October 2007

Vol. 3, No. 3, Third Quarter 1998


Relatively much has already been written and studied about the biological resources of Mt. Kitanglad Range. A vast amount of material and financial resources have also been allocated in order to have comprehensive data on the protected area’s flora and fauna. The date are by no means complete, but it could already serve its purpose.

On the other hand, barely nothing has been done to get a clear picture of the situation in the buffer zone communities. The only available materials contain data that are too general and usually based on secondary, even tertiary, sources. There is a dearth of primary data that would be indispensable in formulating appropriate development programs for buffer zone communities.

That there are 47 buffer zone sitios in Mt. Kitanglad–quite many–should push project implementers to work on this need. Each area could have its own unique conditions and therefore its own peculiar needs even if similarities may abound.

Meeting the need to have a thorough view of the situation in Mt. Kitanglad’s buffer zone may take sometime. For a start, though, it may help to consider the findings obtained by the Research Institute for Mindanao Culture (RIMCU) in the Census of Occupants of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park conducted in April 1998 and the results of the Productivity Assessment and Planning activities in nine buffer zone sitios. The census has its own limitations as the questionnaire used expectedly constrained the options of the census team. On its part, the PSAP data have some gaps that are still being filled in as of this writing.

Despite the limitations, the facts culled from the Census and PSAP are instructive enough of the situation of the buffer zone communities. Talamdan presents hereunder some very salient findings from the two sources especially those relating to demographics and the economic activities of the occupants.

Household Size

The Census records 451 households of actual occupants in the buffer zone of Mount Kitanglad. These have a total of 2,512 members or an average of 5.57 members per household. The average household size may reflect that of most rural areas in the Philippines. RIMCU notes, though, that there is a general trend toward a medium-sized household due to economic difficulties, e.g., scarcity of resources like arable land.

Age Distribution of Household Members

The mean age of the actual occupants is only 19.6 years old. The main reason for this very low average is the high frequencies of ages less than four years old (19.2%) and ages five to nine years old (18.2%). These data suggest a high fertility rate among the actual occupants in the buffer zone. RIMCU opines that the occupants have relatively high mortalit rate and short life span because the ages of the adults have low frequencies.

Interestingly, RIMCU’s data show the almost total absence of ages 10 to 19 years old. Due to limitations set by the questionnaire, however, its survey team was unable to dig into the reasons for their absence. The group offers these possibilities: They must have migrated elsewhere outside the buffer zone, probably in the nearby town, cities or plantations to work or study. Or some of them got marries early and decided to settle in the town center outside the buffer zone.

The mobility pattern of this age group, RIMCU says, is an interesting study subject. But at the same time it bodes ill for the future of indigenous peoples in the buffer zone: “If the household members aging 10 to 19 years old regularly migrate, as a matter of course, they have to adapt to the lowland culture that is different from their own. In other words, out-migration of the young accelerates the process of de-tribalization and deculturation. If the young never returned home, there is a great danger, especially if the present generation of senior citizens die, that the indigenous occupants in the buffer zone will become extinct…”

Ethnic Composition

More than half (60.1%) of the actual occupants identified themselves as Talaandig and 23.5% said they are Higaonon. Only 7.7% claimed that they are Bukidnon. Immigrants comprised less than 9% of the occupants.

RIMCU excluded the ethnicity of children because it is a little bit complicated to identify. Many of them are children of parents who belong to different ethnic groups. Hence, they are considered to have a mixed ethnicity.

Educational Attainment of Household Members

RIMCU reports:

“The buffer zone occupants have an average of 2.7 elementary education. This average is consistent with the frequency distribution of their formal education. The majority of school age occupants (66.6%) only have elementary education. In fact, a substantial number of school age occupants (28.5%) do not have any formal education at all. Only a few of the occupants have high school (4.4%), vocational/two-year college (.3%) and four-year college (.2%) education.”

RIMCU cautions, however, that the data do not mean that the buffer zone occupants are not educated. It cites a couple of anthropological studies showing that IPs and other rural occupants are very knowledgeable about their immediate environment. “In fact, anthropologists often suggest that any development programs should be anchored on what the local people know, what they consider important, and what they consider as their needs and priorities,” RIMCU adds.

Size of Cultivated Farm Lot

The average size of farm lot cultivated by the actual occupants is 1.6 hectares. But 45% of the occupants cultivated less than once hectare of land, while 36.6% cultivated one to two hectares of farmland. RIMCU says the sizes of the field cultivated suggest that most buffer zone occupants are primarily subsistence farmers even if they may sell part of their produce for cash. There are so-called medium-sized farmers who cultivate up to 18 hectares of land, but their number is insignificant.

Food Crops Grown

Root crops are the most widely grown food crops with 23.6% of the occupants planting it. corn ranks second (20.7%), followed by coffee (16.3%), fruit trees (12.3%), spices (8%), sugarcane (6%) and abaca (4.1%). Less than one percent of the occupants grow rice, tobacco and coconut. These figures would prove that the occupants are primarily subsistence farmers.

Livestock Raised

RIMCU reports that 81.8% of the occupants raise livestock. Majority or 51.5% raise chickens, while 24.2% raise cattle. Only a few have pigs (7.8%), carabaos (7.5%), and horses (7.5%). An even fewer number of the occupants raise ducks (1.3%) and goats (.2%).

It should be noted, though, that 49.8% of livestock are raised by occupants who have less than five animals each, and 22.4% of animals are raised by occupants who own six to 10 animals each. RIMCU says some occupants raise more than 35 heads, but their animals represent only 8.2% of all livestock in the area.


