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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. 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.


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Data Source - NCIP, Benguet