sablan ban


1. Land Use Patterns

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood of the indigenous people of Sablan. While rice and sweet potato were the traditional crops, most of the rice paddies and areas planted with sweet potato were converted into vegetable gardens. This is due to economic demand for cash to defray family expenditures on education, health, taxes and other necessary expenses.

2. Land Use Plan

Even before the institutionalization of the municipal comprehensive land use plan, the community has already conceptualized how lands within their territory would be utilized hence they have established communal forests where nobody is allowed introduce any improvement. The communal forests serve as watershed for the community.

At the household level, their dwelling has a designated area for uma, orchard (ba-eng), pigpen or animal houses or pasture land (estancia or pastolan) for those who could afford large herds of animals.

3. Land Management System

Since the beginning, the people of Sablan have established indigenous ways of managing their land. The early settlers consider certain factors before they finally decide to establish the dwelling and kaingin in the area. Foremost consideration is the proximity and abundance of water for household need and irrigation. They also consider the terrain or formation of the land in relation to its potential for introducing agricultural crops. The structure, composition and texture is also evaluated instinctively if the soil is favorable for crops.

If the prospective land is along mountain slope, source of irrigation should be higher and stone boulders should be available for stonewalling. If the prospective land is near the river, improvements should be avoided near rapids or in meanders where strong currents pirouette in order to avoid erosion and accidents.

Once satisfied with the location, the whole household will now clear (pawa) the area using their stone-sharpened bolos after some rituals offered to dead ancestors, deities and spirits that may be present, especially the ampasits. Tree trunks that were fallen are used for posts their hut while cogon and blade grasses and sticks, if available, are gathered and used as roofs and sidewalls of the dwelling hut. Other cleared bush and grasses are spread along the cleared area until ready for burning (pool).

Burning is done with care and diligence in order to prevent wild fires. They have to make sure that surroundings where the materials are piled and burned are cleared. Burning is usually done during afternoon when sunshine and wind are not strong. Ashes are mixed later with soil before planting.

When the area is cleared, the head of the family with the help of able household members start to break the ground (pu’tal) using sharpened steel bars with edges that are flattened and pointed (shalapshap). A person holds one pair and thrust them alternately into the ground to break it. Other tools used are shovels, hoes and wheelbarrows. Breaking the ground is a laborious task which may take for weeks depending on the area of the land to be improved. Construction of stonewalls (kavite) are done later but could be done simultaneously. After it is terraced, irrigation is directed toward it through the construction of earth canal. Along portions where canal could not be constructed, bamboo trough (taroy) is placed as water channel. This is by removing the nodes inside the bamboo pole. Planting is finally done when the land is fully prepared. When it is observed that crops planted in the area are no longer robust, the land is left idle for some years to be rejuvenated.

As modern experts could attest, this indigenous system of land development is much effective than the use of machineries that indiscriminately destroy wildlife.


1. Type of Ownership

The indigenous people of Sablan have always possessed the land they occupy under the concept of ownership regardless of land classification issued by the government. Land titling was foreign to them that many could not understand why they need to apply for land titles to show proof of their ownership over the lands they occupy. Few have successfully acquired land titles since the American period due to intricate requirements that should be complied. The practice therefore was to declare the area being occupied at the municipal government where they are issued Tax Declaration papers although the documents are for tax purposes only.

2. Modes of Acquisition or Transfer

Early settlers acquired of land through occupancy and improvement of land without adverse claimants. Subsequent transfers of land were done since the olden times through the agreement of both transferee and transferor. During those days, the transfer of land may be in exchange of another land in another location or in exchange animals. There are no written documents but a simple ritual in the presence of witnesses composed mainly of community elders.

But as years went by, transfers of land were done either through inheritance, sale, donation, or even foreclosures. Not realizing the significance of undergoing the process prescribed by law, subsequent transferees physically possessed the land without the corresponding documents evidencing the transfer. Consequently, land titles and declarations still remained in the name of the original owner. Although the agreeing parties executed the transfer in good faith, these arrangements sometimes breed conflicts in cases where heirs do not honor the previous transactions.

3. Land Distribution

By tradition, land and other properties are distributed to heirs by owners when they feel their death is imminent. The dying persons assign each heir their respective inheritance (tawid) in the presence of close relatives and elders. It is a taboo for heirs to ask for their tawid while the parents are alive. Parents resent very much this despicable act because of the impression that they are being sent early to their grave when heirs ask what portion of the land would be distributed to them. This explains why there are plenty of old land titles that are still in the name of the original registrants aside from the fact that the surviving heirs cannot cope up with the tedious processes and rising taxes and fees.