RIMCU records that 39.2% of the occupants engage in fishing in nearby creeks or rivers. But the quantity of their catch is insignificant and contributes very little to their daily subsistence.

Other Economic Activities

A significant finding is that only 28.6% of the occupants engage in economic activities other than those mentioned above. Of this number, 11.5% gather rattan poles, 11.3% weave rattan and bamboo strips into baskets, 2.4% are into abaca production, 2.7% process raw timber, and 7% trap wild animals.

Basic Services

Water Sources. Only .4% of the occupants gets drinking water from water faucets. The rest derive it from creeks (24.8%), streams (20.6%), springs (11.8%), deep wells (4.4%), and flowing creeks (2%).

Schools. A big majority of 81.6% of the occupants said that there are no schools in their area. Only 7.3% say they have elementary schools and 11.1% say there are nursery or preparatory schools. The more telling part is the absence of high schools, which would explain in part the virtual absence of teenagers in the buffer zone communities.

Health Services. RIMCU notes that health services are almost non-existent, with 95.6% of the occupants saying there is no health center in their area. Those who said there is did not mention health personnel or supplies.

RIMCU’s findings agree in large part with the results of the Productivity Systems Assessment and Planning activities conducted in nine buffer zone sitios of Mt. Kitanglad. PSAP is a participatory form of rapid rural assessment. In the identification of issues, the occupants cited the following:

  • dire lack of finance capital (7 sitios)
  • low yields and low prices of farm produce (5 sitios)
  • lack/absence of draught animals (5 sitios)
  • transport problems and high cost of hauling (4 sitios)
  • lack of farm technology (3 sitios)
  • lack of tools and equipment (3 sitios)
  • absence of veterinary services (2 sitios)
  • unavailability of good planting materials (2 sitios)
  • some farmers have no land to till (1 sitio)
  • marketing problem (1 sitio)

Note than of the nine sitios, only one sitio considered marketing of their produce a problem. This bolster the observation that the buffer zone occupants are primarily subsistence farmers. It is apparent that the problems identified above put constraints on making their production go beyond subsistence levels.

The low agricultural productivity of the occupants could likewise be attributed to inappropriate farming systems. At least, some of the occupants are already aware of the ecological and environmental effects of these practices–soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, drying up of streams, bacterial wilt and deforestation.

With regard to social services, data from the PSAP process affirm RIMCU’s findings. The occupants enumerated the following problems:

  • absence of health services and medicines
  • absence of water system facilities
  • absence of high schools and lack of elementary schools, classrooms and teachers
  • absence of external assistance

This is hardly surprising in that five of the nine sitios griped about the inattention of barangay and municipal governments to their plight.


It is situations like the one described above that call for the attention of non-government agencies. Yet a word of caution is in order because there have always been tendencies to implement development programs without first appreciating the interrelatedness of problems. In most cases, these result to programs and services that do not complement each other good intentions notwithstanding.

Development workers and the communities should be able to establish logical links between socio-economic problems. For example, how does large-scale cash crop production affect food self-sufficiency in the buffer zone? Does it contribute to a growing incidence of child malnutrition in the area?

At first glance, the problems would appear totally disparate. But as other problems surface it becomes easier to find the links much more identify other symptoms. In this instance of child malnutrition the absence of health services can be seen as an aggravating factor.

Of equal importance to socio-economic projects of the communities is an organizing process. The success of development projects rests on organizing work. The people should become aware of their situation before the conduct of trainings and other technical aspects of the projects. They can come up with meaningful, need-based projects once they know their actual problems and discover their potentials.

Development plans should be formulated in a manner that allows the communities to choose their own projects. the plans should consider their skills, local resources, and cultural traits. In many instances, certain projects fail not for lack of resources but because the cultural factor is either taken for granted or grossly ignored.

In an unpublished manuscript, Rene Victor Agbayani mentioned a potato project meant for a certain tribe in the Cordillera. The NGO which introduced the project did all, or thought it did all, the necessary groundwork–consultations, organizing and other preparations. It trained the tribe’s male members on the technology of growing the crop. The men learned the technology well. But when the time for actual production came, the men who attended the trainings would not want any part in it. The reason: In their tribe it is the women who do farm work.

Finally, there is a need for NGOs to coordinate services in the buffer zone. Resources and efforts poured in by one group into a specialized line of work would be futile without the required complementation from another group. For example, a project meant to upgrade the people’s farming skills would be negated if there is no correlative marketing support system. The lesson is to integrate the services of NGOs given the multiplicity of problems besetting the communities. In development parlance this is called integrated planning.

The intent of integrated development planning is good, but one development worker forewarns:

“One danger with integrated development planning is raising high expectations among the people’s organizations, given the extraordinary goals that can be achieved in integrated development and the resources that can be mobilized. Communities might be dazzled by the prospect of receiving huge amounts of external assistance so that local resources lose strategic significance. It is always wise to level off expectations with the people’s organizations at a very early stage and involve their key members in the preparatory activities so they can assess for themselves what are the realistic stakes.”

What are the implications of these insights to development plans being envisioned for Mt. Kitanglad’s buffer zone communities? For sure, there are no fixed answers, and prescriptions should only come after an in-depth analysis of the situation in the area. It is presumed that such an analysis is not an “expert’s opinion” but rather a collective wisdom of the peoples themselves bound by a common vision through a liberating organizing process.

Let the people identify their actual needs and make up their own minds instead of us making up their minds for them. Otherwise we will only bring more problems than we wish to solve.

