September 2007

Vol. 6, No. 2, Second Quarter 2001

By Antonio T. Sumbalan, Felix S. Mirasol Jr., H. Marcos C. Mordeno and Ma. Easterluna S. Canoy


The Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP) is located in North-Central Bukidnon Province and has an area of 47,270 hectares. Aside from its cultural and ecological importance, it is the principal watershed for Northern Mindanao and home to a large number of wildlife species many of which are considered rare and endemic.

The mountain range tells of the genealogy, socioeconomic organization, political structure and datuship of the Bukidnon-Higaonon-Talaandig tribes . The legend of MKRNP tells of a great flood that submerged a big part of the earth. The deluge was sent by God to cleanse the area of evildoers who neglected and transgressed the relationship of man, spirits and nature. Only a portion of the range was not covered by water and it was only as big as a tanglad (lemon grass) plant. As time went by, the whole mountain range itself came to be called Mount Kitanglad in order to immortalize the sacred origin of the indigenous peoples.

It was the local government unit of Sumilao in 1989 that initiated the proclamation of the range to protect its socio-economic and ecological importance. This led the issuance of Presidential Proclamation No. 677 which declared the range as a national park in 1990.

The passage of RA 7586 of 1992 made the range as an initial component of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS). Subsequently, it was selected as one of the 10 priority areas for Phase 1 of Integrated Protected Area System (IPAS) and one of the recipients of the Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project (CPPAP) in 1994.

Presidential Proclamation No. 896 dated 24 October 1996 classified the range as a protected area under the category of a natural park. This legalizes the boundaries, institutional and management prescriptions of the range as well as, provides interim measures for the protection of the park until a law is passed that declares it part of the Integrated Protected Areas System.

Finally on 9 November 2000, Republic Act No. 8978 was signed in law. This Act declared Mt. Kitanglad Range in the Province of Bukidnon as a protected area and its peripheral areas as buffer zones.

This paper attempts to share the experiences in promoting and enhancing stakeholders’ participation in protected area management for the Mount Kitanglad Range National Park (MKRNP) in Bukidnon Province, Philippines.


2.1 Geophysical Features

Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP) is found in the North-Central part of Bukidnon Province. The province is landlocked and occupies a wide plateau in the central part of Mindanao Island. It is the country’s eight largest province, lying between the latitudes 7o22’ to 8o35’ north, and longitudes 124o33’ to 125o26’ east. About 49% of its total land area consists of rugged hills and mountains. The MKRNP accounts for 17.55 percent of the province’s land area.

It has several peaks among of which are the highest in the country. Mt. Dulang-dulang with an elevation of 2,938 masl is the second highest peak in the country. The range is the headwater of several major river systems of North and Central Mindanao. Its creeks and rivers flow in a radial pattern and feed the Cagayan, Tagoloan and Pulangi Rivers.

The Cagayan River Basin covers approximately 1,471 square kilometers of mountainous terrain in northwest Bukidnon extending to the western portion of the Province of Misamis Oriental. The Batang, Calawaig, Tagiti, Sumalawan and Bubunawan Rivers that originates from the northwestern slope of the range are the principal tributaries of Cagayan River that flows in a northerly direction and discharges into Macajalar Bay. It has an estimated annual run-off of 3,654 mcm.

The Tagolo-an River Basin covering a drainage area of 1,577 square kilometers in the northwest portion of Bukidnon and a portion of Misamis Oriental originates from the range traversing in a northwesterly direction and empties into Macajalar Bay with an annual run-off of 1,406 mcm.

Finally, Timago, Tugasan, Maagnao, Alanib, Kulasihan and Manupali River tributaries emanating from the range feed the Pulangi River traversing southwesterly direction towards Central Bukidnon and Cotabato Province. The total annual run-off is estimated at 16,399 mcm.

The climate of MKRNP falls under Type III of the modified Corona’s classification. It is characterized as having a short dry season lasting only from one to three months with no pronounced maximum rain period. The area is virtually cloud-covered throughout the year. Its temperature ranges from 27.7 degrees Celsius (January) to 24.6 degrees Celsius (June). The park has the highest rainfall in June and the month of March is the driest. Relative humidity varies from 71 percent in May to 86 percent in September.

The soil type of the foot slope of the park is clayey and generally deep, with fragments of volcanic rocks rather common. However, soil layers are shallow in areas where erosion is massive. Soil is well drained and relatively acidic due to high acidic potential of parent materials. Higher rainfall and faster lateral movement of water in these areas contribute to the acidity of the soil. In higher elevations the soil has more organic matter due to low temperature. But the soil in general is phosphate deficient although some areas have high potassium content.

2.2 Flora and Fauna

There are six major types of habitat in the MKRNP. These are the lowland residual dipterocrap forest, montane forest, mossy forest, grassland, fresh water, and wetlands.

The park is one of the protected areas of the country with the richest faunas many of which are considered rare and endemic. At least 50 species of mammals are known to exist in the park of which 32 are endemic. Amphibians and reptiles are equally diverse. Of the 21 species of reptiles, 13 are endemic and of 26 amphibians, 12 are declared endemic. Birds are also with remarkable diversity. There are 159 known species of birds of which 62 considered endemic. Likewise, 114 of the identified 131 species and sub-species of butterflies in the park are endemic.

A total of 377 floral species are found in the park of which 74 are endemic. One hundred fifty nine species are rare and endangered. The park has exceptionally high conservation value in terms of high endemism of the vascular flora. This includes the endangered rootless vascular plant. Likewise, the part has been reported to have the highest tree density ever reported in a tropical forest (Garrity, et al.,2001).

2.3 Socio-Economic Features

The socioeconomic features of the MKRNP are characterized as follows (Talamdan issue for July-September 1998):

There are eight municipalities comprising 28 villages (barangays) that share MKRNP. The 2000 Census of Population showed that the 28 barangays have an aggregate population of 51,670 (NSO, 2000). In an earlier study, it was reported that 451 households are actual occupants of the buffer zone of the park with a total of 2,512 members composed of 52 percent male and 47 percent females (Talamdan, Volume 3 No.3). The residents of the protected area account for 4.86 percent of the total population of the 28 villages around the MKRNP.

The average household size of the buffer zone occupants is 5.57 persons. The mean age of the occupants is 19.6 years and they have an average of 2.7 years of elementary education. Further, occupants of the park with no formal education account for 28.5 %. Only a few of the occupants have high school education (4.4%), vocation or two-year college course (0.3%) and those with four-year college education (0.2%). The low level of formal education of the upland dwellers does not mean that they are not education. IPs and the other occupants are very knowledgeable about their immediate environment.

Farming is the main livelihood activity of the park occupants.. Root crops are widely grown followed by corn and coffee. Fruit trees, spices, sugarcane and abaca are also cultivated. Less than one percent of the occupants grow rice, tobacco and coconut.

Livestock is also raised by at least 80% of the occupants, majority of them raise chickens and cattle. Those engaged in rattan gathering, weaving and bamboo strips for basketry account for only 28%.

Extraction of non-timber forest products had been reported to number to 16 consisting of 11 for domestic consumption; nine as edible fruits and two are being used for medicinal purposes. Honeybee is both for household consumption and a source of additional income.

Among the birds, the most widely hunted are kusi, kulasisi and brown doves. Collection of butterflies is widely done and catch goes exported outside the country.

On the provision of potable water, only 0.4% of the buffer zone occupants get drinking water from water faucets. The rest derive it from rivers (24.8%), streams (20.6%), springs (11.8%), deep wells (4.4%), and flowing creeks (2%). A majority of the occupants (81.6%) say that there are no schools in their area. While health services are almost non-existent.

Household income of the protected area occupants averages at PhP1,205 monthly. This is based on the 1999 survey in nine buffer zone sitios. The highest household income was reported at PhP2,340 (five households) and the smallest is PhP405 (five households). Majority (76.47%) of the sampled households have an income between PhP800 and PhP1,300.

2.4 Indigenous People and Tenured Migrants

The Indigenous People that inhabit the mountain range are mainly Talaandig (60.1%), Higa-onon (23.5%) and Bukidnons (7.7%) numbering to 2,512 individuals comprising 451 households based on the 1998 Census and Registration of MKRNP occupants.

The Talaandig tribe is the identity embraced by the people of Lantapan and Talakag under the leadership of the late Anastacio Saway of Songco who was known as Datu Kinulintang in 1975 (Opeña,1998).

The Higaonon tribe was organized by a certain Ricardo de la Camara out of the Bukidnons in Malaybalay and other lowlands of the northern part of Bukidnon.

Finally, the Bukidnon tribe is one of the original two tribal divisions of Bukidnon as early as 1889.

The Bukidnons are those who inhabit the lowlands and the Manobos occupy the mountain peripheries.

The Bukidnons of the protected area are those who remained to be known as such when the Bukidnon tribe was further subdivided into Talaandig and Higaonon.

The tenured migrants account for 8.7% of the reported occupants of the protected area, mainly Cebuanos (4.4%) and Boholanos (2.7%). These tenured migrants are those who have actually and continuously occupied the area for five years prior to its designation as park in accordance with Section 5(a) of the NIPAS Act and are solely dependent on the area for subsistence (Section 50). As tenured migrants they are eligible to become stewards of a portion of land within the multiple use management or buffer zone of the PA.


3.1 Policy on Protected Area

The establishment of protected areas goes as far back as the 1930s (Rivera,1999). On 1 February 1932, the Commonwealth legislature enacted Act 3915, An Act providing for the establishment of national parks… ” This law ushered in the national park systems in the Philippines.

Act 3915 inspired subsequent laws, rules and regulations governing protected areas. These include: (1) Presidential Decree No. 705, “Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines”, dated 19 May 1975 and its amendments; (2) LOI 917, “Setting aside areas of the public domain as wilderness areas and greenbelts”, dated 22 August 1979; (3) LOI 2151, “Declaring certain islands and/or major parts of the country as wilderness areas,” dated 28 December 1981; (4) LOI 2152, “Declaring the entire province of Palawan and certain parcels of the public domain and/or parts of the country as mangrove swamp forest reserve”, dated 29 December 1981; (5) LOI 1312, “ Mandating the establishment and development of local government forest/tree parks all over the country,” dated 23 April 1983; (5) EO 192, “Reorganizing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” dated 10 July 1987; and, (6) RA 7586, “An Act providing for the establishment and management of protected areas system, defining its scope and coverage and for other purposes” dated 1 June 1992.

The National Integrated Protected Areas System is a classification and administration system of all designated protected areas to maintain ecological processes and life support systems to preserve genetic biodiversity, to ensure sustainable use of resources found therein, and to maintain their natural conditions to the greatest extent possible (RA 7586, 1992).

The Act recognizes that administration of these protected areas is possible only through cooperation among national and local governments, and concerned private organizations. It also recognizes ancestral domain lands and customary rights of the Indigenous People in protected area as well as the rights of the tenured migrants.

3.2 MKRNP as a Protected Area

In 1988, environmental groups in Bukidnon launched a series of protest activities to force government to take decisive actions to save the remaining forests of Bukidnon. This resulted in the imposition of a logging moratorium in the entire province. This moratorium stopped the operations of logging companies in Mount Kitanglad. By then, however, vast areas of lowland dipterocarp forest have already been denuded. Then eager tillers cleared the logged-over areas for agriculture.

Forest fires during the El Nino years (1982-83) contributed to forest destruction. Fires that reached the range summit burned more than 6,000 hectares of primary forest. This calamity struck again in 1998 resulting to 300 hectares of grassland and forestlands burned.

Aware of the importance of the mountain range and the problems that it is faced with, the Sangguniang Bayan of Sumilao through Resolution No. 32 series of 1989 initiated the proclamation of Mt. Kitanglad Range a a national park in order to protect its socio-economic and ecological importance.

On 14 December 1990, President Corazon C. Aquino signed Presidential Proclamation No. 677 making Mount Kitanglad Range into a national park under the administration of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional and Provincial Offices.

The passage of Republic Act 7586 of 1992 made Mount Kitanglad an initial component of the NIPAS. This made the range as a natural park which is defined “as a relatively large area not materially altered by human activity where extractive resource uses are not allowed and maintained to protect outstanding natural and scenic areas of national or international significance for scientific, educational and recreational use”(Section 4(h), RA 7586, 1992).

Mount Kitanglad Range was also selected as one of the 10 sites covered by the Conservation of Priority Areas Project (CPPAP). This is a seven and a half year biodiversity project that has a budget of US$ 20 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). CPPAP is covered by an agreement between the World Bank and the Government of the Philippines through the DENR and a national NGO consortium, the NGOs for Integrated Protected Areas, Inc. (NIPA) (Canoy and Mordeno, 2001).

The integration of the NGO community into the management structure is to address in part the past weaknesses of government administrative management of the protected area system. Philippine NGOs have been known for their substantial track records in managing community-based projects for sustainable development.

The project has the following major aims: 1) to protect ten areas of higher biodiversity; 2) improve DENR protected area management capabilities; 3) incorporate local communities in the protected area management structure; 4) confirm the tenure of indigenous peoples and tenured migrants; 5) establish mechanism for protected area management and development; and, (6) develop sustainable forms of livelihood consistent with biodiversity conservation.

On 24 October 1996, the range became a protected area under the category of natural park through Presidential Proclamation No. 896. This legalizes the boundaries, institutional and management prescriptions of the range. It further provides measures for the protection of the park until a law declaring it part of the Integrated Protected Areas System.

Finally on 9 November 2000, Republic Act 8978 was signed into law. This Act declared Mt. Kitanglad Range in the Province of Bukidnon as a protected area and its peripheral areas as buffer zones. It specifies that the total bounded area of MKRNP is 47,270 hectares consisting of 31,235.19 protected areas and 16,034.81 hectares as its buffer zone (RA 8978, 2000).


Being a protected area, the management and protection of MKRNP is exercised by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and supervised by the DENR. A mixture of interests and initiatives from the Indigenous Peoples (IPs), the local government units, the PAMB, and that of the state through the DENR has influenced the management of the protected area.

Complementing these key institutions is the support shown by external institutions. These include the special interest groups and industry sectors (e.g., tenured migrants, agribusiness and relay communication operators), and voluntary organizations (e.g., mountaineering societies, research and academic organizations) each nurturing a specific value of the park, contribute to the complex situation that affects the management system of the PA.

4.1 Indigenous Peoples

These stakeholders include the indigenous peoples (IPs) such as the Talaandig, Higaonon and Bukidnon tribes who claim the range as the center of their well-beings. They regard MKRNP as their ancestral domain on which their cultural identity and survival depend. History, myth and tradition of the IPs revolve around the park in which their worldview connects to the existence of the range.

Local leaders such as datu/baes exercise customary laws in regulating agriculture and hunting activities, and even entry of visitors in the peaks. These are among of the cultural practices recognized by PAMB-MKRNP where datus/baes are also represented. The IP’s participation in the PAMB serves as the springboard to fully define their rights and responsibilities in the protected area.

The local tribal leadership through the Council of Elders is emerging and exerting influence in the management of the PA beyond the terms of legal prescription. Through their efforts, it has been shown that there are complementarities between ancestral domain recognition and the protected area management (Cairns, 1995).

The current livelihood practices among the IPs determine the sustainability of the biodiversity conservation goals instituted in the park. They have ability to practice sustainable agriculture that is akin to their traditional knowledge and experiences. Considerations on the livelihood activities allowed in MKRNP are weighed upon not only in terms of ecological and economic criteria but also on their cultural appropriateness have given importance to the unique lifestyle of the IPs and how they complement with biodiversity consideration.


This is a multisectoral body, which is the governing body of the park. It decides matters affecting the development and protection of the PA through issuances of specific policies and regulations.

The influence of the local government units is remarkable in the PAMB particularly in setting up policies on the use of the PA. But there are also instances that these assertions have also constrained the active participation of the other representatives in the PAMB. The presence of the local chief executives in the PAMB has firmed up the policies and resolutions issued through local ordinances passed. On the part of the local officials, issues on basic services are reiterated and considered in the PA management. In parallel, the PAMB as a body, and the LGUs as another independent local authorities, could influence such ordinances on environment, livelihoods, and basic services of their constituencies who are also stakeholders in MKRNP.

4.3 Migrant Farmers, Capitalists and Agribusiness Groups

The pursuit of development in the park is affected by the economic activities of the tenured migrant farmers in particular and the agribusiness industry sector in general. They consider the buffer zone of MKRNP as the best sites to promote intensive and diversified agriculture and its associated corporate agribusiness ventures. Interventions of migrants and capitalists have influenced the change of the IPs traditional subsistence agriculture to high value or cash crops production.

4.4 Operators of Communication Relay Facilities

The operators of various public and public firms maintaining their own communication relay facilities at the peak of the park have organized as legitimate stakeholders of the park. They are known as Mount Kitanglad Stakeholders Association. Often times, the group is called by the PAMB in its meetings to report on their compliance in the performance of certain activities in the PA. They are considered important contributors to the Integrated Protected Area Fund from their user’s fees collected annually.

Presently, there are nine summit occupants of the summit of the park and three co-locators.

4.5 Voluntary Organizations, Research and Academic Institutions

There are several mountaineering societies who have organized into a group known as ECONET that is actively involved in the protection of MKRNP. Their contributions to PA management have been recognized by PAMB such that their organization is represented in the board, and also sits as the Chairperson for the Ecotourism and Visitors Affairs Committee. ECONET has been a partner of the board for its clean up and tree planting activities in the PA.

The Central Mindanao University that maintains a herbarium facility is the leading local research institution that has worked on floral studies in MKRNP. The Sustainable Agriculture for Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM-CRSP) has been instrumental in gathering academic, NGOs and research institutions that have conducted studies on bio-diversity, soil and water analysis that have contributed various insights in natural resource planning and enhanced information on natural resource systems as basis for decision-making and policy advocacy of MKRNPPAMB


Participation has become a key concept in development program. Although participation is sometimes dismissed as merely a buzzword Buenavista and Coxhead (2001) argued that it legitimizes programs involving local communities. The NIPAS Act of 1992 recognizes that administration of protected area is possible only through cooperation among national government, local government and concerned private organizations.

As defined in RA 7586, the National Integrated Protected Areas System is the classification and administration of all designated areas to maintain ecological processes and life support systems to preserve genetic biodiversity, to ensure sustainable use of resources found therein, and to maintain their natural conditions to the greatest extent possible.

Management of the system is placed under the control and administration of the DENR. However, broad participation in management is assured through the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

This board is composed of representatives from the local government units, local communities, and non-government organizations.

5.1 MKRNP-PAMB and its Committees

The MKRNP-PAMB that was constituted in 1993 was an interim in nature until the passage of

Republic Act 8978 that it became a regular PAMB on 9 November 2000. It was composed of 59 members from government and non-government sectors, as well as from the local communities. The Regional Executive Director of DENR-Region 10 chaired the Board. The Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator of Bukidnon served as an ex-officio member. The other members are the mayors of the eight local government units surrounding the PA and the 28 village chieftains (Punong Barangays); nine tribal leaders; eight representatives from Non-Government Organizations; two from the local media; one member representing other government agencies; one from people’s organizations and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer of Bukidnon.

As of 31 May 2001, the profile of the 59 PAMB membership comprised of 49 males and 10 females. A total of 29 or 49% are Indigenous People. These consist of 9 tribal leaders, 18 Village leaders (Punong Barangays), One Municipal Mayor (Impasug-ong) and One Department Head (Provincial Director of NCIP).

The Executive Committee (ExeCom) of the PAMB is composed of 17 members. The membership is comprised of the DENR Regional Executive Director, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer of the DENR, the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator of Bukidnon, eight mayors, two IP representatives, one from NCIP, and three NGO representatives.

There are also 10 sub-committees of the PAMB. These are as follows:

1. Policy, Finance and Administrative Committee

2. Resource Management and Infrastructure Committee

3. Cultural and Tribal Affairs Committee

4. Inspection Committee

5. Review Committee

6. Research and Education Committee

7. Tenured Migrants Committee

8. Fund Review Committee

9. Visitors and External Affairs Committee, and

10. Information Education Campaign Committee

As stipulated under Section 18 of the NIPAS Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations

(IRR), DAO 25, series 1992, the PAMB shall by consensus or majority vote, approve or take necessary actions to:

· Decide matters relating to planning, resource protection and general administration of the area;

· Approve proposals, work plans, actions plans, guidelines, for management of the protected area in accordance with the approved Management Plan;

· Delineate and demarcate protected area boundaries buffer zones, ancestral domains, and recognize the rights and privileges of indigenous communities under the provisions of the Act;

· Promulgate rules and regulation of programs as prescribed in the Management Plan in order to

provide employment to the people dwelling in and around the protected area;

· Control and regulate the construction, operation and maintenance of roads, trails, waterworks,

sewerage, fire protection and sanitation systems and other public utilities within the protected area; and,

· Monitor and evaluate the performance of protected area personnel, NGOs and the communities providing for biodiversity conservation and socio-cultural and economic development and report their assessments to the NIPAS Policy and Program Steering Committee (NPPSC) and the Integrated Protected Areas Fund (IPAF) Governing Board.

5.2 MKRNP-PAMB Technical Support and Secretariat

The Protected Area Superintendent’s Office and the Host NGO ably assist the PAMB. As of 31 May 2001, the PA Superintendent’s Office has 8 staff. The PASu who is a regular DENR staff heads this.

His 7 staff consists of 7 contractual personnel on an annual contract subject to the renewal as approved by the PAMB. The PASu Officer and staff consist of 6 males and 1 female. A total of 3 are members of the IPs of Bukidnon Province.

The Host-NGO, the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs Inc. (KIN) is a consortium of six non-government organizations involved in various fields of environment upland and tribal community welfare. Member NGOs include: Ape Gabbling Community, Inc. (AACI), Green Mindanao (GM), First Community Credit Cooperative (FICCO), Diocesan Ecological Desk-Malayalam (DED), Associated Workers Aimed to Rehabilitate the Environment (AWARE), and the Northeast Hill tribes Development Foundation, Inc. (NHDFI). KIN is composed of 16 staff and headed by a lady Project Coordinator. There are 10 males and 6 females that comprised the KIN workforce for the MKRNP. Of this total personnel, 3 are IPs.

5.3 Highlights of PAMB Accomplishments

A review of En Banc and Executive Committee (EXCOM) minutes and the annual reports of PASu and KIN revealed the following highlights of PAMB-MKRNP Accomplishments with regards to protected area management through the Project Implementing Unit (PIU), PASu and KIN.

· Policy initiatives adopted by DENR Central Office. Department Administrative Orders (DAOs). DAO No. 96-08 declared “…. Moratorium on the Issuance of IFMA within and adjoining protected area” and DAO No. 96-28 “Requirements for the Deputization of Barangay Volunteers and Members of the Tribal Communities as Field Officers within the Protected Areas. These were based on what PAMB-MKRNP has adopted for the protected area.

· Funds Generation for various programs and projects to uplift the socio-economic status of the buffer zone occupants and promotes biodiversity. As of 31 May 2001, a total of P 6,927,934.00 has been released under the CPPAP Non-Destructive Livelihood Activities (NDLAs) for MKRNP. This involves 76 POs whose membership totaled to 1,552.The NDLAs rest on the principle of balancing sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. These are meant to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the IPs and tenured migrants in order to mitigate human pressure on the PA.

· MKRNP-PAMB Independence from DENR. The independence of the board has been demonstrated in several occasions. These include its refusal to honor the permit issued for the researchers from the National Museum made by the Central Office without adhering to the policies and procedure of the board. The unilateral decision made by the Regional Director to locate the Office of the Park Superintendent was simply because of the availability of office facilities without consulting the PAMB members. An affirmed Rubber Plantation Establishment, a portion of which (1,000 hectares) is within the buffer zone by DENR was denied approval by PAMB.

· Passage of RA 8978. “An Act Declaring the Mt. Kitanglad Range . . . as a Protected Area and its Peripheral Areas as Buffer Zone…” This has made the MKRNP a full-fledged protected area and it will strengthen the implementation of the NIPAS Act at the site level. It also recognizes the ancestral domain claim of the IPs.

· Mechanisms to Broaden IPs and Tenured Migrants Role in PA Management. Several approaches were adopted to expand the role of IPs and tenured migrants in the management of the park. This was done through the institutionalization of PAMB subcommittee on IP and PO concerns. The Tribal Affairs, Tenured Migrant and Fund Review Committees were created.

In 1993, the Interim PAMB reactivated the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGV), which was originally formed in 1982 as a response of the IPs to the degradation of the forests after the rampant forest fires that hit the mountain range. The formation of KGVs has basis in the customary practices of IPs. There are now 300 tribal guards of MKRNP. DENR Central Office has deputized 184 from these tribal guards as Special Deputy Environment and Natural Resources Officers.

The residents of the PA and Buffer zone are also organized into People Organizations (POs) for effective and sustained participation through a culture-based organizing strategy. The strategy focused on reviving and strengthening the cultural integrity of the local communities so as to mobilize them for the protection of the park. A total of 76 POs have been organized and have been federated into nine federations. This is incompliance to the requirements from CPPAP.

· Council of Elders. The Council of Elders (CoE) is an acknowledgment that MKRNP is first and foremost a sacred territory of the Talaandig-Higaonon-Bukidnon tribes besides being a state declared protected area. The tribe’s CoE is an emerging institution that is emerging that may influence the future and development of MKRNP. Its presence provides leadership direction to the Kitanglad Guards Volunteers and the tribal guards. The CoE members act as models in applying customary laws in terms of rites or cultural practices to tribal justice system, mediation of conflicts and in other cycle of social and economic realities where ritual performance is essential.

Moreover, the CoE has strong influence in dealing with the POs in the villages and the buffer zones of MKRNP, They are partners in the regular monitoring and supervision of all POs implementing the NDLAs projects using a combined parameters on cultural and project related criteria in their monitoring activities. The ten CoE members also plays a pivotal role in facilitation the formation of the municipal-wide federations out of the 76 POs formed in the process of developing NDLA Projects under the CPPAP.

· Strengthening the Tenure Status of IPs and Tenured Migrants. A total of six Community-Based

Forest Management Agreements (CBFMAs) were issued by the PAMB benefiting 1,200 buffer zone occupants in the MKRNP. Majority of these beneficiaries ( 96% ) are IPs.

· Area Management Plan. The approved Area Management Plan of MKRNP is a major milestone for the stakeholders of the protected area. This document serves as a guide in the implementation of programs and projects in the PA for the next 25 years. It has considered the recommendations of IPs

as reflected in the results of their cultural zoning workshops. The CoE members were tapped to disseminate the salient issues and concerns of the plan and feedback were taken and reconciled.

5.4 Problems and Issues of MKRNP-PAMB

The following issues and concerns haunt the operation of MKRNP (NORDECO-DENR, 1998):

· Failure to document approved written operating systems and procedures that will institutionalize the current MKRNP-PAMB practices and ensure that its decisions are consistent with the spirit of NIPAS Act and its corresponding rules and regulations.

· The Indigenous Peoples (IPs) representation is only about 15 percent of the total board composition.

The Executive Committee (ExeCom) composed of 17 members has likewise only two belonging to the IPs.

· Confusion with regards to the interpretation of the NIPAS Act vis-à-vis the Local Government Code of 1991. This is aggravated because majority of the members of both the NKRNP-PAMB and its ExeCom are local government officials. The issues as to where the geographical jurisdiction of local government ends and that of the protected area office begins and how they complement have to be resolved.

· The weak and quality participation of IP representatives in MKRNP-PAMB activities. The decentralization of protected area management to the board has enabled various sectors, such as the PO and IP representatives to participate directly in decision-making. What was once the exclusive domain of the DENR has become a shared responsibility among local government units, local communities and other stakeholders. The problem is the quality participation of the so-called communities. It seems that they are just nominal members of the board. They accounts for 49% of the 59 membership but review of the minutes of the PAMB meeting their role is confined to leading the invocation and once in a while voicing their concern for the need of Free and Prior Informed Consent.

· Unclear aspects of the NIPAS Act and its implementing rules and regulations in relation to the General Management Planning Strategy. Questions relating to the technical process of evolving the management plan considering the limited human resources in both agencies as well as the limited information and maps available have been raised both by PASu and Protected Areas and Wildlife Division (PAWD) of DENR-X.

· No clear mechanism to ensure sustainability of the KGV system. Tribal guards require financial and logistical support to be effective in their functions. The deputization such as para-legal training, etc. becomes enormous especially when one considers that the intention is to establish a network of KGVs in all 28 villages of the protected area.

· Local development plans and initiatives are inconsistent with biodiversity conservation. A provincial program on high value vegetable crops in Impasug-ong, Lantapan, Libona, Manolo Fortich and Talakag is inconsistent with biodiversity conservation and shows clearly the need to better coordinate the protected area management planning with the local development planning process. The need to integrate biodiversity conservation in local development plans is also shown by the fact that in the Regional Development Plan of Northern Mindanao – X, there is no explicit reference to protected area management or biodiversity conservation. Further, the mechanism for reconciling the management zone identified in the Management Plan with cultural zones is yet to be defined.

· Absence of tenurial security/non-recognition of ancestral domain claim. One of the objectives of the NIPAS Act is to confirm the tenure of IPs. This seems to be difficult to achieve given the legal, perceptual, political and cultural barriers and issues that need to be resolved. The CoE maintains that the PAMB has failed to recognize its role in strengthening and institutionalizing the IPs participation into the sustainable and effective management of the park. It also deliberately failed to operationalize Section 13 of the NIPAS Act concerning the recognition of the ancestral domain rights of the indigenous communities (MASAI, 1997). This issue is also the root cause of the perceived relational problems of the Talaandig Tribes and the DENR.

· No fee mechanism for infrastructure development inside PA in special use and multiple use zones.

The prescription for a standard fee system for the MKRNP’s summit users will enhance the PA’s sustainability.

· Inappropriate farming systems and unregulated land use. Buffer zone occupants are engaged in high-value crop cultivation in steep slopes. Most of them lack proper soil and water conservation techniques. This is compounded by population pressure and growing scarcity of agricultural lands in the lowland. Moreover, the government seems unable to enforce existing land use policy.

· Insufficient utilization of existing capacity and information in the region. Special skills, knowledge and broaden experience are required by specific impact studies. The experience in impact assessment has been concentrated on consultancy firms hired by project proponents to do their project EIA. The networking efforts of both the PASu and the HNGO have not been maximized to address specific needs for the management of MKRNP.

· Un-institutionalized PENRO-CENRO-PASU-PAWD relationships and support structure. Responsibility for management decisions relating to the operation of the MKRNP is not confined to the PASu. Certain functions and responsibilities are still lodged with the PENRO and at the field level with the CENRO. In the management planning, PAWD takes the lead particularly in relation to technical support.

· The absence of an organizing framework suited to situations and complexities of the PAs. It has been argued that in the Philippine setting there is a limited experience in organizing work in the context of PA management and biodiversity conservation. This is compounded by the fact that PA residents already had high expectations of the livelihood projects even before the organizing process could start. The education process, which is the foundation for successful development of projects, almost became an afterthought with more focus given on technical aspects.

· The absence of an integrated approach to the problem of rural poverty in the PA. Livelihood projects alone are not a sufficient response to the problem of rural poverty manifested in the residents’ critical dependence on forest resources, exacerbated by the absence of social services and support infrastructure, low literacy level, cultural disintegration and absence of tenurial security. External donors are not keen on investing in programs that have no direct economic returns. Most of them are biased towards concrete projects and not on integrated development programs.

· Disregard of People’s Equity in NDLA’s Production Grants. The CPPAP Livelihood component winds up this year and its indicators of success is tied up in terms of economic viability, that is, how much accrues to lending institutions and the Integrated Protected Area Fund (IPAF). This view disregards the non-monetary contribution of the community. These are their demonstrated willingness to participate in site protection and rehabilitation work. PA residents individually or in-group have been active in patrolling and monitoring illegal activities. They are also active in implementing anti-biopiracy measures, as well as, in guarding the park against visitors who have no permits.

· Perceived erroneous framework of the NDLA Guidelines. Implementers of the NDLA Project feel that the framers of the guidelines ignored the fact that the project deals with beneficiaries who have no experience s in complying with many formal requisites such as accomplishing formal documents and doing bank transaction. The guidelines seem to have in mind POs with a good track record in managing socio-economic projects. This can be implied in the following requisites for PO who wish to avail of loans: credit worthiness, project of return of investments, savings mobilization experiences, and project, organizational and financial management capabilities.

· Budgetary Constraints. The MKRNP-BAMP has approved the Protected Area Management Plan year under Resolution No. 134. This document operationalizes the Mount Kitanglad Area Act.

Unfortunately, sustained sufficient funding is not assured for the Management Plan implementation due largely to the country’s widening deficit.

