mankayan iksp1

          Mankayan is rich with knowledge gained from the experiences of our ancestors. By example, our forefathers taught us the different technologies necessary for our communities to survive and flourish in the domain. There is however limited documentation of the indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP), and we recognize the necessity to continue documenting these, especially those IKSP that are no longer being practiced. Even as we recognize the need to document IKSP, and for the people of Mankayan to revisit their age-old practices, we also recognize the need to incorporate knowledge systems and practices of other cultures, and to develop new ones as our people adjust to ever-changing conditions.

Our people shall continue to evolve, and whatever knowledge system or practice we develop as time passes becomes part of our IKSP. Even as we absorb the knowledge the rest of the world has to teach us, we modify these and infuse our own experience and knowledge, our belief systems, and our distinctiveness as a people. The knowledge becomes part of our people, and our distinctness becomes part of the knowledge.

Necessarily we have changed over the years. Our forefathers have accepted the necessity of change, themselves making many adjustments to the changing conditions of their own time. We can only empathize with the momentous decisions needed by our forefathers as they decided to migrate to the place they have imparted unto us as a domain.

The culture of our forefathers also evolved, changed by the conditions of the domain. The topography, the resources, the unseen forces and spirits in present-day Mankayan have made our knowledge systems and practices unique to our domain.

Even the other introduced knowledge systems and practices with the coming of western influence have become part of our indigenous systems, as we adopted them, even as these have changed the very system they are now part of.

Our knowledge systems and practices are often linked with our belief systems, and are inseparable from each other. With changes in belief systems like the adoption of the Christian faith, some of the processes and systems would no longer be practiced.


For the indigenous people of Mankayan, we make no distinction between a forest and a watershed. All forests function as watersheds, as we know it. Our use of the forest also did not substantially alter the environment, or irrevocably damage it. Our people have maintained and managed the forests within the domain since time immemorial, through systems that have persisted through time.

Belief Systems Associated With Forests

Forests are inhabited by spirits called “pinad–ing and tumongaw” which are both good and benevolent unless provoked or displeased. These spirits guard the forest, and wanton destruction of their forest home, or disturbance of their peace, results to various negative happenings to those responsible or the community. Generally unseen, and therefore indescribable, these spirits may take on various forms when they do manifest themselves. There are certain persons in the villages who might be able to see and speak with these spirits, or to divine their messages and also to provide solutions to complications arising from their displacement. (See Belief Systems, p. 18)

Our people believed that springs have spirits guarding them, and we took care not to dirty or pollute the water. We associate water with life itself, and the balance necessary for life, and our relationship with nature, would be disturbed if the springs are destroyed or dirtied.

Generally, areas in the forests or otherwise which are considered homes of spirits are places where the people feel some sort of energy or power. The phenomenon is not unique to the Mankayan indigenous people, as all indigenous people do believe that certain areas, plants or even animals are spirits themselves or are the homes of spirits.

Uncalled for noise and pollutants being introduced within forests is prohibited because that would be displeasing the spirits and would result to death or calamity in the nearby villages.

Management Systems

While our people generally do not think of managing a thing that is ultimately bigger and more powerful than we are, such as the forest or nature itself, the indigenous people of Mankayan “manage” the forests in the domain by ensuring the continuity and usefulness of the forests and resources in the forests.

Communal Ownership of the Forests

Many of the forests in our ancestral domain have traditionally been communally owned and managed. That is, no single person or group, family or clan has exclusive right to their use. Even so, every person has certain responsibilities to the forest, for it belongs to the entire community, or conversely, the community depends on the forests, either as a watershed, or the source of various resources that are used by the people.

Recently, as the barangay government has taken a more accepted role in our indigenous communities, they have taken the lead in the management of the communal forests. Now, in these communal forests, residents are only allowed to harvest trees and other forest products after they get permits from the barangay government.