Vol. 7, No. 3, Third Quarter 2005

Secrets of the mountains

Mt. Kitanglad Range in Bukidnon Province is becoming a popular destination of mountaineers, tourists and plain thrill-seekers. Its highest peak, Mt. Dulang-dulang, is nestled 2,938 meters above sea level and is the country’s second highest. But owing perhaps to its more rugged topography, fewer visitors have reached its summit. Most prefer to climb Mt. Kitanglad, the second highest spot in the range at 2,899 masl, where the trek is less daunting.

A lumad legend has it that in olden times Magbabaya (God) sent a great flood to cleanse the earth of evildoers. Only the tip of Mt. Dulang-dulang remained visible and it was only as big as a stalk of tanglad (lemon grass). Hence the mountain range and one of its peaks eventually came to be called Kitanglad.

Mt. Dulang-dulang got its name from the word “dulang” or a portion of a ritual which is performed at the peak, where only betel nuts wrapped in a piece of cloth and chicken blood may be offered. Cooking is done only at the lower part of the mountain because the guardian spirits living on the peak don’t want to smell anything unnatural to the place.

More than a dozen other mountains in the range also have stories to tell. The tales explain how these places derived their names in a way that affirm the lumad’s close link to Nature and the spirit world.

East of Mt. Dulang-dulang lies Mt. Nakakeleb. In Binukid, the lumad dialect, “keleb” means close. The mountain is believed to be the entrance to the home of the spirits of dead ancestors.

During their time, Datu  Tranquilino  and  Datu  Makaatul,  a  high  baylan or  ritualist,  saw light coming from the spirits. It was a sign that the two were about to be taken to the domain of the spirits, but they failed to enter because they did not want to leave their families.

The same thing happened to Datu Mambalungkas and many others who were ready to leave behind the material world. They were about to change their clothes as a requirement before entering when a commotion ensued and the entrance closed (nakakeleb).

Mt. Tagaytay, on the other hand, was derived from the word “taytay” meaning passage along a ridge. Prayers and spiritual calls especially those made during “kaliga” rites will pass through this mountain towards the worship places.

Kaliga is a ritual chiefly meant to entertain the spirits. In earlier times, it could last a week.

Kaliga was often held in Mt. Nalunhaw-Apulang. The name came from the words “lunhaw” meaning “a spirit helping us” and “apulang” meaning “vigil” to refer to the sleepless nights during the holding of such ritual.

Between Mt. Nalunhaw-Apulang and Mt. Nakakeleb stands Mt. Napuklaw, home of a spirit that holds the lamp of human life. It is a worship area where prayers are offered in order that the lamp of life would keep on burning.

Those who wish to live long go to Mt. Napuklaw. But the sick may find comfort in Mt. Nasaluluy. The mountain derived its name from the term “nasaluluy daw sulang-sulang” or a crown of a baylan that symbolizes spiritual power and the power to heal the sick.

North of Mt.  Napuklaw is Mt. Daraghuyan.  “Daraghuy” means a soft crying voice that   tells the story of human life. It was here that baylans heard the daraghuy of a spirit who became a baylan, a human being, on earth.

Other mountains were named based on their natural characteristics and after certain events whose significance has become part of the lumad’s oral history and folklore.

For instance, Mt. Lunayun is so called because a tree called “lunay” abundantly grows there. People use its resin for lamp fuel.

Mt. Inablayan, on the other hand, is a traditional ridge that serves as a boundary of the domains of two tribal leaders occupying the eastern and western sides. They had a customary agreement that no one from either side should get across the ridge without the consent of the other. Those who cross the other side shall hang (sablay) a cloth on the ridge as a sign of courtesy.

Northwest of Malaybalay City is Mt. Damitan, a small mountain that divides a river into two. One is a tributary of the Tagoloan River and the other of the Pulangi River.

And like mountains, rivers also hold legends and secrets that have been there since the day they started flowing to give life to people living along their paths and nourish lumad cultures that have survived to this day. (www.mindanews.com, February 11, 2005)

What is to be done?

MKRNP is a protected area. This sounds simple enough. But in reality it bears much impact on the lumads who invariably consider the area as their ancestral domain.

The protected area status may be an advantage since it has made MKRNP a focus of policies and programs that support biodiversity conservation. It also could also mean however divesting the lumads of some, if not much, of their traditional rights to the land and giving the State the last say on how it should be managed.

The tribes, collectively or individually, have started to assert their rights through ancestral domain claims. But merely filing claims would not suffice. The harder part is to prove ownership “since time immemorial” by demonstrating traditional knowledge of the land and the ability and commitment to manage and conserve its resources.

Such ability and commitment are imperative in light of the wariness of various sectors – including the government – as to the real motives behind ancestral domain claims. They are apprehensive that granting these claims, particularly those encompassing forestlands and other resource-rich areas, would just lead to environmental degradation

But as articulated by Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, head claimant of the Daraghuyan Ancestral Domain Claim which covers portions of Mt. Kitanglad:

“People who are true to their culture will not destroy the environment. We are not highly educated, but we know how to support good intentions. We have to protect our territory or we will not survive. We were glad when the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act was approved, as it recognizes our rights.”

Still, it [was] necessary to prove the capability of the lumads to manage and protect their territory and the natural resources in it.

Some good things happen by accident

In 1998, KIN’s Easter Luna Canoy visited Oriental Mindoro, particularly the   Mangyan Mission in Calapan. One thing caught her interest:  the three-dimensional maps the Mangyans themselves fashioned with the use of carton sheets (and lately with Styrofoam). The finished products are wonderful replicas of their ancestral territory.