5.5 Cultural Violation of DENR and other Stakeholders in MKRNP

Just very recently, an issue surfaced pertaining to strain relationship between the IPs and the various stakeholders of the protected area. This is on the issue of cultural violations made by the different actors, such as the DENR, PaSu, KIN, LGU and other stakeholders. This has been rooted on the alleged failure of the board to act on the unified Ancestral Domain Claim of the three tribes of MKRNP.

The alleged failure of the PAMB to act accordingly on the unified claim made the IP representative to the PAMB resign as member last year and as president of the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, Inc (KIN), the host NGO for the protected area. If one has to review the performance of the PAMB with regard to tenurial improvement nothing substantial has been accomplished on the ancestral domain claim of the IP that comprised 90% of the PA residents.

The summary of issues rose against the DENR on the violation of the culture and rights of the tribe on Ancestral Domain within the MKRNP are based on the following six counts (Saway, 2001):

1. Issuing permits and implementing projects such as CBFM inside the ancestral territory of the IPs of the park without the free and prior informed consent of the concerned communities.

2. Transgressing and destroying the dignity and integrity of the cultural traditions and leadership of the tribe by obstructing the programs, projects and initiatives of the Talaandig community towards the protection, promotion and preservation of their living cultures and traditions;

3. Manipulating and deliberately destroying the unity of the tribes in accordance with their cultures and traditions;

4. Invading and slaying the cultural personality and identity of the tribes.

5. Destroying the cooperation and support of the tribes in the protection, conservation and management of the environment; and

6. Transgressing and destroying the image and integrity of the leadership of the tribes responsible in promoting peace and development among IPs in the county and promoting advocacy for biodiversity conservation, environmental protection and management.


6.1 Conclusion

Since 1993, the MKRNP-PAMB has proactively initiated strategies to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. It has one of the most active and highly motivated PAMB ExeCom in the country (NORDECO-DENR, 1998). To date, it has passed and approved 171 resolutions. Two of these resolutions were subsequently adopted by the DENR and became Department Administrative Orders (DAOs). DAO No. 96-08 declared “…. Moratorium on the Issuance of IFMA within and adjoining protected area” and DAO No. 96-28 “Requirements for the Deputization of Barangay Volunteers and Members of the Tribal Communities as Field Officers within the Protected Areas.

Other initiatives of the board for the protected of the park include development of strategies that conforms to the culture of the Indigenous Peoples. It mobilized the alimaong or the tribal guards to ensure the protection of the PA. The Alimaong revived the traditional concept of protection and promote community empowerment. The DENR deputized these tribal guards numbering to 184 as Special Deputy Environment and Natural Resources Officers with authority to perform functions duly recognized by the DENR such as to confiscate items harvested from the protected area without MKRNP-PAMB permit, investigate activities conducted within, and demand permits from people entering the area.

The board has also institutionalized the Council of Elders. They are categorized into two groups: Tribal Chieftains, which is composed of 26 datus and two baes. The other group is composed of 168 Cultural Experts. The primary responsibility of the Council is to reinforce park management by applying customary laws in dealing with violators especially if they are local residents. The offenders would be made to undergo ritual and sign an agreement to refrain from committing future violations, and rehabilitate area that they destroy. The ritual, witnessed by the entire community, served as a deterrent or discourages would-be violators.

In project monitoring and evaluation, aside from the Project Monitoring and Evaluation Team

(PM&E) Teams, the Kitanglad Council of Elders Monitoring Team (KCLIM) has also been organized to do monitoring as well as promote advocacy for the promotion of the IPs culture and Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) in non-destructive livelihood activities.

The Community Development and Community Organizing (CDCO) process employed in MKRNP is culture-based. This is anchored on the following: a) culture-sensitive, b) anchored on community welfare and aspirations, c) based on long-term partnership with the people for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, and d) borne out of the actual experiences in community organizing. This community organizing strategy hinges on the revival and traditional leadership structure and made it functional to reinforce customary laws that complement national resource management.

In the implementation of the NDLAs around the protected area, the IKS in agro-forestry has been given due importance. IPs ritual and practices are incorporated in the promotion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Further, it is used as one of the indicators of sustainable NDLAs Program for MKRNP.

Finally, the enactment of RA 8978 last year is a demonstration that the people of Bukidnon are one in pushing the preservation of the protected areas in the province. But the struggle to sustain the efforts looms in the horizon. These include the grant of ancestral domain rights to the IP claimants, financial support to the Council of Elders to ensure the upholding the cultural agenda and legacy of the park, full recognition of the cultural and traditional zones identified by the IPs in the spirit of PA management practices, development of a financing mechanism for private sector investment in the PA management, and financing the implementation of the MKRNP’s Area Management Plan.

6.2 Lessons Learned

The initial lessons learned from the experiences of the MKRNP-PAMB roles in shaping the direction of the Integrated Protected Areas System (IPAS) include the following (Sumbalan, 1999): First, park management can be implemented successfully by changing the locus of decision-making from national agencies to local levels. Second, decentralization of park management area management is not mainly the domain of local governments but should provide for participation of stakeholders and implementation of complementary projects. Third, devolving responsibilities is accompanied by the devolution of decision-making authority. Lastly, there is no ready-made template in park area management. The MKRNP-PAMB experiences demonstrate that sensitivity and recognition of cultural tradition and local knowledge as well as flexibility to negotiate with various stakeholders can sustain many of its initiatives.

6.3 Recommendations

1. There is a need to pool together resources and expertise of various agencies to address the problem of rural impoverishment. Other agencies and donors have to be tapped to invest in literacy, health and gender programs, for example, to complement the NDLA currently pursued in the PA. Further, the need to review the CPPAP policies or other similar program intended to carry out livelihood activities for upland communities.

2. There is a need to institute the necessary strategies to solve the identified constraints within the PAMB. These include the issues of LGU dominance, non-gender sensitivity, limited participation of indigenous people and women. This is compounded with the quality of participation of the IPs in the decision-making processes of the board. It might be of help to allow more democratization by giving the chair of some of the committees to IPs and or village chieftains (Punong Barangays).

Another doable is to create mechanisms for wider participation and equitable decision-making. For example, before each PAMB meeting, the Council of Elders should meet to level off on their position on certain issues. Given their economic situations, they should receive funding assistance for this purpose.

3. There is a need to address protected management problems associated with the major human activities in the protected area. These include the establishment of permanent high value commercial crop farms within or near the buffer zone, the continuous expansion of small-scale farming by opening up forest or scrub land for cultivation (kaingin), and small-scale logging for household consumption and selling to outside buyers.

4. There is a need to popularize the protected area management plan through social mobilization and advocacy to draw shared management of resources with the local communities, local government units, national line agencies and other stakeholders.

5. There is a need to document the approved operating systems and procedures institutionalizing the current PAMB practices to ensure that its decisions are consistent with the spirit of NIPAS Act and its corresponding rules and regulations. This documentation will serve as framework for future PAMBs and similar bodies towards protected area management.

6. There is an urgent need to prepare the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 8978, “An Act Declaring the Mt. Kitanglad Range a protected area.

7. There is a need to check the fund driven process of organizing NDLAs POs. There seems to be no sustained efforts to strengthen the linkage between the POs economic endeavor (NDLA) with other concerns (culture, biodiversity conservation, empowerment). Perhaps this explains in part the conflict that emerged at the community level.

8. There is a need to define the roles of NGOs. The non-government organizations in the PAMB have not been active in terms of advocacy, a role expected of them. Even members of the KIN consortium have no concrete involvement in PA management except for their designated roles in the consortium.

9. Finally, the immediate resolution of the problems between the Talaandig Tribes headed by Datu Migketay Victorino Saway and the DENR to sustain whatever gains in the partnership towards protected area management between the IP, local and national governments and other stakeholders.


1. Buenavista, Gladys and Ian Coxhead (2001). “Implementing a Participatory Natural Resources

Research Program.” in Ian Coxhead and Gladys Buenavista, eds., Seeking Sustainability: Challenges of agricultural development and environmental management in a Philippine watershed. Los Banos: PCARRD.

2. Cairns, M (1995). Ancestral Domain and the National Park Protection: Mutually Supportive Paradigms? A Case Study of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park, Bukidnon, Philippines. Paper

presented at the ”Buffer Zone Management and Agroforestry Workshop”, August 8-11, 1995 at

Central Mindanao University, Musuan, Bukidnon.

2. Canoy Ma. Easterluna S., Marcos C. Mordeno and Roy S. Magbanua. Defining the Role of Livelihood Programs in Protected Area Management: The Experience in Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, Talamdan, Vol.5 No.1 March 2000.

3. Garrity, D.P., Amoroso, V.B., Koffa, S., Catacutan, D., Buenavista, G., Fay, C., and Dar, W. (2001). The Interface Between Poverty and Protection: The Challenge in Integrated Natural Resource Management. Manila: ICRAF.

4. MASAI (1997). Report on CPPAP-MKRNP Evaluation.

5. National Statistics Office (NSO) (2001). Census of Population and Housing 2000: Highlights- Northern Mindanao. Manila: NSO.

6. NORDECO-DENR (1998) Technical Report. Integrating conservation and development in protected area management in Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park, the Philippines, NORDECO,

Copenhagen, and DENR, Manila.

7. Opena, Ludivina (1998). The Bukidnon Tribe of North-Central Mindanao at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Unpublished manuscript.

8. Project Implementing Unit (PIU) 2000. Protected Area Management Plan-MKRNP.

9. Republic of the Philippines (1992). Republic Act No. 7586, “NIPAS ACT, Manila: PAWB-DENR.

10. Rivera, Leonilo R. (1999). “Government Laws and Policies Affecting Protected Area Management” in Teoxon, Grace, eds., Protected Area Management in Mindanao. VSO-MEF.

11. Saway (2001).Personal Communication addressed to DENR Officers.

12. Sumbalan (2001). Conservation and Management of Watershed and Natural Resources: Issues in the Philippines, the Bukidnon Experience.” in Ian Coxhead and Gladys Buenavista, eds., Seeking Sustainability: Challenges of agricultural development and environmental management in a Philippine watershed. Los Banos: PCARRD.


Vol. 6, No. 3, Third Quarter 2001

By Vel J. Suminguit, Erlinda Burton and Easterluna S. Canoy


The Philippine government recognizes the critical importance of protecting and maintaining bio-diversity for he present and future generations. This recognition is formally articulated in Section 2 of Republic Act 7586, therwise known as “The National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992”, or NIPAS Act. At the ame time, the Philippine government recognizes and promotes the rights of the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) or Indigenous Peoples (IPs), many of whom are occupants of areas that are protected under he NIPAS Act. The State’s recognition of the ICCs/IPs rights is embodied in the Philippine Constitution (Art. II, ec. 22) and reiterated in Section 13 of the NIPAS Act. This recognition is further given substance by the enactment f important legislation, Republic Act 8371, or Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), and Republic Act 8978, or he Mt. Kitanglad Range Protected Area Act (MKRPA). The passage of IPRA into law was a major victory for he ICCs/IPs who, for several decades, had struggled for the recognition of their rights over their ancestral domain. Both NIPAS and IPRA aim at improving the well-being and livelihood of the upland, small parcel, land holders hile maintaining ecological diversity and stability.

On November 9, 2000, former President Joseph Estrada signed the MKRPA, making Mt. Kitanglad the econd site among the protected areas with a specific act of local application that was approved by Congress. This ct stipulates in Sec. 8(a), “the rights of the indigenous peoples to govern ancestral lands and domain in the protected areas,” which includes, among other things, full recognition of the right of the IPs to their ancestral domain. It also stipulates that, “Traditional property regimes exercised by the indigenous cultural communities, in ccordance with their customary laws, shall govern the relationship of all individuals within their communities with espect to land and resources found within ancestral lands.”

It is in this context of multiple government policy objectives – preserving bio-diversity, recognizing ICCs/IPs rights, and improving small parcel land holder livelihood – that this study is conducted.

In the province of Bukidnon, nine groups of ICCs have already been granted Certificates of Ancestral omain Claim (CADC). The processing of their applications was completed in a timely fashion primarily because heir claims were not within a protected area. Applications by the indigenous cultural communities within and around the Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP) for such a tenurial instrument have not been granted inspite of the existence of NIPAS Act and IPRA that explicitly recognize the right of the ICC/IPs to their ancestral domain. The key question is “What prevents government authorities from granting CADC to ancestral right claimants?” Is there a need for better procedures to be outlined within the scope of the NIPAS Act and IPRA to deal with ancestral claims within and around a national park or protected area? Do the present procedures provide clear provisions for the process that will lead to complementary management approaches between ancestral domain laws and protected area laws? Do the NIPAS Act and IPRA have guidelines for the conduct of consultations with local communities? What is the best way to propose and determine ancestral domain claims within the protected area? Are there guidelines spelled out as to which law should prevail when there are conflicting land use patterns within the protected area and ancestral domain? Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park provides a unique case study to answer these questions because it is both an ancestral domain claim of the Talaandig-Higaonon-Bukidnon tribe and at the same time a protected area under the NIPAS Act.

Based on the above questions, this study has the following objectives:
1. to review the process of proposing and determining ancestral domain claims near and within a protected area.
2. to identify problems that have emerged in the Kitanglad context and their implications for land use management policy reform.

This study used key informant interviews, focus group discussion, and participant observation to collect the primary data. The interviews and focus group discussion were tape recorded, transcribed, and translated into English. The key informant interviews were characterized by interviews with individual datu, mayors, officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Kitanglad Integrated NGOs (KIN).
The interview with each datu was primarily aimed at generating data on the ethnohistory of the Talaandig-Higaonon-Bukidnon, specifically their ethnic origin, sense of territoriality, relationship with other ethnic groups, land use history and natural resource utilization.

Mayors were interviewed to generate information on their Comprehensive Municipal Land Use Plan (CMLUP) and their views on how to propose an ancestral domain claim within the protected area. It took several months to complete the interviews of the mayors because some of them were out of town every time we went to interview them.

Interviewing the Project Coordinator of KIN, the Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) of the DENR, and the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Commissioner, Victorino Saway, was equally difficult because they were often not available when we went to see them. The purpose of interviewing the PASu and KIN was to develop an understanding of the methods they employed to come up with the Natural Resource Management and Development Plan for Mt. Kitanglad. The objective of interviewing the NCIP Commissioner was to get his view on how to proceed with the proposal for an ancestral domain claim within the protected area and how he would envision the management of the area once the CADC application is granted. Two senior DENR officials were asked to share their experience of processing ancestral domain claim applications in non-protected and protected areas. The provincial planning and development officer of Bukidnon was also interviewed in order to ascertain the nature and scope of the provincial government’s Natural Resource Development and Management Plan.

There was a need to get a better understanding of what the datu want to do with Mt. Kitanglad once they are granted a CADC under the NIPAS Act) or a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) under the IPRA. Thus, a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) was held on October 25, 1998 at VGL, Songco, Lantapan, Bukidnon. Fifteen datu attended the FGD. The ages of those attending ranged from 33 to 71 years old. The number of years of being a datu ranged from two (2) to 35 years. Aside from wanting to know how the datu would like to manage Mt. Kitanglad, the FGD included a discussion on the status of their CADC/CADT application, natural resource utilization, and land use plan.

Brief Social History of The Talaandig-Higaonon

This section describes the social history of the indigenous communities living on and around Mt. Kitanglad, specifically the Talaandig and Higaonon groups. The description of their ethnic origin is derived from the result of interviews of several datu and from ethnographic studies. The combination of these two sources of information provides a clearer and more coherent description of their social history than relying on either of the sources individually.

Ethnic Origin
The indigenous inhabitants around Mt. Kitanglad are known collectively as Bukidnon, a Bisayan word for “people from the mountain”. However, those indigenous communities north of Malaybalay down to the province of Misamis Oriental identify themselves as Higaonon. Those indigenous communities south of Malaybalay, specifically those communities around Lantapan and Talakag identify themselves as Talaandig. There are residents around Mt. Kitanglad who simply identify themselves as Bukidnon. Using self-ascription and description of outsiders, it is unclear whether the indigenous occupants of Mt. Kitanglad belong to three distinct tribes or one tribe with three different names.

From an anthropological perspective, the indigenous communities around Mt. Kitanglad belong to one ethnolinguistic group. They speak the Binukid language, which is a northern branch of the Manobo language stock, with minor dialectal variations especially in the inflections and lexicons.

Both the Higaonon and Talaandig people believe that they belong to the same ethnic group. The Higaonon claimed that their ancestors were coastal dwellers and were the original inhabitants of Misamis Oriental. However, the arrival of the dumagat (people from over the sea) during the Spanish times encouraged the natives to move up to the plateaus or uplands, which now belong mostly to Bukidnon province. According to the Talaandig tradition, most of Bukidnon was the land of the Talaandig, the people of the slopes (andig). When the coastal dwellers moved to the uplands, the Talaandig referred to them as “Higaonon” because the latter came from down the shore (higa). Thus, the Higaonon were people from the coastal area who went up to the mountains. Both groups share a common culture and language.

The origin of the Talaandig and Higaonon is recounted in their epic tales called the olaging (the story being chanted), which has several versions. The common theme of the epic tales focuses on the brotherhood of the four tribes in Mindanao—Manobo, Talaandig, Maranao and Maguindanao.

According to the Talaandig version, their ancestors were sons of a powerful datu named Agbibilin who sent them away to seek their fortune. The son who went eastward became the ancestor of the Manobo; the one who went to the area around Lake Lanao became the progenitor of the Maranao; the son who went down the southern region became the forebear of the Maguindanao, while the youngest son decided to stay with his father and became the ancestor of the Talaandig and Higaonon.

Origin of Mt. Kitanglad

It is a common belief of the Talaandig and Higaonon that the great flood that occurred during the time of Noah almost submerged the mountain that was thought to be the highest in the region. From a distance, the partially submerged trees at the summit of the mountain looked like Tanglad (Lemon grass). Hence, Agbibilin, the founding ancestor of the four tribal groups named the mountain Kitanglad.

Topography of Mt. Kitanglad

Mt. Kitanglad is the highest mountain of Bukidnon province. It is centrally located and thus dominates the Bukidnon plateaus. The Board of Technical Surveys and Maps (1961) estimated Kitanglad’s elevation at 9,639 feet above sea level. The Philippine Volcano Office assessed Mt. Kitanglad as a dormant volcano along with the other high peaks in southern Bukidnon — Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Tangkulan. All of these contributed to the volcanic origin of Bukidnon. Its soil developed from igneous rocks and lahar flows.

The drainage systems of Bukidnon are derived from the slopes of Mt. Kitanglad Range wherein most of the streams flow northward into Macajalar Bay through the Cagayan and Tagoloan Rivers. Water from the slopes of Mt Kitanglad, the mountains of the Kalatungan Range, and the mountains of northeast and of east Bukidnon flow into the Pulangi, Muleta and Maladugao Rivers.

Mt. Kitanglad and other mountain ranges in Bukidnon were, until recently, covered with primary forests that are usually “mixed forests” with clinging vines and epiphytes (Madigan, 1969:56). The climate and soil conditions favor growth of trees on the plateaus and mountains. The older Talaandig recalled that several decades ago before the advent of logging in Lantapan, the area where the tulogan (literally “a sleeping place” also meaning “the center or place where sleeping quarters were built”) in Songco is now located, was densely forested with Lawaan trees.

The forest was the source from which they filled their needs for such things as medicinal plants, honey, rattan, and other forest products.

Territory of the Talaandig/Higaonon

The indigenous communities, specifically the Talaandig and Higaonon, claimed Mt. Kitanglad as their sacred “temple” and ancestral home. The Talaandig epic tells us that after the culmination of inter-ethnic conflict among the Talaandig, Maguindanao, Manobo, and Maranao, territorial limits or boundaries were established. The boundaries were usually rivers or the peak of the mountain ranges, locally called tagaytay.

The territorial area of the Talaandig and Higaonon was composed of several markers that were established by the datu of the past. These markers are still respected today. The marker for Tagoloan is located in Cagayan de Oro, in what is now a sugarcane field; on the Lanao side, a Durian tree and rattan vine were planted along the Bayog River; and on the Agusan side, the marker is the Kibalabag River.

The territory of the Talaandig around Lantapan is bounded by the Manupali River, which separates them from the Manobo territory. Moreover, there is also a boundary in Barangay Barandias, located in Pangantucan municipality that separates the Talaandig, Manobo, and Maguindanao. In Malaybalay, Bukidnon, the boundary of the Talaandig runs from Homangsil creek up to the Ipoon creek and continues up to Sumilao where the Higaonon live.

The mountains in Manolo Fortich are inhabited by the Higaonon; while the Manobo group (Matigsalug) are distributed in Maramag, Bukidnon.

The delineation of the different boundaries that separated the different tribes–Talaandig-Higaonon-Bukidnon, Manobo, Maranao and Maguindanao– can be amplified by the story of the planting of the Durian tree. The planting of the Durian Tree took place at the culmination of a period of intense conflict and resulted in the peaceful co-existence of the four tribes. The tale relates that the four brothers, who became the forebears of the four tribes, were constantly warring with each other over territorial boundaries. Because of the devastating consequences on the lives of their people, the supreme datu commanded the four groups to settle their disputes by delineating the boundaries for each tribe. Tikalaan, was the designated meeting place where the Tampuda ho Balagon ritual (peace pact) was performed. The warring groups conducted the peace pact by holding on to the opposite ends of the rattan vine. The officiating datu then cut the rattan in the middle symbolizing the cessation of the struggle between the groups. Today, the Durian tree no longer exists. However, an old house in Barangay Barabyas, Tikalaan served for many years as a monument of the pact that was made on that site. With the advent of the Americans, this building was destroyed. However, the memory of the exact place where the delineation of boundaries took place, remains until today.

Inter-ethnic Relations

The Jesuit Letters relate that the natives of Bukidnon — Talaandig and Higaonon — were engaged in intertribal warfare with the Manobo, the Maranao and Maguindanao. The conflict was over territorial boundaries and trespassing into the Talaandig and Higaonon tulogan. The relationship between the Talaandig and the Maranao and Maguindanao tribes was burdened with hostility because the latter frequently raided the Talaandig communities for children and women who could be sold as slaves. They became mortal enemies. One account narrates that in one of the encounters with the Maguindanao that ended in Kalamayan Mountain the Talaandig warriors killed the Maguindanao leader. The defeat of the Maguindanao was attributed to magical powers the Talaandig warriors received when they performed a ritual before the battle. Those powers moved them to “practically fly like birds” as they pursued the Maguindanao and drove them back to the borders of Kibawe.

Inter-ethnic conflict among these tribes took the lives of many of their constituents. Believing also that their ancestors or forbears were related, the leaders finally decided that it was time to stop all animosity. Thus the Tampuda ho Balagon or peace pact was performed to bring peace to these four tribes.

Such peace pacts are performed even until today by the tribal people of the area. One type is known as pandial. The descendants of the factions who fought so bitterly in the past perform this ritual peace pact. The other type of ritual peace pact is called lidoay (root word lido, meaning “conflict”). This ritual is often performed by the descendants who are not certain if there had been conflict between their forefathers in the past. The conduct of these ritual peace pacts gives assurance to all of lasting peace and further assurance that no one would become sick if they inter-marry.

Talaandig During the Spanish Colonial Period

The Talaandig and the Higaonon were distributed throughout Bukidnon before the advent of the Spanish missionaries. The Talaandig, according to the datus, were a semi-nomadic tribe. They roamed around Lantapan (specifically Songco), Malaybalay, and Talakag. All of these are situated on the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad. They established tulogan where the datu resided and the families put up their domiciles.

The Spanish contact with the Bukidnon did not begin in earnest until the mid-19th century, although there was sporadic contact with them in the 18th century through the Spanish administration of Misamis Oriental Province. The Recollect Missionaries, who established their mission in Cagayan de Oro, did venture into the upper plateaus of Bukidnon. However, it was in the1870’s, when the Jesuit missionaries returned to Mindanao to continue the proselytization of the indigenous communities that continuous contact was made with the indigenous people of the area. Their return also paved the way for Spanish government to bring in migrants from the lowlands to settle the sparsely populated province.

The Jesuit missionaries found that the groups of indigenous inhabitants had supra-local leaders and that they resided in scattered settlements of interrelated families. These settlements were presided over by tulogan chiefs and a number of lesser datus (Edgerton, 1982). The missionaries established mission stations around the tulogans and attempted to convert the natives to Christianity. Many of these stations became pueblos or towns and were linked together by the trail, which meandered from Cagayan de Oro to Agusan town then up onto the plateau and South to Linabo and Maramag (Ibid). The names of these pueblos were changed during the American occupation.

The government started opening roads from Cagayan de Oro to Malaybalay using native labor. One account of a key informant relates that the great grandparents of present local residents were forced to provide free labor to build the road along the Mangima canyon. Work teams were formed from each of the villages and each work team would work for one straight week and then be replaced by a work team from another village. Any person who failed to report for work was punished with 25 strokes of a horse whip. Because of the hard work and physical punishment, many residents evacuated with their families to the mountainous region of Bukidnon. There they established their settlement far away from Spanish domination.

Toward the end of the 19th century, some Spanish peninsulares came to Bukidnon. One of them was Manolo Fortich. He soon controlled much of the land in the province. The Spanish government had planned to open up a road from Cagayan de Oro to Malaybalay to facilitate the journey of the missionaries and traders to bring their goods and merchandise to Bukidnon. One account relates that when the road from Cagayan de Oro to Malaybalay was opened, Fortich declared to the natives that he would bring trucks to Bukidnon so that the farmers could transport their produce to Cagayan de Oro. However, this did not materialize, instead he conducted an ocular survey of the lands of Bukidnon and was able to choose an area for ranching in Dabong-dabong (now called Lurogan, a barangay of Valencia). He employed some Talaandig and Higaonon to serve as caretakers of his ranch and to hunt deer for him.

The Spanish government, established in Malaybalay, attempted to subdue the indigenous communities through their colonial policies. The government suppressed their indigenous way of life, including their customary laws, and forced them to pay the cedula or community tax certificate. This oppression led to conflict between the Spanish colonizers and the tribal people. This conflict was, however, resolved through the intervention of the Jesuit missionaries.

According to one account, the Talaandig and Higaonon were gathered by the Spanish priests in one center called Tangkulan (now the Poblacion of the Municipality of Manolo Fortich). There they were given lectures on sedentary farming and the need to use draft animals. They were told to plant corn instead of relying on the forest up in the mountain for their sustenance. The Spaniards believed that the forests could not provide security for their own livelihood. Thus, the indigenous people were taught how to farm using the plow and draft animals. At the same time they were converted to Roman Catholicism by the missionaries. Some hispanicized natives were used by the Spaniards to convince others to obey the rules and regulation of the Church and the Spanish Government. The indigenous people resented this foreign intrusion into their lives, yet they had to follow for fear of being severely punished.

Land Use Tradition

The datu informants recalled that their grandparents used to tell them that the surroundings of Mt. Kitanglad were heavily covered with lush vegetation. The mountainside teemed with Lawaan trees, other indigenous plant species and wild animals. But this lush vegetation started to dwindle upon the advent of large scale logging in Bukidnon.

The forest was the source of life for the Talaandig-Higaonon-Bukidnon because it served all of their needs: wild animals for food; medicinal plants to cure illnesses; timber for house construction; and rattan to make baskets and other crafts. They chose an area within the forest as hunting reserve. The wild animals were allowed to propagate and multiply. Hunters were selective and conservative in the numbers of animals that they killed.
The Talaandig also observed customary laws concerning the cutting of trees to be used for construction of their houses. Any standing tree without leaves, e.g. the layong tree, or standing trees that have leaves but with the tip of the main stem (called buklo) is broken should not be used for building a house lest the occupants–adults and children would die. Moreover, trees that had fallen to the ground due to strong winds were not to be used for house construction because it was believed that the house would likely be blown away later by strong wind.

The datus claimed that their forebears had practiced forest conservation. They had their ways of forest resource conservation and management. One of the forest resources that the natives commonly used was rattan. The fruit was eaten and the seeds thrown to the ground. This resulted in fast, natural regeneration.
The variety of rattan usually collected from the forest is called Singyan or sometimes Abeka. It is usually harvested when it reaches a size of around 1.25 inches in diameter. Smaller sizes of rattan vine were harvested for household use only. It was the customary rule of the natives not to collect more than what they need. Because of the natural regeneration and the limited harvesting the effect on the environment was minimal.

Datu informants narrate that, in the past, parents taught their children about ecological symbiosis. Although their knowledge was not “scientific” or their teaching methods “modern” concerning what takes place in the forest community, they were able to transfer the wisdom of centuries to their children and grandchildren. They taught the children that trees must be protected from damage because they pump nutrients from below the ground. They taught them that when the fruits fall from the branches into the ground, they decompose and mix with the soil, which then becomes more fertile; that the maggots feast on dead animals, while the bees gather nectar from the flowers of trees to make honey. Hence, by protecting trees, many life forms are likewise protected.

Their customary laws prescribe that the people should not destroy the mountain because this is their place of worship. Conservation of the forest, according to the datu, would bring them good life because the resources are maintained. It also ensures the future generation of a rich natural resource.

Swidden farming was the common form of land use in the past and still persists today in the hinterlands. Before a swidden was opened in the forest, usually along mountain slopes, a ritual was performed for the spirits living in the area. During the ritual a few coins and beads were placed on the spot where the crops were to be planted. A chicken was offered as a sacrifice to appease the spirits whose abode would be disturbed.

The swidden farm did not have specific size but, rather, it depended on the individual’s ability to clear the area and care for the crops, and the needs of the household for food. On the average, a swidden farm was one hectare.

The men were usually responsible for opening an area by cutting the undergrowth, felling big trees and pulling the weeds. The cuttings were left to dry for some weeks after which they were burned just a day before the rains come. A ‘back fire’ burning technique was used to control the burning of the larger area. Small, controllable fires were started in a circle starting from the outer edges. As the main area of the field began to burn the fire would go in toward the middle of the field until it ran out of material to burn.

Participation of women was required during planting. The men dug a hole in the ground using a pointed stick while the women dropped the seeds. Moreover, the women were responsible for planting secondary crops such as camote (sweet potato) and gabi (taro) among others. They were also the ones to weed around the plants. The Spanish missionaries had introduced crops to the indigenous population of Bukidnon such as corn, abaca, cacao, and tobacco (Edgerton, 1982), which were added to the inventory of crops planted. Both men and women harvested the crops with older children helping.

The swidden was left to fallow after one or two cropping seasons to prevent soil erosion and to allow the soil to recuperate and regenerate itself. The Talaandig would return to the same field only after seven years when the field had regenerated its vegetative cover. Sometimes, even if the field has fully restored its vegetation, the cultivator may not return to the same field. The cultivator, for example, would not return to the same field if brother or other relative elsewhere has available lands more conducive to farming. In such cases, the former swidden often reverted to dense forest.

Prior to the coming of the migrants, the wealth of forest resources was at the disposal of the indigenous people around Mt. Kitanglad. Construction materials for the house frame, usually small round timber (5 inches in diameter), were obtained not from the primary forest but from the secondary growth forest — the previous swidden field. For roofing, the bark of Hinagdong tree was used. When building makeshift shelter, Anotong leaves were much preferred.

Wildlife abounded in the forest before the coming of the migrants and logging concessionaires. The common source of meat was the salarong (deer), wild boars, birds of different kinds (balod, alimokon, sapayanan, kalaw) and mountain rats.

The forest was also the source of medicinal plants. Curative plants from the forests were successfully used by the indigenous healers in the past, and even until today this practice continues to cure varied types of illness. Honey from different kinds of bees (ligwan, putyukan, kiyot) was plentiful and was a source of food.
There were different kinds of fruit-bearing trees that could be found in the forest whose fruits are edible such as Katii (chestnuts), Layang, etc. The kaingin or swidden farming in the past had very little effect on the environment. Environmental degradation began with the advent of logging companies. These companies came to Bukidnon to plunder the forests, not to preserve them. Their plunder mentality was responsible for the massive destruction of the forest on the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad.

Ancestral Domain Recognition

The social history of the Higaonon-Talaandig or Bukidnon tribe establishes the fact that they are indigenous occupants of the province of Bukidnon in general and around Mt. Kitanglad in particular. Their being indigenous to Bukidnon provides the basis for the recognition of their ancestral domain claim. This section will discuss the laws and processes involved in ancestral domain claim recognition.

