Kapangan is home to Ibalois and Kakanaeys. And as indigenous people, it is but natural for the inhabitants of this town to possess unique indigenous knowledge and practices. It should be noted that for most of their undertakings, for instance in farming, the Kapangan folks had taboos, unwritten rules, local customs and traditions with explanations mostly related to divine or supernatural beings.
The land area of municipality totals to 17,327.25 hectares. 18.65% of the area is classified as forest. The Indigenous Cultural Community of Kapangan, like any other communities, use their forests as source of wood, food and fresh water and air. As their forefathers had taught them, the locals had used their forest resources with minimum damage to the forests. There existed taboos and traditions which had helped in forest conservation. However, at present, forest resources are no longer conserved due to the loss of the taboos and practices and the escalating needs of the community.
One-third of the area is allocated for agriculture. Until the recent decades, rice was only second to lokto/dokto > (sweet potato) as the main crop and main staple. But as the locals started building rice terraces, rice became the main staple. With regard to v egetable production, the locals either use their backyards or have num-a/uma (kaingins) on hilly areas. Kapangan folks have the great advantage because two-thirds of this is typified as hilly to steep, rough and rugged mountainous. Moderately sloped areas which have fertile soil are the best sites for kaingins. The subsistence-type of farming was then slowly converted to a commercial type as cash economy entered the town. Like in cutting trees, the locals had practices and taboos (some of which are no longer existing) which they observe before or during the preparation of the area to be cultivated, the planting of cuttings and in the other stages of farming. Their belief is that when the customs and taboos are observed, production will be greater and bad luck will be avoided.
Certain mineral resources are also found in certain areas in Kapangan. This was one of the major sources of livelihood of the people. They would either pan gold from a river or create tunnels in order to extract gold. Local miners had to observe taboos and other practices which had been beneficial in the conservation the mineral resources, for the protection of the environment and for the miners’ own safety.
As in their forest resource, watersheds and water resource was also conserved in the past. However, due to increasing demands as well as the loss of taboos and local practices concerning water resource, water resource is now also degrading.
The other areas of the municipality is for human use—residential homes, institutional and commercial buildings and facilities and burial grounds. Different customs with regard to building houses and choosing sites in which to put up these houses also existed. With regard to land ownership, the old traditions which were usually unwritten were altered by more legal requirements. Still, the other areas such as the grasslands are utilized as pastureland for livestock such as cows, horses and goats.
At present, different issues are being faced by the people of Kapangan. Through the years, developments and modernization has influenced the town. It is but unfortunate that these have resulted to the loss of some indigenous practices and knowledge that have been passed on from the older generation. Although some of these customs had seemed useless, others have been beneficial to the community.
A. Land Use/Land Ownership and Management Systems:
AGRICULTURAL LAND MANAGEMENT AND PROTECTION
NUM-A/UMA (SWIDDEN FARMS)
Num-a or kaingin is one type of vegetable farming. It is a method of gardening by which the area of cultivation is first cleared and burned to enrich the soil with the nutrients needed by plants.
The initial task in swidden farming is locating an area suited for kaingin. As in rice terraces, certain factors must also be considered in choosing the area. The best choice would be an area which is slightly elevated and has fertile soil.
Once a suitable area is identified, the locals would then clear the said area. Grasses and weeds would be pulled off and trees would be trimmed for latter use as frames for climbing vegetables. For a few days, the cleared area would then be left to dry before being burned. The burning of the kaingin area begins at the topmost portion down to the foot of the hill. Burning is usually done in the afternoon, when the temperature is relatively colder.
Finally, before the cultivation, a second round of clearing is done to the burned area where the weeds and trees that were not burned will be removed.
Ever spiritual as they are, the ICCs of Kapangan practice the man-gapo (to start) before the actual clearing of an area. This practice involves initially clearing a small portion of the target area. If in the process, no one gets hurt or wounded, the clearing may proceed. Otherwise, it would have to be stopped as it is believed to cause bad luck.
Sweet potato or camote is the crop most commonly cultivated in kaingins.
As in the other traditional practices, planting camote cuttings during fool moon are not advised since it is believed to bring bad luck.
Plant Protection and Maintenance
Like in rice terraces, the locals also came up with methods in protecting and maintaining their crops. The farmers manually remove pests by shaking the plant. They also minimize erosion by digging up canals along the outline of the kaingin and by placing weeds in the spaces between plants, a method locally known as gel-ned. Most folks would also surround their kaingin with crops such as corn, gabi or yam which serve as barriers to possible intruders such as animals. Lastly, farmers would also plant the camote cuttings in one direction which is towards the foot of the hill.
Usually, the farmers would utilize an area for swidden gardening for two or three years. After the last harvest, they would leave their nem-a clearings uncultivated (bine-as) for five or more years until its nutrient content is again sufficient for cultivation.