The harvest of trees in communal forests was allowed, although the lumber harvested may only be used for personal purposes like the construction of houses, and not for sale.

The Muyong and its Uses

The “muyong” is a tree farming system by either a clan or a family. Certain areas of the domain are considered to be under the care of a clan or family, and they plant and maintain certain tree species in the muyong. The clan or family may harvest trees in the muyong. They are also expected to maintain it by replanting and to guard against forest fires.

The family or clan that manages the muyong understands that the muyong is not for their benefit alone, but rather it is part of a larger environment and thus contributes to the total well-being of the community and ecology in general.

Muyongs have been declared by owners for taxation purposes. The declaration is mainly to protect their rights to the tree farms, and there is some comfort to the owners who have declared their land, believing that government recognizes their ownership when they pay their taxes.

With the intensification of vegetable farming, many of these traditional tree farms were converted to vegetable farms.


The muyong is a tree farm, and having trees, it is part of the watershed system of the domain that retains rainwater and provides a continued supply to the river system in the domain, as well as to ultimately provide for domestic water.

Fuel Source

The family or clan that owns the muyong is allowed to gather fuel from the muyong in several ways. The harvesting process is beneficial to the owners as well as to the forest itself. However, many households using low propane gas (LPG) as fuel, so that harvesting from the muyongs, and the beneficial effect of such harvesting, is minimized.

For firewood, we only harvested the branches of the trees, specially the lower and bigger branches that are gathered, taking care not to take the entire canopy, which might result to the death of the tree. The practice improves tree growth, similar to pruning. By taking out the lower branches, the tree is also encouraged to grow upwards, and the knots formed by branches on the wood are minimized, thereby making the timber straighter. If the tree were later on to be used for timber, it would be of better quality. Longer boards with fewer knots may be cut.

Deceased and deformed trees are weaned out and used as fuel. Deformed trees are those that do not grow in the desired way, which is upwards. These are weaned out and used as fuel for they interfere with the growth of nearby trees. Deceased trees, or those trees infested by certain pests, are taken out, for they are the source of pathogens or pests that might affect the other trees.

Trees that are uprooted or fall down due to weather or land movement are allowed to be harvested. If the tree is good for timber, boards may be cut from it. Otherwise, it is used as fuel. The Kankanaey however believe that trees struck by lightning should be left to rot and contribute to the fertility of the soil.

Source of Timber and Other Building Materials

The muyong is also a source of timber, and the tree farms are actually maintained so that community members will not have to go to the pristine forests to get timber. Even the undergrowth in the muyongs has been useful in the construction of traditional houses. These include vines, grasses and shrubs, bamboos (several varieties), sticks (mostly hard stems of grasses) and rattan.

Rattan is not used solely for building, but also used in making many different baskets as well as used in tying things together.

Bamboo also has many uses, as basket weaving material, fencing, trellises and more.


The muyongs may also have some varieties of flora that are used by the Mankayan people as medicine, or palliatives to some ailments.


We can also find in the muyongs various trees whose fruits are edible. There is also undergrowth, or even trees, whose parts are used by the people as food. The maintenance of the muyong therefore also contributes to the nutritional needs of the people. Mushrooms may also be harvested when in season.

Grazing Areas

Cattle are also allowed to graze in the muyongs. Other livestock or poultry may also find things they can eat in the muyongs, especially if the muyong is close to residential areas.

Animal and Bird Sanctuary

The muyong also adds to the natural forests a place where animals might take refuge in, or as part of their habitat.

Communal Forests

Our communities still have communal forests. We maintain these primarily as watersheds, but community members use it as a source of timber and fuel, with the permission of the people. These communal forests are found mostly on steep mountain slopes, and thereby the maintenance of the forest in these areas contributes to erosion control. Lately, with tax declarations being required by government, the community maintains the traditional use of these forests by discouraging declaration fo these areas for taxation purposes.