For many decades, IP activists and scholars have advocated the recognition of ICCs/IPs rights over their ancestral domain. The contention was that without security of tenure over their ancestral domain, the ICCs/IPs would have no incentive to use the land in a sustainable fashion. Without legal tenure, there is no guarantee that they would benefit from the fruits of their labor. Security of tenure (e.g., Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims or Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title) was seen as an important mechanism that could help prevent further displacement of the IPs from the continuing encroachment of the dumagat and agribusiness interests. The dream of having the government formally recognize ICC/IP rights was realized in the Philippine Constitution of 1987. It was further enhanced with the consequent enactment of National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 (NIPAS Law or RA 7586), Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA Law or RA 8371), and the most recent Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park Act of 2000 (MKRNP Act or RA 8978).
Section 22, Article II; Section 4, Article VII and Section 6, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution provide for the recognition and protection of the rights of the indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands within the framework of national unity and development. Section 13 of NIPAS Law affirms the stated policy by providing due recognition to ancestral domain and other customary rights in protected areas. To further operationalize the constitutional mandate, IPRA was enacted into law in 1997. The IPs rights in a protected area as provided for in the MKRNP Act explicitly stipulates among others, the right of the IPs to apply for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).

Prior to the enactment of IPRA into law, the DENR had already begun the process of formally recognizing the rights of the ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domain. They had issued Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC) or Certificate of Ancestral Land Claims (CALC) to legitimate claimants. The process of issuing CADC or CALC was initially guided by DENR Department Administrative Order (DAO) 25-92 and later on by DAO 2-93. While DAO 25-92 was intended to provide implementing guidelines for the entire NIPAS Law, Sections 44 to 49 prescribe rules and regulations governing ancestral lands within protected areas. DAO 2-93 provides more detailed and proactive implementing rules and regulations of Section 13 of NIPAS Law. In this administrative order (Art. 3, Sec.1), the DENR through the Provincial Special Task Forces on Ancestral Domain (PSTFAD) is to take the initial step of conducting a vigorous information dissemination campaign for identification and delineation of ancestral land and domain claims. Identification of individual indigenous cultural communities, identification of preliminary natural boundaries, and publication of a list of ancestral domain claims was to follow in a timely fashion after the information dissemination (Art 3, Sec. 2-4). If, within 15 days after the first day of publication, no other claimants are filing opposition to the list of ancestral domain claims, the identified indigenous cultural communities shall submit documentary proofs to support their claim over the identified territory. Section 5 lists the documentary requirements. These include the testimony of elders or community leaders under oath and other documents directly or indirectly attesting to the possession or occupation of the area since time immemorial by such indigenous cultural communities in the concept of owners, and could include any of the following:
(1) Written accounts of the indigenous community’s customs and traditions; Written accounts of the indigenous community’s political structure and institutions;
(2) Pictures showing long term occupation such as those of old improvements, burial grounds,
sacred places and old villages;
(3) Historical accounts;
(4) Survey plans and sketch maps;
(5) Anthropological data;
(6) Genealogical survey;
(7) Pictures and descriptive histories of traditional communal forest and hunting grounds;
(8) Pictures and descriptive histories of traditional landmarks such as mountains, rivers, creeks,
ridges, hills, terraces and the like;
(9) Write-ups of names and places derived from the native dialect of the community.

After having complied with the requirements, the evaluation of ancestral domain claims should follow, again, in a timely fashion. When a claim is accepted, the DENR personnel, in close coordination with the concerned ICC/IP, must conduct a physical demarcation of the ancestral domain. The entire process of CADC application should, then, terminate with the issuance of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim and/or a Community Forest Stewardship Agreement until such time the Congress provides other forms of recognition for ancestral domain.

From the foregoing, it is apparent that prior to the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the DENR already put in place a system of recognizing and delineating ancestral domain. At that time, the DENR issued a total of 181 certificates of ancestral domain claim nationwide covering about 2.5 million hectares (DENR, 1999). However, in the Kitanglad context, issuance of CADC or CALC seems to be very elusive. In the following sections, the authors will discuss the competing models for proposing an ancestral domain claim in Mt. Kitanglad, which prevent DENR from issuing CADC to the claimants.

‘Unified Claim’ Versus ‘By Municipality Claim’: Two Models of Applying for Ancestral Domain Claims in Mt. Kitanglad?

There are several stakeholders in Mount Kitanglad, but three of them seem to be the most prominent. The indigenous cultural communities — the Higaonon-Talaandig tribe who are collectively called by the dumagat as Bukidnon, are the major and direct stakeholders because Mt. Kitanglad is considered their homeland since time immemorial. The municipal government units and the dumagat constituents, as represented by the mayors, are another group of stakeholders because Mt. Kitanglad belongs politically to eight municipalities surrounding it, namely: Malaybalay, Lantapan, Talakag, Baungon, Libona, Manolo Fortich, Sumilao, and Impasugong. The DENR is the third major stakeholder since it is the national government agency mandated to administer the so-called public lands and protected areas. As a protected area, Mt. Kitanglad is managed by a Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) with the DENR and the Local Government Unit (LGU) representatives playing prominent roles. Due to multiple stakeholders claiming administrative jurisdiction and multiple policies governing Mt. Kitanglad, there emerged two competing models for proposing an ancestral domain claim application in the area. The first model is called the ‘Unified Claim’ with the prominent leaders of the Talaandig-Higaonon tribe as proponents. The second model is ‘by municipality claim’ proposed by the municipal mayors who are members of the PAMB.

Rationale of the Unified Claim

Before 1995, 12 Higaonon-Talaandig tribal leaders (datu) residing in different municipalities surrounding Mt. Kitanglad individually filed Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC) in the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Bukidnon. However, according to a PENR Officer, the processing and validating of their individual CADC applications were delayed because of overlapping boundaries as observed in other AD claims in the province.

As documented by Datu Migketay Saway, the AD claim of the Talaandig-Bukidnon-Higaonon communities was filed at the PSTFAD on May 19, 1995, following the guidelines set forth by DAO 3-93. The same application was endorsed to the PAMB for possible recommendation. The Cultural and Tribal Affairs Committee of the PAMB deliberated the application three consecutive times. In the end, however, the PAMB Executive Committee rejected it because of the need to further study the policy implications of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code; Presidential Memorandum Order No. 270, which created the Bukidnon Watershed and Development Council; and, Memorandum Order 213, which directed the implementation of the Social Reform Agenda. On January 26, 1996, after a thorough orientation was made on the legal basis of ancestral domain, the claim was returned to PSTFAD without a concrete recommendation. The Local Government Executives who are members of the PAMB maintained that the Board is not the right body to decide on the claim.

The PSTFAD finally made its deliberation on the claim on February 8, 1996, and was silent about it until the AD claim issue was raised back on August 26-27, 1996 during the leveling-off meeting between the staffs of PASU, KIN and PAMB in the presence of the legal consultant of the NIPAS and the Protected Areas Wildlife Bureau.

On September 10, 1996, an abrupt consultation, coordinated by the PASU and the DENR, was conducted among the few representatives from the IPs from the municipalities around the protected area. Although the said consultation came out with five out of eight tribal representatives favoring the claims by municipality, it was clearly observed that the collective decision of the IPs based on the framework of their cultures, traditions and institutions was not considered. For this reason, the Cultural and Tribal Affairs Committee Chairman recommended that further consultation be conducted among the cultural experts who are the pillars of the cultural integrity of the tribe.

The IP leaders argued that despite the divided positions on the CADC claim within the PA, the matter should still be resolved in the context of the customs and traditions of the tribe. The process requires that in the absence of any contests to the AD claim, the indigenous communities residing around the PA can demonstrate that they have the same historical accounts, socio-political structures, customary laws, genealogy, belief system and other anthropological data to support the claim. Hence, in support of and to further substantiate the AD claim, a series of consultations to document the customary laws were pursued around the PA. The results were to serve as valid instruments in coming up with a decision as to whether the integrity of the claim can be reduced by municipality.

As raised by Datu Migketay, ‘the integrity of the indigenous peoples’ culture as basis of their collective ancestral domain rights in MKNRP could not be undermined’. It is fortuitous that the Global Environment Facility-World Bank assisted project on biodiversity conservation of the country’s ten priority protected areas, which include Mt. Kitanglad, had, among its six major objectives, ‘to confirm the tenure of indigenous cultural communities and long-established residents of PA.’6 Providing a security of tenure to the IPs is one of the goals of the Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project (CPPAP). It is considered one of the major deliverables that its managed biodiversity conservation project seeks to accomplish in its seven-year term.
The World Bank, through its Operational Directives 4.20 that provides important recognition of the cause of the indigenous peoples affected by its projects, provides that ‘the Bank’s policy is that the strategy for addressing the issues pertaining to indigenous peoples must be based on the informed participation of the indigenous peoples themselves. Thus, identifying local preferences through direct consultation, incorporation of indigenous knowledge into project approaches, and appropriate early use of experienced specialists are core activities for any project that affect indigenous people and their rights to natural and economic resources.

Thus, the IP leaders insist that the DENR-PSTFAD and the PAMB could not simply neglect this technical reality. Following upon several requests that were forwarded to the DENR and the CPPAP, all IP leaders were given the opportunity to meet and consult each other and decide the best way for them to pursue their claim. The PA-wide consultation of all IP leaders took place on June 20-21, 1997 at Cinchona Reforestation Project where all IP leaders from the municipalities surrounding the protected area were represented. During this gathering, the IP leaders decided that the CADC should be pursued on a unified basis with Datu Migketay Saway chosen as its official representative to pursue all measures for the recognition of the cultural legacy in MKRNP. Hence, the unified claim of MKRNP encompasses the PA’s over 40,000 hectares.

Meanwhile, in August 1997, Green Mindanao came up with a policy analysis related to natural resource management operating in Mt. Kitanglad. The study reviews the NIPAS law, the Local Government Code, Presidential Memorandum Order 270 that created the Bukidnon Watershed Council, Presidential Memorandum Order 213 that directed the implementation of the Social Reform Agenda, the Medium Term Agricultural Development Plan particularly in the aspect of the High Value Crops Act, DENR Department Administrative Orders No. 2 s. of 1993 and 34 s of 1996. These policies were evaluated in the light of Mt. Kitanglad’s ancestral domain claim and the fact that, at the same time, it is a protected area, and the program on high value crops in Bukidnon. The study suggests that the impasse on the ancestral domain claim for Mt. Kitanglad can be settled within the purview of existing policies, and for DENR to really perform its role as the champion for ancestral domain (Dagondon, et al, 1997).

From a practical point of view, there are several reasons for filing a Unified Ancestral Domain Claim over a subject territory claimed by several IP leaders. The most pragmatic reason is that it reduces paper work. Instead of each local chieftain preparing separate sets of required documents listed in DAO 3, Section 5, a secretariat of the tribe under the guidance of the tribal elders can prepare only one set of documents covering the claims of every member of the tribe. Hence, it minimizes redundancy of having to produce identical documents for each applicant coming from the same tribe. It also reduces the number of documents that government officials have to review. In other words, it saves every one time and resources.

Beyond paper work, most elders in Mt. Kitanglad consider a unified claim a cultural claim. They point out that the cultural integrity of the tribe hinges on granting them security of tenure over the land that is considered their source of livelihood, place of worship, living school, and their living pharmacy. Although there exists subgroupings among them, according to the general location of their original place of residence (i.e., coastal, plains, mountains, etc.), the leaders assert that they belong to one and the same tribe because they speak the same language, share common ancestry, and share the same oral history. They argue that if their claims have to be subdivided according to municipal boundaries, it tantamount to dividing their culture, their oral history, their spiritual beliefs, and their cultural integrity. As one tribal leader puts it by way of asking questions:
How can we divide our culture? How can we divide our customary laws? How can we divide our beliefs? We can’t divide all this! If we do, if it is possible, it would be a big undertaking because we have to amend previous agreements and rituals that sealed the agreements. We have to nullify previous agreements to make new agreements, new accords among leaders. But still the basis for this is culture. We will never reside outside of culture. We could never decide this based on the political jurisdiction of the municipalities.

Because the Unified Ancestral Domain Claim application includes the protected area, the PENRO referred the application to the PAMB. Under NIPAS Law, the PAMB is the policy and management body within a protected area. Eight members of the PAMB are mayors from eight municipalities surrounding Mt. Kitanglad. They, along with some IP leaders, are against the unified claim because they want the claim to be done piecemeal – by municipality.

Rationale of ‘By Municipality Claim’

The ‘by municipality claim’ implies that members of the same indigenous cultural communities may individually or collectively apply for a CADC provided that the land area claimed is not already titled to private individuals and is within the boundaries of the municipality in which they reside.

There seems to be three reasons put forward by the advocates of the ‘by municipality claim’. The first is territorial jurisdiction and exercise of political power. As pointed out elsewhere in this paper, there are eight municipalities around Mt. Kitanglad. Each municipality has a political jurisdiction over an area of Mt. Kitanglad. With a unified claim, it would appear that the chosen IP leader would have political jurisdiction over a portion of each of the eight municipalities that are within Mt. Kitanglad. Most mayors are apprehensive about the idea that an IP representative might exercise too much political power over an area encompassing parts of eight municipalities.

One mayor said that he fears that an IP leader ‘might lead and mislead his own people.’ The basis of his fear is that there are some fake tribal leaders, also called ‘tribal dealers,’ who are enticing outsiders to come and occupy a portion of ancestral domain for a fee. This has often led to more destruction of the forest within the protected area. The legitimate tribal leaders also share the same apprehension of the environmental destruction committed by deculturated members of the indigenous community. They argue that this is, indeed, another reason that ancestral domain claim should be unified so that every claimant will subscribe to a unified policy of sound environmental management and non-destructive livelihood as may be specified in both the protected area and ancestral domain management plans.

The second argument in support of the ‘by municipality claim’ is the fear that the culture of the indigenous occupants in one side of Mt. Kitanglad might run in conflict with the culture of the occupants in the other side of Mt. Kitanglad. This argument does not hold water. As pointed out earlier, the occupants around Mt. Kitanglad belong to the same ethnolinguistic group, although they may exhibit intracultural variation. They share enough in common of their culture, language and oral tradition for them to be considered to belong to the same tribe.

The third reason advanced by the proponents of the ‘by municipality claim’ is the apprehension that the indigenous cultural communities lack the ability and resources to manage a huge area, especially a protected area that is home to diverse species of flora and fauna. Most mayors fear that once the ICCs/IPs are granted a CADC following the unified claim, massive destruction of Mt. Kitanglad will ensue. This fear is based on some reported cases of timber poaching and forest clearing done by some members of the indigenous cultural communities in Mt. Kitanglad.

Delaying is Denying?

The apprehensions of the mayors that a unified claim may lead to monopoly of power and environmental degradation, resulted in further delay of the issuance of CADC to the ICCs/IPs in Mt. Kitanglad. From PAMB, the application was returned to PENRO, which, in turn, transmitted it back to the PSTFAD. The PENRO in Malaybalay tried to seek advice from higher DENR authorities – the Office for Special Concerns – in order to act on the Pending Unified Claim Application. Meanwhile, two other IP groups based in Talakag and in Impasugong began to pursue their own claims despite the unified claim. With this development, leaders of the Unified CADC needed further consensus among themselves in order to firm up a concrete stand regarding the claim. Time passed by quickly. Two years later, the Bill on Indigenous Peoples Rights was enacted into law called Republic Act 8371, also known as “The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997″ or IPRA. With the passage of IPRA into Law, the DENR ceased to process any CADC applications because this responsibility was now transferred to the Ancestral Domain Office (ADO) of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Under IPRA, the ADO is responsible for the identification, delineation and recognition of ancestral lands and domain. It is also responsible for the management of ancestral lands/domain in accordance with a master plan (Sec 46a).

After the transfer of responsibility from PSTFAD to ADO, the processing of tenurial instrument should have not been a problem if NCIP was fully operational. Unfortunately, a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court filed a case challenging the constitutionality of some provisions of IPRA. With IPRA being questioned, the operational budget of NCIP was put on hold. In effect, NCIP was immobilized and could not implement the provisions of IPRA until such time the Supreme Court could render its final ruling as to the constitutionality of IPRA. Sometime in November 2000, seven Supreme Court members voted in favor of IPRA Law and seven justices voted against it. Since there was a tie, the IPRA Law is automatically considered constitutional.

However, those who are against IPRA Law may still file for a reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s ruling, further delaying the implementation of IPRA.

The recently enacted MRKNP Act of 2000 reinforces the IPs right to their ancestral lands and domain. The present challenge lies on how the PAMB, the DENR and the NCIP can work together to allow the AD claim to prosper in the PA either following its prescribed rules and regulations, which are expected to come out within a year from the passage of the Kitanglad bill, or under the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of IPRA. Five years after the submission of the original unified claim, the indigenous people around Mt. Kitanglad are still without any tenurial instrument. Their Unified Claim application was like a ball being thrown from one player to another. One IP Chieftain commented: “Passing our application from one office to the next is a delaying tactic. Delaying is an indirect way of denying us of our rights”. Indeed, the application process became very confusing for the indigenous occupants in Mt. Kitanglad.

When the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples becomes fully operational, the discussion on CADC or CALC becomes moot and academic. The tenurial instrument under IPRA Law is called Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). This type of title is identical to a Certificate of Land Title (CALT) for privately owned lands. The documentary proofs required for CALT are the same documents required for securing CADC. In fact, those ICCs who already had CADC prior to the enactment of the IPRA Law may apply for CALT without submitting additional documents.

Working on a Common Ground

In spite of the conflicting views on how to go about proposing an ancestral domain claim in a protected area, both the mayors and the indigenous cultural communities living around Mt. Kitanglad do share the same deep concern for the environment. They both want to protect and preserve Mt. Kitanglad for the present and future generations. The Talaandig-Higaonon would like to protect and preserve Mt. Kitanglad because it is their homeland, their main source of livelihood, their university, their living pharmacy from which they get their medicinal plants to cure all sorts of ailments, and, more importantly, it is their place of worship.

As for the municipal mayors and the DENR, they want to protect Mt. Kitanglad because it is a critical watershed. The agricultural prosperity of the surrounding municipalities is highly dependent on the watershed service functions provided by Mt. Kitanglad. These municipalities need a regular water supply from Mt. Kitanglad for agricultural and domestic use. They also need the protective cover of Mt. Kitanglad because, without it, massive soil erosion could take place and could bring havoc to irrigation system and dams of power plants downstream.

The ICCs/IPs, the mayors and the DENR are aware of the importance of Mt. Kitanglad as a watershed for northern and central Mindanao. They are aware that the destruction of Mt. Kitanglad will affect not only the immediate occupants around Mt. Kitanglad but also the occupants of the surrounding provinces such as Misamis Oriental (specifically Cagayan de Oro), Davao and Cotabato.

The shared concern for Mt. Kitanglad as a watershed could be the common ground that will allow various stakeholders to work together to attain the complementary objectives of maintaining ecological stability while meeting the economic needs of the human occupants. In fact the PAMB already has had a positive experience of working together with the Kitanglad tribal guards called Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGVs). Due to the active role of the KGVs in monitoring illegal activities in Mt. Kitanglad, the Protected Area Superintendent’s Office noted a dramatic decline in the number of cases of timber pouching and agricultural conversion of the primary forest. The KGVs also played an important role in the control of forest wildfires in 1998. During the height of the El Nino phenomenon, the KGVs were able to suppress 79 forest fire incidents reported to the IPAS office. If not for the 8 The Supreme Court has 15 justices but at the time of voting, one already retired and was not yet replaced active involvement of the KGVs, the damages to Mt. Kitanglad areas would have exceed 300 has, 34% of which are forestlands. Early in 1995, the KGVs apprehended some workers of the National Museum for collecting biological specimens in Mt. Kitanglad without the permission of the indigenous occupants in the area. Indeed, this relationship between the PAMB and the KGVs has been a positive example wherein the mayors who are members of the PAMB and the ICCs/IPs can work together for the protection of Mt. Kitanglad and for the well being of the occupants. It also demonstrates that protected area and ancestral domain are mutually supportive paradigm (Cairns, 1995). In fact, government programs of protecting the watershed will not prosper without the community endorsing and enforcing the boundaries of the natural forest ecosystem (Garrity, et al, 1997)

The Development of Ancestral Domain Management Plan in the Context of Multiple Land Use Mandates

Even if CADC, CALC, or CADT is granted, it does not automatically guarantee that land use within the ancestral domain will be sustainable. What provides that guarantee is an Ancestral Domain Management Plan (ADMP) that is to be developed by the concerned ICCs/IPs. The ADMP must explicitly spell out how the applicants intend to protect, manage, and use the resources found in their ancestral domain. In fact an ADMP will potentially strengthen the bargaining position of the ICCs vis-à-vis PAMB because it demonstrates the capacity of the community to manage fragile upland resources in a sustainable manner. As pointed out earlier, one reason that eight mayors around Mt. Kitanglad proposed the ‘by municipality claim’ was their apprehension that the ICCs/IPs do not have the ability and resources to manage a huge land area. Hence, there is a need for the ICC/IPs to demonstrate their sustainable natural resource management practices through an ADMP. With technical facilitation by a capable NGO, their sustainable management aspirations could be articulated.

Both NIPAS and IPRA require that a management plan be created for the protection, conservation, utilization, and development of the land and natural resources found in the protected areas and/or ancestral domain. DENR DAO # 25-92 (Sections 8 & 17) prescribes the general management plan strategy, which, among other things, divides the protected area into management zones. These management zones include strict protection zone, sustainable use zone, restoration zone, habitat management zones, multiple-use zones, buffer zone, cultural zones, recreational zones, special use zones, and other management zones. The same administrative order provides that ICCs/IPs and other protected area users shall be active participants in the decision-making process of zone establishment and management planning. It also provides that management zoning should not restrict the rights of indigenous communities to pursue traditional and sustainable means of livelihood within their ancestral domain.

DAO # 2-93 also has provisions concerning the management of ancestral domain and preparation of ancestral domain management plans (Art. VI). DAO 34-96, provides guidelines on the management of certified ancestral domain claims and supersedes DAO 2-93. It emphasizes the importance of the CADC holders formulating their ADMP according to their needs and aspirations, and according to their indigenous knowledge systems and practices (Art. I, Sec 3.1).

In similar fashion, the NCIP issued Administrative Order No. 1, the IRR of IPRA Law, which, among other things, provides guidance in the preparation of the ADMP. The IRR of IPRA Law gave the ADMP a new name: the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP). Like the ADMP and its precursors, the ADSDPP must also show:
·  The manner by which the ICCs/IPs will protect the domain;
·  Kind or type of development programs adopted and decided upon by the ICCs/IPs in relation to
livelihood, education, infrastructure, self-governance, environment, natural resource management, culture and other practical development aspects.
·  Basic community policies covering the implementation of all forms of development activities in the area; and
·  Basic management system, including the sharing of benefits and responsibilities among the members of the ICCs/IPs concerned (Part II, Sec. 2a-d).

Part II, Section 3 of NCIP AO#1 outlines the basic steps in the formulation of the ADSDPP, to wit:
1. Information Dissemination. The Council of Elders/Leaders, with assistance of the NCIP, shall
conduct intensive information-dissemination of the indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) among the community members. For the purpose of information dissemination, the NCIP may engage the services of an authorized NGO or IPO.
2. Baseline Survey. The Council of Elders/Leaders with the assistance of the NCIP, shall conduct a participatory baseline survey of the ancestral domain focusing on the existing population, natural resources, development projects, land use, sources of livelihood, income and employment, education and other programs. For the purpose of the baseline survey, the NCIP may engage the services of an authorized NGO or IPO;
3. Development Needs Assessment. The Council of Elders/Leaders with the assistance of the NCIP, shall conduct workshops in every village within the ancestral domain to determine the will of the community members regarding the kind of development the community should pursue in terms of livelihood, education, infrastructure, self-governance, environment, natural resources, culture and other aspects. For the purpose of the Development Needs Assessment, the NCIP may engage the services of an authorized NGO or IPO;
4. Formulation of Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan. The concerned ICC/IP, through its IPO and/or Council of Elders, and with the assistance of the NCIP, shall formulate its ADSDPP;
5. The Council of Elders shall submit the ADSDPP to the NCIP for their information and concurrence.
After its completion, the ADSDPP has to be submitted to the municipal and provincial government unit having territorial and political jurisdiction over the concerned ICCs/IPs for incorporation into the Municipal Land Use Plan, Municipal Development Plan, Municipal Annual Investment Plan, Provincial Development Plan, and Provincial Annual Investment Plan.

Unfortunately, there is now ritten ADMP or ADSDPP in Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park. While the ICCs/IPs have some ideas how to manage the resources within the protected area once granted with a tenurial instrument, their ideas are not transformed into a management document because drafting the plan requires the ability to prepare a technical document and money for consultation purposes. The technical capability of the ICCs/IPs in the area to make a written plan is still lacking because most of them only have elementary and high school education. This is complicated by the fact that tribal and village leaders have difficulty getting together because they are scattered all throughout Mt. Kitanglad Range. To bring them together to one location to share ideas and visions for the management of Mt. Kitanglad requires money for food and transportation. According to one datu, the indigenous cultural communities in Mt. Kitanglad do not have financial resources to cover the expenses of preparing a plan. Besides, ADMP is not a pre-condition for the issuance of CADC or CADT.

In spite of the absence of ADMP, there are different natural resource management planning processes taking place around Mt. Kitanglad with varying degree of ICC/IP participation. The municipality of Lantapan was the first among the eight municipalities surrounding Mt. Kitanglad to come up with a Natural Resource Management and Development Plan (NRMDP). The Plan was made possible through the technical and financial support of USAID through its Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP) for Southeast Asia. The SANREM researchers made their findings from the Manupali Watershed available to the municipal government of Lantapan. In spite of its very impressive technical detail, the planning process for the creation of NRMDP had no direct participation from the indigenous occupants in the area. The Plan does not mention what to do with ancestral domain claim within the municipality. It does not mention the role of the ICCs/IPs in the development and implementation of the Plan.

The Lantapan NRM experience has evolved into a work plan under the SANREM program. It is being implemented by ICRAF. Although its implementation uses a participatory approach, like in Lantapan, the planning process has very little, if any, input from the indigenous cultural communities. During fieldwork in 1998-99, the eight municipalities around Mt. Kitanglad were in different stages of updating their old municipal land use plans to develop a Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). The creation of CLUP often involves drafting it at the municipal level either by consultants or a technical working group to be presented later to the barangays for validation. Assuming that during barangay validation, there are members of the ICCs/IPs present, the highly technical presentation may be too difficult to be digested by the audiences. Hence, the so-called barangay validation only provides some sense of participatory legitimacy to government programs even if it fails to generate substantive feedback from the barangay residents, much less, indigenous occupants. As such, NRMDP and CLUP may fail to reflect the environmental management and development aspiration of the indigenous cultural communities.

The secretariat of PAMB, the Park Superintendent Office and the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs (KIN), made a development and management plan for the protected area that relies heavily on multi-stakeholder consultation-workshops. The input of the IPs was made through tribal consultations and congresses, and community mapping. To further capture the indigenous world view on MKNRP, KIN developed an approach for exploring the people’s concept of cultural zoning to validate the park’s management zones and to map out the development and management plan (Canoy et al, 2001:21). The notion of cultural zoning uses the cognitive map of the ICCs/IPs of their natural landscape. Cognitive mapping is a well-established technique in Cognitive Anthropology (see Werner et al, 1987; D’ Andrade, 1979). This is based on the fact that people need to have some sense of order in both their virtual and physical world. Thus, they almost always classify the world around them. The need to classify the world is evident among IPs in Mt. Kitanglad. They divided Mt. Kitanglad into several cultural zones such as prohibited areas, sacred or worship areas, livelihood areas, resource use areas, dangerous areas, special areas for tribal guards, and natural areas (Canoy et al, 2001:22). Cultural zoning ensures that the prescribed zones under NIPAS Act are consistent with cultural zones of the IPs. Although the development and management plan for the protected area benefited from the input of ICCs/IPs, it is not in itself an ADMP. This was prepared in compliance with the World Bank’s requirement for the host NGO and DENR to come up with a management plan.

Conducting more consultation workshops using a participatory approach appropriate for participants with little (elementary to high school) or no formal education, the technical Protected Area Management Plan can be enriched further and transformed into an ancestral domain management plan. KIN is already gearing its community and field activities along this direction. The HNGO has been responsible in providing the capacity for the Council of Elders through combined activities that include facilitation of workshops on community consultations, local mapping, cultural re-orientation, tribal congresses, eliciting tribal policies, etc. In the course of its operation, KIN also recognizes ritual activities required in project activities; the conduct of sala (tribal justice system) for offenses committed against the customary laws of the tribe.

The pursuit of the 3D mapping began in 1999, through KIN’s coordination and the Mangyan Mission’s facilitation. The Mangyan Mission initially visited MKRNP to validate the Council of Elders interests in learning and adopting its technology to be used in advocating for a tenurial instrument such as the CADC or CADT. ICCs/IPs have created a scaled 3-D map of Mt. Kitanglad, which is an important device for the development of ADMP. It now needs input from the cultural zoning workshops and land use identification and land use opportunity assessment sessions to create an ADMP.


This study reviews the process of recognizing ancestral domain claims and formulating natural resource management plans in and around the Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park using key informant interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation, and library research. From the review, the writers came up with the following findings:
·  Since 1987, the Philippine government has a clear policy of recognizing and promoting the right of the ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domain. The NIPAS Law affirms this stated policy. The IPRA Law was enacted to further operationalize this constitutional provision. The recently passed MKRNP Act further recognizes the IPs time-immemorial rights. Despite that, the IRR for the MKRNP Act are still to be formulated. It also appears that there are already sufficient rules and regulations for the implementation of NIPAS and IPRA, especially with regards to identification, delineation, issuance of tenurial instruments and the formulation of a natural resource management plan in the protected area and/or ancestral domain. However, the provisions of the NIPAS Law and the IPRA Law are not fully implemented due to:
o the controversy on how to go about proposing an ancestral domain claim within the protected area;
o the legal challenge filed in the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the IPRA

·  The intent of the NIPAS Law and the IPRA Law is complementary. The essence of the NIPAS Law is to put a certain area under a protected system to preserve the integrity of the natural ecosystem for the present and future generations. This does not contradict the essence of the IPRA law that gives recognition to the right of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domain to strengthen their security of tenure so that they can manage the natural resources within their ancestral domain sustainably for the present and future generations. The management zones specified in the NIPAS Law are compatible and consistent with the cultural zones of the IPs. For as long as the DENR or PAMB work in tandem with the concerned IPs, there will be no conflict in drawing up the management zones.
·  The mayors, the DENR, and the ICCs/IPs share the common interest of preserving biodiversity and maintaining the service functions of the watershed. The source of apprehension and the consequent inaction on the application for an ancestral domain tenurial certificate is caused by different worldviews of how to manage the watershed and lack of accurate information of each other’s intent and purposes. In spite of this hurdle, prominent stakeholders already have positive experiences working together to protect the watershed from illegal activities and forest fires.
·  The ICCs/IPs in Mt. Kitanglad do not have an ADMP or ADSDPP. This is due to their lack of financial resources and technical skills to formulate their own Ancestral Domain Management Plan. This is also partly caused by the fact that a management plan is not a prerequisite for the issuance of tenurial instrument.
·  Several management plans — natural resource management and development plan (NRMDP),
comprehensive land use plan (CLUP), forest land use plan (FLUP), and protected area management plan (PAMP) — are completed or close to being completed. However, with the exception of the PAMP, they were created with little or no direct input from the ICCs/IPs.

·  As a matter of urgency, the ICCs/IPs in Mt. Kitanglad should be granted the long overdue tenurial instrument.
·  While waiting for the government authorities to actually grant them a tenurial instrument, the ICCs/IPs in Mt. Kitanglad should proceed with the formulation of an ADMP and/or ADSDPP to demonstrate their capacity to manage and protect fragile upland resources. Not only will it remove the apprehensions of non-IPs, especially the mayors, it will also hasten the process of IPs securing their tenurial instrument. The ADSDPP will help LGU (municipal and provincial) development planners and even investors to determine the type of development activities or livelihood projects to implement in the uplands.
·  Service providers may assist the ICCs/IPs in the formulation of their ADSDPP through technical
facilitation or financial support to cover the cost of workshops and consultations.
·  There is a need to harmonize various management plans (NRM Plan, Forest Land Use Plan, Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Protected Area Management Plan, ADSDPP) using the watershed or ecosystem as the unifying concept.
·  There is a need for a negotiation model that allows stakeholders of different levels of power and influence to sit together and dialogue with the common goal of maintaining or restoring ecological stability while meeting the economic needs of the forest occupants.
·  The NIPAS, IPRA and MKRNP Acts respect and recognize customary laws to guide the ICCs/IPs conduct of business within their ancestral domain. The major objection to customary laws and tradition is that it is oral. Government officials usually would like to take hold of a document specifically outlining the customary laws and tradition as a point of reference. Initially, there is therefore a need to carefully document tribal policies on resource use in lieu of the codification of customary laws and traditions for the sake of non-IPs who may be not knowledgeable of the ways of the ICCs/IPs.