But the greater wonder is the fact that the mapmakers are the Mangyans themselves. Of course, they learned to do it from John Ong, a popular mapping guru who shares his expertise to indigenous peoples and non-government organizations almost pro bono.

If the Mangyans can do it, then the lumads of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park could also do it, Canoy mused.

And so started a 3D mapping process that involved practically the three tribes inhabiting the mountain range and experts from the Mangyan Mission led by Ong. More important, the lumads at last found an effective medium with which to show their own way of caring the land and its resources.

Not a tea party

The whole thing, however, was not done overnight. The construction of the 3D map as well as the cultural zoning workshops and succeeding activities in support to the Daraghuyan ancestral domain title application were a painstaking step-by-step process. The main ingredient of its realization was the perseverance of the facilitators and participants.

The initial construction of the 3D map started in December 1999 when KIN received a grant from Keidanren-Japan. It was resumed and practically finished in October 2000 with the arrival of additional fund. To use a corporate term, it was labor-intensive, to say the least. Depending on the size, many people are required to do the tracing, cutting, pasting and other tasks, not to mention preparing food for the “workers”.

The 3D map, however, is merely a medium. It is useless without such inputs as actual land use, vegetative cover, etc. This is where the tribal experts are  needed, as they are  the ones  who  know the features of the  area  and how it  is  being   utilized.  These information were obtained through cultural zoning workshops, rigorous sessions among tribal elders where they shared a wealth of data – at times secrets – which they would normally not share to outsiders.

Old familiar places

Show the lumads a piece of a two-dimensional topographic map, and chances are it would mean nothing to them. But lay before them a 3D map and the realistic reproduction of an area’s contours, ridges, rivers and all, and it is sure to ignite their enthusiasm. The 3D image would enable them to pinpoint specific areas where they perform specific activities and to identify the features of each.

This is where we buried our ancestors. This is where we hold rituals and place offerings. The forest is here and the grassland is there. You will see a lot of wild boars here. We fish in this river. It’s a two-hour walk from here to there.

These are the words they would say while eagerly pointing to the exact locations on the map. In other words, the image has become a powerful tool of communication.

Indeed, the lumads know their territory like the back of their hands. It only needs some imagination to draw out such knowledge.

Name that zone

The National Integrated Protected Areas System Act or Republic Act 7586 prescribes the delineation of protected areas into different management zones each with its own uses, norms and regulations.  Generally, these are called strict protection zone, special use zone, habitat management zone, recreational use zone, and cultural use zone.

The land use workshops that followed and made use of the 3D maps revealed that the lumads have traditional management zones that not only predate but also surpass those prescribed by NIPAS. Called cultural zones, many of these are considered prohibited or sacred. The others serve economic and agricultural purposes.

Prohibited or restricted areas are called igbando, ibobowala, ibabanduwa, and panlaaga. The last is said to be a haven of malevolent spirits.

Sacred or worship areas are generally called lalaw, but they have specific names depending on the purpose: tulungdanon (ritual area which is also called bangkasu, panungdana, panlugbaka, batala and panalikwa), pangapuga (altar), panlubungan (burial ground of ancestors), and panalikuta (a place where hunting dogs are given blessings).

In addition, a number of water bodies – creeks, springs, and falls – and caves which served as the sanctuaries of their ancestors during wars with other tribes in olden times and during World War II are considered sacred. Humans may only go to these areas after an appropriate ritual has been performed.

North-South encounter

It has often, if not always, been the case that indigenous peoples get to learn technical skills from non-IPs. Not in the case of the 3D mapping activities in Mt. Kitanglad where the resource persons are Mangyans from Mindoro. They speak in different tongues, but the desire to protect their ancestral domain serves as a common bond.

The Mangyans imparted not only their technical expertise but also the practical uses of 3D maps based on their own experience. They recalled how, through a 3D map, they realized that a mining company had encroached on their ancestral lands. They could not have discovered the intrusion without the aid of such map.

The activity likewise provided an opportunity for both groups to share their experiences as occupants of two areas with different characteristics. The Mangyans had opposed the proposal to declare their territory as a protected area, while the tribes of Mt. Kitanglad did the contrary. Of course, it is not apt to make pointed comparisons, as their decisions were based on varied circumstances and on their own perceptions of reality.

What counts most is both groups recognize their common struggles and take pride in their identity as IPs. Meeting and learning lessons from each other were surely an enriching and inspiring experience for them.

Tonyo Uybad, a mapping expert from the Mangyan Mission, had this to say of his work with the IPs of Mt. Kitanglad:

It was a great opportunity for me to be allowed by the Mangyan Mission and the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs to help other indigenous peoples in Mindanao, in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. My purpose in going there was to help make a map of their ancestral domain, the Daraghuyan Ancestral Domain Claim of the Bukidnon tribe. In my short stay with them I knew and felt that IPs have a common aspiration: self-determination in deciding the kind of development that they want.

I felt exhilarated by being given the chance to impart my particular knowledge and skills to my fellow   IPs,   in Mindanao. This is my dream for  all  my  fellow  IPs  in  Luzon,  Visayas  and   Mindanao,   for  them  to come  together  and  help  one  another  in  responding  to  the needs of our brother  IPs.  It’s  a  good  sign to see  a  tribal  with  a  distinct  culture  mingle  with  IPs  having  a  different  culture.  IPs  helping  fellow  IPs  is  a  good  time  for  them  to come together.   This   is   where   we   can   see the real sentiments of IPs who have similar roots dating back to their ancestors. Through this, we need not depend on others for help, instead inter-tribal cooperation will help us attain our aspirations and goals toward self-determination of IPs in the Philippines.