Areas that host springs or ubbog are specifically protected by the community to sustain community water sources, both for domestic use and farm irrigation.

Swidden Farming

Like other indigenous communities in Benguet and elsewhere, our people have been practicing swidden farming for a long time. There are negative impressions on swidden technology, termed the kaingin system. The system has been blamed for forest fires and unwarranted denudation of forest areas. However, if the technology is carefully practiced, it is really a sustainable practice that does not destroy the forest but rather enhances it.

The misplaced impression that swidden farming, or shifting swidden agriculture is destructive of the forest has been debunked, and the prevailing school of thought is that if the technology is properly practiced, it actually helps in sustaining the forest by rehabilitating certain areas.

The practice involves clearing certain areas of the forest, later on burning the trees and shrubs cut. Care is taken so that the fire started will not spread to other parts of the forest. Members of the community usually help each other in the clearing and burning stages, to ensure that the fire does not spread.

After clearing and burning, the area is planted with a variety of crops. As a necessary part of the technology, there must be diversity in the crops planted. The crops planted consist of the staple crops like rice, camote, gabi, cassava and millet. Legumes are also planted, as well as a variety of fruit trees, especially at the perimeter.

The swidden is maintained for about four years, until such time that the fertility of the farm has been depleted. The farm is then allowed to lie fallow for about five years, while the swidden farmer clears another area with the same process. After the newer swidden loses its fertility, the old one is once again cleared, except for the fruit-bearing trees which are simply rejuvenated.

Swidden farming provides the farmers with many nutritional needs, like vegetables, root crops, grain, legumes, fruits and herbal medicine. The fruit trees and stone terraces are permanent fixtures, which show that a clan or family owns a patch of land. Ownership thus comes after working the land.

Hunting Ground or Paganupan.

This traditionally included the many forests of the domain, when wildlife was more abundant and hunting methods and practices limited the harvest of game. With the denudation that occurred with logging operations, however, the loss of habitat also meant the decline of wildlife. At the moment, hunting is not a widespread practice in the domain, although there are some in our communities who occasionally do hunt game such as wild boar, deer, fowls, lizards, snakes, bats and others. The use of guns unfortunately has contributed to the decline of wildlife.

Other Protection and Management Mechanisms of Forests and Watersheds

Clearing of fire lanes. Our people now clear fire lanes around our communal forests and watersheds. Some non-government organizations are involved in this management activity, like the Saleng Organization in Cabiten. These fire lanes are cleared so that so that fires, whether spontaneous, accidental or caused by negligence, will be controlled.

Replanting of trees – This is now done by owners of tree lots.

Selective harvest of trees and pruning of branches – Although harvest of trees is allowed for timber and lumber, our people encourage selective harvest, so that massive denudation does not happen. For firewood, only branches are gathered. Now, our communities have prohibitions regarding the cutting of trees. There are also prohibitions regarding forest fires and harvest of forest products without permission from the owners.

In Cabiten, lumber in communal forests may be harvested, provided that permission is granted by the people through the barangay chairman. Sale of the lumber harvested is prohibited.

Penalties imposed by the communities in cases of unauthorized harvest of forest products or starting forest fires include warnings, payment, or replanting of trees as the tungtung system may determine. In some cases, adjudication in the courts is resorted to.

Kabite – this involves the control of erosion by constructing walls in steep slopes using stones or rocks (kabite). It is done mostly in gullies and other steep erosion-prone areas.

Erosion Control – Our people also plant trees in erosion-prone areas.

Drainage Maintenance – Canals are dug to divert runoff water from erosion prone areas.


Property Concepts

Traditionally, our communities collectively owned the domain, with each community members allowed to use portions of the domain to provide for their needs. Introduction of improvements confers rights to members of the community, and these improved lands become ancestral lands. Actual development and use of the land are the basis of ownership rights. There was no need to claim wide areas, because the traditional farming and mining practices were not extensive, considering that the economy was a subsistence economy.