Board of Technical Survey and Maps (1961).
Cairns, Malcolm. 1995. Ancestral and Natural Park Protection: Mutually Supportive Paradigms? A Case Study of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park, Bukidnon, Philippines. Paper presented at Workshop on Buffer Zone Management and Agroforestry, Central Mindanao University, Musuan, Bukidnon, 8-11 August.
Canoy, Easterluna, Decano, Dominador; Mordeno, Marcos. Mapping the Future. Talamdan, September 2000.
Dagondon, Gliceto, et al. 1997. “Current Findings on Policies Related to the Natural Resource Management of Mt. Kitanglad.” Assembling the Elements for a Realistic Buffer-zone Management Plan. SANREM-CRSP Phase I.
D’Andrade, Roy. 1979. Culture and Cognitive Science. In Memorandum to Cognitive Science Committee. Sloan Foundation.
DENR. 1992. Department Administrative Order No. 25, Series of 1992: National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Implementing Rules and Regulations.
DENR. 1993. Department Administrative Order No. 2, Series of 1993: Rules and Regulations for the Identification, Delineation of Ancestral Land and Domain Claims.
DENR. 1996. Department Administrative Order No. 34, Series of 1996: Guidelines on the Management of Certified Ancestral Domain Claims.
DENR. 1999. A Briefing Paper on Community-Based Forest Resource Management Project.
Edgerton, Ronald K. 1982. “Frontier Society on the Bukidnon Plateau: 1870-1941” in McCoy, Alfred W. and Ed. C. de Jesus (eds.) Philippine Social History: Global Trade and Local Transformations. No. 7 Asian Studies Association of Australia, Southeast Asia Publication Series. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila Press. Pp 361-389.
Garrity, D.P.; Amoroso, V.B., et al. Assembling the Elements for a Realistic Buffer-Zone Resource Management Plan. Final Report of Phase I (1994-1997). Biodiversity Consortium, Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Project (SANREM).
Madigan, Francis. 1969.
NCIP. 1988. Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 1998: Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act 8371, Otherwise Known as Republic Act No. 7586: An Act Providing for the Establishment and Management of National Integrated Protected Areas System, Defining Its Scope and Coverage, and for Other Purposes.
Republic Act No. 8371: An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Creating a Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes.
Republic Act No. 8978: An Act Declaring the Mt. Kitanglad Range in the Province of Bukidnon as a Protected Area and Its Peripheral Areas as Buffer Zones, Providing for Its Management and For Other Purposes.
Saway, Datu Migketay Vic. 1996. Updates on the Kitanglad AD Claim. Talamdan Vol. 1 No. 2.
Werner, Oswald; Schoepfle, G. Mark. 1987. Systematic Fieldwork: Foundations of Ethnography and Interviewing. London: Sage Publications.

Vol. 5, No. 4, Fourth Quarter 2000

By Malcolm Cairns


This paper examines the close relationship of Bukidnon tribes with the forested slopes of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park in Mindanao, Philippines, and how their claims for ancestral domain may interact with the park’s conservation mandate. The study is placed into historical context by reviewing attempts to assimilate the tribes under successive Spanish, American and Philippine governments, and their steady displacement by waves of migrant settlers. Natives were quickly relegated to marginalized minorities in this new society, and invariably responded by retreating further up the mountain slopes. It was through this process that the tribes now find themselves pressed around some of the last intact remnants of their ancestral homeland, the Mt. Kitanglad Range.

The park’s rich biodiversity is threatened by rapid deforestation on its lower slopes, fueled by logging, wildfires, vegetable gardening, swiddening, and rising population densities – from both high in-migration and fertility rates. Native belief that nature is controlled by a hierarchy of spirits, whose wrath must be avoided, guides the tribes in a respectful attitude to the environment. Indigenous practices such as safe havens for wildlife, preservation of keystone tree species, and restricting swidden size indicate a conservation approach to resource management. The tribes reacted to the degradation of their ancestral lands in 1993 by organizing and creating a network of “tribal guardians” to maintain vigilance on the forest margins. Some seizures of poached lumber have been made and the initiative appears to be gaining momentum. The community-based park protection (CBPP) that is evolving spontaneously in these forest margin villages is internally–driven and has been enabled by reviving and strengthening existing tribal institutions. This argues for further empowerment of these communities by formally decentralizing forest protection to their control.

The tribes’ demonstrated commitment to conservation suggests that granting them ancestral domain would not be antagonistic to National Park objectives – but could form the basis of a contractual agreement in which the tribes would guarantee protection of the forest margins in exchange for commensurate development programs. The cultural diversity of the tribes has contributed to maintenance of the park’s biodiversity, suggesting that cultural conservation should be an integral goal in National Park protection.


As we approach the closing years of the millennium, new and innovative approaches to National Park protection are urgently needed. Margins of forests that contain much of the Earth’s biodiversity continue to retreat at a worrying pace. The continued expansion of road infrastructure, often to facilitate logging, brings with it waves of land-hungry migrants eager to convert the logged-over forest into agricultural uses; these pioneer communities generally continue small-scale logging of the remaining smaller diameter trees, collect non-timber forest products, hunt and trap game, and bring other human pressures to bear on protected areas.

Most of the relatively pristine wildlands that have been gazetted under protected area systems have historically been insulated from these pressures by virtue of geographic isolation, difficult terrain, rampant disease, and environments generally hostile to human habitation. These were not unclaimed lands, however; since time immemorial, indigenous communities (ICC) occupied these forestal ecosystems and evolved cultures and resource use strategies in response to their environment. Centuries of trial and error yielded rich indigenous technical knowledge (ITK) of how their biotic resource base could be managed to meet their survival needs. Anthropological studies conducted since the 1950s (e.g., Conklin, 1957) have concluded that many of these systems, usually swidden-based supplemented with hunting and gathering, were admirable systems that demonstrated sustainability and an intricate knowledge of the local environment.

During the latter half of this century, rapid deforestation and the relentless encroachment of more technically advanced and aggressive migrants have brought both economic and socio-cultural turmoil to tribal groups. This invasion was accompanied by the imposition of new versions of government, education, religion, law and justice, resource tenure, and capitalist economies – all foreign concepts that marginalized ICCs. The national government not only did not recognize the ICC’s ancestral land claims, but also proclaimed them as illegal squatters on public domain. With the cultural absorption or detribalization that inevitably followed, came concomitant erosion of the indigenous knowledge and resource management practices that had underpinned the sustainability of their interaction with the local environment. Hence, the synergistic linkages between biological and cultural diversity became clear (Gurung, 1994) – and provide a cogent framework for strategizing new approaches to biodiversity conservation.

Those charged with National Park protection have generally viewed human settlements as incompatible with conservation objectives and in need of resettlement. Years of experience have aptly demonstrated that the paramilitary approach to park protection is untenable. Forced resettlement became increasingly unpalatable in democratic countries and Forestry Departments were woefully under-resourced to police expansive protected area boundaries. Recognizing the futility of relying on force to keep farmers out of the forests, park planners instead tried to ‘distract’ them from park resources by offering more attractive livelihood alternatives. This strategy gave birth to a whole generation of ‘Integrated Conservation and Development Projects’ (ICDPs) that attempted to reconcile park conservation objectives with the socioeconomic needs of communities living in its periphery. Although the concept is laudable and a step in the right direction, early evaluations have not been encouraging. Development initiatives in park buffer zones tended to attract in-migration (or at least discourage out-migration) and exacerbate encroachment pressures on forest margins. Furthermore, the causal linkages between buffer zone development projects and reduced pressure on adjacent park boundaries were not sufficiently clear.

There is a growing consensus that the best hope for effective protection of National Parks lies in the decentralization of stewardship responsibilities to local communities on the park periphery. This would necessitate the negotiation of a ‘social contract’ between national and international stakeholders concerned with biodiversity conservation, and buffer zone communities intent on economic survival and where possible advancements in living standards. This agreement would essentially guarantee buffer zone communities the benefit of development interventions in exchange for their active participation as vigilant guardians of protected areas. Although this concept sounds fine in theory, it leaves unanswered critical questions of identification of: which sector of the local community maintains the most compelling vested interest in preservation of the wildlands in question (i.e., the potential target group with whom the social contract would be entered); the appropriate terms of the contract; and institutional mechanisms through which it could realistically be implemented.

This paper hypothesizes that the increasing global trend for ICCs to assert their ancestral claims provides a firm basis for designing a social contract that would strengthen ethnic identities, harness native initiative in protecting critical ecosystems, and build constructive partnerships between government agencies and tribal organizations. The following case study of a key National Park in the Philippines assembles empirical evidence that demonstrates a commonality of agendas between ancestral domain claims and wildlands conservation. Tribal communities who occupy and have de facto control of buffer zone areas of the park articulate a self-interest in its protection and it is only logical that they be empowered to achieve that end.

The author will argue that de jure recognition of ancestral lands and empowerment of tribes as custodians can give rise to highly motivated, community-based park protection (CBPP) that is indeed compatible with conservation agendas. Based on this proposed park/people model, policy perspective needs to shift from viewing ICCs as a threat – but instead, as potentially their most committed allies in wildlands preservation.


2.1 The Provincial Setting

Research was conducted at the Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park in Bukidnon, Northern Mindanao. Bukidnon (lit. mountainous) is an inland province perched on a plateau. Its higher elevation favors it with a relatively cool climate; the average annual mean temperature is about 230 C. The wet season is not well pronounced, with 2000-2750 mm of rainfall annually. February and March tend to be driest months, while June to September receive peak rainfall levels.

The plateau drains through a series of seven deeply incised canyons that intersect it. Several mountain massifs, including the Mt. Kitanglad Range, add to the province’s rugged terrain and inspired its name.

While the 1990 census put the population at 843,959 with a 2.94% growth rate, it is likely to be closer to one million today. The provincial economy continues to be overwhelmingly agrarian-based. Uncontrolled logging and heavy in-migration of land-hungry settlers since World War II have exacted a heavy toll on Bukidnon’s forestal areas, leaving many watersheds seriously degraded.

Although there is continued debate on the origins and ethnolinguistic distinctions between the tribes and subtribes that inhabit Bukidnon (Biernatzki, 1973; Opena, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1982; Javier, 1978; Saway, 1981, 1988; Briones, 1989; Brandeis, 1993; Sario, 1993; Del Rosario et al, 1994), the issue is largely immaterial to this paper; despite minor variations in linguistics, dress and housing, Bukidnon tribes generally share a common world view of: force of nature personalized by a hierarchy of ruling spirits under a supreme God called Magbabaya; the need to placate these guardian spirits and treat the environment carefully to avoid their wrath; and a strong sense of the sacredness of their ancestral homelands. Hence, discussion of the ‘Bukidnon’ (lit. people from the mountains) in this paper refers to native tribes in the province in a general sense, except the Manobo, a distinct, although linguistically and culturally closely related tribe.

Since Lantapan is the cultural heartland of the Talaandig tribe, there is unavoidably a strong ethnic bias in many of the perceptions and practices described in this paper. Supportive examples are often cited from other tribes to strengthen the data and broaden the extrapolation domain of the conclusions.

2.2 The Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park

The volcanic peaks of the Kitanglad (lit. place where lemon grass abounds) Range dominate the northcentral portion of the Bukidnon plateau and have long been considered the ancestral homeland of the native Bukidnon tribes (lumad). In addition to their cultural significance, these mountain slopes represent a wider strategic importance to Mindanao as a vital watershed area feeding several major rivers. Rapid deforestation on its lower slopes has prompted major reforestation efforts that have met limited success.

Conservation efforts on Mt. Kitanglad were initially motivated by the presence of the endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) on its slopes. Recent research has indicated a much wider conservation value; Heany and Peterson (1992) concluded that it provides habitat to some of the richest known vertebrate fauna in the Philippines, including a large portion of endemic species. Floral surveys have also revealed rare and endangered species (Amoroso, 1994; Madulid and Pipoly, 1994). In recognition of its biodiversity value, Mt. Kitanglad was gazetted as a National Park in 1990, and more recently, was chosen as one of ten priority sites for conservation and protection under the National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Act of 1992 (NIPAS). The Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR), charged with implementation of the NIPAS Act (DENR, 1992, 1995; DENR et al, 1993), has drafted an initial park management plan that was approved by each of the eight municipalities whose territory is spanned by the 47,599-hectare park.

The park has recently become a unifying focus for tribal groups surrounding its boundaries. A joint ancestral domain claim has been filed with DENR (Saway, 1995) by the Tala-andig, Bukid-non and Higaonon tribes. The 41,5000-hectare claimed encompasses the entire National Park and outlying forestall areas on the northern and western borders. Their application is strengthened by clear recognition of ancestral domain and customary rights within protected areas by the NIPAS Act (DENR, 1992).

DENR is thus faced with the challenge – or arguably the opportunity – of reconciling ancestral land claims with protection of Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park.


The research was conducted as a component of the COPARD2 workplan under the USAID-sponsored SANREM CRSP3, and built on an earlier investigation of forest margin farming systems by the author in 1993.

Although the research team was based in Lantapan municipality, and the findings are thus biased towards the south-eastern quadrant of the park buffer zone (see Map 2), it attempted to address the wider rationale and potential implementation of park protection through de jure recognition of de facto ancestral land claims, and subsequent empowerment of tribal communities in the buffer zone as the most logical forest guardians.

A review of secondary data was initially conducted to elicit a cultural understanding of Bukidnon ICCs, and build a historical picture of land use in the province. After meetings were held with park management and tribal leaders to explain the objectives of the work, a panabi ritual was then held to demonstrate respect of local customs and seek cooperation of the spirits in facilitating the research.

Fieldwork began with key informant interviews with a sample of datus (tribal leaders) purposely selected for their proximity to the park’s forest margins. The success of any strategy for CBPP will rely heavily on their cooperation; their inclusion in the planning stages of setting research priorities and designing park management is thus vital. Informal, open-ended interviews sought to determine tribal leaders’ perceptions of the significance of the Mt. Kitanglad Range to the tribes; indigenous resource use practices that demonstrate the careful environmental management and sustainability; past and current causative agents of deforestation; indications that tribal organizations are spontaneously understanding their own initiatives in park protection; pathways by which the tribes could cooperate with DENR; and strategies for buffer zone management. This paper synthesizes and presents the findings of the work completed to date.

Meanwhile, the research is continuing with a more detailed survey of farm households cultivating land either butting against, or within, the forest margins.

It is envisioned that this work will identify the ‘critical users’ of park resources who would constitute the target group of any development interventions attempting to provide other livelihood options and ameliorate encroachment pressures. Ten households will be interviewed in each of ten forest margin sitios (subvillages), providing a total sample of 100 respondents. A list of guide issues is again being used to structure the interviews. This work hopes to understand: ethnic and demographic dynamics at the forest margins; history of migration increasingly higher on the park slopes; land use and anticipation of converting more forest land into agricultural use; income sources; problem identification and ranking; farmer use and perception of tree crops; forest products harvested; farmer cognition of environmental changes during his residency in the area; and the same park-related issues as discussed with the datus.

It is intended that this work provides a voice to tribal claimants of the Mt. Kitanglad Range, and contributes to the debate on the workability of meshing local cultural objectives with national and global conservation agendas.


4.1 Historical Context of Ancestral Land Claims: The Lumad Retreat

Before debating the merits of the land claim and its interaction with the conservation mandate of the National Park, it is useful to consider the following thumbnail sketch of the history of native occupation of what is now known as Bukidnon, their increasing contact with lowland cultures, and eventual subjection to centralized national government.

The first inhabitants of Bukidnon are thought to have probably originated in Indonesia and arrived on Mindanao’s shores around 500 BC through an island –hopping migration pattern (Lao, 1980, 1985).

Through the ensuing centuries, they were: visited, and greatly influenced by Chinese traders and Islamic groups; successfully colonized by the Spanish (1596-1900), Americans (1907-1942), and the Japanese (1942–1945); and later absorbed under the political hegemony of lowland Filipinos (Philippine independence was in 1946). Evidence indicates that the Bukidnon tribe had expanded northward into the coastal areas of what is today Misamis Oriental (Opena, 1979, 1982; Lao, 1980) – that “. . . Visayan settlers had already driven the Bukidnon to the mountains before the Spaniards arrived” (Biernatzki, 1973, p. 22). This was to be the beginning of a long retreat that continues even today.

The Spanish called the natives “Montesses’ (lit. inhabitants of the thickets) and by 1596, Jesuit missionaries were already in Northern Mindanao to civilize and Christianize them, bringing the colony more firmly under Spain’s control. It was not until the 1880s that the Jesuits succeeded in penetrating the vast wilderness of the Bukidnon heartland and described a plateau of gently rolling cogonal grasslands (Imperata cylindrica), intersected by deeply incised river canyons, and flanked by forested mountains (Anonymous, 1956; Cole, 1956; Madigan, 1969). The Bukidnon were scattered in small settlements on the hillsides, at the forest edge and usually near rivers. They lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle: growing sweet potatoes, upland rice, corn, cassava, taro and squash in small kaingin (swiddens); hunting wild pig, deer, monkeys, and forest rats; catching some riverine fish; and gathering edible native plants (Cole, 1956; Burton, undated).

Grasslands were generally avoided since plows and draught animals were unknown to the Bukidnon, and Imperata fallows were too difficult to manage under a slash-and-burn system with only rudimentary tools (Cole, 1956; Madigan, 1969).

The missionaries mounted a vigorous ‘resettle, civilize and Christianize’ campaign; resettling the disparate native bands into barrios (villages) on the plateau was seen as necessary to provide protection against raiding non-Christian groups, facilitate development, allow visiting priests to easily contact them, and consolidating the community around the church. The Christianization of the Bukidnon (Cullen, 1973, 1980); abandonment of their nomadic lifestyle on forested mountain slopes in favor of sedentary residence in towns and barrios on the grasslands; and increased contact with Visayan settlers, caused tremendous social turmoil in the native community. Cole observed the rapid changes in Bukidnon traditional cultural patterns during field research in 1910 (1956, p. 6):

The newly established villages were, for the most part, replicas of the less advanced settlements of the Christianized Bisayan of the coast. The datus, or local headmen, were being replaced by “elected” village officials, and in some towns the dress was changing toward that of the civilized peoples … It is evident that the wild life is largely gone.

This trend was accelerated by Manuel Fortich in 1914 during his tenure as the first Governor of Bukidnon during the American colonial period; recalcitrant natives were sometimes threatened with prison if they refused resettlement. Disk plows pulled by draught animals were introduced, allowing the natives to turn over the Imperata sod and expand rice and corn cultivation on the grasslands (Madigan, 1969; Lao, 1985). As transport to coastal markets gradually improved, coffee and abaca were introduced as major cash crops.

The American administration brought with it another potent catalyst for cultural change – a western styled education system. By 1908 settlement ‘farm schools’ began to be organized with the intention of providing practical livelihood skills in farming and home management; basic reading, writing, and arithmetic; and installing a sense of democratic principles and political awareness (Anonymous, 1956; Lao, 1985). These vocational–oriented schools gradually evolved into more academic institutions and were absorbed into the public school system. In 1918, a Compulsory Education Bill was passed to enforce school attendance and local police were sent to round up truant Bukidnon children (Lao, 1985).

As alluded by Cole (1956, p. 6), the social fabric of the Bukidnon tribal society was further weakened by its subjugation to the centralized government of the Philippine state. The province was carved up into municipal, barangay (village), and sitio (subvillage) political units and the tribal power structure was gradually supplanted by a civil government administration.

Datus, traditionally the leaders and mediators of tribal communities (Biernatzki, 1973; Claver, 1973; Opena, 1974b), saw their power evaporate as provincial governors, municipal mayors, and barangay captains became the legitimate source of political power. Datuship faded from importance as government officials took over most of its functions. The centralized government was also accompanied by a western-based legal system meant to replace the batasan (customary laws) that had traditionally been administered by the datu.

Although natives understood little of this system, they were informed that it had relegated them to the status of illegal squatters on the land of their ancestors.

Detribalization of the Bukidnon, ostensibly to integrate them into a larger Philippine society, was thus inevitable as their traditions of spirituality, government, education, justice, and land tenure were challenged and replaced by outside influences. This loss of cultural identity was aggravated by progressive displacement from their ancestral lands. After World War II, the trickle of migrants arriving in Bukidnon swelled to a flood. Mindanao was vaunted as the ‘Land of Promise’, and attracted waves of settlers from crowded Luzon and the Visayas; most came to the Mindanao frontier seeking to claim a piece of farm land as their own, or find employment in the booming logging industry (Madigan, 1969; Lao, 1992). This was an era of uncontrolled logging in Bukidnon, resulting in rampant destruction of its upland forests (Madigan, 1969; Kummer, 1991; Lao, 1992; Poffenberger and McGean, 1993). Migrants followed the logging roads and cleared kaingin from the logged-over areas, resulting in rapid conversion of forestal areas into agricultural use. In addition to spontaneous migration, the Bukidnon Governor initiated a campaign to advertise the province’s vast unclaimed frontiers and assist in-migration by land-hungry settlers (Madigan, 1969; Lao, 1992); the intention was to accelerate Bukidnon’s economic development.

The effect of the combined spontaneous and government-sponsored migration is evident. During the 42 years from 1948 when the migration boom gained momentum until the most recent census in 1990, the population of Bukidnon multiplied by a factor of 13.3. Population densities likewise rose from 7.7 to 101.7 persons per km2 during this same period. Despite this staggering growth, it is notable that Bukidnon’s population density (101.7) is still only half that of the Philippine national density (202.3); this imbalance suggest that Bukidnon will probably continue to attract migrants from more crowded regions for some time yet.

The Bukidnon were ill-equipped to adjust to this inflow of dumagats (lit. people of the sea [Christian lowlanders]); they found themselves increasingly marginalized in a complex and competitive society – naïve to the ways of commerce; ignorant of lowland law; parochial and politically unorganized; and lacking formal education or financial resources. Unscrupulous traders exploited the natives’ vulnerability, as observed by Lynch (1947, p. 476):

. . . they [Chinese merchants] fill them [Bukid-non] with alcohol, enticing them to drink more and more. Finally, after wasting a week in the transaction, the poor Bukidnon returns to their forests feeling the effects of their drunkenness, with no money, with no abaca . . .

More seriously, the Bukidnon were alienated from their land almost as easily as the abaca (Musa textilis-Manila hemp) that Lynch describes. Land routinely changed from native to migrant hands for a few tins of sardines, three bottles of ‘Fighter’ wine, or cancellation of small debts. Barrio life thus became increasingly Visayan as the Bukidnon sold their residential lots and farm near the barrio and retreated to the periphery.

The natives’ apparent carelessness with their ancestral lands can be explained from several perspectives:

Progressive domination of community structures in the barrios by migrants alienated the Bukidnon and left them feeling as second-class citizens. As a relatively non-confrontational people, their response to escape domination by the migrants and the loggers was withdrawal, usually further up the slopes.

The concept of private land ownership was foreign to the Bukidnon; it was tribal custom that land was not ‘owned’ by individuals, but used on an usufruct basis within the territorial jurisdiction of his datu.

Abandoned or fallowed land reverted again to common property usable by any member of the community. As noted by Biernatzki (1973, p. 45), “In the mind of the Bukidnon seller, the land itself is inalienable, and the dumagat buyer has no continuing rights to it and can be thrown off at any time.”

The Bukidnon were not accustomed to using draught animals and plows that would have enabled successful cultivation of cogon grasslands on the plateau; they were easily convinced to sell these areas near the barrios and move closer to forest margins more conducive to their traditional kaingin system.

Madigan (1969, p. 49) noted, “Still attached to a shifting swidden agriculture, he does not see much value in a single, particular plot of land. Thus when given a title to land, he doesn’t need much inducement or motivation to sell it.”

It was the natives’ experience that whenever land disputes with migrants were submitted to the lowlanders’ judicial system, the more worldly and politically connected Dumagat would invariably prevail. Hence when migrants settled on their fallowed swiddens and claimed them as their own, the Bukidnon’s only recource was to retreat further up the slopes.

Finally, refusal by the state to recognize the natives’ historical claims to the land and its communal nature undermined tribal initiative in trying to protect their ancestral homelands.

Tribal lands that had traditionally been common property carefully managed under datu supervision were reverted to a dualistic system of private ownership (strictly controlled by the title-holder) and open access commons (uncontrolled and subject to ‘tragedy of the commons’– type scenarios).

In addition to heavy in-migration, the proliferation of cattle ranches (1910 –1915), pineapple (since 1928) and more recently sugarcane plantations (from 1975) in Bukidnon are notable since they occupy large tracts of fertile land that could otherwise have accommodated many small-holder farms. Arguably the consolidation of large land-holdings on the plateau by wealthy investors and corporations has displaced mostly migrant farmers – pushing them onto the lower footslopes, and in turn, forcing the natives onto the upper slopes of the watershed. Bukidnon is the leading province targeted under the Philippines current land reform program4 (Ledesma, date unknown).

This section of the paper has attempted to provide a historical context to the case study of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park. It traces the long retreat of Bukidnon’s lumad—and explains why their backs are now against the last forest remnants, facing a society that trivializes their beliefs and culture, and questions their right of stewardship over the land of their ancestors.

4.2 Catalysts of Deforestation on the Slopes of Mt. Kitanglad

The forest margin has receded rapidly on the park’s lower slopes, indicating an urgent need to conceptualize new and innovative approaches to protecting its boundaries. In the Lantapan study area, deforestation has advanced to the collar of the volcanic peaks. In designing new strategies for buffer zone management, it is instructive to first analyze the underlying dynamics of human activities that threaten the park’s conservation value. The following insights were gained from key informant interviews with Talaandig datus on the park’s perimeter in Lantapan.


Farmer respondents spoke in a united voice in identifying logging between 1967 to 1983 as the major cause of deforestation on the park’s perimeter. Rough roads were carved up the footslopes for the extraction of red lawaan (Shorea sp.), white lawaan, wild pine (Casuarina equisitifolia) and tungog (Phyllocladus hypophyllus). No compensation was paid to the barangays whose territorial jurisdiction was being logged and few local jobs were created. Only a few natives were hired to guide the loggers to the biggest trees.

There was no replanting or other silvicultural management after logging and, farmers pointed out, even trees near the headwaters of rivers were cut.

When asked how the forest was destroyed, many Talaandig responded that Fortich had cut down all the trees, they were keenly aware that the Rozfor (Remedios Ozamis Fortich) timber concession5 that degraded much of their forests was connected to the highest political echelons in Bukidnon (see Lao, 1992, p. 100). This begs the question of how, after the wealthiest and most privileged families have plundered the natural wealth of the forests, can the most resource-poor communities be asked to protect the remnants?

Forest Fires

The second factor most often cited was the outbreak of major forest fires during El Niño-induced droughts in 1973 and 1983. Some respondents thought that the forest fires began in the cogon grasslands on the lower slopes, probably swidden fires that went out of control. It spread rapidly into the park’s interior fueled by the highly combustible dried mossy forest and resinous pine trees. Possibly the logging may have contributed to the severity of the burn by leaving dried brush on the forest floor. DENR (1995, p. 4) estimates that 6,477 ha were damaged during the 1983 blaze alone. Farmers on the upper slopes lost coffee and abaca plantations.

The forests would have regenerated naturally and recovered from the fire – but the combination of logging roads and charred forests catalyzed a migration into these areas and their conversion into agricultural land. The fire had already accomplished much of the work and little additional labor was needed to bring the land into cultivatable shape.

Land Privatization and In-migration

Lantapan was not immune to the post –war flood of land-hungry migrants from Luzon and the Visayas.

Talaandig datus were generally welcoming of these new arrivals and often provided them with land at no charge during the early years. As the notion of private land gained currency in the 1950s, this also encouraged land sales by the natives. Some declared their fields for taxation (Declaration of Real Property), and after cadastral surveys, were able to upgrade to a Torrens Title. Land was no longer communal and subject to control by the already-weakened datus, but could be sold for individual gain. Thus many natives, aware that they could open a new kaingin further up the slopes, were easily persuaded to sell their land near the barrios and roads to the dumagats. This was also motivated, to some extent, by a fear of cultural absorption and domination by the lowlanders. Hence the Talaandig stuck to the strategy that has characterized native migration patterns throughout this century – avoid confrontation and retreat up the mountain.

Ethnographies of Talaandig datus describe the temporal patterns in ethnic composition in Lantapan barangays. More accessible villages near the Sayre Highway, and those near the poblacion (political centre of the municipality) attracted the greatest in-migration. Datus interviewed in Alanib, for example, told of an ethnic milieu that was 80% Talaandig and 20% dumagat during their boyhood. Migrants to Alanib often got a foothold in their adopted home by tenant cultivating Talaandig-owned land are now a minority constituting 16% of the village population. Most have sold their land and worked as tenants on dumagat farms or sell labor in the sugarcane plantations.

With the improvements that were made to the road to Basak in 1991, this trend appears to have shifted to the upper portions of the watershed. The upper barangays tend to have high projected growth rates—including 9.68% in Cawayan. This suggests heightened encroachment pressures on the forest margins in the upper watershed in the future. The barangays that continue to be isolated by poor road infrastructure, Kaatuan and Captain Juan, are less attractive to migrants and exhibit low growth projections. These figures speak convincingly of the catalyzing role of roads in bringing human pressures to bear against fragile ecosystems.

The spatial pattern of ethnic composition in Lantapan is also shown. The concentration of migrants in the political centre of the municipality and the more accessible lower end of the Manupali watershed is most striking–compared to the Talaandig majorities in remote barangays near the forest margin and in the upper reaches of the valley. This verifies that the buffer zone of the National Park is under the de facto control of the Talaandig and supports the argument that tribal organizations need to be empowered to take an active role in park protection.

Arrival of Mid-Latitude Vegetables

The arrival of one ethnic group from Luzon warrants particular mention since its migrants are credited with introducing high value vegetable crops to the footslopes of Mt. Kitanglad. The Igorots of Mountain Province, Central Luzon were attracted to Bukidnon by its similarities to their homeland; the vegetable gardening that they practiced in the Cordilleras was well adapted to the cool temperatures and higher elevations of the upper Manupali watershed and land was much more accessible. By the mid 1980s, vegetable farming began to expand rapidly on the landscape–cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, Chinese cabbage, and most importantly, potatoes.

Potatoes enjoyed a lucrative market in Cagayan de Oro and were the Igorot’s preferred crop. They rented land from the natives, usually on the upper slopes where the temperature was cool and the soils not yet exhausted. Unlike the traditional kaingins of the Talaandig, the Igorots cleared away all logs and brush, dug out tree stumps, and used draught animals to cultivate the soil into a fine seedbed. The fields’ vulnerability to severe erosion was not a major concern since the land was rented and the growers had no long-term interest in its condition.

The potato industry began to fuel deforestation when bacterial wilt built up in the soil after two to three crops, causing severe yield declines. To avoid this disease, the general practice was to harvest only two potato crops, and then switch to another crop. New fields that had never grown a crop of potatoes – and hence would not yet be infected, were then sought for planting the next potato crop. This meant that the Igorots were transient on the landscape – seeking black fertile soils near the forest margin, renting it for two crops of potatoes6, and then moving on in search of the next disease-free plot. As the Visayans and Talaandig began to emulate their Igorot neighbors, the demand for prime potato land induced many farmers to follow logging trails further up the slopes and convert fire-damaged forest into potato fields.

Intensive vegetable gardening is often criticized as being threatening to the conservation objectives of the park due to its role in deforestation, degradation of soil properties, and liberal use of chemical inputs. It should be recognized however, that the introduction of high value crops has enabled farmers to finance nutrient inputs (both chicken dung and inorganic fertilizers) and the evolution from rotational kaingin systems to permanent cultivation. This land-use intensification means that a larger population can be supported on a smaller land base; this is vital to buffer zone management if we are to alleviate the pressure for farmers to encroach into the park in search of agricultural land.

High Fertility Rates

Talaandig culture places high values on family and fertility levels remain high; much of the population growth in Lantapan is attributable to the excess of birth rates over mortality rates. Seven to twelve children are the norm. This bodes poorly for future park conservation in terms of: increasing demographic densities and demand for resources in the buffer zone; low educational levels mean that most children will have few livelihood options other than finding their own plot of land to farm; the native tendency to not out-migrate, but reside in clan clusters in their village of birth; and gains in standard of living will be thwarted as long as population growth continues to out-pace economic growth. The prospect of large communities living in poverty in the buffer zone remains a significant threat to the future of the Mt. Kitanglad Range.

Shifting Cultivation

Kaingin and the use of fire was also strongly associated with loss of forest cover. Respondents described shrinking fallow periods as they grew upland rice and maize in repeated swidden cycles – leaving soils exhausted and colonized by Imperata. This cogonal land was then abandoned and the farmers moved further up the toposequence to clear virgin land from the forest edge. It was often these degraded fields on the lower slopes that were easily sold for a pittance to dumagat migrants.