This is just the first step in establishing cooperation and unity among IPs in the Philippines. It is good to give this kind of task to each tribe so they will see and experience the situation as well as the sentiments and aspirations of other Philippine tribes.

A sharing of experiences among the IPs has become a challenge in order to know their common dreams and vision and what they have gone through in a long time. May all IPs have a chance for cooperation and unity in order that we can advance our aspirations and goals the peaceful way.

Satellites and a barefoot datu

The mapping activity really was inspiring for the lumads, particularly the Bukidnons of barangay Dalwangan in Malaybalay City in that it brought out the best in them. Observers would be amazed to see how the lumads responded and proved that they too are capable of doing things other than the indigenous.

Some may call it unimaginable. But lumads sans any background in technical mapping and computers actually stood beside the experts to pinpoint to them the exact locations of boundaries and other features of the land. The lumads were also the ones who made some overlays on the digitized maps and identified the errors in earlier images. Now, such terms as AutoCAD and Photoshop are no longer alien to some of them, although it would take time before they can really be proficient in these applications.

The lumads have also learned the basics of using   the Global Positioning System.   The   pace   with   which   they understood   such   concepts as latitude, longitude and coordinates greatly amazed   the resource persons.  Indeed, it might never have occurred   to anyone that somebody like Datu Dumapal, a barefoot tribal elder who only reached Grade IV, would one day get hold of a GPS and communicate directly with satellites out there in space. And, yes, he knows how to get readings with the minimum margin of error.

Confucius said

The essence of knowledge is having it, to apply it. Behind the anecdotes is this bit of Confucian wisdom that applies to the desire of the lumads to become familiar with practical mapping tools and make use of such knowledge in strengthening their ancestral domain claim.

Through community mapping, the lumads articulated their traditional knowledge of the land and its resources. Along with the cultural zoning workshops, it helped them remember their history, affirming an essential link of the race to the land. In other words, the process strengthened their sense of territory.

Once there was a little boy

When the group of Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino went to sitio Mintapod, barangay Hagpa in Impasugong, Bukidnon, nobody among them had thought the outcome would be much more than they had expected. After all, the purpose of the trip was mainly to see how the Higaonons there manage and protect their own ancestral domain. Their primary purpose in going there was to get some insights which may be useful to their own situation as future holders of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title.

The trip or cross visit concluded a short – term capability-building project funded by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment which also included initial digitization of CADT maps, cultural zoning workshop and validation as well as workshops on existing land use and land use plan.

But, in a rather spontaneous way, the cross-visit also led to a reunion or sorts, a remembering of the past that proved the oneness of the two tribes and explained why ancestral domain claims have to be based on cultural bounds, not on existing political subdivisions.

Bae Inatlawan and Amay Mantangkilan, Mintapod’s diminutive yet highly respected tribal leader, were elated to discover the common roots of their peoples and homelands. The latter recognized Mt. Kitanglad to have embraced all the mountains, valleys and lowlands.

Their meeting filled a void created by an untold history, that of a man known in Kitanglad as Apu Bata-ay, the same man known in Kimangkil as Apu Bakusan and Pungadan, a trustee of Magbabaya or God. They also learned that Kitanglad’s Apu Agbibilin is known in Kimangkil as Apu Gumunhad and Binilin (a seed of humankind).

Moreover, a name almost forgotten enabled the groups of Bae Inatlawan and Amay Mantangkilan to trace their kinship. The link was not readily apparent when Bae simply told them of their mother’s origin, a place she could no longer recall well since she was still young then. But the memory crept back when she mentioned a stepbrother’s name. He was a boy adopted by their father long before the latter got married (to their mother). The boy was entrusted to her father by the datus of Kitanglad. And when the child grew up he got married with a Higaonon in Kimangkil. The woman he married happened to be a niece of Amay Mantangkilan

After the sharing, a visibly touched Amay Mantangkilan declared: “We are very pleased you visited us personally. We cannot strengthen our kinship and cultural ties through any other form of communication.  We have so many visitors from many places, but your group with KIN is the only one that has brought us to a very fruitful exchange that inspires us because you came with the right purpose. The group from Manila that came before you consumed the time taking photographs of our dances, and it has no meaning for us.

“Even when we are called for gatherings in other places with other tribal leaders, I cannot understand because it does not follow the cultural way. Some datus speak in Visayan with no exact and clear translation to other languages used. We are very much thankful that you came because we no longer trust those in the Agusan side. Through you we learned not to be anxious anymore even if we have not sent our children to school because you are there in Kitanglad to support us in cultural ways so we won’t fail. It’s as if we were asleep and were awakened when you arrived.

“We consider this to be the beginning of our unity (sangka-ay, bigula, kagsabuwa hu tribu) to rise up (bangunun sa tagka-ula-ula hu mga la-as ga-un) and strengthen our structure of governance, and you are there Bae to mediate among the datus. At present we are worried that we are the only ones left; we have no one of those elders that are knowledgeable of our cultural and traditional practices.

“…Our poverty shows even if you go around our farm lots. We are supposed to offer you food from our own resources, but what happened is opposite because we were the ones who partook of what you brought here. Although we have not been able to receive you the traditional way, our hearts are full of joy to accept your visit.”