BA-ANG/BA-ENG (BACKYARD GARDENING)
Aside from the kaingin system of vegetable gardening, the locals also cultivate in their own backyards. This used to be their source of food for their families. However, others began selling their produce from their backyards in neighboring towns.
In backyard gardening, different crops are planted in one cropping season so that the space may be maximized and more will be harvested. Among the commonly cultivated vegetables in backyards are beans, legumes and squash or chayote. In the past, chayote was cultivated for the consumption of the family and the family’s domesticated pigs. But as the town’s economy was influenced by outside forces, chayote became a cash crop. Plants such as bananas, coffee or fruit trees are also planted on the sides of the backyard garden near the canals.
The grasses common in Kapangan include cogon, bel-lang (napier grass), carabao grass, peket (amorseco) and African star grass. Grasslands are important to livestock owners since they provide for the food of grazing animals such as cows, horse and goats.
Animal owners usually leave their animals to graze freely on grasslands. They only take charge of the river in which the carabaos bathe and such other animal needs like salt and water. Before the rainy season begins, the animal owners would burn the grazing area so that new grasses may grow from the old ones. During this time, the animals would not be able to graze, thus the farmers would have to acquire grasses for their livestock from somewhere else.
In order to protect their livestock from wandering off too far or falling off a cliff, the local farmers install fences along the grazing area. This is also done in order to prevent animals from entering into garden perimeters. In doing so, the locals would usually use wood as fences or plant bamboos.
INSTITUTIONAL AND RESIDENTAL LANDS
As a people wealthy of indigenous practices, the locals believe in spirits who guard the forests, which they call as the Bayani or Tumongaw and enchanted trees. In connection, taboos or prohibiting laws and beliefs associated with supernatural beings had been the locals’ guide in protecting themselves against bad luck caused by spirits. Moreover, these laws have been helpful in the conservation of the forest as the people would first think twice before planning to engage in activity detrimental to the forest because of their fear of a divine punishment for wrongdoings (inayan).
Developments in Forest Management
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, only a few of the families have engaged into reforestation. But as decades passed, more have become concerned with the need to replant trees on deforested areas. Thus, barangays have started nurseries for tree seedlings needed for reforestation.
Due to the government’s project on land surveying, owners have divided, marked out and declared their land properties including forest areas. Thus, at present, most forest conservation and protection activities are privatized since most of the forests are privately owned. Agencies promoting forest rehabilitation activities would now have to seek permission from forest owners.
C. Water Resource and Watershed Management and Protection
Several rivers and streams may are found in Kapangan. Among the largest rivers are Amburayan, Baguionas-Catiao-an, Naguilian and Sali-o-Aso. The Amburayan River flows to the north and exits into the China Sea. Among the river’s tributaries are the rivers of Sacburoy, Salacop and Topdac-Cabilisan.
D. Mineral Resources Management Protection
Benguet is known for having mineral deposits. Kapangan is one of such towns having minerals like gold. Locals have engaged into small-scale mining even before the arrival of mining companies. They either panned gold from the river or dug tunnels usually along riverbanks.
Similar to logging, the locals also observe certain taboos and beliefs when extracting gold. Some of these are:
A miner on his way to the mining site must be conscious of strange signs, which to them, serve as warning to postpone their activity until no such strange sign is observed. In the same way, a bad dream (olat ni dabi) also serves as a warning.
While panning from a river or creating a tunnel, miners are not allowed to consume fish and beef, dangles/shangdis, to scatter garbage on the panning or mining area, to gamble and to have sex. Married miners may not also bring their wives inside the mining tunnel. Also, anyone bleeding, such as a man with wounds or a woman having menstruation would not be allowed entry into the mining site.
Additionally, mining or panning is prohibited once someone from the community just died or people are still mourning for his/her death because, else it is believed to cause bad luck.
One benefit that can be derived from these mining practices, taboos and beliefs of Kapangan ICC is that these have also helped minimize environmental degradation, which is common in modern mining practices. Also, sharing and fairness is exercised among the miners when it comes to profits. After the necessary deductions, the earnings would then be divided equally among all those who helped in mining the gold. Also, a thanksgiving ritual (i-ak-nan) would be held after giving each one’s bingay (share).
E. Natural Health Practices:
The old folks of Kapangan used traditional health practices in healing their sick members of the family either customary practices with the aid of “mansip-ok/mansi-bok or manbunong” or with the use of herbal plants. With the introduction of modern medicines and availability of medical profession, the use of these traditional health practices are slowly diminishing. Also, herbal plants are depleting due to deforestation. Although some of these plants are still available, it is limited only to those who appreciate its value and have courage to plant and sustained in their backyard garden.
**It is noteworthy that the DOH is encouraging the use of these traditional herbal plants.
Data Source - NCIP, Benguet