Community Lumber Needs

The population explosion on the forest margin required lumber for house construction. Much of this was probably cut from new kaingins being cleared, or by selective carabao logging on the forest perimeter.

Timber extraction for local needs was likely to have been a relatively minor factor in deforestation, causing some forest degradation in localized areas surrounding settlements.

Small-scale logging by farmers was a significant threat however, when financed by businessmen. It was usually the poorest strata of communities, under the pressure of economic necessity, who were vulnerable to propositions to poach timber. They were provided with credit and equipment on the condition that they would covertly extract lumber for delivery to the financier. Boards were concealed under piles of vegetables smuggled out in trucks. This was more common prior to the Bukidnon logging moratorium in 1992.

However, in the absence of close monitoring, it will persist at low chronic levels as long as farmers living in poverty on the forest margins do not have more attractive livelihood options.

This brief description of the dynamics underlying deforestation in Lantapan identifies some of the challenges that must be addressed by any proposed framework for CBPP of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park. The following section of the paper will present evidence that the culture of the Bukidnon tribes has at its core a deep respect for the sacredness of their ancestral lands and the need to approach the environment with respect. If these spiritual values and customs can be revived and strengthened, there are grounds for strong optimism that empowering tribal organizations as guardians of the forest can address both cultural and conservation agendas.

4.4 The Compelling Tribal Interest in Preserving the Mt. Kitanglad Range

In developing an argument that the ancestral land claims of ICCs are not antagonistic to the wider conservation objectives of the National Park, it is essential to demonstrate that the lumad have a self-interest in protecting these lands and would perform effectively as forest guardians. What is the evidence that the natives have traditionally preserved the environment in the past – and are motivated to continue this stewardship role in the future?

The tribes’ perception of the mountains as sacred is essentially the core issue that both justifies the ancestral domain claims and, this paper will argue, nurture as close and protective relationship with nature.

Respondents described the sanctity of Mt. Kitanglad as: the domain of a variety of unseen spirits; the origin of their ancestors; and as their source of livelihood.

4.4.1 Spirits: The Supernatural Forest Guardians

The daily activities of Bukidnon natives are interwoven into their world view that nature is controlled by a host of guardian spirits (migbaya) under the rule of a supreme God called Magbabaya (Cole, 1956; Cullen, 1973, 1980; Banaynal, 1980; Saway, 1981; Briones, 1989). Six spirits are believed to govern the most critical components of their livelihoods: water, the soil, bees and honey, the forest and its wildlife, crops’ abundant growth, and wealth (Banaynal, 1980; Saway, 1981). These supernatural beings dwell in rocks, trees, cliffs, mountains and rivers and, it is believed, control what happens within their sphere of influence.

It is essential to the Bukidnon that they maintain harmonious relationships with the spirits and seek their assistance “toward the fulfillment of immediate felt needs, such as a good harvest, a successful hunt, or the cure of illness” (Cullen, 1973, p. 2). This appeasement is achieved by performing rituals, providing offerings, and observation of taboos and prohibitions. Failure to show respect, however, may provoke anger and punitive actions in the form of a crop failure, sickness, or other disasters that may threaten the safety of the whole tribe. The lumad perception that nature is governed by guardian spirits that must be shown respect means by extension, that nature itself will be treated respectfully – or risk supernatural sanctions.

This worldview, with minor variations, is common amongst all indigenous groups in Bukidnon. Since their practices are a product of their own cognition of reality, the lumad’s interaction with the environment is guided by compliance with the compliance with the spirits, taboos, and omens. Talaandig datus explained that harvest of nature’s resources is always accompanied by rituals, first seeking permission and then giving thanks. Before beginning to open a kaingin, panalabugta rituals are performed, sacrificing a chicken and offering betelnut, colored pieces of cloth and few coins to seek permission from the spirit of the land, Talagbuta, to clear that specific plot. Pangibabasuk rituals before planting ask assistance from the spirit of the crops, Ibabasuk, in providing good yields.

A successful harvest is concluded with a pamahandi ritual to give thanks to the spirits and Magbabaya for blessings received during the cropping season. Corn harvest is celebrated with a pamuhat ritual as a gesture of thanksgiving. Young corn called lagon is ground and cooked in banana leaves to make a delicacy called binaki. Nearby villagers will be invited to join the feast in the lumad tradition of handogan – sharing what you have with others. Hunting was accompanied by similar rituals. Lime, tobacco and betelnut are placed in a balite tree (Ficus sp.) to implore the assistance of the spirit of the forest (Mamemelig) in guiding the dogs to the scent of the wild boar. A successful kill is concluded with a panganuyo, a prayer of thanks for the spirits’s benevolence.

Other researchers have documented similar examples of native resource management balanced with the need to respect the environment and maintain harmony with the spirit world. The Bukidnon, like most ICCs in the Philippines, believe balite trees to be inhabited by a powerful engkanto spirit that would inflict sickness and death on anyone who cut down its dwelling place. Cutting balite is thus generally prohibited or, as described by Banaynal (1980, p. 71), when balite are found growing in an area intended for kaingin and it becomes necessary to cut them down, the Talaandig may make offerings to the resident engkanto and wait for its reaction. If the offerings remain intact, this is interpreted to mean that the spirit has agreed to transfer to another tree and permission has been granted. Alternatively, if the offering is scattered, this indicates that the spirit has not found an alternative dwelling and permission is refused. Cole (1956, p. 98) recorded a variation of this farmer-balite interaction during his fieldwork with the Bukidnon in 1910. The farmer would lean a sapling against the balite tree and address the engkanto: If there is a man living in this tree, here is wood for you to use as a sign. If you are unwilling that I cut this tree, throw this wood away. If it pleases you to have this tree cut down, then leave this pole where it is. He would return to the field the following day and if the sapling was as he left it, this signified that consent had been granted.

Talisay and Kalamangan trees are also associated with spirits by some informants while others considered all big trees to be inhabited. Briones (1989) and Javier (1978) both mention the Tigkalasan Manobo’s (also sometimes referred to as Tala-andig7) practice of placing chicken eggs on the stumps of felled trees to appease the spirits that had resided in them.

Certain peaks and slopes of the Mt. Kitanglad Range are particularly sacred and are equated as being the church of the Talaandig. Flags, altars, and other religious paraphernalia used in communing with the spirits and Magbabaya can be found in these locations. They are strictly off-limits for hunting or swiddening and women and children may be forbidden to enter. On the forested slopes above Sungco, an area known as Tuminungan Plaza is carefully protected by the local datu; the clear boundary between farmer’s fields and the pristine forest of the sacred area is evidence of the efficacy of tribal sanctions. Within the Mt. Kitanglad Range, many peaks are revered as places of worship (Saway, 1995) and consequently protected.

Other spots on the park’s landscape are protected by taboos and fear of malevolent spirits. Lake Kigiba, for example, is believed to be inhabited by an evil spirit that will inflict leprosy on anyone who bathes in its waters. Pananawa Hill, near Malaybalay, is similarly avoided out of fear of a pair of giants thought to inhabit it. Any hunter venturing nearby will be troubled by evil spirits and unable to sleep at night. Omens may also affect resource use practices. The lumokon, a wild dove, is widely known as an omen bird. Its call, depending on the direction from which it is heard, indicates if a chosen swidden site will be suitable or should be abandoned (Arquisola, 1980; Agbayani, 1993). The call of the kulago, a night bird, is believed to foretell a plague or some misfortune.

These examples suggest that the Mt. Kitanglad forests have traditionally been buffered from overexploitation by the highest possible authority – the spirit world. Burton’s (1985, p. 23) conclusions about Manobo resource use patterns are probably equally applicable to other Bukidnon tribes:

. . .they take precautions in everything they do to avoid the violation of taboos and offending the spirits. This inter-play between the human and the human and the supernatural inculcates respect for nature. Thus trees are not cut down without a propitiatory ritual; wild game are not killed without the suguy; the crops are not planted without seeking permission; and the yield is not harvested without the taephag ritual. Ecologically, the Manobo are conservationists and protectors of the environment.

4.4.2 Ancestral Homeland

All Talaandig are familiar with the creation myth that describes the origin of their tribe (Saway, 1981). It tells of a great flood that submerged the world, leaving only the upper peaks of Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan above the waters. A lone man called Agbibilin escaped drowning by seeking refuge on the top of Mt. Kitanglad. Meanwhile, across the valley a woman by the name of Ginamayong had saved herself by floating in a wooden drum and finally beaching on the peak of Mt. Kalatungan (lit. wooden drum). After the floodwaters receded, this couple found each other and eventually bore eight children–four sons and four daughters. At Magbabaya’s instruction, Agbibilin allowed his children to intermarry and establish separate residences. As the four couples multiplied, they became the ancestors of the Talaandig, Maranaw, Maguindanao and Manobo tribes that eventually spread throughout Mindanao.

Based on this myth, the Talaandig consider Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan to be the father and mother mountains of the tribe. They are sacred as both the origin and burial grounds of their ancestors.

Many respondents expressed strong sentiments that the Mt. Kitanglad Range is central to the identity of the Talaandig tribe – that their cultural identity and the ecology of the slopes are inextricably interwoven. Preservation of the forest, they said, is synonymous with protecting their culture. It was their objective to preserve the mountain range long before anyone thought of gazetting it as a national park – and they would continue to do so even without DENR’s assistance.

4.4.3 Source of Economic Necessities

As already described, the Talaandig are reliant on the benevolence of the spirits in assisting them in securing their economic needs from nature. They equate the forest with: their market place that provides them with wildlife, fish, honey, wild fruits and berries, and other native edible plants; their construction supplies outlet that provides timber for building a shelter, rattan to lash the pieces together, and nipa or cogon for roofing; and their pharmacy where herbal plants are gathered to treat injuries, diseases, and use as contraceptives. Thus the forested mountains have a spiritual significance as the provider of all the Talaandig’s needs.

This attempt to explain the lumad’s spiritual, cultural and historical relationship with the Mt. Kitanglad Range provides persuasive insights on why the tribes are likely to be the most committed guardians of the park borders. The most positive prospect for successfully conserving the Mt. Kitanglad Range is precisely that it is not strictly an externally-driven agenda – but does in fact respond to the felt needs of the tribal community. Their high motivation coupled with their physical positioning on the park’s periphery argues strongly for their enlistment as the custodians of the park forests.

4.5 Indigenous Resource Management

In addition to spiritual influences on resource management, there is also evidence that the Talaandig have evolved very pragmatic practices to moderate resource extraction and ensure sustainable use.

4.5.1 Hunting

One of the most striking examples of a conservation approach to resource management is the concept of tangkal – a recognized safe haven for wildlife where hunting or trapping is strictly forbidden. If a pursued pig or deer crosses the boundary into the tangkal, the chase must stop and the dogs are called off. This indigenous concept is analogous to what conservation planners now call a strict protection zone – and acts as a reservoir to buffer wildlife populations from over-harvest. The resolve of the tribes to protect tangkal from encroachment should not be underestimated. When a government program attempted to resettle 350 Iglesia ni Kristo families in a Higaonon tangkal in Barangay Hagpa, Impasugong in 1984, the natives armed themselves to fight to protect it – until the government backed down (Lao, 1992, p. 161). Another example of judicious wildlife harvest is prohibitions against killing immature wildlife or deer heavy with pregnancy (Burton, undated).

4.5.2 Preservation of Trees . . .

. . . As Food Sources for Bees and Wildlife

From their observation of nature, the lumad recognize which tree species are key food sources for wildlife and preserve these as hunting sites. Baganalan trees are conserved as food sources for birds, while the wild pig prefers to forage on fallen gasa and balite (Ficus so.) fruit. Kalamagan and olayan (Lithocarpus) trees would be protected as important sources of nectar for honey bees.

. . . As Medicinal Herbs

Bayog, bitaug (Calophyllum inophyllum) and other trees with curative properties are spared the axe while clearing land and carefully protected for future use.

. . . As Raw Materials for Handicrafts

Tribal restrictions prohibit cutting shoots of bamboo species (Bambusa spp.) used in weaving; conserve grasses such as sud-sod (Fimbristylis globulosa) that are woven into mats; and nurture rattan (Calamus spp.) for later harvest.

. . . And to Protect Streams

Plants that are categorized as mawahig (water-bearing) are conserved to maintain the water table and prevent erosion of stream banks. Planting abaca (Musa textilis) near favored fishing spots is thought to protect the water source and prevent streams from dying out even during prolonged droughts. Balite is also considered as key to stream ecology; its protection by spiritual sanctions may be strategic in maintaining watershed hydrology.

4.5.3 Swiddening

Like many swidden-based cultures, the Talaandig evolved cultivation practices that demonstrated both an intricate knowledge of their environment and an intentional strategy to minimize the ecological impacts of their activities.

The position of star constellations and indicator trees, such as kadugi, kalamagan, and talisay, were used to monitor the passing of the seasons and judge when it was time to begin clearing the kaingin (Saway, 1979, p. 7). In choosing a site, the headwaters of streams were avoided both to protect the water source-and because drying the slash sufficiently for a good burn was problematic in sheltered valley areas. Moderate slopes were preferred to enable falling the trees downslope in a relatively uniform pattern, leaving more exposed soil for planting between the fallen trunks. Working in sloping fields also required less bending over compared to level areas. The floral composition of prospective sites was noted to judge soil properties and the most suitable crop. For example, the presence of lawaan (Shorea sp.) indicated black, fertile soils (tabunok) in which abaca, maize or coffee would thrive; olayan suggested impoverished, reddish soils

(pulahan) that should be limited to less demanding crops such as sweet potatoes or cassava.

Swidden size was determined by throwing a bolo either over-hand-or more difficult, backwards between the kainginero’s legs (lambog tag talikuran – lit. throw it backwards). The distance of the throw marked the boundaries of the plot to be cleaned. The rationale behind this unusual practice was that the distance of the throw was indicative of the farmer’s strength, and the size of the swidden that he had the capacity to maintain. From an ecological viewpoint, these smaller swiddens would have been less vulnerable to erosion;

coppicing of tree stumps left in the field and seed dispersal from forest adjacent to the plot assisted rapid forest regeneration during the fallow period.

After burning the slash and allowing the soil to cool, rice and corn were dibbled directly using standard swidden technologies. After two to three crops, increasing colonization by hard-to-control grasses demanded high labor inputs for weeding, prompting the farmer to fallow the plot or alternatively, plant perennials such as lutya, abaca, pomelo or avocado.

These few examples of indigenous resource management practices suggest a tradition of careful manipulation of the environment – balancing the extractive demands of the Talaandig with the ecological resilience of nature. This conservation approach to resource management needs to be revived, strengthened and aligned in any strategy for management of the park’s buffer zone.

4.6 Tribal Conservation Initiatives

The final measure of the tribe’s determination to bring an end to the assault on the Mt. Kitanglad Range is the initiative that they have demonstrated in organizing a united response to the threat to their ancestral lands. While external agencies continue to wring their hands over issues of boundary locations, park zoning, and buffer zone management, for several years already tribal organizations have rallied around the park perimeter to form the front line of defense … and are clearly leading the way in protection of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Nature Park.

4.6.1 Formation of the Tribal Guardians

For years now, tribal communities on the park boundary have had a front row seat in witnessing the failure of a highly centralized approach to forest protection. As the forest margin continued to retreat up the slopes of Mt. Kitanglad at a rapid pace, they found themselves being viewed by the state as suspects – the villains responsible for the problem. In response, in 1993 a group of 14 Talaandig datus coordinated in drafting a letter to DENR in which they offered to organize a tribal-based program to assist in forest

protection. Forest guardians known as bantay gubat (lit. guard of the forest) were organized in forest margin communities, provided with training, and deputized by DENR.

With this decentralization of responsibilities to the community, the tribal guardians became the eyes and ears of DENR. Datus held community meetings to explain this new community-based initiative in protecting their ancestral lands and emphasized their shared responsibility in enforcing park regulations. The expansion of kaingin into the forest would be no longer permitted. Hunting within park boundaries was banned, and

only dead or fallen trees could be extracted for lumber. The fact that responsibility for enforcement of these prohibitions now rested at the community level demanded a much higher level of accountability; flaunting the regulations would no longer be the sole concern of DENR – but would be a direct challenge to the datuship and tribal law. Within the community, social pressure to conform is enormous and the protection system became largely self-policing. The tribal guardians are not burdened with daily foot patrols along the park boundary – but simply maintain a cognizance of activities at the forest margin. Violations are reported to a high datu, who investigates, passes judgement, and imposes punitive measures based on tribal law.

Thus, both monitoring and enforcement are accomplished by the community without need of intervention by DENR. This strategy has gained momentum and a second tribal initiative has since assembled a network of 260 tribal guardians spread around the periphery of the park.

The active participation of tribal members in park protection appears to have reawakened their sense of responsibility for their ancestral lands – and with this, has almost certainly come a revived sense of cultural identity and historical roots in the Mt. Kitanglad Range. Four Igorot farmers have thus far been apprehended under this program for extending their fields into park forests and harvesting the lumber from the cleared trees. One repeat offender was penalized an 80 kg pig and several chickens, and in all cases, the lumber was seized and used for community projects. Even the Philippine National Museum has been stung by the tribe’s increased assertiveness in policing their ancestral lands. A field expedition that climbed up the slopes on a botanical survey was confronted and their specimens seized, for failing to seek permission from tribal authorities. These are positive indicators that if their ancestral domain claim is recognized, tribal organizations do have the initiative and ability to control access to the park and ensure its conservation objectives are not compromised.

4.6.2 Other Tribal Projects

Several other Talaandig initiatives demonstrating a conservation intent warrant brief mention:

A Talaandig Multi-Purpose Cooperative has been instituted that clearly states forest protection and reforestation as one of its key objectives.

The World Bank-supported Manupali Watershed Project provided farmers with fertilizers and seedlings and paid them to reforest critical areas of the watershed. Some sitios in Sungco rebuked this offer out of fear that acceptance of project wages and inputs might weaken their land claims. They were keen enough on the reforestation objective however, that they did accept the seedlings and planted them on their own initiative, refusing pay. They have now applied to the municipality for assistance in reforesting

another 50 hectares along the banks of the Alanib Creek, the major water source for Lantapan.

In 1975 a group of datus coordinated in setting aside 500 ha of pristine forest on the mid-slopes as a conservation area8. This reservation was registered with the Office for Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC) for legal recognition that would be necessary to prevent encroachment by organized squatters or corporations. This area continues to be guarded by the tribe.

These spontaneous initiatives by the tribes clearly demonstrate that the cultural values and beliefs that guide their behavior are directly compatible with the National Park’s conservation agenda. This shared vision of a pristine Mt. Kitanglad Range can form the basis of a social contract in which the state would grant the tribes’ ancestral domain claims – contingent on firm commitment that the park’s conservation value would be strictly protected by the tribes. This marriage between the ancestral domain and park protection issues is a logical union that will capitalize on their interlinkages and provide synergy between biological and cultural conservation.

4.7 Enforcement of Park Boundaries Through Existing Tribal Institutions

The proliferation of social forestry-oriented programs in S.E Asia acknowledges the years of failure by centralized, bureaucratic agencies in managing public forests. The current trend to devolve forest control to local communities requires that local-level institutional mechanisms must be put in place to provide a management framework. Community organizers are often brought in to build or strengthen local institutions and guide the community in designing a workable management plan. In this case study, the preparatory stage for communal management of the Mt. Kitanglad Range may be abbreviated because all the necessary components for CBPP already exist within tribal institutions – and are only in need of strengthening. An extremely cogent observation in a recent evaluation of Philippine social forestry programs concluded (Anonymous, undated, p.ii):

It is important to avoid repetition of past attempts to replace traditional organizational forms. . . with artificial structures that are insensitive to cultural realities . . . Build on existing collaborative mechanisms that are part of the culture and have the potential to evolve into sophisticated organizations over time.

The Bukidnon tribal institutions already are sophisticated – but have been eroded by the imposition of centralized state institutions. The following key concepts need to be revived and harnessed towards tribal stewardship of the park.

4.7.1 Datuship

In precolonial times, Bukidnon tribes were scattered over the landscape in small kinship-based settlements. Within each community, the datu (chieftain) was the head of the tribal power structure and was considered the father of his followers. Central to his position were his command of the community’s respect, and his ability to arbitrate disputes based on their unwritten customary law. Although the introduction of civil government has weakened the datu system, most barangays continue to function under dual tribal-civil


The datu will be a linchpin to the success of any CBPP initiative due to his leadership role, and knowledge of territorial boundaries and customary law. It is critical that datus be closely consulted in deliberations on park management and recruited as committed allies in its implementation.

4.7.2 Existing Territorial Boundaries

The concept of tribe came late to the Bukidnon; most lived in disparate swidden enclaves at the forest margin and were much like independent states (Burton, Pers. Comm.). There was no over-arching tribal structure that bound these scattered communities together in a unified tribal federation.

Each libulung (settlement) is territorially defined by duluna (boundaries) such as hills, mountains, ravines, creeks and rivers. Each datu takes care of all the people in his banuwa (township). He sees to it that his sakop (members or followers) establish his sakum [swidden] within his territory and that these ogaop (members) of his do their fishing and hunting within his boundaries (Opena, 1974, p. 20).

Thus, the landscape was carved up into independent territories under the control of the resident datu, and for the exclusive use of his followers. When civil government in Bukidnon began to absorb these settlements into a hierarchy of sitios, barangays, and municipalities, the same territorial boundaries were maintained in defining the new political units.

This is key to the notion of CBPP for two reasons. Firstly, these existing boundaries already carve up the entire park into discrete management units – each of which could be assigned to the protective care of a local community and its tribal guardians. This would diminish chances of conflict between communities – and heighten the initiative and accountability of community members for protecting “their” section of the park.

The second point is that these boundaries have long been recognized and respected by the natives under sanctions of tribal law – and would not be perceived as a new and oppressive regulation imposed by park management.

In this manner, the 28 barangays in eight municipalities that lie within the periphery of the park could be subdivided into smaller management units and monitored by local communities – creating an effective tribal buffer around the entire park perimeter. This could be coordinated by the Talaandig, Bukidnon and Higaonon tribes under the umbrella of a tribal federation, or each barangay could report directly to DENR.

4.7.3 Tribal Justice

Social control has traditionally been enforced in Bukidnon communities by customary laws (batasan) that have been handed down from generation to generation (see Burton and Canoy, 1991). The datu, assisted by his tribal council, investigated alleged transgressions against the batasan, weighed the evidence, and imposed sanctions on those judged to be guilty. Today, the tribal judicial process continues to operate at the barangay level, coexisting with the national legal system. Its decisions and dispensation of justice are recognized by the Philippine authorities.

This local judicial process could strengthen the ability of communities to police the forests in a culturally appropriate manner. Park protection regulations may be obeyed more readily if interwoven into the fabric of tribal laws; violations could be considered tantamount to crimes against the ancestral homeland and the spirits that dwell there. The tribal guardians could report anomalies to a high datu for judgment – with only more serious cases or repeat offenders being referred to DENR.

4.7.4 Tribal Organizations

Existing tribal organizations can provide the institutional framework needed for implementing an Integrated Conservation and Development Project (ICDP) in the park buffer zone. Saway and Salazar (1995, p. 6) note that high datus coordinate with tribal committees on: spiritual values and religion; oral histories; justice and equality based on custom and traditions; health and traditional medicines; indigenous farm technology, livelihood and cooperation, and maintenance of peace, order and security. Buffer zone

development projects designed to improve living standards and alleviate encroachment pressures on the forest margins will be multi-sectoral and may involve components of income generation, introduction of new crop germplasm and farming technologies, education, health and family planning, and so on. Thus, these different initiatives that may fall under the rubric of an ICDP can be planned and implemented in partnership with the appropriate tribal committee.

Tribal Development Plans and Barangay Development Plans are written annually to reflect, respectively, tribal and civic priorities, and are submitted to the municipality for funding. Both of these plans could be collaborative with park protection and development activities of an ICDP.

Finally, the recent formation of the Bukidnon Alliance of Tribal Communities (BATCOM), a federation of seven Bukidnon tribes, will facilitate intertribal cooperation in a park-wide conservation approach.

Thus, the institutional framework for tribal stewardship of the Mt. Kitanglad Range already exists in the form of: the respected authority of the datu; territorial boundaries that delineate the park into smaller operational units; a tribal judicial process to enforce regulations; and tribal organizations to assist in planning and implementing ICDP initiatives.

4.8 Strategies for Buffer Zone Management

The future of the Mt. Kitanglad Range will depend heavily on the ability of the buffer zone to cloak the park’s perimeter with an effective barrier – comprising: cultural (tribal vigilance of their ancestral lands); religious (threat of spiritual sanctions); legal (tribal customary law); moral (community norms); economic (alternative livelihood options); and physical (long distances inaccessible by road) elements. The proposed buffer zone is a belt of DENR-managed land on the mid-slopes, creating a corridor between the National Park boundary and privately owned A&D land. It needs to address the dual objectives of insulating the park core from the impacts of human activities, but simultaneously, providing products or ecological services useful to local communities. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to design a comprehensive blueprint for managing Mt. Kitanglad’s perimeter, ten operating principles are proposed as critical to


4.8.1 Demarcate Park Boundaries

The initial task is to eliminate confusion about boundary locations. In consultation with local datus, and with a GPS in hand, park management needs to walk the agreed park boundaries – installing temporary markers and recording precise map coordinates. Rather than install cement monuments (mohon) that are foreign to local communities, it is preferable to seek their assistance in planting species such as kilala (Cordyline fruticosa) or bamboo, that are readily recognized as boundary markers by Bukidnon tribes.

Participation in this process would instill in villagers a sense of ownership and responsibility for the boundary lines. Further expansion of agriculture, logging, or hunting would be strictly forbidden beyond the boundary, and enforced by the tribal guardians. The same process would be repeated for both the outer boundary of the buffer zone, and the internal boundaries that divide the park into smaller, community-controlled

management units.

4.8.2 Deputize Tribal Guardians

The initiative of datus in mobilizing tribal guardians to protect the forest should be commended and strengthened. DENR should provide them with training seminars on park regulations, deputize them, and otherwise capitalize on the opportunity to develop strong relationships of trust and partnership with buffer zone communities.

4.8.3 Education Campaign

A public awareness campaign would sensitize buffer zone communities about the park’s objectives and regulations, and emphasize their key role in conserving their ancestral lands. The message should not be overly focused on biodiversity conservation, but should be couched in a more meaningful frame of reference for resource-poor farmers, e.g., regulation of watershed hydrology. Radio is the most effective media for reaching isolated households on the forest margin. In the schools, special attention should be paid to native ways of learning so that environmental messages are presented to students in culturally appropriate formats (see Pechora, 1993). The oral tradition of the Bukidnon could be tapped, for example, to convey environmental themes in ballads, poetry or proverbs.

4.8.4 Restricted Land Transfers

The flow of migrants to the upper slopes of Mt. Kitanglad must be stemmed by imposing limitations on rental and sale of land within the buffer zone. One workable option would be for tribal councils to register as legal entities and then apply to DENR for 25 year Community Forestry Management Agreements (CFMA) for that portion of the buffer zone within their territorial jurisdiction. This would divide the buffer zone into several contiguous CFMAs, each under the stewardship of a different tribal council. Applying CFMAs as a buffer zone tenurial instrument offers several advantages:

The communal tenure of a CFMA fits well with the tribes’ traditional concept of land as common property for the mutual benefit of the entire community. Equitable exploitation rights to resources within the CFMA area would be managed by the tribal council.

CFMAs are inalienable and non-transferable, preventing new migrants from settling in the buffer zone.

The guiding principles of CFMAs – forest rehabilitation and sustained yield management – are equally appropriate for buffer zone management. Management plans for CFMAs could be tailored to accommodate considerations specific to park protection.

CFMAs would provide DENR with institutional leverages to ensure that the buffer zone was being managed in a manner consistent with park protection objectives. Although it is democratically more problematic to impose limitations on the transfer of Alienable and Disposable (A&D) land on the lower slopes of Mt. Kitanglad, tribal leaders sensitized to the seriousness of the problem (given the native propensity to sell land and migrate further up the slopes), may help dissuade their members from land sales.

4.8.5 Incorporate Indigenous Knowledge

Tribal ITK and traditional resource management practices should form the basis of efforts to restore the buffer zone’s ecology. Forest species providing useful products need to be planted in the buffer zone, thereby alleviating the need for harvest within the park. A preliminary list of farmers–suggested species includes species identified as performing key ecological services within the ecosystem. For example, planting abaca, balite, or other’ water-bearing’ plants near streams helps maintain water levels. Honey production could be stimulated by planting kalamagan and olayan to attract bees and provide nectar. Some herbal contraceptives and other medicines that have become scarce could be propagated within buffer zone agroforests. Rattan, bamboo, and other species used in cottage industries can be planted in the shaded understorey of large canopy trees. Preferred timber species could be planted to satisfy domestic lumber needs. And farmer knowledge of tree properties, such as which species are unsuitable for high elevations

(gmelina, molave, manggal), fruit trees that combine well with forest species (nangka, marang, bugka), or trees associated with dry stream beds (gmelina, eucalyptus), could feed into agroforestry design. Gradual enrichment planting of the wide variety of trees, shrubs, herbs and vines used by the lumad would evolve into diverse, man-made agroforests that would minimize park-people conflicts.

Park management could also benefit from the insights of tribal indigenous knowledge. The farmer-developed system of broadcasting wild sunflower (Thitonia diversifolia) seeds to smother out Imperata swards could be useful in rehabilitating the fire-induced cogonal grasslands in the park interior. Farmers suggest planting gasa, baganalan, and balite to increase food availability for wild boar, monkeys, birds, and other wildlife. And, they note, lawaan is the favored tree of the Philippine Eagle.

4.8.6 Rehabilitation of Ravines

Deeply cleft ravines that extend down Mt. Kitanglad’s slopes have maintained some of their natural forest cover. These are of conservation interest since they: protect small creeks that feed into the Manupali River; represent narrow repositories of biodiversity that extend down to the valley floor; and could function as wildlife corridors to the Mt. Kalatungan area on the opposite side of the valley. These ravines need to be protected from expansion of agriculture and rehabilitated through assisted natural regeneration and

enrichment planting of indigenous tree species.

4.8.7 No Burning Policy

Fire played a central role in the rapid retreat of Mt. Kitanglad’s forest margins and has left Imperata swards deep within the park’s interior (Mirasol, Pers. Comm.). Most fires originate in kaingenero’s fields. A no burning policy needs to be enforced in the buffer zone, as part of the tribal guardians’ mandate. Slash-and-mulch techniques could be introduced to those farmers wishing to continue using fallows in the short term, but ultimately, they should be assisted in adopting permanent forms of cultivation. Social pressure against burning will gain momentum as villagers include more tree crops on their farms and have a greater investment at stake that is vulnerable to wildfires.

4.8.8 Land Use Intensification

If growing populations are to be sustained on a stagnant land base, land use intensification must be a key component of any strategy for buffer zone management. Research in Indonesia has documented the desirable buffer zone properties of complex, multi-strata agroforests in terms of providing: most of the same ecological functions as natural forest cover; extended wildlife habitat; insulation of the park from human

activities; absorption of household labor; and substantial incomes from a wide variety of harvestable products (Michon et al, 1986, 1992; Deforesta, 1992).

Development of complex agroforests in the buffer zone of Mt. Kitanglad could be encouraged by: consulting farmers in identifying desirable species; inventorying which species perform best at varying elevational bands; identifying and addressing farmer constraints to planting trees; assisting in nursery establishment and propagation techniques; and standard extension methodologies such as demonstration plots, field trips, and training seminars. This initiative needs to be supported by a rigorous research program to identify appropriate agroforestry technologies for the Mt. Kitanglad landscape.

Cultivation of mid-latitude vegetable crops in less steeply sloped fields may be intensified by crop rotations, interplanting and relay planting; and made more sustainable through adoption of contour hedgerow and integrated pest management (IPM) Technologies.

4.8.9 Integrated Approach

The complex interplay of factors contributing to forest degradation on Mt. Kitanglad require a holistic and integrated programming approach; five central pillars of an ICDP should focus on:


– so tribal children participate more fully in Philippine society and have the option of pursuing professional occupations;

Health and family planning

– to reduce infant mortality, improve general health, and better meet the existing demand for family planning services;

Credit access

– to free natives from the parasitic grip of the suki system; and provide them with the investment capital needed to grow high value crops and intensify rotational swiddening into permanent cultivation;

Farming systems research and extension

– to identify and extend farming systems that: build on indigenous knowledge and practices; have high agrodiversity; provide attractive incomes; are sustainable; and are ‘park-friendly’.