Ownership over ancestral lands was transferred through inheritance. The eldest inherits most of the lands, while the youngest usually inherits the parent’s house.

However, with the developments in our history, these concepts evolved. Much of the ancestral lands are now declared for taxation purposes, so that ownership is sometimes determined by the tax declaration. Some of the residential areas are tilted, and the rest are mostly covered by tax declarations. Some lands are issued CLOA. Even forested areas have been declared.

Now, our communities allow ownership to be transferred to the spouses of Mankayan indigenous peoples, even if these spouses are not from Mankayan. Even non-indigenous persons may own lands provided they have married into the community. The sale of land to outsiders is now allowed, except for Colalo barangay, where sale is allowed only if the buyer is a member of the community. Generally, relatives have the priority right to buy property being sold.

Despite these changes, our people assert their ownership over the domain.

Land Uses

Residential Areas

Areas in the domain used by our people for residential purposes also were agricultural areas. Livestock and poultry were also raised in the residential areas.

Now, new uses of the residential areas include commercial vegetable farming, and tilapia raising. Some parts of the residential areas are also presently used for commerce, others have become institutional lands for government offices, churches and schools. Still some areas are being used for recreational purposes like playgrounds and basketball courts.

Burial Grounds

Parts of the domain are utilized by our people as burial grounds. These burial grounds are located in residential and agricultural areas.

Agricultural Areas

These are the areas further away from the residential areas devoted to fruit trees, rice fields, camote farms and swidden farms. At present, many of these have been converted to vegetable farms.


Forests were maintained as watersheds, and were used for pasture lands, hunting, source of lumber and firewood (through selective harvest), and as source of food like edible plants, mushrooms and fruits.

Tree Lots

These are forested areas maintained by families or family groups in the domain. (Please see The Muyong and its Uses, p. 63)


Belief Systems Associated with Water Systems

Like other Kankanaeys, Mankayan people believe that spirits live in and guard bodies of water. Putting dirt, garbage or merely throwing rocks into bodies of water may disturb the spirits and may cause a person to get sick or other disharmony in the community.

Irrigation systems as Communal Property

Irrigation systems are communal property. Farmers in contiguous areas commonly own an irrigation system that commonly services their farms. The system is repaired and cleared of vegetation at least once a year, or when needed. The maintenance activity usually takes days, and affected farmers are expected to help. The rest of the group sanctions those who do not help in the activity.


Belief Systems Associated with Minerals

The people of Mankayan believe that the minerals and the extraction of the minerals affect our people’s relationship with nature, the spirits and Kabunian. In order not to disrupt this relationship, various rituals are performed. Miners among our people also have many taboos regarding their operation.

If the mines are unproductive, it is believed that the spirits are displeased, and the necessary offerings are made. If the mines are productive, offerings of thanksgiving are also made. These rituals serve to have the community share in the bounties of nature.

Mining Practices

Our people have been mining, through abukay and sayo as a method of ore extraction for their livelihood. Processing of these minerals was originally done by simply cleaning by hand and washing. Most of the time, it was the women who processed the ore into gold. The final process is smelting in an earthenware crucible. If needed, borax, when it became available, was applied to clean the gold. Processing ore extracted through lode mining is simple. Rocks containing the ore are broken manually using a double headed hammer on a space covered with rubber or sack called to prevent fragments of ore from scattering. These small pieces are further crushed in a large mortar, with the use of a grinder by rolling it back and forth until the pieces have turned to dust. These are collected into a bucket and then washed on a separator where the slurry is panned and the gold separated from the mud. This separator is most often a burlap sack that catches the fine metal that is then washed into a holding tank. The gold grains are manually collected with the use of a sieve. This are wrapped in plastic then sprinkled with flux and then smelted in the earthenware crucible. The processed gold is then measured and weighed and sold.

