Bangkag – dry land planted to rice or taro.
LAND OWNERSHIP SYSTEMS
1. TYPE OF OWNERSHIP:
Wooded areas (akat – alas) serving as watersheds and sources of firewood (pengiewan) lumber, roofing materials (dema), hunting grounds (anufan), irrigation lines (ada-an), domestic water source (asolan), were common properties.
Staking of private ownership over home lots (nanbaleyan), pasturelands (pastolan), swidden farms (uma), and rice fields (payew), was originally through open occupation. Ownership (eman ko, eman sha) of these types of land use was based from priority of occupation and duration of use – which may or may not be permanent.
Tradition has it that while the area is occupied, no one is allowed to occupy or till the land other than the current occupant or user. Thus, it was then common to refer to the area as owned by the present occupant/tiller/rancher. When the area becomes non-productive in later years and the present owner finds a more productive area and abandons the previous area for “greener pastures”, the former property he left behind may be left open to occupation by succeeding occupants who are usually kin or close relatives.
Wide tracts of land were maintained and privately owned by the bacnang (wealthy) who were capable of maintaining a number of bagaen or “those ordered around and usually adopted by the head of the family. These bagaen were usually the poorer kin or individuals brought into the household/community by way of barter with valuables such as heads of cattle or blankets. It is said that most bagaen were usually claimed from places close to the sea coast. These bagaen tended the bacnang’s crops and animals.
Though the community was blessed with nature’s bounty, yielding subsistence necessities to villagers, still the people were seldom idle, but were tirelessly engaged in agricultural activities such as raising animals which they traded in the outlaying sea coast communities. They grew rice in the rice paddies on the valley floor or terraced rice fields along mountain sides and along river beds or grew root crops and vegetables in their swidden farms.
2. MODES OF ACQUISITION/TRANSFER
Tawid – The property of husband and wife follows the bloodline. In case the couple are childless, the person who takes care of them or spends for the burial will inherit the property of the deceased. Among the Ibaloys, properties are not inherited until the death of the owners although the children can make use or work the land.
There was no other way a person could own land except through the tawid system. Communal use of uma, alkat, pastolan, pangeiwan and asulan was practiced by the early Ibaloys.
Among the Ibaloys, the first to occupy and work the land was usually the owner and even if he left it to fallow, he could always return to work that piece of land. The pasture land was not claimed by anybody and could be used by all. When it came to the rice field, the last child generally had a wider share but the house became common property.
Accumulated wealth such as vast landholdings and animals were bequeathed to heirs after the death of the owner to children and grandchildren through tawid (inheritance). Sometimes, the hardworking bagaen are also given parcels of land. Written documents regarding inheritance were unthinkable among our unlettered ancestors, yet by tradition, villagers were simply made aware of the transfer of property and they highly respected the property rights of the heirs. Manifestation of gratitude by heirs over the inheritance is usually done when good produce is obtained, thus, obligating the heir to hold a canao where intentions of gratitude in a ritual are done. The affair is offered to the dead benefactor where the spirit of the dead is invoked in a ritual to partake in the affair.
A. FOREST AND WATERSHED MANAGEMENT AND PROTECTION PLAN
According to our informants, the traditional use of the trees in the forest was for (a) building purposes (2) fuel and (3) making of coffins. The whole forest was used for harvesting fruits, medicinal plants and as hunting grounds. Selective cutting was employed when harvesting wood for the building of homes and only the matured trees were cut down.
When cutting, the felled tree should fall in the direction where the least number of small trees will be harmed. The people prohibit burning and cutting of trees. Plants believed to prevent soil erosion such as the big ferns (tibanglan) are not allowed to be cut. Taboo is practiced in the forests. It is believed that spirits dwell in the rocks and trees and anyone violating custom law will be “ma-ised-ang”or cursed by the unseen spirits dwelling in the trees.
In case of conflicts, the case is brought to the attention of the elders and subsequently settled amicably. If it is a case of infringement on customary laws, then the elders decide the case according to the traditional ways. Care and maintenance of the forest is inherent to the people. Houses are not allowed to be built where the springs are found. Indigenous plants like the tibangdan are not allowed to be cut because it is believed that they store water.
Some beliefs related to indigenous forest conservation systems include the following:
Disobedience to these unwritten laws always extracted a concomitant punishment decided upon by the elders in the community. In the belief that disobedience usually incurred bad luck and the condition of being mai-sed-ang, the people obeyed the laws.
It was only after the opening of the mines in Benguet when the pine covered mountains started to get denuded. The cool mossy forests started to disappear in place of bulldozed tract gardens. When an informant was asked where he thought all the trees went, he said, “Look inside the mine tunnels and you will find the timber used to shore up mine shafts”. Considering the length in miles or kilometers inside a mine tunnel, and the many gold, silver and copper mines in Benguet, such an observation is very possible.
Water was a very important resource to the Ibaloys, in fact, it was prohibited to build homes near water sources. A ritual was performed wherein a small woven basket is filled with rice, gabi, meat etc. and hanged at the end of a stick and placed as an offering at the source of water, usually a spring.
Accounts are given by respondents saying that they followed waterways in their migration routes to better places and the headwaters led them to Baguio and eventually Trinidad. They also tell of the many fishes like wadingan in the rivers and streams in the area.
Traditional water management included the following:
(NOTE: No Marine & Mineral Resources are found in the domain)
C. NATURAL HEALTH PRACTICES
The Ibaloys used many plants especially the leaves, bark and roots to cure illnesses aside from their animistic practices.
D.INDIGENEOUS PROTECTION SYSTEMS FOR RESOURCES
Transmission and application of these cultural practices ensured that the land and its resources would be there for his children’s children. The collective right of members of the community who used the land and its forests was an intangible part of their culture and tradition. No one had to dictate that to them. Ethnic law was very binding to the peoples.
Data Source - NCIP, Benguet