4.8.10 Cultural Sensitivity

The rich biodiversity that scientists have documented on the slopes of the Mt. Kitanglad Range has been conserved under the stewardship of the lumad since time immemorial, and is intricately interwoven with their cultural identity: their senses of origin and attachment to the forests; their religion and need to maintain a harmonious relationship with the environment and its resident spirits; their ITK developed through centuries of experience; and their customary laws and communal land tenure that have shaped resource use practices. The strong interlinkages between cultural diversity and biodiversity suggest that cultural conservation should be an integral goal in national park protection (Gurung, 1994).

These initiatives are designed to reconcile the conservation objectives of the park with the socioeconomic needs of buffer zone communities – and include elements of both enforcement and development.

Development interventions aimed at alleviating forest encroachment pressure should carefully identify and target the ‘critical users’ group that is most heavily reliant on harvest of park resources. This group’s right to avail of the benefits of bufferzone projects would be strictly contingent on its active participation in park boundary enforcement. Projects located on the valley floor may assist in attracting population pressures away from the park boundary on the upper slopes, but in the long term, the jobs and incomes generated by a fast –growing Philippine economy may provide the most effective park buffer.


The tribes’ demonstrated commitment to conservation suggests that granting them ancestral domain of the Mt. Kitanglad Range would not be antagonistic to National Park objectives – but could form the foundation of a ‘social contract’ between the local stakeholder – tribal community – and the national/international stakeholders – represented by DENR. The negotiating process should not be overlay strenuous considering that both parties share a vision for park conservation, albeit for very different reasons.

Starting from this common ground, an alternative paradigm for park protection may be developed that views buffer zone communities not as threats – but as highly committed guardians of protected wildlands.

For both stakeholders, the core non-negotiable objective is preservation of a pristine Mt. Kitanglad ecosystem – and granting ancestral domain must be contingent on ensuring that the park’s conservation value is not threatened. The necessary mechanisms are already in place for the Bukidnon tribes to protect the forest on a community-by-community basis, and have already begun to function. If these buffer zone communities are able to effectively secure access to the park perimeter, then the conservation objective of the social contract has already been met; in return, buffer zone communities should be able to expect commensurate development programs that address their problems. Even if ancestral domain is granted, we are still left with the sobering reality of expanding communities of resource-poor farmers trying to eke a livelihood from the mountain slopes. As one Talaandig datu observed, the pain of hunger may force his people to violate their own laws of environmental conservation. This underlines the critical importance of combining biodiversity conservation with sustainable development in mutually supportive programming thrusts.

A siege mentality predominates in the uplands of Bukidnon. Environmentalists, alarmed by the Philippine forest’s rapid decimation in the last half century, are urgently seeking new approaches to protect remnant wildlands. Indigenous peoples are not only on the forest margins – but also on the political and economic margins of Bukidnon society. If they continue their historical retreat up the mountain slopes, the Higaonon, Bukidnon and Talaandig tribes will soon be humping into each other on the peaks of Mt. Kitanglad – with nowhere left to flee. Ironically, the tribes’ retreat will have ended on the same mountain peaks where their origin myths describe their beginning. It is in this context that the environmental stakeholders and the indigenous cultural communities are ‘circling the wagon’ around the Mt. Kitanglad slopes in a defensive posture to protect what is left. The cultural identity of the Bukidnon is so inextricably interwoven with the forest, the ecological survival of the park is strongly equated with their own cultural survival. Thus, the commonality of their conservation agendas should provide a basis for developing a strong coalition between the tribes, DENR, NGOs and scientists in park protection. The cultural diversity of the tribes has contributed to the maintenance of Mt. Kitanglad’s rich biodiversity, suggesting that cultural conservation should be an integral goal in National Park protection.

The paper has intentionally not appealed to issues of social justice or fairness – but by assembling empirical facts, has argued that the tribal communities who occupy the park’s buffer zone are, pragmatically, the only means by which the park can be effectively protected. Granting their ancestral land claims, contingent to conservation–related conditions, would provide a rallying point for their revived sense of ethnic identity and empowerment, and harness their initiative towards park protection.


This investigation was sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada under a project grant to the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF). The author gratefully acknowledged the invaluable assistance and coordination of both Drs. John Graham, IDRC Singapore and Dennis Garrity, ICRAF Bogor for making this work possible.

Vol. 4, No. 4, Fourth Quarter 1999

By Dante B. Gatmaytan


Repeated efforts have been made to point out that the Philippine legal system has long recognized that indigenous peoples’ ownership rights over their ancestral domains. Cariño V. Insular Government, the United States Supreme Court, exercising appellate jurisdiction over the Philippine courts, is a case in point. It stated that lands held since time immemorial are private lands protected by the Bill of Rights.

This case has generated considerable discussion, but it has also been pointed out that Cariño and its subsequent interpretation by courts in the Philippines and United States. It will show that the Cariño decision haws been continuously misinterpreted in both jurisdictions.

Cariño is significant because the judicial recognition of indigenous peoples’ ownership of their ancestral domains is uncommon. Ironically, the United States Supreme Court that decided Cariño has been less than willing to recognize similar rights for the indigenous peoples’ of North America. Simply put, that Court has held that neither the discovery of the New World under international law, nor the resulting English colonial policy, requires the recognition of Indian title. The United States as a legatee of this policy was, therefore, not bound to recognize any rights belonging to indigenous peoples. The judicial doctrines in the United States have been explained as a result of racist attitudes that prevailed during the settlement of the United States. Many accounts of the settlement were crafted as the triumph of a people over the challenges of nature.

However, it was mostly a “violent, imperialistic process by which the West was wrested from its original owners.” Scholars have traced this attitude to the medieval era when the crusading theory of practice of the Church produced a highly refined legal tradition denying non-Christian peoples the rights of self-rule and jurisdictional authority over the lands they occupied and the property they possessed. This cultural racism was applied with the same force against any race of peoples, whose religion, civilization, or form of culture, differed from Christian European norms. This legacy was brought to the New World by the colonizers and used to support a set of legal privileges that discriminated against indigenous peoples and denied them rights of self-rule because of their deviation from European standards.

The westward expansion of the United States did not stop with the adjacent states. By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States has established itself not only as a sovereign nation worthy of inclusion into the international community, but had also asserted itself as a world power. There was agitation for greater glory beyond the territorial borders of the country, which echoed the same rhetoric used to justify the conquest to the Native Americans. There were calls for continued westward progress of the Caucasian race, “carrying civilization and blessing in its march.”

The stimulus in the United States was to push for the adoption of the expansionists’ platform. The Cuban insurrection against Spain had become a central theme in the debates about whether the

United States should engage in overseas expansion. Inflammatory reports of Spanish atrocities generated popular sympathy for insurgents, until a policy of non-intervention was disregarded, and war with Spain was viewed as the sole remedy to the Cuban situation. To the delight of the expansionists, the United Stated went to war against Spain. Senator Albert J. Beveridge further spurred his United Stated went to war against Spain.

Senator Albert J. Beveridge further spurred his fellow Americans by reminding them that “we are conquering race, and that we must obey our blood and occupy new markers and new lands. “He pointed to the Philippines to the United States and delivered rounded by indigenous people who were never subdued by the Spanish empire.

The indications were that United States law will be used to settle land disputes between non-

Christian indigenous peoples and the United States President McKinley’s Instructions to the second Philippine Commission headed by William Howard Taft stated that:

In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the Islands, the Commission should adopt the same course followed by Congress in allowing the tribes of our North American Indians to maintain their tribal organization and government, and under which many of these tribes are now living in peace and contentment, surrounded by a civilization to which they are unable or willing to confirm. Such tribal governments should, however, be subjected to wise and firm regulation; and without due and pretty interference constant and active effort should be exercised without due and petty interference constant and active effort should be exercised to prevent barbarous practices and introduce civilized customs.

The instructions were not surprising considering that the United States’ incursion into the Philippines coincided with the use of reservations and the allotment of lands to control Indians. But when the issue of ownership of ancestral domains in the Philippines was raised to the United States Supreme Court, the issue was decided differently. In the next portion of their paper, we will outline the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Cariño.

The facts of Cariño v. Insular Government were brief:

The applicant and plaintiff in error is an Igorot of the Province of Benguet, where the land lies. For more than fifty years before the Treaty of Paris, April 11, 1989 (30 Stat. At L., 1754), as far back as the findings go, the plaintiff and his ancestors had held the land as owners. His grandfather had lived upon it, and had maintained fences efficient for the holding of cattle, according to the custom of the country, with some of the fences, it seems, having been of much earlier date. His father had cultivated parts and had used parts for pasturing cattle, and he had used it as a pasture in his turn. They all had been recognized as owners by the Igorots, and he had inherited or received the land from his father, in accordance with Igorot custom. No document of title, however, had issued from the Spanish Crown, and although, in 1893-1894, and again in 1869-1879, he applied for one under the royal decrees then in force, nothing seems to have come of it, unless perhaps, information that lands in Benguet could not be conceded until those to be occupied for sanitarium, etc., had been designated-a purpose carried out by the Philippine government and the United States. In 1901 the plaintiff filed a petition, alleging ownership, under the mortgage law, and the lands were registered to him, that process, establishing only a possessory title, it said.

The issue according to Justice Holmes was whether the claimant, an Igorot, owned the land. The United States government contented that Spain had title to all the lands in the Philippines, except so far as it saw fit to permit private titles to be acquired. It maintained that no prescription can be claimed against Spanish empire and even if that was possible, a decree in 1880 had set a deadline for the registration of these titles. No title would be recognized as valid beyond that date. Since the land in question was not registered, the government contended that it had become public (if it was already public). When the United States succeeded to the title of Spain, Cariño had no right which it was bound to respect. The Court disagreed with the United States in a decision that has remained as obscure as it is significant.

The Court admitted that Spain had embraced the universal feudal theory that all lands were held by the Crown. However, Justice Holmes, who spoke for the Court, said that in practice sovereignty may vary in degree. “How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to decide.”

The Igorots were never brought under the control of the Spaniards. The Court quipped that it would be almost certain that Spain would not have granted registration of the property that would not have made title valid. Regardless of Spain’s position about technical subtleties, this did not mean that under the dominion of the United States, Cariño had lost all his rights. He was not a mere trespasser when the government succeeded as the new sovereign. A contrary position, would “amount to denial of native titles throughout an important part of the Island of Luzon, at least for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not have permitted and had not the power to enforce.”

The Court explained that the cases involving the land claims of Native Americans were inapplicable in this situation because the acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy the land. Evidently, however stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one, we suppose would deny that, so far consistent with paramount necessities, our first object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to the natives, not to exploit their country for private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902… all the property and rights acquired there by the United States are to be administered “for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof.”

In the Court’s view, the United States had bound itself to administer the islands for the benefit of the inhabitants, and not to exploit it for profit. However, the decision did not stop there. It pointed out that the Philippine Bill of 1902 included a Bill of rights that extended those safeguards to all the inhabitants of the Philippines. The Court found it hard to believe that the United States interpreted the due process clause not to apply to the inhabitants of Benguet. The “property” under the organic act protected “only that which had become such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never heard, and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by native custom and by long association – one of the profoundest factors in human thought-regarded as their own.”

While the government of the Philippines was empowered to enact rules for perfecting titles to public lands and to issue patents to natives, the Court held that this power was confined to lands which were admittedly public. It “had not continued for such a length of time and under such circumstances as to give rise to the understanding that the occupants were owners.” The Court refused to believe that there was an intent to declare every native who had not a paper title a trespasser. This set the claims of all the wilder tribes afloat. The Court further held that there must be a presumption against the government when a private individual claims property as his or her own. It went so far as to say that the lands will be deemed private absent contrary proof. In what is probably the most potent statement ever made on this subject by any Court, it held:

Whatever the law upon these points may be…every presumption is and ought to be against the government in a case like the present. It might be proper and sufficient to say that when as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way even before Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land.

The Court proceeded to explain that the case would have been similarly resolved had the case tried by the laws of Spain. After examining the pertinent laws, the Court held that We do not discover such clear proof that it was bad by that [Spanish] law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to suggest pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owing some lands, irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even tenants at will.

The Court pointed out that the Recopilacion de Leyes de Las Indias (that body of edicts, decrees and orders that set out Spain’s laws for her colonies) allowed confirmation of title through prescription, and that title was admitted to exist that owed nothing to the power of Spain beyond this recognition in their books. The Court further explained that Spanish law was not that stringent in requiring proof, ancient possession being sufficient.

“As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of Spain, we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit the title was recognized in the Philippines in regard to lands over which Spain had only a paper sovereignty.”

Clearly, the reference to Spanish law was inconsequential. Justice Holmes discussed the issue only to clarify that Cariño’s claim would have also prevailed, (this time under prescription) had the Court resorted to Spanish laws. This part of the discussion was surplusage because the lands claimed by Cariño were already held to be private.

In concluding, Holmes wrote that “law and justice require that the applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain.”

In the following portion of the paper, we analyze the Court’s decision.

Cariño did not rely on precedent. Justice Holmes said that whatever theories justified claims over “discovered” lands, the truth was that conquerors were never able to see, much less secure most of these areas. The fact that the Igorots had never been assimilated or defeated by the Spaniards must surely have been a substantial consideration. The court said that title will not be extinguished simply because a territory is occupied by an alien force.

Holmes’s language stripped the veneer of nobility that has often been used to justify the dispossession of the Native Americans. The experience in America was exposed as nothing more than an ignoble, colossal capitalist venture meant to take lands at the Indians’ expense. Cariño made no explicit reference here to either superior culture or religion.

The Court then noted the second obstacles to the United States’ claim: the United States had not asserted a claim over the entire country. When Congress enacted the Philippine bill of 1902, it extended the Bill of Rights to the territory. The United States had stretched its protection, particularly the due process clause, to all the inhabitants of the Philippines. Ata this point, the Court had already characterized the ancestral domain of the Igorots (and by extension, those of other native peoples) as private. It should be noted that the property here was private not because of recognition of title by any sovereign. This was the result of the Igorots’ “custom and long association” and “practice and belief.”

The Court also mocked Spain’s claims over the entire territory of the Philippines. Such claims could not defeat the claim of Cariño based on laws that Spain had not the power to enforce, or Cariño, living as he did with his unconquered folk, had no reason to heed. The resolution of the case was guided more by the Court’s determination to do justice rather than to apply obscure laws. This explains Holmes’ refusal to rely upon established doctrines and his liberal interpretation of the Philippine Bill. No weight was ever placed upon theories of conquest or alien laws that could not have been known to or understood by a people so removed from the potentates’ game of global takeover. Thus, unlike in North America, the Court refused to deprive the Indian of his rights by resorting to the laws of nations within the exclusive sphere of a mere handful of nations. It would not construe laws to deny the Igorots’ claim, and the executive and legislative acts in any way that “would amount to a denial of native titles.”

It might be suggested that there is a difference between the claims in Cariño and those of the North American Indians because the former involved the assertion of an individual’s private right consistent with western property schemes against those asserted by an entire community. But there is no evidence of this difference in Holmes’ language.

Neither can the differences in the result can be justified on the ground that the Court viewed the claimants as a “civilized” westernized people. The claimants in Cariño were also considered inferior peoples, if subtly. The court made conscious efforts to waive technicalities because the claimants were Igorots, and were referred to as “’wilder tribes.’”

But while they were, from the western legal perspective, considered savage and uncivilized, the Court still found it unfair to refuse recognition of their title.

Cariño has been consistently upheld by the Philippine Supreme Court. And while it originally involved the claim of an individual “under a claim of private ownership” the Philippine Supreme Court later expanded the doctrine to include lands held by a community, and lands that are “unoccupied and unimproved.” Unfortunately, some confusion has attended the application of doctrine.Cariño has been cited as authority for the Public Land Act which allows registration of public lands as private possession if the claimant has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the said lands for thirty years. The error is obvious. Cariño involved lands which had never been public. The prescriptive remedy under the Public Land Act admits that the land was initially public. However, it becomes private (and therefore may be titled) after the lapse of the prescriptive period.

Confusion in the Court had surfaced as early as 1931 in De Palas v. Saito and Madrazo. In that case, the Supreme Court held that the sale of property made by a member of the Bagobo tribe without the approval of the Director of the Non-Christian tribes was null and void. While the Bagobos retained their land, the decision showed the Court was confused about its character. Justice Johnson in the lone dissent explained that: There is absolutely no analogy between the relations of the non-Christian people of the Philippine Islands to the Philippine Government as compared with the relation of the American Indians to the American government.

A citizen of the Philippine Islands, whether non-Christian or Christian, has a perfect right to dispose of his private property freely without the necessity of securing the consent of any person of the Government…Hundreds and thousands of the non-Christian people of the Philippine Islands have, through their industry and intelligence, become the absolute owners of private property… (Cariño vs. Insular Government, 7 Phil. 132; Cariño vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449; 53 Law.Ed. 549; 41 Phil., 935).

In the United States the government distributed lands freely to the American Indians and the dispose of the same without the consent of the Secretary of the Interior. The Government, having given the Indian his land without cost, it had a perfect right to impose such condition upon the disposition of the same as the Government might deem wise. In the Philippine Islands, however, the non-Christian people have never been given land by the government. They are therefore under no obligation to the Government concerning the land they acquire.

Admittedly, the dissent’s interpretation of the jurisprudence on Native American land rights leaves much to be desired. However, its use of the Cariño doctrine was faithful to Holmes’ dictum. Because of this confusion, there are presently two streams of cases in the Philippines, both as prominent, as they are glaringly contradictory. In one line, lands held since time immemorial are recognized as private. It has even been held that subsequent reclassification of land cannot impair the rights of long-term occupants. In the other line, public agricultural lands become private lands and could therefore be titled. This is if the claimant can show that there has been continuous possession thereof for at least thirty years. Cariño has been cited as authority for both. A recent case cited both lines of cases without the Court observing any incongruity.

Some earlier cases did manage to make a distinction between the two claims. In these cases, the Court would first check if the land is private under the Cariño doctrine, and then examine if it has become private under the Public Land Act. While the Cariño doctrine may be in jurisprudential limbo, the case does surface periodically in the discussions of the other branches of government.

Courts in the United States had several occasions to apply the Cariño decision. As will be shown, however, these courts had, for the most part, also misinterpreted the doctrine. These cases may be divided into those that involved lands in its territories, and those involving claims within the continental United States.

In the Territories

The first claims involved lands in Mexico. In Pueblo de Sta. Rosa v. Fall, the claimants filed a bill in equity in the Supreme Court in the District of Columbia to restrain the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of the General Land Office from opening its lands to sale, entry, and settlement as public lands of the United States. The plaintiffs alleged that the lands were granted and conceded to the pueblo of Sta. Rosa by the laws and customs of the Indians, antedating the Spanish discovery of America and the laws of Spain and Mexico. The lands were part of the territory ceded by Mexico to United States under the Gadsden Treaty.

In resolving the issue, the Court explained that the title of the Indian inhabitants of a pueblo in Mexico has been recognized not only by the Mexican, but also by Spanish laws. Such recognition rests not upon title by grant or charter from the crown, but it may be established and was frequently established by prescription. It cited Cariño to stress that prescription against the Crown was recognized by Spanish laws. It said, “[t]here can be no question, we think that prior to the cession under the Gadsden Treaty the Papago Indians had acquired a title which was subject to recognition by the government of Mexico.” It concluded that, had the record title been established in Mexico to which this pueblo was clearly entitled, it could not be divested by the sort of evidence adduced in this case. This would have been the proper case to cite Cariño because the claim was premised upon the laws and customs of Indians that antedated the Spanish discovery of America. The land was ceded by Spain to the United States. No grant was relied upon, and there was an assertion that both Spanish and Mexican laws relied upon, and there was an assertion that both Spanish and Mexican laws recognized such Indian title. Unfortunately, the court’s reliance upon Cariño was merely to recognize the right of the claimant through prescription, and not to reaffirm the rule that lands held since time-immemorial are private lands.

The second case came some twenty years later. Playa de Flor Land and Improvement CO. v. United States involved lands in Panama. The complainants, an unincorporated association, alleged that they had acquired title and rights of ownership to specific real property based on prescription under the name of Playa del Flor Land and Improvement Co., their predecessors in interest, and those who had been and were in the actual, open, notorious, and adverse possession, use, and cultivation of the lands for more than forty years before the Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Panama. They also alleged that they were forcibly and unlawfully evicted and dispossessed of the lands and improvements by the United States and that the joint owners had not been paid for the property taken from them.

The Court held that all of the collective facts necessary to prove adverse possession are shown in the record; there was actual possession; it was open, notorious, and visible; it was selfish and exclusive; it was hostile, even against the whole world, and it was a definite possession marked by the descriptions in documentary evidence, which were of color of title. The Court summarized the rulings of “similar and analogous” cases regarding the validity of land titles acquired under a former sovereign. It also cited Cariño, quoting that statement that recognized the private nature of lands held since time immemorial.

The Court touched upon the most important part of the decision stating that “[t]he principles announced [in these cases] are plain, simple, and easily understood. They are grounded on common honesty, right and justice, and they had received the approval of the executive and legislative branches of the government for more than a hundred years.” The Court understood the theme of the decision, and associated the ownership of land to the concept of human rights. It said:

Since we are so freely expressing our opinions to all questions herein, we might suggest that, despite all the argument undertaking to distinguish property rights and human rights, there never was a country and never will there be a country where, if property rights are ignored, human rights will be respected.

The decision followed the reasoning of the Holmes decisions. It anticipated, and sought to prevent the present situation in many countries where the refusal to recognize native title had crushed the essence of Indian identity. While technically, the case did not involve Indian lands,

the jurisprudence cited to support the court’s conclusion did.

Finally, the United States Supreme Court itself cited Cariño approvingly in United States v. Fullard-Leo. That case was an action to quiet title to the Palmyra Island in Hawaii. AT the time of the annexation of the Island by the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1862, the monarchy possessed a system of land ownership and land laws adequate to establish titles which were maintained by a proper record.

The facts of this case were clearly inconsistent with those in Cariño. The claimants in this case were alleging the issuance of a grant they were unable to produce. Predictably, therefore, the Court turned to the doctrine of the presumption of a lost grant. The Court explained the doctrine thus: …it may be safely said that by the weight of authority, as well as the preponderance of opinion, it is the general rule of American law that a grant will be presumed upon proof of an adverse, exclusive, and uninterrupted possession for 20 years, and that such rule will be applied as a presumption juris et de jure, wherever, by possibility, aright may be acquired in any manner known to the law. See United States v. Pendell, 185 U.S. 189, 200-201, 22 S. Ct. 624, 628, 629, 46 L. Ed. 866.

The Court quoted Cariño saying that land held by individuals under a claim of private ownership since time immemorial are presumed to be private. There was never an intimation that the title of Cariño was founded on a grant. He had attempted to secure a grant but his efforts had not amounted to anything. This was not the case in Fullard.

The use of in Cariño these cases was not always proper. Pueblo was tailor-made for the doctrine. Unfortunately, it used the doctrine to uphold a prescriptive right, something for which was Cariño never designed to be authority. Playa relied on the Cariño decision to state that title will not be denied for failure of the claimant to produce title. If nothing else, it seemed to find support in natural law, a position not previously unexplored by the United States Supreme Court. Fullard-Leo was not analogous to Cariño. The claimant in that case had relied upon a previous grant destroyed in a fire. Cariño was never given title by the Spanish government, although it was not for want of trying.

In the United States There have been two attempts to cite in Cariño cases involving Native Americans. Both efforts, however, failed. In 1995, Tee-Hit-Ton Indians cited the case to bolter their claim that the U.S. government’s taking of timber from Indian-occupied lands was compensable. The Supreme Court, however, not only distinguished Cariño from the Alaskan controversy, but also attempted to belittle it. The Court stated that it is well-settled that in all the States of the Union the tribes who inhabited the islands of the States held claim to such lands after the coming of the white man, “under what is sometimes termed original Indian title or permission from the whites to occupy.” The Court explained that that meant “mere possession not specially recognized as ownership by Congress.”

The Court explained that: [a]fter conquest they were permitted to occupy portions of the territory over which they had previously exercised “sovereignty” as we use that term. This is not a property right but amounts to a right of occupancy that the sovereign grants and protects against intrusion by third parties where right of occupancy may be terminated and such lands fully disposed of by the sovereign itself without legally enforceable obligation to compensate the Indians.

In a footnote, the Court dismissed the applicability of the Cariño doctrine: The basis of the Court’s decision [in Cariño] however, distinguishes it from applicability to the Tee-Hit-Ton claim. The court chiefly upon the purpose of our acquisition of the Philippines as revealed by the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, which was to administer property and rights “for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof”… This purpose in acquisition and its effect on land held by the natives was distinguished from the settlement of the white race in the United States where “the dominant purpose was to occupy the land.” 212 U.S., at page 458, 29 S. Ct. at page 336. The Court further found that the Spanish law and exercise of Spanish sovereignty over the islands tended to support rather than defeat a prescriptive right. Since this was no communal claim to a vast uncultivated area, it was natural to apply the law of prescription rather than a rule of sovereign ownership of dominion. Cariño claim was to a 370-acre farm that his grandfather had fenced some fifty years before and was used by three generations as a pasture for livestock and some cultivation of vegetable and grain. The case bears closer analogy to the ordinary prescriptive rights situation rather than to a recognition by this court of any aboriginal use and possession amounting to fee simple ownership.

The second attempt by Alaskan tribes to use Cariño also failed. In , Aleut Community of St. Paul Island v. United States the Indians claimed that under Russian Law, they had a right to an accounting of funds allegedly misspent. The United States had failed in its obligation to deal with the tribe in fairness and honor. The Indian Claims Commission dismissed the claim on the government’s motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Court of Claims held that the Indians’ title was no more than aboriginal in nature and did not have attributes of fee simple title. Again, the reference to Cariño was dismissed because in that case, the Supreme Court found fee simple title of certain land had been established by the plaintiff via prescription. Said the Court:

The case is of little aid to appellants at bar, however, because the Court in Cariño held that the plaintiff there had met the requirements of prescription as set out in the Spanish Civil Code, and that under the circumstances of the American occupation of the Philippines that title had to be protected. As pointed out above, the appellants at bar have failed to prove that they achieved the undisturbed possession necessary under Russian law to obtain title by prescription. Without a showing that they had obtained title by prescription under Russian law, appellants have no grounds upon which to ask that appellee respect their “proprietary rights.”

Further, the Court Held that, The title, if any of Aleutian natives to St. Paul’s Island, or other islands involved in this proceeding, was no more than aboriginal in nature and did not have the attributes of fee simple title, at the time of the Treaty of Cession. No recognition of such title by our government, then or later, is shown, and therefore no acts or our Government can be construed as taking such title. Since it is related to aboriginal title claims, it follows that appellants have not shown reversible error as to just compensation portion of their petitions.

These decisions failed to appreciate the significance of Cariño. Both decisions were written with the understanding that the recognition of title in Cariño was based upon prescription against the crown. As pointed out, however, it was more in consonance with the idea of fairness that the Supreme Court ruled in Cariño favor.

Cariño was decided in favor of the claimant not only because of the explicit provision in the Philippine Bill of 1902 directing the United States government to administer the Philippines for the benefit of its inhabitants. The underlying theme in the entire decision is the inherent fairness in recognizing the title of indigenous peoples against the claims of a succeeding sovereign. Justice Holmes rejected the position that both Spain and the United States had title to all lands in their territories as they had in the American continents simply by asserting sovereignty, and without actual occupation of these lands.

Unfortunately, neither the Supreme Courts of the Philippines and the United States properly appreciate the doctrines of the case. With few exceptions, subsequent cases in both countries have misapplied the case as authority for a prescriptive right against the government.

At the very least, Cariño has not been overruled in either country. It would be inconceivable to do so in the Philippines where the recognition of native title was held to be protected by the due process clause. The Bill of Rights that was initially introduced through the Philippine Bill of 1902 has remained intact in all the Constitutions of the Republic of the Philippines. A reversal of the Cariño doctrine can only be done as an express repudiation of the equal status of indigenous peoples. (Reprinted from Philippine Natural Resources Law Journal, Volume 7 Number 2)

Vol. 7, No. 2, Second Quarter 2005

By Ma. Easterluna S. Canoy

This report is an offshoot of a community design and planning workshop among the Bukidnon indigenous peoples on Community Heritage/Cultural Center held 25-28 May 2005 in Dalwangan, Malaybalay City, one of the buffer zone barangays surrounding the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP).

The Context

The MKRNP is a state-managed natural park that encompasses around 47, 000 hectares and surrounded by seven municipalities, a city and 28 barangays. Considered as a major watershed in the region, Mt. Kitanglad also happens to be a claimed ancestral domain of the Talaandig, Higaonon and Bukidnon indigenous peoples (IPs). The culture, identity and survival of these three IP groups are connected to this majestic mountain range. History of the peaks comprising the range consists of tales that ground the spirituality of its inhabitants.

A unified ancestral domain claim was applied by Datu Migketay Saway of the Talaandig tribe in 1995, but it has not prospered up to the present. Undaunted, the Bukidnons, led by Bae Inatlawan as head claimant, applied at the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) covering over ten percent of their traditional territory that is closely linked to their social history and existence. The bid was inspired and reinforced by the tenets of the National Integrated Protected Areas System, Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and Mt. Kitanglad Protected Area Act (RA 7586, 8371 and 8789 respectively) which enunciate the recognition of IPs rights to their territory, culture and development.

With this effort, the Bukidnon are out to trail-blaze the tedious legal process that would lead the government to grant recognition of their prior rights to their traditional homelands. Such opportunity would entitle the Bukidnon to take the lead in the management and development of their areas under the precepts of batasan (customary laws). These custom laws form part of the vital documents of the claim, which are to be decreed and subscribed by the members of tribe.

Side by side with the filing of the CADT, the Bukidnon have started to formulate their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP). This plan will chart the destiny of the community as they assume a primary role in the management and development of their lands. Such prospect challenges the community in finding ways wherein their traditional governance is strengthened, their capacity building and livelihoods are sustained, and their link to local government is reinforced. Bearing in mind the role of culture that spans the entire aspect of Bukidnon life, there is a compelling need to search for ways wherein their plans and aspirations reflect the strength and symbols that set them apart as peoples, and whose cultural heritage is integral to their welfare and development.

The main objective of the Community Heritage/Cultural Center workshop is to elicit and clarify the criteria on physical structures to be established inside their ancestral domain. Freelance Architect Anna Gonzales acted as lead facilitator of the workshop and assisted by Paolo Aguila and Jhun Fabre, both senior architecture students of UP-Diliman and incumbent officers of Task Force Arki (TFA). KIN’s Project Coordinator for Tribal Affairs, Datu Aligpulos acted as co-facilitator and translator throughout the entire workshop sessions, and assisted by H. Marcos C. Mordeno and Grace Galache as documenters.

The Backdrop

Three years ago, there was an urgent need to seek for a location of the shelter of the 16-piece 3-dimensional map of MKRNP. From 1999 to 2000, the making of the 3D map was facilitated by KIN upon the request of the Council of Elders who needed a tool to be used in planning out indigenous resource management systems inside the protected area. John Ong and his trained IP students at Mangyan Mission taught over a hundred participants from the three tribes in building their 3D map. The completion of the map was halted in 2000, following the tribe’s imposition of sala (justice system) on some representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). During the process of negotiation, KIN, being DENR’s partner in the biodiversity conservation project in MKRNP (1996-2002) was advised to suspend its field activities pending the resolution of the case.

To end the dilemma of locating the map shelter, Bae Inatlawan offered to host the facility beside her tulugan (tribal house) in Dalwangan. At the end of the biodiversity project, the 3D maps were then transferred from KIN to Dalwangan. Due to limited space, the map sheets were simply stored in its wooden case in Bae’s residence. However, portions of it that were indicative of their CADT were taken out during meetings with her Council of Elders to aid in their mapping, cultural zoning and land use sessions the outputs of which were intended to support their claim.


In a nutshell, the conduct of the Community Heritage/Cultural Center workshop pointed out that that the Bukidnon community wanted to build more than a map shelter. Their overall aspiration is to build a bigger tulugan–a tribal cultural center that symbolizes their culture, environment and traditions. They wanted a venue for cultural learnings, rituals and events, a repository of heirlooms and other valued properties; a living museum and their “capitol” (the seat of tribal administration).

It was obvious from the criteria set by the participants that the architectural integrity of the tulugan heritage center is influenced not only by their personal and functional preferences but were also guided by the rules imparted to them from their ancestors and the mulin-olin (nature spirits surrounding them). In simple terms, the establishment of the tulugan complex is a statement of how tradition has survived among the Bukidnon.

Day One

The three architect-facilitators took the first flight from Manila to Cagayan de Oro courtesy of sponsored roundtrip airfares that KIN earlier worked out. They arrived early, at seven in the morning, in Cagayan de Oro. After breakfast, material supplies, enlarged photocopies of photos and illustrations were done in Goldcrest-Divisoria, while vegetarian food supplies were procured in Ororama Cogon. TFA shouldered the breakfast and the workshop materials having solicited some amount for the trip. The group took their lunch at Green Haven before taking an aircon bus to Malaybalay City.