Dyeing craft, dying craft

The “reunion” gladdened the hearts of Bae Inatlawan and her group. Another thing, however, brought them a tinge of sadness: the sight of many habulan (weaving instrument) being used by the women of Mintapod, which reminded them of something precious they once had.

“I realized that if we have the same instruments in Inhandig, like them, we could also weave kamuyot (bags made of dyed abaca). But since we don’t have it, we could not produce kamuyot. This thing reminded me of the past, when our mother had a habulan. We knew then how to fashion kamuyot. But after the habulan was gone, we have also lost the skills to do it,” Bae lamented.

Lessons of Mintapod

Mintapod differs with Daraghuyan in particular and Mt. Kitanglad in general in that it is not a protected area or national park. The Higaonons have consistently resisted efforts by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to proclaim it as such. Interestingly, in their encounters with the DENR on this issue, they would cite the early experience of Mt. Kitanglad as a major basis of their stand.

This characteristic of Mintapod, particularly the success of its indigenous inhabitants to protect it from wanton destruction despite, or because of, the absence of government interventions makes it an excellent subject for lessons in conservation. The near-pristine conditions of its forests would tell all and sundry that culture is very much a part of environmental protection.

This is not to say that the Higaonons are completely wary of government. In fact, like the Bukidnon tribe, they have also filed a CADT application believing it could somehow help strengthen their position. Still, Amay Mantangkilan could not hide his skepticism:

“We are not supposed to apply for CADT because our fathers did not tell us to do it…  What they told us is only to protect the land to the last tree standing, never to urinate nor dispose of any dirt into our bodies of water. These are our long-held aspirations to strengthen our cultures.”

It would be  interesting to contrast  the  Mintapod  experience  with   those  of   forest  lands  where protection  work  primarily  rests  on  government.  And, since the DENR is really keen on establishing it as a protected area, it can start by showcasing a State-managed national park where the results can equal or surpass Mintapod’s feat.

But as things stand now, the Higaonons have shown, even without government assistance, their willingness and capability to protect and manage their resources based on cultural norms and practices.

This formula should be enhanced in Mt. Kitanglad, where indigenous peoples have also demonstrated the same commitment. Granting the CADT to the Daraghuyan Ancestral Domain Claim would be a good step in this direction.

Vol. 3, No. 2, Second Quarter 1998

By Datu Migketay Victorino L. Saway

Indigenous knowledge system relating to the sustainable management and utilization of biological resources in the environment is not yet thoroughly explored in accordance with the holistic understanding of the indigenous structures and institutions of the culture, traditions, beliefs and practices of the tribe. Some discussions on indigenous knowledge tend to limit the concept to the knowledge of plants, herbs and animals with indigenous medicinal uses. This is practically inappropriate because the knowledge of the indigenous peoples is based on a holistic and integrated framework. Placing a particular limitation on the subject may be destructive not only in relation to the protection and preservation of the environment but also to the preservation and survival of the indigenous people’s cultures and traditions.

A discussion of the indigenous knowledge system is a good opportunity to explore a comprehensive idea on how the elements and structures of the indigenous cultural personality and identity exist in relation to the environment and biodiversity. A particular discussion about this matter will develop better concepts and ideas beneficial to both man and nature.

In order to secure the benefit of indigenous knowledge among the Talaandig community, both culturally and environmentally, the writer will present a discussion on the indigenous knowledge system of the tribe and its significance towards the sustainable management of the environment and conservation of biodiversity. The data presented in this paper are based on the actual life, experiences and culture of the Talaandig which are shared by the cultural masters and practitioners of indigenous customs, traditions, beliefs and practices of the tribe.


The indigenous knowledge of the Talaandig community is defined in a framework called Agpangan. According to Datu Kinulintang, famous Talaandig oralist, arbitrator and chanter, knowledge exists on the face of the earth and other elements of nature. In order to acquire this knowledge, a person simply needs to recognize the existing patterns, symbols and meanings that define knowledge. These patterns and symbols are formulae that define the various aspects of the Talaandig way of learning.

The concept of indigenous knowledge is exact and appropriate. Its validity and logic are measured and scaled through the concept of a measuring box called Gantangan and a weighing scale called Timbangan. The concepts of Gantangan and Timbangan are philosophy and principles of achieving peace, balance and harmony that enable the Talaandig leadership to reconcile conflicts at any given situation and condition.

Agpangan as a framework of knowledge enables the leaders of the tribe to identify similarities and differences of things. It also helps them identify the variations necessary in promoting the survival of the community on unforeseen situations and conditions. The Talaandig framework of knowledge exists as an abstract data to define the unknown realities.


Indigenous Knowledge Systems relate to the total way of life and survival of the tribe that are anchored on the total elements of nature such as land, water, plants and wildlife, air, sun, light and energy, sounds and spirits.

In order to survive, every member of the indigenous Talaandig community needs to keep, sustain and nurture a harmonious relationship with the various elements of nature. Failure to do this would lead to his/her extinction and cultural death.

Biodiversity conservation and management is just one aspect of the Talaandig relationship with nature as defined through its IKS. The Talaandig individual who is culturally conscious acts or interacts with the biological resources around him with the fullest intention to survive. Biodiversity management of the Talaandig bears the concept of wise conservation and sustainability because survival of the Talaandig is projected towards the future.

An example of a holistic way of biodiversity management and conservation is the cultural way of gathering honey. Honey gathering is done on appropriate seasons. It usually takes place when the fruit bearing trees are abloom. To gather honey outside this season is wasteful and merely destroys the beehives which have been prepared for the coming season.