Usually, the youngest child gets the larger share. The reason behind this is that older siblings enjoyed much favor when parents were still strong to work and therefore were able to enjoy more abundance than the youngest that grew up when both parents are already physically weak to provide as much as elder siblings enjoyed. 


1. Indigenous Systems

Forests are sacred to the elders of the community. Stories of enchantment experienced are told of certain forests like Mount Pukgong located along the boundaries of Barangays Balluay and Bagong, Barangay Tuel and Ambongdolan of Tublay and Gaswiling of Kapangan. It is told that there is a big and clear spring atop the mountain that supplies water to the nearby barangays. One time, a man from Barangay Ambongdolan, Tublay attempted to go further at the interior part of the mountain perhaps to check the water source. When he returned, he was not able to speak and became temporarily mute. Another story which is common is persons who walk through the forest without reaching their destination. They just realize that they are walking the on the same path where they previously passed through.

These and other stories are regarded as warning to members of the community when entering their forests. They should be careful not to disturb the abode of the spirits otherwise something unfortunate could happen to them or to any member of their families.

With these cosmic beliefs on the background, the community elders have established watersheds they call “uma” (popularly known as “muyong” to Ifugaos) or communal forest. In these umas, no one is allowed to encroach and introduce any improvement be it a dwelling or uma. Those who go against this prohibition are subjected to the council of elders for the settlement of their offenses (tongtong). The penalty is given usually in not only in terms of number of animals but also in monetary form. Improvements introduced must be dismantled and abandoned by the offender.

2. Forest

2.1. Flora

Sablan has vast variety of vegetation because it has low and high altitudes. Plants that grow both in lowlands and highlands could be found in the area. Vegetation found in the low lying areas are broadleaf trees such as mahogany and oak trees while those found in the higher elevation are coniferous or cone-bearing trees specifically pine trees. Ferns, bamboos, mushrooms, mosses, vines, orchids and other wild flowers and ornamentals plants still grow wild in the forests up to the present.

2.2. Fauna

Wild animals could still be found in the forested areas of Sablan although they are vanishing due environmental change. During the olden times, wild games such as deer and wild boar abound in the forested areas. Fortunately, a few numbers of wild animals could be sighted at times such as eagle, owl, wild chicken (savag), lizards (tilay), wild cats (buwet and motet) and different kinds of snakes (Minong, belshang, erow, abang, balitek) and birds (Talag, keling, jadjaran, Beshing).


1. Water

Springs and other water sources are managed and protected by the community through free labor (garates). Some barangays have installed water systems by constructing water tanks pipes. The pipes are usually suspended on air attached to steel wires due to rugged terrain. From the spring, water is directed to the main tank through a transmission pipe. Distribution tanks are also constructed near the group of households where distribution pipes are constructed. Waterworks Associations are formed to maintain and operate the water system. Maintenance tasks include cleaning surroundings of water source, repairs of tanks and pipelines and planting of trees. These activities are the same with communal irrigation systems present in the area.

As protection measures, local ordinances were passed to penalized individuals who vandalize, steal or destruct the flow of water. In addition, waterworks and irrigation associations have drafted policies and procedures for the effective management and protection of water resources.

2. Fishing

Fishes crabs and native shrimps could also be found along the rivers of Sablan. These are preserved through selective fishing where only matured ones are caught through the fishhooks (baniit) and bare hands (kap-kap). Dynamite fishing, use of electric current and chemicals (tuva) are strictly prohibited. Anybody caught using these methods are subjected to tong-tong and meet with penalties especially when other animals were dead due to water poisoning.


It is a common observation worldwide that health is a global issue nowadays due to emerging and increasing types of illnesses as compared in the past where staple foods were not altered or applied heavily with chemicals.

Without realizing, farmers of Sablan who still cultivate eat the native rice variety (kintoman), sweet potato (dukto) and taro (pising) enjoy great health benefits since these crops are not laden with chemical inputs and therefore could qualify as organic food.

Certain indigenous plants are used to cure common illnesses and diseases such as cough, headache, fever, flu, stomach pain s, tooth aches and skin diseases. Some plants are also use to clean wounds and stop bleeding.

Massage (ilot) is also common remedy especially for individuals experiencing back pains, muscle pains and dislocated bone joints. Pregnant women also go to the person with such skill (Mengidot) purposely to position the fetus so that there would be easy child delivery.


The protection of natural resources was already discussed in some parts of this plan but with regards to genetic resources; bio-prospecting may be allowed subject to prior informed consent of the community as provided under EO 247, RA 8371 and RA 9147.

Data Source - NCIP, Benguet