After a brief rest during mid-afternoon and dinner, the facilitators met with two KIN officers for an orientation on the area and its people. Datu Aligpulos showed them the 3D map, as well as the printouts of the landuse and the cultural zones of the Bukidnon CADT area. These new information guided the modification of the workshop design.

Day Two

The workshop was held in Bae Inatlawan’s tulugan facility in Dalwangan. The first day was opened with a pamalàs ritual considering that the facilitators (except for Anna) were new to the area and to ensure the sincere intentions of all those who were present as ancestor and nature spirits were invoked to guide in the workshop process. The facilitators witnessed up close the ritual for visitors. The students were astounded to see the entire rite that involved offering of chickens, and materials like betel nut, aluminum plates, coins, wine, biscuits and candies neatly spread on a white cloth and placed on top of the bangkaso (wooden altar). Placement of one’s offerings must be solemn and sincere. Similar items were also placed below the bangkaso to acknowledge the spirits that dwell in the underworld.

A salient aspect of this ritual is the acknowledgement of those individuals and institutions that supported the activity as they were also represented in the thanksgiving prayers. In their absence, each of their names was represented by one-peso coins and placed in the lower and upper part of the bangkaso. While the chickens were being cooked for the second part of the ritual called panampulot, Bae Inatlawan gave the permission to start the workshop proper.

The activity was opened with welcome remarks By Inatlawan, and KIN introduced themselves and the facilitators, to set the objectives of the workshop. The participants likewise introduced themselves and some voiced out their expectations. Anna opened the workshop with a question on the participants’ observations on some tulugans and building that they have observed in their locality. They were asked to describe what they liked or not liked in those structures.

Workshop session commenced with a more focused question on, “What do you want for your tulugan center?” Participants were grouped into elders, women’s and youth/kids and they were given Meta cards to fill up. Thirty-minutes later, a representative from each group reported their answers and all cards were pasted on the board. Later on, the assisting student-facilitators categorized the answers into sensual, functional, livability, practicality, ecological and ancestor/cultural categories. This first set of categories forms part of their personal criteria. Analysis and insights were gathered based on the trends and uniqueness of the answers.

Meanwhile, the facilitators were shocked to learn the extent of modern influences in their consciousness since majority of the group preferred cement material in the structure. They reasoned that this is to put a stop to discrimination that they have long experienced. The lead facilitator was quick to relate her experience of seeing how a whole limestone mountain at Rizal Cement was blasted destroying its biodiversity and natural surroundings thereby transforming the area into a desolate place.

This means that reliance on cement is not really environment friendly. The horror in the story made the elders approached the facilitator and offered alternative materials like clay. They also asked if it was all right to utilize “a little cement” in their structure to ensure its durability. The spirit of the group started to rise after the first workshop.

The succeeding workshop followed the same process guided by the next question, “What do our ancestors (including nature) want us to consider in building the tulugan center?” The group divided themselves in the same grouping with different reporters explaining the groups’ answers. Responses were both astounding and enriching as each group delved into their cultural memories.

The youth/kids group indicated the spiritual functions of the center and concluded their report with a song; the women’s made a narrative of good lucks and taboos in building structures, while the elders listed rules in locating points like the door and the altar, and the wooden materials required in the construction; they also showed a sketch of building plan. From these responses, the community just described the complex socio-ecological relationships that tie the tribe to their domain. Reflections were expressed as synthesis of the participants’ responses. It was very clear that cultural and ecological criteria are to be given more importance in establishing the tulugan center.

The third part of the group activity is akin to “A Day in a Life,” wherein the facilitator asked if some of the participants could act out their routine activities following the morning, afternoon and evening settings. Bae Inatlawan modified the instruction—preferring to stick to the same three groupings that revealed gender and age preferences. By means of an instant community presentation, she shouted the particular time of the day wherein “life begins in the community” as shown among men, women and youths.

The performance indicated that life in the village commences at 4:00 am and ends at 7:00 pm which according to Anna, was “something that we could have easily taken for granted, urban dwellers that we are.” Likewise, it was also shown that the youths are responsible for most kitchen activities making the architects conscious of the design the allow access to them as well as the kids.

The last part of the workshop for the day is exposing the participants to other building designs that include poster-sized photos and illustrations of community and village structures in Southeast Asia (see Waterson, 1990). The lessons in earlier workshop paid off since the favored designs were chosen on the basis of the ecological and ancestors’ criteria. As reasoned out by Bae Inatlawan, “the first of the several selected designs was chosen since it represented “the mountain and the eagle” as evident in the roofing of the structure. Its majestic façade makes a perfect model where the Mansicampo (overall chieftain) dwells.” Herein ecological and biomorphous considerations were taken into account in the primary design of the tulugan. The model for columns and the structural views that men in the Council of Elders group had reported likewise indicate the influence of forests. Even Paolo and Jhun’s own sketches of the tulugan complex paid close attention to its forested domain.

Before concluding the day, Anna gave a homework to the participants for them to start thinking about their tulugan. They were encouraged to draw or model out their ideas on it. Sketchpad, pencils, large carton sheets and molding clay were left for them to use whichever is convenient. Before returning to the KIN Office, the facilitators were taken to the office of the Park Superintendent to provide updates on what had transpired in the activity.

Day Three

The morning was utilized for simulating a situation wherein a tulugan has been built in the site. The facilitators, KIN and participants rode a multicab together up to Damitan and hiked 45 minutes more until they reached the spot that is being considered for the center. The site was delineated using a string; major directions (i.e., north, south, east and west) were marked, including the major entrance. Afterwards, Paolo and Jhun prepared a mud model of the structure while listening to the group as to what components should be in place.

The facilitators clarified that what would be drawn out from the exercise was not yet final, as the design could still be influenced by other factors. The participants walked around the site imagining that they visited each component of the building. The facilitator later explained that the exercise was meant to familiarize them with the space and scale of the building they envisioned.

The afternoon session was aimed at encapsulating the site and the structure together. The participants presented two designs—Datu Dumapal’s tribal guards’ tower and the youth’s outline of the basic design of the cultural complex. An elaborate yet tentative design was made using cardboards to mass up the structures, which produced a diorama of the center. It was clear from this point that the community had already a good sense of the basic components that they want in their tulugan.

The last session was capped with a sharing of one’s feelings regarding the workshop especially on what they learned from it. The facilitators also thanked the community for their active participation and for “opening up their lives” to them. The student-facilitators also expressed their gratitude considering that they learned more compared to what they were able to share to the Bukidnon people.

Day Four

Anna went back to Manila while Paolo and Jhun decided to trek to Sitio Inhandig for a one-day integration with the Bukidnons. The sitio is located near the bufferzone of MKRNP. Armed with binoculars and sleeping bags, the ‘Archi’ students were accompanied by Bae Inatlawan herself and her nephews and nieces who are all members of the Bukidnon youth organization. Since their departure started late in the day, the hikers had to contend with the rain and the mud along the way. Their sandals were no match for the deep mud along the trails. Bae was also careful enough not to alarm the students about a leech that she saw sticking to Jhun’s foot. Paolo somewhat got curious what it’s like to be bitten by the tiny bloodsucker only to realize that he also carried one up to the village.

In the evening, the students underwent another pamalàs ritual to make known their presence to the spirit guardians of the place. On the following day, after breakfast, they enjoyed cultural exchanges with all of the villagers. Inside the village school building, a brief program was held led by Bae Inatlawan wherein they were welcomed with tribal dances and music. Eventually they themselves jammed with the performers, eager to learn how to beat the drums and to dance the binanog (a dance aping the movements of a hawk in flight) or the binaki/binakbak (frog hop).

In going back to barangay Dalwangan, the students rode horses provided for by the community. To cap their visit in Malaybalay, they had another evening of solidarity with the members of the families of KIN staff, thanking them for volunteering and for contributing to the success of the activity.

Synthesis and Prospects:

Kumer (2003) states, “In every part of the world the landscape has its own distinctive appearance, shaped both by the forces of nature and the design of mankind. To the natural scene—mountains, hills, plains, barren deserts or lush forests—human beings contribute architectural features of many kinds: mud huts, magnificent pyramids, soaring church spires or the modern clusters of skyscrapers.”

So on one hand, the rationale of going through the cultural and participatory process in eliciting the criteria and building principles of the tulugan is to ensure the inclusion of culturally fit elements that underlie the traditions represented in the structure located inside the IPs ancestral territory. On the other hand, as Aksoy (1990) had challenged, the trailblazing exercise is meant to inspire post-modern designers or a new generation of architects who are committed towards the enrichment of the symbolic repertoire of our pre-colonial cultural heritage. Hence the theory that lies behind building structures is that they are a product of human experience and their link to nature and the extent of his ‘awareness’.

The logic of utilizing space and time, the metaphors and cosmic influences being adhered to, and the construction principles are all products of cultural memories eclipsed with creative imaginations that forebode the necessity of facing practical realities. Hence, the science behind the building of structures needs “to satisfy both the physical and the metaphysical needs of man (Kumar, 2003)” although it is said that among traditional communities, the unusual features of the buildings represent more symbolic than functional purposes, their meanings hidden deep in the indigenous psyche that only the baylan (shaman) or a genuine cultural practitioner could unearth.

Moreover, the entire workshop illustrated the rich cultural knowledge of the Bukidnon. It also reaffirmed the sacredness of Mt. Kitanglad Range to its indigenous inhabitants. Their collective wisdom serves as a strong foundation as they continue to assert their rights and responsibilities inside their ancestral domain which is characterized by a mosaic of sacred spaces. A crucial output in the workshop is a list of cultural prescriptions in building structures. These cultural considerations will guide the technical component of the building design.

As it will be finalized, there will be more principles governing the art, symbols, settlement and history of the Bukidnon that will be rediscovered. KIN as a facilitating organization commits to the realization of people’s cultural survival and vision of their future. The workshop—which was the first of its kind to be launched in MKRNP, was held successfully since the facilitators and the participants were trusting of its flow—taking its cue from the level of comfort felt by everyone after the first pamalàs ritual. The whole exercise proved to be indeed, an unforgettable moment for everyone. More important, it also has inspired the pursuit of development that conforms to the cultural realities that define the uniqueness of our humankind.


Aksoy, E. 1990. Symbolic Architecture versus Vernacular Architecture. – 29k. Accessed 14 June 2005.

Andrews, J. 1995. Symbolic Architecture. Dictionary Home Page. htm-2k-12 Jun 2005. Accessed 14 June 2005.

Egenter, Nold. Architectural Anthropology. Semantic and Symbolic Architecture: An Architectural-ethnological Survey into hundred villages of central Japan. Structural Mundi. pdf file. Accessed 14 June 2005.

Gonzales, Anna. 2005. Trip Report Kitanglad Integrated NGOs Community

Heritage/Cultural Center Design Workshop for Daraghuyan. 25-28 May 2005.

Kumar, Nitin, ed. 2003. The Stupa—Yoga’s Sacred Architecture. Accessed 14 June 2005.

Waterson, Roxanne. 1990. Living House: Anthropology of Architecture in South-East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press

Vol. 7, No. 1, First Quarter 2005

(Excerpted from The Concept of Justice Among the Indigenous Communities of Northeastern Mindanao)

By Dr. Erlinda M. Burton and Easterluna S. Canoy

The Talaandig

The indigenous inhabitants of Bukidnon province are generally called “Bukidnon” by the lowland dwellers (Bisayans and other migrants) referring to the people residing in the highlands or mountains. The Bukidnon topography shows a mountainous terrain of which the second highest peak in Mindanao – Mt. Kitanglad – is found. There are two main indigenous communities in Bukidnon province: the Manobo (Matig-Sulog-Tigwa) and the “Bukidnon”. The latter is sub-divided into sub-groups – Higaonons in the eastern part of the province and also scattered around the highlands of Misamis Oriental (which are contiguous with the Bukidnon plateaus); and the “Talaandig” who are distributed in the south central and western regions of Bukidnon. There are splintered groups that inhabit along the Agusan-Bukidnon border. Linguistically, Talaandig is a variant of the Binukid language which is one of the main branches of the Proto-Manobo language. This explains the presence of many cognates common to both Manobo and Binukid and thus they could somewhat understand each other.

The Talaandig are called such because they inhabit the slopes of the mountains (andig means slope) due to the nature of the subsistence pattern—shifting cultivation. However, like the Manobo, many Talaandig are residing in barangays; while some still prefer the highlands. The Talaandig selected for this study are residents of barangays – Sungko and Basak – of the municipality of Lantapan, Bukidnon.

Subsistence Patterns

The Talaandig, like the Manobo of Agusan, were swidden cultivators in the past subsisting on rootcrops supplemented by hunting and foraging. Today, the sedentary Talaandig are engaged in cultivating their lands for cash crops – rice, corn and coffee. Many acculturated Talaandig have had schooling as far as the college level. Some are occupying government posts – lawyers, political leaders, teachers, etc. Nevertheless, the Talaandig, like other cultural communities in Mindanao, have been neglected and are still at the bottom of the socio-economic scale.

Social Organization

The Talaandig community is kin-based reckoning relationships bilaterally, therefore, a household can be comprised of a nuclear family including relationships from both sides. Marriage patterns are similar to the Manobo wherein parental arrangements are made by a mediator (masalicampo) who intervenes in bargaining for the bride price which is given to the bride’s family and kin. The Talaandig still follow closely the traditional marriage practice including polygyny. The acculturated ones prefer the modern way e.g. courtship and a wedding in church.

The belief in animism is still strong among them. Like the Manobo, rituals are performed for important events in the Talaandig existence such as hunting, planting, harvesting, marriage, the pregnancy of women, funerals, and during an episode of sickness. The baylan of the Talaandig performs similar functions as those of the Manobo who is both a religious specialist and a healer.

Political System

The pre-colonial structure of the Talaandig was similar to a family wherein the authority emanated from the head of the household. The datu was the leader or head of a tulugan or tribal community, was considered the father of the community, and was responsible not only to the members of his nuclear family but also to the whole community. Under the datu, were the sabandal or protectors of the community, known for their courage, expediency, and obedience.

At that time, the datu was chosen through his recognized industry, courage, accomplishment, versatility, and mastery of the oral history and customs of the people (Saway, 1985:4-5).

Datuship among the Talaandig is attained by going through a process and different levels. From the lowest level – one moves into a higher rank – that of Dadantulan – provided that he can prove himself worthy of such a position. This promotion is done without a ritual. Finally, he reaches the highest rank if he has been involved, occasionally, in settling cases or feuds that eventually culminated into a pact called the Tampuda hu Balagon or crimes involving murder. After his being subjected to ritual, he is then proclaimed as Dadangulan ha Datu (High Datu) and only he can provide blessing to newly appointed datus.

The datu’s main roles and functions were to 1) maintain the customary laws and social order in the community and promote good relationships with other tribal communities; 2) to arbitrate internal conflicts.

In Spanish colonial times, the Talaandig political system gradually eroded when the people were placed under the teniente del barrio (barrio captain). The datu was no longer given attention although his roles and functions were recognized and allowed to operate through the custom laws known as their batasan. The Talaandig elders made these laws prevail through their persistent practice of the customary laws, including the belief and religious practices which are explained in their sacred myths.

At present, the tribal council in the barangay is an adaptation of the structure of the barangay council which started during the Marcos regime. The tribal council, or pasagi, is composed of leaders of different Talaandig communities (about 10 members in all). It has the authority to settle cases. Above the tribal council is the tribal executive committee composed of 8 members (elders which are all chieftains) and which is the lawmaking body. The overall datu or chieftain presides over the council and executive committee and enforces the rules decided by the latter. The tribal council, in turn, supports the tribal chieftain.

The sabandal are now replaced by the barangay tanod (police). However,  in  Talaandig  communities,  there  are  certain  persons designated to  protect the  communities and are responsible for observing and investigating strangers coming to the community, who are presented before  the  datu.

The datu of a particular Talaandig community is chosen by the elders of the group, based on his behavior and character. Some who have become datus were nurtured from childhood. They were taught the ways of leadership and of settling disputes and conflicts, and the customary laws. Usually the leaders or chieftains come from a hereditary line of datus; however, there are exceptional cases, wherein a man in the community, not from a lineage of a datu, could become a datu by adoption because he has demonstrated prowess in leadership, sagacity, and fairness.

The datu’s function at present is to assist his people in their needs such as promoting socio-economic endeavors, to uplift their standard of living, or to intervene on their behalf, e.g. in a land problem. In turn, the datu imposes three guidelines upon them with which they have to comply: 1) to live in righteousness; 2) to obey their leaders; 3) to be industrious so that they can survive in their daily needs.

A datu of the Talaandig will always be one until he dies. Should he no longer be active due to old age, he is still expected to obey the rules imposed by the existing council, and he also becomes a counsel to the community if there is a need to consult him.

Despite the fact that the local government moves according to its own system, the Talaandig datus believe that they should be united with the authority even in settling disputes especially if it concerns Lumad and non-Lumad relationship. The tribal council coordinates and cooperates with the local government on certain occasions such as during election time, and in the implementation of polices of some government agencies – the DENR, (they no longer practice kaingin and protect watershed areas) and the DILG. They also participate in activities sponsored by the Department of Tourism, such as during the annual festival celebration called the Kaamulan, which is the gathering of different tribal communities of Bukidnon usually held in Malaybalay, the capital of Bukidnon.

Indigenous Customary Laws

Customary law is a body of cultural precepts such as customs, social usages, norms, and conversions enforced as social sanctions by the designated authority in a given community (Fernandez, 1976; Malinowski, 1967; Radcliffe-Brown, 1977). These cultural precepts prescribe a specific standard of conduct which the people must comply with and obey. Early Spanish  accounts  relate  that  custom  law in different regions of the Philippine Archipelago were sort of uniform especially in regard to fundamental precepts. This has been attributed to a common cultural inheritance and reinforced by similar environmental conditions which are tropical. However, when perspectives are focused on details, their rules are highly varied. Such diversity can be traced to several variables: 1) origins of the tribal groups; 2) variations in the culture; 3) relative isolation because of physical/geographical barriers; 4) varying demands of their environment, macro and micro levels.

In the pre-colonial Philippines, the functions of customary laws were: first, it prescribed the conditions for legitimate resort to the use of force, violence, and aggression (except in self-defense or in avenging a grievous wrong) which was a disruption to community interests and activities. Therefore, it had to be controlled in the interest of social order and in the preservation of peace. Second, while the fundamental right of vengeance was recognized, custom law undertook to reduce the tension through alternative means including the vindication of public authority. The datu, or chieftain, was the responsible authority who made decisions to protect the community; he also served as a judge and undertook the redressing of wrongs by prosecuting violators of peace. Third, customary law was determined through the order of power and had the authority to resolve conflicts and disputes. Fourth, custom law determined the order of labor in accordance with the social and economic status of the persons concerned. In pre-conquest times, custom law required the obligation of service to the chief of the barangay and to the economic production of the community.

Fernandez (1976) in his analysis of the custom laws of the prehispanic Philippines avers that its orientation was distinctly secular since there was no organized religion and that spiritual orientation was the concern of the family, not the community (Fernandez, 1976:12-13). Among the Talaandig their custom laws are seemingly subsumed into religious precepts and a person’s prescribed behavior is defined according to the rules of the supernatural e.g. rules on marriage (who to marry or not to marry). These custom laws are described herein.

The Talaandig Custom Law

The Talaandig custom law is referred to as batasan and was defined by Saway (1985:38) as the customary practices of the group deemed obligatory, and to specific behavioral practices. According to their gugud (historical myths) custom law originated from the conflict of two powerful deities during the time of creation, which eventually led to the separate order of creation; thus natural law was established between them and became the basis of Talaandig custom law (Saway, 38-39). These laws were then dictated to their ancestors to be taught to the people and followed for generations to come. In order to learn these custom laws, the history of the tribe is related to the young people and to those who are groomed to be leaders of the community. Moreover, they are encouraged to witness different rituals and the settling of disputes.

The Talaandig have custom laws regulating such aspects as territories, properties, marriage and political relations. To the Talaandig, territories are bounded and defined by natural physical features such as rivers, mountains, rocks, trees, etc. They are prohibited from entering those territories not belonging to the tribe. Anyone who enters a territory of another or open up a kaingin would have to perform a ritual to ask permission from the spirits lest he or some members of his family would become ill. However, should he violate this rule, he would have to seek forgiveness wherein the datu would advise him to perform a “pamuhat”. Here he would offer payments – few bronze coins, white or black cloth, and a chicken.

On the concept of property ownership, the Talaandig recognized three categories, namely: 1) primary or personal property – that which is acquired, owned, and not shared; 2) semi-communal property which is acquired, owned, and may be shared; 3) communal property which is acquired, owned, and necessarily shared. The primary personal property is the woman who becomes the wife and who is primarily attached to the house since all household chores and items are under her supervision and care. The ownership of a woman is the means by which other properties may be acquired.

The children are the secondary property of a man and are considered his assets. They are acquired by virtue of marriage and birth. Their services may be shared by other people especially kinfolk.

Finally, communal properties are lands wherein any member of the group can make his clearing and use it within the territorial laws of the group. This is only a right to use (usufruct) the land; therefore, before using it, he must give prior notice to the previous user and obtain his permission. Harvesting of a land is likewise expected to be shared with relatives, neighbors, friends, and other members of the community. It is because when one plants or harvests, his neighbors and relatives help him and he helps them. Hunting and fishing grounds are also communal. The game and catch of fish are shared with others in the community.

Property is usually acquired by virtue of inheritance and by the transfer of valuable paraphernalia which involves recognition of status and social positions, war equipment, etc. This is usually done by means of a ritual settled by custom law. Since many Talaandig are now becoming acculturated, the rule of property ownership followed is the one prescribed by legal authority. However, some customary practices regulating property ownership still prevail among the more traditional Talaandig.

The rule on ownership requires the parents to make arrangements for their sons or daughters to marry the spouses whom they have chosen; but they have to inform their relatives before the proposal is made in order for the latter to extend both financial and material assistance. This falls under the custom law known as Sayuda ha Batasan (law of information giving) wherein these relatives receive coins which serve as an approval for support in case difficulty arises during arrangement.

After the dissemination of information to the relatives, the datu is invited to serve as the kagun (arbitrator) who speaks on behalf of the prospective groom; moreover, he helps in the bargaining of bride price being sought by the girl’s parents. Likewise in the process of bargaining, the prospective bride’s party invites another datu to counter the proposal of the man’s party. Materials such as chickens, white cloth or silver coins, must be given as tribute to the batasan or custom law. When both parties agree on the bride price, the wedding takes place.

However, the Talaandig custom laws also provide that a man and woman whose marriage is arranged can live together as husband and wife prior to payment of bride price with the consent of both parties.

There are also rules regarding elopement known as the Tanyag ha Batasan (Elopement Law).   Elopement is the “lowest” form of marriage and a penalty is imposed such as requiring the elopers to give a pig, a number of chickens, and coins; ritual follows in order to wash away the evil effects of this immoral act imposed upon the community.         

The Talaandig’s prescribed custom law on internal relations within the community is cooperation in economic undertaking – based on reciprocity and reinforced by the datus from time to time. It is also reinforced by the ritual of kinship and through the sharing of milk from the mother’s breast during infancy period. That is, an infant can be suckled by another lactating mother.

On the other hand, intertribal relations are maintained through the kagugpahat (alliance system). The leaders of the different tribal communities established this alliance in the past to protect each other’s group from warring factions. Though this alliance is still in existence in respect to the boundaries of the different groups, the prescribed custom law itself is no longer reinforced because of the new political structure introduced by the local government.

These custom laws are expected to be obeyed and followed by the Talaandig. The failure to do so will mean punishment. They can either be banished from the community or be imprisoned in a place called Balimbingan which is a sort of a reformatory for persons who have defied the prescribed custom laws.

Among the Talaandig, acts or behaviors considered as crimes against persons are physical injuries, murders, bearing false witness against another, slander, and to degrade or rape a woman. Those found guilty of such crimes receive corresponding punishment or penalty. For murder, the killer must also be killed to indemnify a lost life; a person guilty of slander will have his tongue cut off; those who abused another through physical injuries will be fined by the value of property, also, he has to engage in certain obligations, e.g. paying all expenses during the performance of rituals; a person who abused a woman through rape is punishable by death or put through hard labor.

Acts against properties are theft/robbery: those found guilty are fined or coerced to make reparation by returning the stolen property. A more drastic measure is to cut off the fingers of the culprit one by one everytime he is caught stealing.

Like the other indigenous communities, the Talaandig observe taboos imposed by custom law. The most important one is the incest taboo.  Thus, to avoid the breach of such, brothers and sisters are strictly prohibited to sleep together. Close relatives such as cousins are also prohibited to marry, but there have been cases in some Talaandig communities wherein incestuous marriage was permitted.

When this taboo is violated, punishment is meted accordingly. For example, when inter-marriage of relatives takes place, the degree of their relationship will first be determined; the closer the blood ties, the heavier is the punishment. The offender also has to offer an animal sacrifice during the ritual known as the manggad in order to appease the spirits. The violator is then ordered to pay for his offense. If the offender has shown remorse and complied with the requirements as stipulated in the Batasan, he can be forgiven if the datu and the people so decide.

System of Social Control

All cultures have sets of norms which regulate the behavior of people so that they can manage their lives with certainty and evoke responses from their fellowmen. Thus, social control is exercised in order to guide the learning process (Hoebel, 1966: 441). Those who have adapted with success to those norms are rewarded; those who deviate from the norms and expectancies or fail to adapt are penalized. Law, in whatever form it may be, either based on the customs of the people or with penal law, is an aspect of social control. It is one of the devices used by society to penalize behavior that varies too much from certain selected norms (Hoebel, Ibid).

Enforcement of regulations does not necessitate government. The indigenous communities with no sophisticated political machinery can enforce their regulations or custom laws by direct contact between the person who is alleged to have committed an act and the person who feels himself wronged. The community provides rules according to which the disputants must conduct themselves as well as techniques for getting them together to work out a compromise by which the claims of two parties can be measured (Goldschmidt, 1971: 422).

In  pre-hispanic  Philippine  lowland  society,  custom laws regulated and controlled  the  behavior  of  community  members.  There  was  a  distinction made  between  conduct  which  was   harmful  in  and  of  itself  and  conduct  which  prejudiced  only the interest of a particular household  (Fernandez,  1976: 111). Thus, murder and theft which are serious offenses were considered as crimes,  but  adultery  was  a  private wrong  rather  than  a  public  offense.  For these offenses, penalties and   sanctions   were   imposed.  In the case of heinous crimes such as murder and, in certain places, incest, death was imposed automatically, whereas with lesser offenses, the penalty consisted only of a fine according to the nature and gravity of the offense.

In present Filipino society, laws have to be obeyed and followed. Any breach of law such as murder and theft necessitates putting the offenders into prison after due process of law. Among the tribal communities, the system of social control is quite similar to that of the pre-conquest Filipino societies wherein custom laws have set rules for the people to act accordingly.

The manner in which the Talaandig observe the implementation of customary laws are: 1) first, right in the home wherein children are taught by their parents through the telling of oral tradition and history such as the gugud, olaging, and manegen where many of their custom laws are embedded. The process of teaching is gradual and not forceful; 2) the adult Talaandig are taught by the datus regarding the laws, taboos and other prescribed tenets. However, they learn more and well when punishment or disciplinary measures are inflicted upon them for breaking the law.

Peace and order in the Talaandig community are safeguarded by the elders of the tribal council who are the respected leaders or datus. The sabandal or warriors of the past were also designated protectors of the community. They were selected on their ability to display their courage and good deeds as well. Moreover, some of the sabandals became datus themselves. Their main functions and tasks were 1) to teach and show the right disposition and manners; 2) to assist the people in solving their problems; 3) to guard the people’s property; 4) to protect the community from bad elements.

When a law is breached, the offender is summoned by the tribal council through the sabandal. If he refuses to come, the datu would instruct the sabandal or assistants to apprehend or seize him; still if he desists, the sabandals could inflict injury. A case of theft shows how the thief was taught a lesson.

Sample Case: A Talaandig was accused of stealing a very special chicken called “Tinimaan”. He was found guilty and was sentenced to death. After he was caught by the sabandals, he was tied to a bangagay (a huge basin made of wood). An amulet was presented to where his blood would be spilled over. Datu Impagalaw upon learning of the incident went to the place of execution  and  found  the offender who happened to be the owner of the house where he used to live. The datu untied him and advised him to go far away. When the accused was gone Datu Impagalaw laid down inside the bangagay to offer his life in exchange of the accused. The other datus did not do anything to harm him and refused to obey his orders. Datu Impagalaw then offered money and his house as a sacrificial offering; the offers were accepted and the ritual took place.

The accused was summoned again and instructed to do many tasks for which he complied as a slave. Later, in the years, the datus found him to have reformed and finally, forgiven him and his slave-status was lifted.

Concept of Justice

Generally speaking, the concept of justice is so much related to the administration of impartial judgment but the process of administration differs from society to society. Among the non-literate societies, the penal law found in literate societies is not the law of crimes; it is the law of wrong or, torts, (private law) (Maine, 1879). It is the state that is regarded as the aggrieved party but the individual who committed the offense and his kindred; the individual is emerged in his group, and logically, his relatives are collectively responsible for his misdeeds (Hoebel, 1947: 398-399).

Thus a crime committed by a person against a fellow member concerns no one outside the group. For example, a father who might have had incestuous relations with his daughter might be punished by the girl’s mother’s family on the grounds that he has committed a crime against them; however, his own kin would not take measures against him. From the rule of group solidarity it follows that when an individual has offended a member of another group, his own kin group protects him while the aggrieved party supports the victim’s claim for indemnity or revenge. Among the Ifugao of the Cordillera region, a kinsman who has injured someone is protected under almost similar circumstances. This has led to many bloody feuds which went on almost indeterminably; intermarriage is the only resort to re-establish friendly relations.

In pre-conquest   Filipino society, the system of justice was deeply rooted in religion, magic, and myth.  The crucial aspect of their judicial processes included the swearing   of   an   oath by ordeal.   Oath swearing was supported by the testimony of witnesses and the main source of proof.  Since the use of documentary records was non-existent, testimonial evidence was significant. Hence, it was on this point that religion provided vital support to the presumption of justice (Fernandez, 1976, 128).

Undoubtedly, trial by ordeal is rooted in religion since the main assumption was that the spirits had the power to intervene in human affairs. Thus, the wicked are punished while the innocent and just are shielded and protected. In this method, if the accused refused to undergo the ordeal he was presumed guilty; on the other hand, if he complied to go through the ordeal and led to his injury – this denoted that the supernatural had provided the seal to his guilt.

The introduction of the penal system to the Philippines did not necessarily erode the indigenous system of justice. As found among the existing cultural communities, the traditional process survived. Thus in this section, the concept of justice among the three groups is described.

The concept of justice is expressed by the Talaandig as something which is agreed upon or resolved fairly by the opposing parties. Justice is a social order which is like a messed-up hairdo wherein it has to be untangled or smoothened. When there is a problem such as a conflict, it should be resolved in order to effect justice. Justice is also a judgment, but a righteous one. Thus under the datu system it is not proper to curse erring members; one must administer justice, otherwise he, the datu, will be punished by Magbabaya (the supreme deity).

The concept of justice is based, according to the datu informants, on the universal relationship of man and nature, and particularly his relationship with Magbabaya. It is also based on their history which relates that conflicts in the past were properly investigated by delving into the causes. For instance, different tribal groups quarreled over their right to a hunting ground which led to intertribal warfare. Because of the great casualties encountered in the process, it was decided by the leaders of these communities to identify, delineate, and fix the boundaries for each specific group whereby peace was achieved thereafter.

The Talaandig teach this concept to their children by the recounting of their history and custom laws. They are encouraged to witness an actual settlement of a case so that they can observe the judicial process. In the past, the Talaandig used to have the manegen which was the basis for studying the concept of justice. It was the responsibility of the datu to conduct such a study. However, upon the  introduction  of  the western legal system, this practice was stopped. Nevertheless, in the Talaandig community, the datu automatically becomes the arbitrator. When the datu is recognized in settling problems, this is referred to as “Padalungo ha Batasan”; he continuously teaches the members of the tribal council who in turn teach the younger generation.

The Talaandig informants believed that their concept of justice is generally similar to that of the other tribal groups; however, there are differences, but only minimal. The difference lies in the fact that there are different tulugan (tribal communities) with their own particular system. A datu of a tulugan has a responsibility to guard not only the territorial limits but also the behavior limits set down by the batasan.