When collecting honey the gatherer sees to it that the bees are not killed by smoking or burning. He also sees to it that the hive is preserved and protected so that even if it is abandoned after the honey is gathered, the honey gatherer is assured that after one or two weeks another swarm of bees will come to occupy it.

Beehives are usually located in places safe from strong winds and birds and animals that would attack them, like hawks and lizards. The honey gatherer, therefore, sees to it that the forest covering the vicinity of the hives is also protected.

Another example of biodiversity conservation is fishing with a bandit (hook) and pataw, an instrument similar to line and hook but uses no hook, only bait. The worms used as bait for hook and pataw live in a special kind of rotting wood. Long before the fishing period the Talaandig fisherman already secures and preserves the place where he gathers worms for bait. When fishing with a line and hook or through the pataw, the fisherman selects the size of the fish he would get through the size of the bait he prepares. This means that the small fishes are preserved for the future.

The preservation of fruit-bearing trees as immediate or intermediate source of food does not only help preserve biodiversity. It is also an indirect means of domestic crop protection and management. The obvious reason is that when the food sources of animal diversity are sustained in the environment the attacks on farm crops are lesser. When the natural sources of food in the environment are gone, birds, animals and insects tend to attack farm crops. When this occurs the farmers have no option but to drive away or kill the birds, animals and insects that have become pests.


The protection, preservation and survival of the indigenous culture, traditions and institutions of the indigenous peoples are a great challenge in the course of change and modernization. The fragmented knowledge concepts that characterize western learning can hardly resolve this problem not only because knowledge is built on a fragmented structure dominated by colonial thinking but also because it places a particular limitation on the holistic concept that defines the characteristics of an indigenous knowledge.

The promotion of the survival of the indigenous culture of the Talaandig community is defined through a clear understanding of the elements and structures of the Talaandig personality and identity. This can be specifically noted in the discussion of the social, economic, political and spiritual life of the Talaandig. Although the totality of the culture of the Talaandig significantly focuses on its relationship with the environment, a very specific presentation of how the elements of culture relate with the elements of nature and biological diversity is very necessary.


The survival of the indigenous cultural personality and identity of the Talaandig tribe is very well defined. Like a person, the cultural personality of the tribe possesses the brain, head, senses, body, hands, feet, stomach and important organs such as the heart.

The brain of the cultural personality of the Talaandig comprises the belief system and religious practices of the community. The senses are defined through oral traditions, histories, chants, songs and music that are expressed by word of mouth and received through ears.

The customary laws of the tribe serve as the heart of the Talaandig culture because the implementation of customary laws is basically aimed to strengthen smooth brotherly relationships among the members of the community. The body of the Talaandig cultural personality is defined through the practices of traditional medicines that promote the physical health of the tribe.

The stomach and intestines of the cultural personality of the Talaandig community cover indigenous and sustainable farming system, technologies, hunting, food gathering, blacksmith, embroideries and other forms of livelihood activities. Indigenous defense and security systems serve as the hand and feet of the cultural personality of the Talaandig.


Land serves as the home and shelter of the cultural personality of the Talaandig community. It serves as the foundation supporting the different structures and institutions of Talaandig culture and traditions that provide identity to the cultural personality of the tribe. Land serves as a worship area; an institution of learning; an area of governance; a health center, a market place and livelihood center, a place of refuge and defense. Without the natural conditions of land, the life of culture will be ultimately threatened with death and extinction.


The indigenous culture of the Talaandig community exists in harmony with nature. Any significant change that occurs in the environment critically affects the total conditions of the cultural personality of the tribe. If the resources of the environment become scarce, for example, the related practices of the community also become limited. When a particular resource is gone the traditions of the community related to the said resource also end. This is true of the cultural practices of honey gathering, hand fishing, weaving, hunting, food collecting, etc. The loss of culture through the loss of related resources in the environment affects not only the economic aspect of indigenous culture but also the spiritual, social and political aspects. The loss of a particular resource will concretely result to social disorganization, economic dislocation, weakening of leadership and destruction of the moral and spiritual values of the community.

The basic elements of nature that nurture the culture of a tribe basically include land (earth), water, plants, trees, minerals, wildlife, air, sun (light and energy) and the universe, sound and communication, God and spirits. Translating the elements of nature into the physical components of the Talaandig person, the earth is the origin of the flesh; water is the origin of the blood; trees, minerals and wildlife are the trunks, bones and teeth; sun (conceived as fire) is body heat, energy and sight; air is breath and strength; sound and communication is language; and God is the source of spirits as the soul. This is partially explained in the following account of the Talaandig myth of creation.

 ‘…human figure was molded by Gumagang-aw, the ten-headed God based on the image of Mulug Nanguyawuyaw, the Holy Creator out of the bare earth. But the figure crumbled so it was mixed with the dripping saliva of the opposite God. But the human figure was not firm so the first tree called Andalugung was stripped of its bark and made as the trunk and the bones. But water subsided and the figure cracked, so the figure was sewn and water was made to pass into the vines; but the figure was weak and cold so it was tempered with the heat.

The figure was not yet breathing so it was given air, but it did not talk yet, so the spell was cast upon him and the human figure acquired language. Finally, the spirit called “makatu” was installed and man got the soul and he was completed…’

Land as territory embraces the collective and integrated personality of the Talaandig culture. Without the integrity of land and resources in the environment, the total survival of the Talaandig culture is impossible.