Ownership and Sharing of Benefits

It is a common knowledge that a group, family, clan or even individual who first finds a deposit and actually mines it in an area has rights to the find. (Most often, they are the owner of the site or area). Those with rights do not just let other people to do mining activity in his mining area. The owner passes may share or transfer rights to their immediate relatives, clan, or family members.

Over generations, our people have devised ways and systems on how to divide and share gold finds. A family may do the labor all by themselves and all proceeds go to the family. Another option is for several households under the kinship line to undertake the mining activity as a group and divide whatever gold extracted proportionately among themselves. The proportion maybe based on the number of family members who worked, or according to the capacity of the individual.

In some instances, however, non-kin/owner members join in the activity. This is part of a Kankanaey tradition to share with others God’s grace and bounty. When non-kin/owner members strike a jackpot, a minor portion of the gold will be set aside for the kin group/owner. But the larger share goes to and is divided equally among the finders. A kin/owner elder keep the portion set aside for the kin/owner group and is used for rituals.


Part of Kankanaey culture are some taboos miners observe while engaged in either placer or lode mining. This includes abstaining from sex, avoiding abusive language, refraining from eating fish and buffalo meat, not gambling and not scattering garbage within the mine site.

Mine Management

Owners of mine area who are not able to manage the activity will let others to administer/manage the business. The parties will have equal shares of the proceeds from the mining business. Other way of mining management by the Kankanaey people is the so-called financing system (supply) wherein the owner will provide all the inputs/materials and a certain group or individual will do the manual work. In terms of sharing the proceeds derived from the mine, all the expenses during the operation will be deducted from the gross income and whatever remains and/or the remaining will be shared equally by the owner and worker/s.

Hand tools Used in Placer Mining

Balkis (sluice box) is made of galvanized iron fitted with a burlap sack and covered with a coarse screen to catch the fine particles containing the gold nuggets or dust.

Sampulan (vanning pan) collects river sediments.

Kalid (coconut shell) is used to scoop and collect and move fine particles or sediments.

Saluddan (coarse screen) catches residues.

Akiyak (metal tray sieve) filters fine particles from the coarse ones.

Ballita (steel digging bar) is used to dig the soil or sand and to move rocks.

Pala (shovel) is used to construct channels and scoop sand.


The tungtung system involves oral customary law and has been practiced since time immemorial. Our ancestors have passed down the practice over generations. The system is accepted as partly sacred, especially since it traditionally involved the invocation of spirits and Kabunian. The system has developed over time with the purpose of restoring harmony within the community and our relationship with nature and the spirits. The community’s trust in the system ensures its success.

Social rejection is a standard sanction for the commission of a crime. Guilty parties often find it intolerable to live in a unanimously reproachful community. The tungtung system covers all aspects of bad behavior and the process of determining guilt and punishment is participatory. The community at large hears the case, and judgment is arrived at through a consensus of those present.

A party to a case will raise his complaints with elders, who then bring the matter before other elders. The elders may then talk to the parties and attempt to settle the differences. If no immediate settlement is possible, the parties are brought before the community, where they present their case.

The complainant, may appoint a relative to present the complaint. The other party is then called to argue, deny or admit the complaint.

Both contending parties can argue freely. But any of the elders can speak out to guide and direct the arguments when these are going nowhere or when arguments become heated. The elders or the community folk gathered can reprimand anyone who becomes emotional in the exchange.

Every elder (man and woman alike) who joins in the discussion, actually helps interpret the custom law under the tungtung system. However, the public gathered must be convinced of the interpretation of the custom. Relationships of the contending parties are invoked, in the attempt to make these relationships prevail over the disagreement.

An agreement or decision is made only after both parties have presented their sides and the temper of the discussion has calmed down. At the same time, elders and representatives from both parties come together to arrive at a common decision as to who is guilty among the parties. Decisions are mostly unanimous.

Setting the penalty is also participatory. The party to be penalized may bargain until a final penalty is made