In former times, justice occurred when a need arose specifically in times of chaos, conflicts, and problems. When there was serious happening or difficulty, the attention of the datu was called, and this is similar today wherein problems are endorsed to the authorities in order to seek justice. However, unlike the present-day judicial process, wherein the postponement can be resorted to, the traditional Talaandig process does not delay the administration of justice. That is, upon the emergence of a conflict, the datu and tribal council will immediately deliberate on the case, settle it, and administer justice.

Persons who are authorized to render justice are the following: 1) the datus who are known as balaghusay and even though they are of the lower rank, they nonetheless are respected for their impartiality and prowess in custom laws; 2) the darantulan is a datu who can be consulted from morning to afternoon, and to evening (anytime); 3) the darangulan – datu who settles conflicts outside of his community and territorial authority. He is also the chief adviser of the community.

The people of the community usually choose those administrators of justice; the tribal council and the chieftain also have a hand in their selection. They are selected according to their accomplishments and experiences in conflict settlement. The balaghusay, or arbitrator, must be able to show a particular trait which can be recognized as proper. For instance, if he is offered to drink pangasi (potent rice wine) he must know how to drink it without getting drunk. Should he become drunk, he is disqualified from the rank. Therefore, a balaghusay must be a model of good deeds and have the ability to maintain peace and order in the community.

Inasmuch as most Talaandig communities are now established barangays, the people recognize the position of the barangay captain, mayor, and the police.

Settlement and Resolution of Conflicts

One of the functions of a political system is the resolution and settlement of conflicts which may be achieved peacefully by adjudicating disputes, negotiating compromises, or by the threat of social sanctions. When such procedures fail due to the absence of a mediating process, disputes may erupt into violent conflicts. The peaceful resolution of conflicts is found in all societies but differs in procedure and process. Industrial states have formal institutions such as police, lawyers, courts and a penal system – all of which generally operate according to codified laws. Transgressions of the law by an individual give the State the threat of force. The State has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force and has the right to coerce its subjects into agreement with its regulations, customs, and procedures (Ember, 1985: 230).

Non-industrial and simple societies lack such specialized institutions for dealing with conflict. Nonetheless, this is not an indication that they lack the system of law. Hoebel (1968: 4) states that:

Each people has its system of social control. . .all have as a  part of their control system a complex pattern of behavior and institutional mechanism (called) law which is one aspect of our culture. . .(This) employs force to regulate individual and group conduct and to prevent, redress, or punish deviations from prescribed social norms.

Therefore, simple societies have peaceful regularized ways of handling certain disputes. Any decision reached not only resolves a specific dispute but also sets a precedent for other people to follow in the future. Law, therefore, whether it be in simple or complex societies, provides an avenue of dealing peacefully with whatever conflicts develop.

When the Spanish missionaries came in contact with the early inhabitants  of  the  Philippine  , there were techniques in use for the resolution or settlement of disputes: mediation and conciliation and arbitration. Transaction  and  dealings among  households  in  a  barangay  were done through  an  intermediary  (Kroeber,  1919,  Loarca,  1582). In the first place, the  use  of  a third party avoided the humiliation and loss of face since the party  was  not directly involved and thus no harm was done to one’s prestige or reputation; secondly, it enhanced the success of a transition inasmuch as the intermediary was a person of means and prestige; he could make it difficult for either party to refuse.

Arbitration was done by an individual who acquired power, prestige, and reputation for fair dealings – he was always sought by disputants to resolve differences binding to both parties. He was more akin to a judge (Fernandez, 1976: 127).

In the past, whenever conflict arose, for example, the murder of someone, common friends of the offender and the offended party would immediately bring about a settlement and a reconciliation through the payment by the offender of a sum determined in accordance with the customary schedule (Colin, 1663). Such settlements were arrived at only after arduous efforts on the part of the mediators.

Although the act of mediation and conciliation and arbitration of the traditional way of resolving conflict was replaced by the western judiciary process, yet the tribal communities have preserved their indigenous procedure of conflict resolution, though with some modification, perhaps as an adaptive means to the changing times. This section presents the manner in which the  indigenous communities settle or resolve their conflicts or disputes not only among the Lumads but also in conflicts between Lumads and non-Lumads.

Among the Talaandig, conflicts/disputes occur when custom law or customary practices are violated and/or the person’s rights have been infringed upon such as murder, oral defamation, etc. these conflicts are settled only through the batasan (custom law) executed under two general laws: 1) Lagitip ha Batasan, which emphasizes the payment of a large amount of goods before the resolution of a conflict is made. This was formulated by the early datus to prevent the ordinary Talaandig from marrying a member of a datu’s family. Today, this law serves as a basis for settling other cases wherein the datus or tribal council demand a specified amount of goods as payment for their services or as a means of penalty. 2) Saungangen ha Batasan was a law used to settle conflicts but demanding lower penalties according to the degree of batasan.

In  resolution  of  conflict,  the  Talaandig  datus   do  not generally permit anyone  without  authority  to  settle  disputes  in  the  community  except  when family squabbles arise which can be  arbitrated  by  parents  or  relatives.  However,  serious   family   problems   are   referred   to the datus for the gravity of the problem, especially if no part of the batasan has been violated. If a batasan has been violated, appropriate payment is demanded from the offender.

The right to retaliate by the offended party without consulting the datu is permitted. This is possible if the case has not been endorsed to the datu for settlement. The offended group is given some time, such as in the case of a murder and adultery. The time to retaliate is eight days. Any extension of this limit is liable for punishment.

The common cases of conflict within a Talaandig community besides murder and adultery, are theft, slander, and oral defamation. The process of resolving these cases usually starts with the datu observing the batasan. He brings with him a white chicken for a ritual and gives the chicken to a datu within the council. Those to whom the chicken was given are expected to participate in the settlement and should not refuse. The offense will then be compensated by the performance of the ritual.

The Talaandig datus follow a certain system of justice. Every conflict before its resolution must be investigated first in order to determine the truth. The datu must possess an ability or extraordinary skill in categorizing the facts/evidences. This is done because there are other offenses which are justifiable, such as self-defense. In the absence of malice to commit an offense, there is a possibility of pardon, i.e., to forgive and forget. Moreover, the goal in the settlement is to conciliate and to bring back the warring parties into a sound relationship.

Like the other tribal groups, the Talaandig practice trial by ordeal which is referred to as a or balaon. One example of this is the hot-water ordeal where the accused is told to obtain a needle from the bottom of a container filled with boiling water. This is done to determine the guilt of a person in such cases as theft and murder.

There  are  also agreements or pacts between the Talaandig groups and   other  tribal  communities.  In  the  Talaandig area there are five tulugan (tribal communities)  with  different leaders. They meet frequently not only when problems arise, but also to discuss plans of how to strengthen their unity. All the datus in Bukidnon have agreed on a certain batasan. They are united and cohesive because they have kept to their traditions and practices.

Those members of the groups or tribal communities which have entered into a pact are expected to abide by the rules. Failure to follow these precepts means punishment by the leader of the community depending on the degree of his offense. For instance, if a Lumad from another tribal community enters into another community and abuses one of the members, the datu of the community where the intruder came from will then be summoned to apprehend his offending constituent. This datu will then ask for some objects from the offender as a sign of repentance and seeking forgiveness. The datu will then ask for an apology from the datu whose member was abused.

In the settlement of disputes, the people in the community can influence the decisions of the datu or tribal council. Since people can serve as witnesses and testify, evidences and testimonies may well affect the decision. Moreover, the people’s opinion can be useful as a basis for punishment or penalty such as isolating the offender and banishing him from the community.

The Talaandig uphold a certain “standard of justice” in every case that is settled. That is why there is a need for a thorough investigation to every case/problem endorsed to the datu. The judgment implemented by the datu is always included by the Talaandig batasan. They strongly believe that a decision made by the datu or tribal council is with the approval of Magbabaya (the supreme god).

According to the datu informants, all of the cases they have resolved in the past and even recently, have not received any reactions or complaints from the accused and offended parties. The datus recognized the fact that they could sometimes be susceptible to commit errors in their decisions. This is the reason why the tribal council is always there to assist. For every case settled by the council, a report is to be submitted to the members of the executive committee. If there has been an error in the decision/judgment imposed on the accused, e.g. that he was declared innocent or the penalty was too heavy for such a light offense, the offending party whose guilt was not wholly declared will then become sick; this will motivate him to accept his guilt. For those mispenalized, the datu will make a readjustment to suit the degree of his offense.

The datu who commits a mistake in the settlement of a case is subject to sanctions likewise imposed on him depending, of course, on the type of the case settled. If the error was unintentional, it can be rectified by offering a chicken. If misjudgment happened after he is given a chance to reform, he loses his authority as a datu and is stripped of all his functions and roles.

The Talaandig’s situation at present is very much akin or similar to the Manobo and Mamanua in terms of their relationship with the non-Lumads who have settled in the Talaandig areas for quite sometime; now and then conflicts have arisen between the Talaandig and the non-Lumads. Specifically, common conflicts concern on land (e.g. squatting or grabbing Talaandig land); physical injuries caused by the non-Lumads; the murder of a Lumad by a non-Lumad and vice-versa; and theft perpetrated by both Lumad and non-Lumad.

When a conflict arises and it is caused by a non-Lumad, it is usually referred to the barangay captain following the rules of barangay justice for settlement. However, such cases as robbery and land-grabbing are immediately endorsed to the local courts especially if the degree of offense is quite serious and affecting a good number of persons.

There are instances, however, wherein the barangay justice is used in a tribal community, especially when a non-Lumad is involved. One of the datu informants related that he used it in some cases wherein the offender was a Talaandig and the victim was a non-Lumad. However, he did not disregard their own batasan but rather he integrated it into the barangay justice system.

Vol. 8, No. 3, Third Quarter 2006

By H. Marcos C. Mordeno


This article looks at the social, legal and even interpersonal contexts that have influenced the actions of agencies, groups and individuals in relation to the ancestral domain issue affecting Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park, a protected area in Bukidnon. It only presents, however, a schematic view of the dynamics surrounding the issue based on available documents from government and private sources, personal recollection and notes on interactions with the communities and characters involved. As such, it is by no means a comprehensive material and may be faulted.

Rightful claimants

Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park [area: 47,267 hectares] sits in the north central part of Bukidnon and covers portions of Malaybalay City and the Municipalities of Lantapan, Talakag, Baungon, Libona, Manolo Fortich, Sumilao, and Impasugong. It is a sanctuary of diverse flora and fauna and serves as the headwater source of Pulangi River and other major river systems in northern Mindanao.

Aside from its biological and ecological importance, it is the ancestral homeland of three tribes namely, the Bukidnon, Higaonon and Talaandig tribes. The Higaonon live north of Malaybalay down to Misamis Oriental and the Agusan provinces.  South of Malaybalay, specifically in Lantapan, are the Talaandig. The Bukidnon settle in Malaybalay and in neighboring areas.

Dr. Vellorimo Suminguit, an anthropologist, said it is unclear “whether the indigenous occupants around Mount Kitanglad Range belong to three distinct tribes or one tribe with three different names.” The safest recourse then is to respect the way the tribes identify themselves based on their own experience and memory.

“From an anthropological perspective,” Suminguit continued, “the indigenous communities belong to one ethnolinguistic group. They speak the same Binukid language, which is a northern branch of the Manobo language stock with minor dialectical variations…”

But the most important thing is that the tribes are indigenous to the area. As such, they have the right to claim it, in whole or in part, as their ancestral domain(s) despite having been established as a full-fledged protected area under Republic Act 8978 or the Mount Kitanglad Protected Area Act of 2000. Before the passage of RA 8978, the area was governed by RA 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.

RA 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, lays down the rules for the eventual recognition of ancestral domain claims. The law has its own share of defects and loopholes, but at the moment, claimants, including those in Mount Kitanglad, have to make do with it.

Reviving an old claim

The Bukidnon tribe that inhabits barangay Dalwangan in Malaybalay filed in late 2003 an application for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Bukidnon. The application, called the Daraghuyan Ancestral Domain Claim, covers settlements, cultivated lands and forests belonging to Mount Kitanglad Range.

It must be noted, however, that the claim is anything but new. As narrated by Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, the head claimant, her father Datu Makaatul Anecito Docenos petitioned the government in 1971 to grant formal recognition to their tribe as the effective owners of the area. Then, as now, the petition covered only the territory occupied by the Bukidnon tribe based on traditional boundary agreements with neighboring communities.

Owing to the absence of legal mechanisms concerning ancestral territories the petition achieved nothing except putting on record the fact that the Bukidnon tribe has laid claim to a particular area. Nonetheless, Datu Makaatul and his heirs continued the struggle for recognition after the Marcos era despite their apparent lack of familiarity on how the bureaucracy works. It was only recently that they formally asked technical assistance from non-government organizations and sympathetic individuals.

It is, therefore, incorrect to say that, as alleged by Talaandig Datu Migketay Victorino L. Saway, certain NGOs, driven by their own vested interests, were the ones who urged the Bukidnon tribe to pursue their claim.

Migketay’s imputation, however, is merely an offshoot of his deep resentment over the Daraghuyan claim. So what is it about the claim that has put it at odds with the datu’s own understanding of how the tribes in Mount Kitanglad should pursue their struggle for self-determination?

Unified claim or piecemeal claims?

Datu Migketay is one of the descendants of Datu Kinulintang Anastacio Saway. Kinulintang bequeathed the Talaandig tribe’s leadership to his eldest son Datu Makapukaw Kinulintang Adolino Saway. But Migketay became more known than Makapukaw due to his involvement in various groups and frequent travels abroad. The latter focused on domestic tribal concerns and his duties as barangay [village] captain of Sungko, Lantapan, making him constantly informed of practical realities confronting the tribe.

Also, Migketay initiated the filing of a unified claim for all the tribes of Mount Kitanglad Range. He filed the claim on May 19, 1995 at the Provincial Special Task Force on Ancestral Domains, a body created under Department Administrative Order No. 02-1993 of the Department  of Environment and Natural Resources and headed by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer.

PSTFAD referred the application to the Protected Area Management Board for possible recommendation and comments. The PAMB refused to decide categorically on the claim, citing the need to further study its implications on the Local Government Code, the Nipas Act and other laws. Moreover, the board argued that it was not the right body to decide [on the claim].

A significant fact here is that the unified claim was mainly Migketay’s idea. Prior to it, at least 12 tribal groups including the Daraghuyan had filed separate applications for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim at the PENRO. Except maybe for the Daraghuyan claim which dates back to the Marcos era, these claims were encouraged by DAO 02-1993 which recognized ancestral domain rights as an essential element of the Ramos government’s Social Reform Agenda.

Migketay contended that the unified claim was based on the need to preserve the “integrity of the indigenous peoples’ culture.” He said that pursuing piecemeal claims was “tantamount to dividing their culture, oral history, spiritual beliefs, and cultural integrity.”

It remains debatable whether claims by individual tribes and communities around Mount Kitanglad necessarily lead to cultural fission. Conversely, it cannot be presumed that a unified claim assures the preservation of their “cultural integrity.” Such straitjacketed arguments negate the dynamism of culture and its ability to adapt to the winds of change without losing its essence and relevance. It sounds strange that discussions on something as vibrant, if contentious, as culture should be confined to the question of whether to file a unified claim or individual claims based on the specific territories of each tribe. It’s an assertion that begs the question.

Power move

The picture  becomes  clearer  by  putting the unified claim in the context  of  the  legal  status of Mount Kitanglad. As a protected area, the mountain range is governed by the Mount Kitanglad Act and earlier by the Nipas Act. The PAMB acts as the policy-making body, although its decisions are subject to the approval of the DENR Secretary. The Protected Area Superintendent, a DENR official, serves as the PAMB’s secretariat and main enforcer of park laws, particularly prohibited acts and payment of user fees.

In a sense, this setup appears to have marginalized the Lumad or indigenous peoples in as far as the management of Mount Kitanglad is concerned, although they have representatives in the PAMB. Effective decision-making over the fate of the whole area has shifted from the local communities to a management body created by a presidential proclamation and later affirmed by an act of Congress.

This scenario prompted Migketay to devise a counterweight to the PAMB’s authority. He saw that the unified claim, once approved, would serve this purpose. In his reckoning, piecemeal claims would weaken the tribes’ bargaining position vis-à-vis the PAMB, local governments and other powerful stakeholders. Thus it may be argued that [the unified claim] was, wittingly or unwittingly, a power move, an effort that sought to attain greater leverage for the tribes.

The preceding statement does not seek to refute the cultural dimension of the unified claim or of the piecemeal claims for that matter. It simply posits that ancestral domain claims, being struggles to protect or regain control over territories lost to outsiders through force, deceit and other reasons, cannot avoid being political. Otherwise, it is irrelevant to lace the Ipra with such terms as self-governance, human rights, etc.

Furthermore, as an afterthought, it’s quite possible that nobody would have thought of pushing for a unified claim had Mount Kitanglad not become a State-managed park. In other words, the collective claim was a specific response to a specific situation, a logical outcome of developments then.



But  as  to  whether  it  was – and is – the strategy that would best enable  the  tribes  to  recover  lost  ground in Mount Kitanglad is another matter. The “cultural integrity” approach does strike a resonant chord among tribal leaders. Unfortunately, it has failed ever since to deliver favorable results.

Nothing happened to the unified claim even after the Ipra was passed and despite Migketay’s appointment as member of the NCIP. The other tribal leaders, meanwhile, had no idea on the progress of the claim, until some of them thought it was time to rethink their position, worried over the possibility that the claim would just die a natural death.

The Daraghuyan claimants did rethink their position. As mentioned above, in 2003, they revived their claim by applying for a CADT. Migketay vehemently opposed the move, claiming that it violated the agreement to pursue a unified claim under his leadership.

The agreement on unified claim mentioned by Migketay was signed by some tribal leaders on June 21, 1997 in barangay Kaatuan, Lantapan. Two months after, on August 20, 1997, they forged a supplemental agreement in Malaybalay designating Migketay as head claimant for the three tribes.

Loss of confidence

The wording of the agreement signed on August 20, 1997 implied that a unified claim was seen to be the faster way to obtain a CADC compared to separate claims. Its wording left no doubt that aside from ‘culture’, time element was an overriding concern. In fact, at the time the agreement was signed Migketay had drafted a schedule of activities [for the processing of the claim]. On September 1, 1997, he endorsed the same schedule to then Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer Ermelo Z. de los Santos together with copies of the agreement.

Migketay’s letter to De los Santos betrayed his hopes that the agreement would oblige the DENR-PSTFAD to immediately act on the claim. But on October 29, 1997, President Fidel V. Ramos approved the Ipra, transferring to the NCIP the task of processing ancestral domain claims.

The passage of Ipra took away from the DENR the job of processing ancestral domain claims a few months after the agreement on unified claim was signed. Nonetheless, it did not prevent Migketay from criticizing the agency for its alleged dilly-dallying. On February 12, 1998, he and members of his clan and some tribal leaders in Lantapan, issued a position paper declaring their “loss of confidence” in the Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project. The manifesto was timed with the visit of a World Bank mission to Mount Kitanglad. [Three of the “tribal leaders” who signed the manifesto turned out to be migrants from the Visayas.]

CPPAP was a 7-year project (1995-2002) in Mount Kitanglad and in nine other protected areas funded by the Global Environment Facility and managed by the WB. The DENR implemented the project in partnership with NGOs. One of its goals was recognition of the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain rights as embodied in the Nipas Act.

The “loss of confidence” declaration was premised on, among others, the “failure” of the PAMB to act on the claim; lack of political will on the part of the DENR-PSTFAD to champion the cause of the indigenous peoples; and failure of the indigenous peoples to formulate an Ancestral Domain Management Plan owing to the non-recognition of the claim.

Migketay’s group had good reason to blame the DENR-PSTFAD. After all, it was the latter’s job to attend to ancestral domain claims before the Ipra was passed.

But hitting the PAMB was another matter. For while politics partly influenced its lukewarm, at times hostile, attitude toward ancestral domain claims, it was also concerned over reports of timber poaching and other illegal activities in the park reportedly done by indigenous inhabitants themselves. Furthermore, confirmed reports of some tribal leaders, also called “tribal dealers,” enticing outsiders to come and occupy a portion of the park for a fee had made the PAMB more apprehensive.

On the technical side, the PAMB was correct in saying it was not – and is not – the right body to decide on claims. Its endorsement would have been a positive factor, but ultimately, the responsibility lay at the doorstep of DENR which had to decide based on the claimants’ compliance with certain requirements.

Moreover, the signatories erred in citing the non-issuance of CADC as the reason for their failure to draft an ADMP. Any indigenous community was free to make an ADMP with or without a CADC. The claimants simply did not make an ADMP.

The Ipra also does not require the issuance of a CADT before an indigenous community may make an Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan, the new name for ADMP.

At the time the manifesto came out, it should be noted, CPPAP still had four years to go. Theoretically, therefore, the manifesto was a premature judgment on a project that was yet in its mid-term phase. If the manifesto achieved anything, it was the heightening of tensions between the signatories on one hand and the DENR and PAMB on the other, further dimming prospects for continuing dialogue and negotiation.

In retrospect, the manifesto did not simply express frustration with the project. It’s apparent that the signatories were emboldened to spurn the PAMB and DENR by the passage of Ipra which has transferred the task of processing ancestral domain claims to the NCIP.

As stated in the concluding paragraph of the manifesto: “With the passage of the [sic] Republic Act 8371, a new set of ancestral domain documents will now be prepared and be submitted to NCIP as soon as it is has been instituted…”

Unfortunately for the Migketay-led unified claim and all other claims across the country, retired Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz and lawyer Cesar Europa filed a petition before the High Tribunal questioning the constitutionality of the Ipra. The challenge to the Ipra, which was only resolved in November 2000, immobilized the NCIP as its funds were withheld.

‘Sala’ imposed

The period between 2000 and 2001 was turbulent for Mount Kitanglad. It was during this time that Migketay openly challenged the authority of the DENR and PAMB as park managers. The only instance perhaps that he sounded cooperative was sometime in February 2000, during a Senate public hearing on the protected area bill. Quite unexpectedly, he expressed no opposition to the bill despite the fact that it would strengthen PAMB authority.

But most of the time, mutual intransigence marked the relations between the two parties. The DENR and PAMB, confident in their legal mandate, simply went on with their lives as policymakers. Migketay, meanwhile, made moves that can only be interpreted as attempts to supplant existing systems and structures in Mount Kitanglad with “culturally defined” ones. It would seem he was testing the limits of Ipra. And every time he did so, the gulf between him and the park management widened.

The conflict worsened when, on April 17, 2001, the Talaandig tribe imposed a sala (cultural penalty) against Protected Area Superintendent Felix S. Mirasol Jr. and 10 other officials and employees of DENR-Malaybalay. The charges were:

  • Implementing Community-Based Forest Management and other projects inside ancestral lands in Mount Kitanglad without the Free and Prior Informed Consent of the concerned communities.
  • Transgressing and destroying the dignity and integrity of the cultural traditions and leadership of the tribe by obstructing the programs, projects and initiatives of the Talaandig community.
  • Manipulating and deliberately destroying the unity of the tribe in accordance with their cultures and traditions.
  • Invading and slaying the cultural personality and identity of the tribe.
  • Destroying the cooperation and support of the tribe in the protection, conservation and management of the environment.
  • Transgressing  and  destroying  the  image  and  integrity   of   the leadership   of    the   tribe   responsible  in  promoting  peace  and development among indigenous cultural communities in the country.

These alleged violations required the following offerings: three pigs, three sacks of rice, seven bottles of white and red wines, seven chickens, ten carabaos, eight meters each of red, white and black cloths, one Talaandig ganta of white coins. The ‘respondents’ were given 15 days to settle the case. Migketay warned he would bring the issue to the attention of the Ombudsman, World Bank, NCIP, DENR-National Office and indigenous people’s organizations.

Constrained by their unfamiliarity with the concept and process imposed by the Talaandig and convinced that they had done nothing against the tribe in as far as their work was concerned, the ‘penalized’ DENR personnel were reluctant to submit to the sala. Mirasol, for example, reasoned out it’s part of his mandate to implement CBFM projects and that the communities consented to it.

CBFM is a stewardship project of the DENR that grants communities or people’s organizations the right to manage forestlands for a period of 25 years. Based on the approved Resource Utilization Plan, they may exploit certain forest products.

Migketay had argued that CBFM was DENR’s way of diverting the Lumad’s attention away from the ancestral domain issue. He had a point. The CBFM, despite its relatively long timeframe, is not a tenure instrument.

At the heart of the sala issue, therefore, was the unresolved unified ancestral domain claim. Migketay himself, in a letter dated May 15, 2001 to then DENR Regional Executive Director Fernando P. Quililan, said: “Please be informed that the key issue in Mount Kitanglad is simple recognition of the ancestral domain rights of the indigenous peoples in the area.”

It was just awkward for Migketay to say he would bring the issue to the World Bank as his group had earlier declared a “loss of confidence” in CPPAP, a WB- managed project in Mount Kitanglad.  Furthermore, September 14, 2001, he issued a statement accusing CPPAP of committing “violations against the ancestral domain and customary rights of the tribes.”

“The implementation of projects under CPPAP has evidently undermined the issue (ancestral domain). It has practically undermined the concerns of the tribe,” the statement added.

‘Death penalty’

Mirasol and his fellow ‘respondents’ failed to comply with the first sala deadline (June 19, 2001) set by the Talaandig. The penalty was then increased twofold and a second deadline (August 3, 2001) set. The concerned DENR employees again failed to meet the second deadline. The tribe responded through a manifesto dated August 4, 2001 in which they announced that the original penalty had been increased four times.

The manifesto further warned that after the seventh deadline and the ‘respondents’ still failed to comply with it, “the case will be turned over to [the] keepers of the “Lupak ha Manumbilan” who shall impose death penalty to the offenders.”

The PAMB, some mayors and even the provincial government intervened to try to settle the issue.

Mirasol, for his part, was not unwilling to mend fences with Migketay. On April 26, 2001, he wrote a 4-page letter to Migketay containing his response to each of the charges raised in the sala. He also referred the case to his superiors for their advice and action. He expressed some doubts, however, that he and his colleagues could get fair treatment under the sala process since Migketay, he complained, acted as “complainant, prosecutor and judge.”

In short, efforts to resolve the sala proved futile until the seventh deadline came, on November 2, 2001. The Talaandig tribal council extended it until February 17, 2002, to no avail. And on the same day, the tribe held a ritual to mark the closure of the sala.  The rite meant they

were leaving it to their guardian spirits to define the death penalty to be imposed on the ‘offenders’.

It’s not clear whether the death penalty desired was literal or just symbolic, or whether it was a metaphor whose meaning is discernible only to those who believe in its power. What is clear is that the sala, by coming to an inconclusive end, spelled death to hopes of reconciling Migketay’s agenda with that of the DENR and PAMB. Many bridges have been burned.

PAMB endorses Daraghuyan claim

Having failed to make the sala work to his advantage, Migketay intensified his advocacy with other indigenous people’s organizations and networks in the country and abroad. He has not set aside his dream of a successful unified ancestral domain claim in Mount Kitanglad. Yet, as records would show, he did everything but comply with the processes and documents required under Ipra. A check with the NCIP in Bukidnon on August 10 revealed that the unified claim has not been filed since Ipra took effect.

Migketay’s complaint that Ipra’s long list of requirements in applying for a CADT is burdensome on the part of indigenous peoples is valid. He should have taken notice of this when he and his colleagues in the first commission were still drawing up the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law and not make it an excuse now for non-compliance. And to think that he has hailed the Ipra as a tool that has liberated the indigenous peoples from colonial bondage.

Yet it’s not his mixed views of Ipra that has made Migketay lost touch with recent realities unfolding in Mount Kitanglad. It’s his absence that has made him unaware of some qualitative changes that have transpired. By choosing to isolate himself and his group from the bigger community of stakeholders in the protected area, he has failed to notice that he is gradually losing ground, literally and figuratively speaking, and that as a result of the sala, not a few tribal leaders, including some from his own group and family, have questioned the wisdom of insisting on a unified claim.

Another development that has escaped Migketay’s attention is the growing openness of the PAMB, particularly the member local government units, toward ancestral domain claims. The unanimous endorsement by the PAMB of the Daraghuyan claim attests to the change in outlook within the board and its recognition of tenurial security as an essential element of successful park management. This was hardly the situation years ago, when the PAMB generally regarded ancestral domain claims as nothing more than irritants and threats to biodiversity conservation.

It really came as a surprise when, sometime in September 2004, the Daraghuyan claimants, PAMB, DENR, NCIP, and NGOs came together to discuss ways to harmonize the ADSDPP with the Protected Area Management Plan. Then in March 2005 the PAMB passed a resolution endorsing the claim.

The Daraghuyan claimants, however, had to do hard work before getting the endorsement. Their formula: they simply proved that they can be sincere partners in environmental protection.

In 2005, the claimants persevered in complying with the requirements imposed by Ipra. By February 2006, they were ready for the conduct of a survey, one of the final stages in CADT processing. They had signed with neighboring Lumad communities an agreement affirming their traditional boundaries. Monuments and markers have been installed along these boundaries. With the arrival of funds from a foreign-based NGO, the survey would have been conducted had the NCIP released its counterpart fund and given the go signal for the activity.

But such has not happened owing in large part to the strong opposition coming from Migketay’s group. It does not matter to them that the Bukidnon tribe is only claiming their territory and has not intruded into the Talaandig’s.

Individual claims pushed

Migketay’s group anchored their arguments for a unified claim on the agreement signed in 1997. They warned that neglecting that pact would result in a curse (tugpungen) because it was sealed by a ritual.

Bae Inatlawan, Migketay’s baylan (shaman) until they parted ways with regard to the claims, countered that her tribe had performed a ritual to get permission from the spirits to file the Daraghuyan claim. She further argued that she was not a party to the 1997 agreement. She admitted that her brother Datu Dumapal Benecio Docenos signed it but that their tribe did not authorize him to do so.

In a dialogue called for by NCIP-Bukidnon on August 2, tribal leaders who are in favor of separate claims also raised the question of whether those who signed the 1997 agreement were sanctioned by their respective communities.

After a week, on August 9, the NCIP held a conference on claims in Mount Kitanglad. The conference, which was attended by Commissioner Reuben Dasay Lingating and Regional Director Tommy Labaon, revealed that only Migketay’s group wanted to pursue the unified claim. Majority of the tribal leaders in the area spoke out strongly in favor of individual claims, citing practical, legal as well as cultural reasons.

Some tribal leaders identified with Migketay’s group did assert the unified claim. But since they came from areas outside of Mount Kitanglad their statements had no bearing.

Nevertheless, since it has become impractical to force the unified claim on the majority, the NCIP should issue a firm position with regard to the gripe expressed by Migketay’s group. As noted above, the unified claim has not been formally filed with the commission since the passage of Ipra. Technically speaking, therefore, it’s a non-existent claim, rendering the complaint void ab initio.

On the part of Migketay, he needs to explain why, despite his staunch advocacy for a unified claim, an individual claim that includes a portion of Mount Kitanglad was approved by NCIP during his term as commissioner. He cannot just sweep this issue under the rug.

The approved claim covers Maecate Area, Barangay Lacolac in Baungon town and was headed by the late Datu Florentino Ubod, the same tribal leader who reportedly invited outsiders to settle inside his area for a fee.

Lacolac is one of the barangays within the protected area.


Some truths are hard to accept. But Migketay has to accept the truth that majority of the tribes in Mount Kitanglad no longer view the unified claim as the practical approach to attain tenurial security. To go against the prevailing sentiment and brand as cultural renegades those who have dissociated themselves from the unified claim may prove his consistency of outlook. But he runs the risk of further alienating those who subscribe to individual claims with only the noblest intentions in mind.

Using ‘culture’ to exact consensus will not help either, especially if one party refuses to recognize that it means many things to many people. Culture varies from people to people, from community to community, and even among groups that share common histories and display some outward similarities. The differences may be evolutionary or imposed by outside forces, but the fact remains that the concept of culture almost always drags along with it the idea of diversity, in interpretation and in actual practice.

There are different ways of looking at the individual claims. And it would be a crime for anyone to interpret it solely on the basis of a programmed outcome or a preconceived, rigid notion of culture and other standards. To do this is to show a fear of culture itself. A better way would be to admit that a unified claim is an idea whose time is yet to come, refrain from labeling, and see the claimants’ behavior as a reflection of their current stage of consciousness.

The Daraghuyan Claim reflects the level of consciousness of Bae Inatlawan and that of her tribe no matter how low it may appear to an outsider. It’s their simple response to past oppression that saw them being displaced several times by government projects and powerful families. It may look inferior to someone else’s dream of building “United Indigenous Nations.” Yet they persist, using their modest resources and guided by humility and the wisdom of their ancestors. And there lies the beauty of their struggle.

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