This is the reason why ancestral domain claims of the indigenous peoples significantly include water, airspace and mineral resources as part of the domain. Any imposed limitation concerning traditionally and culturally defined utilization of natural resources practically cripples and destroys the integrity of indigenous cultural personality. The condition detrimentally affects the concept of sustainable development and survival of the indigenous peoples.

When the environment is critically affected indigenous culture becomes sick. Ripping off the element of nature that corresponds to the element of culture and personality cripples or brings eventual death to a cultural community. When a worship area, for example, is destroyed faith will vanish and consequently it affects the projections, convictions, conscience and beliefs of the tribe.

Considering the concept of culture and environment to be holistic, there is no reason at all to deny the recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples to their ancestral domain and territory. This simple condition requires that the strengthening of the relationship of the environment and the indigenous cultural communities needs to be immediately facilitated.


Knowledge on the cultural utilization of existing biological resources is very necessary in promoting the concept of sustainable diversity. This aspect particularly requires an in-depth, holistic and integrated approach towards the understanding of the knowledge of the indigenous peoples. In the preservation and sustainable management of bird and animal species, for example, one must be able to understand the social, economic, political and spiritual significance of that particular species to the culture of the tribe.

One concrete example is the omen bird called Limuken (wild forest dove). When somebody is going out to establish a farm and the warning sound of the omen bird is heard directly in front, it means “stop” because the time is not good. Doing the farm may just result to a waste of efforts. If it comes from the back at the right side, it means “go on” because the farm would give good harvest.

The capability to interpret the sound of the Limuken is a wisdom that defines the characteristic and image of an indigenous political leader. By being able to interpret the sound of the Limuken a leader is able to deliver a command of leadership in the community. This particular knowledge and wisdom provides psychological security that preserves the stability of a social organization even in times of crisis.

The Limuken bird is never isolated from vines and trees that provide it food and shelter. It is not isolated from other species that serve as its neighbors, friends and foes. The cultural and environmental significance of the Limuken bird, therefore, is an important consideration in the management of the biological diversity of a certain place.

Effective management of biological diversity in the Talaandig community is achieved through the operation of an in-depth understanding of the indigenous knowledge systems. To be able to realize this, the framework and structures of the indigenous knowledge systems and practices need to be defined. Based on this framework a comprehensive plan for biodiversity protection, utilization and management will be established.


The efforts to promote survival and development of the Talaandig community require an integrated concept of management over its ancestral domain or cultural territory as defined within the framework of integrated management plan, the knowledge of the indigenous cultural masters and practitioners are basically important because their field of expertise clearly defines the relationship of the indigenous culture to the environment.

The diversity of knowledge possessed by the cultural masters mutually reinforces each other, thus, it makes the whole knowledge systems strong and sustainable. The preparation of an integrated management plan which simply defines how the indigenous culture works with nature strengthens the knowledge systems of the community and their capability to conserve biodiversity and protect the environment.

In the preparation of the Talaandig management plan, committees will be formed according to the field of expertise of the cultural masters such as beliefs and practices; oral history, traditions, music and arts; customary laws and justice system; traditional medicine and health; indigenous economy, agriculture, science, technologies and cooperatives; and defense and security. These committees include the ritualists, historians and chanters, arbitrators, medicine men and women, economists/agriculturists and defense. In preparing the management plan the different cultural masters will reflect their interest and concern about land, water, plants, animals, mineral resources, air season and other aspects of nature. Through the integration of the concerns of various cultural masters the management plan of the tribe would become integrated and holistic.


In order to make biodiversity conservation and management operational in the Talaandig community, the first strategy to be carried out is to define the fundamental relationships between indigenous culture and nature.

The second strategy to be carried out is to strengthen and empower the organization and leadership of the community. The third strategy is the definition and enforcement of cultural policies and customary laws. The fourth is the preparation of indigenous ancestral domain management plan. Fifth is building linkages with government and environmental organizations. Sixth is advocacy, education and information dissemination.

And seventh is the building of alliances among indigenous leadership from the provincial, regional and national level.

Indigenous knowledge embraces the holistic structure of the Talaandig culture. It is defined in a framework called Agpangan which exists as a formula to identify the patterns of knowledge in different situations and conditions. It is integrated into the social, economic, political and spiritual life of the Talaandig community.

The holistic structure of the indigenous knowledge system of the Talaandig people is deeply attached to the different elements of nature and the environment. Any destructive activity affecting the environment also affects the knowledge system and culture of the Talaandig community and vice versa. This makes the indigenous knowledge systems and practices of the Talaandig community very important towards the promotion and effective management of biological diversity.

In regulating the management of biological diversity, it is necessary to define the integrity of nature in relation to the integrity of the knowledge and culture of the people. Effective management of biological diversity will result only when the indigenous knowledge that directs the survival of the culture of the people is also preserved and protected. This is still unfulfilled in the Talaandig territory in Mt. Kitanglad because the program of the government for environmental protection and biological diversity conservation has failed to consider the institutional and holistic recognition of the framework and structures of indigenous knowledge and culture of the indigenous community.

Finally, the limited understanding of the indigenous knowledge systems of the tribes has not only threatened the survival of the cultural heritage and identity of the Talaandig people. It has also threatened the protection and conservation of biological diversity. Furthermore, the failure to define the holistic integrity between the culture of the people and environment resulted to the non-realization of a culturally motivated participation of the indigenous peoples towards environmental protection and security. With this existing limitation the management of biological diversity has become less effective both from the cultural and ecological perspectives.