Life and Culture: Driving Force behind the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development And Protection Plan of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan Tribe

By: Ma. Easterluna Luz S. Canoy

Kitanglad Integrated NGOs

Volume 11 Number 2, Second Quarter 2009

On March 19, 2009. as the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan people celebrate the approval of their application for certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT). The Daraghuyan community identify themselves as Bukidnon who inhabit a portion of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Malaybalay City. With this feat, their next tasks will be to consolidate, review and continue the implementation of the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan (ADSDPP).

The Daraghuyan ADSDPP—or simply the plan – represents the deep and sacred aspirations of the Bukidnon people. The plan is the voice of their unity in charting their own welfare. It is their contribution and testament to protect their cultural heritage and environment inside their home which is now called Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park. Mt. Kitanglad is one of the country’s priority protected areas and an ancestral domain of the Bukidnon, Talaandig and Higaonon tribes.

Completing their own management plan was a breakthrough, a product of a long planning process from 1997 and onwards. Like the Daraghuyan application for CADT which was revived and pursued for seven years, the drafting of this ADSDPP included the most comprehensive, diverse and creative processes, most of which were mainly innovative and emergent. Its essence and substance is aged by time and the wisdom of its people who adhere to its sanctity and practicality. Through this document, development planners may come to understand the tribe’s thinking and spirit as exemplified on how they relate to their environment and strive for pro-community, pro-environment, and conflict-free future and development agenda.

The plan is a living document of Daraghuyan’s individual and collective growth in terms of leadership capacity, organizational health, as well as cultural, social and emotional intelligence and praxis. Combining introspection, self criticism, appreciative inquiry and problematique, they tried to comply with state rules and guidelines, e.g. proving their ethnicity and time-immemorial existence, daunting obstacles which they overcame through tenacity and humility.

In their dreams and aspirations, Daraghuyan leaders among the elders, healers, shamans, and successor generations among youths and children of the Bukidnon tribe started to conceive and give shape to the plan which they gradually revealed and spoke about like daily musings of a better future. A lot of it was also captured or interpreted in various forms and media.

Like a crystal ball, the Daraghuyan plan is full of sounds, music and cultural fragments, memories, and movements. Its contents can be simple uttering and prayers, reflections and dialogues, chants, everyday conversations, and demonstrated in songs and dances. The artistic ones in all age groups represent the plan in soil paintings and woven products done either individually or collectively. Some of their aspirations are molded it in bare hands, while others have sculpted it or have shared it in their interactions with fellow tribes and visitors.

More importantly, for us in KIN, the Daraghuyan ADSDPP was shaped through many years of walking and dreaming together with the community. Any outsider who meets them even for the first time can be inspired by their struggles and perspectives. They are optimistic of their future as they endlessly seek fulfillment of their freedom to govern and be secured in their ancestral homelands. Can cultural values really take the tribe to a secured future wherein the integrity of its people and environment are not compromised?

We speak of the Daraghuyan plan as fruit of collective dreaming with a historical bearing and truths. People speak its elements from the heart and in many ways; their dreams and visions have drawn many professionals and experts turned allies and long-time friends to respond to their call.

Mixing Culture and Development

The Daraghuyan ADSDPP contains the spiritual and cultural framework in seeing and thinking development. From the world of people’s indigenous culture come forth the principles, goals and strategies to carry it out. However, the plan is not a cure-all instrument like most development frameworks that can be a tool to emancipate or serve to untangle human adversity. Rather, the tribe’s plan is a path to walk on, with potholes, barricades, cloudy days and all. For sure, it will not be straight bounded as dynamics of modernity and climate change will challenge their thinking and vision. Yet nature spirits continue to guide the elders and warn them when hardships would be most daunting or when moments of celebration are in the offing.

Process-wise, the plan is a covenant of unity of the Daraghuyan people, both old and young but seeing their future as one. It embarks on their values as descendants of great ancestors from where their families, clans, and tribe came from. Their reason for being is imbibed in cherished ancestral values and traditions. The Bukidnon-Daraghuyan people, the heirs of Docenos, Omarol, Linoy, Bungcasan and Palanay clans – are tasked by their forebears to preserve their community, their environment and most importantly, their sacred mountains. They are guided by their batasan (customary laws) as their covenant with Magbabaya (God) and their ancestors. The kagbatasan depicts a living and preserved culture of Bukidnon people or matatao (good person). Elders and their descendants must live benevolent, righteous and sincere lives to avoid conflicts and disasters and keep their friendship with the nature spirits dwelling in their midst.

The Making of the ADSDPP

The formal documentation of the planning process began in 2005, two years after their head claimant Bae Inatlawan had filed their bid for a CADT covering at least 4,000 hectares.

Its salient features, with milestones, include:

On culture, arts and life education:

Observance of annual sacred rites and prayers in remote and forested mountains (Mounts Apolang, Daraghuyan, Lunayon, Lalawan falls, and Damitan Hill);

Elders constantly transmitting cultural beliefs and practices through oral and actual means to their descendants. This is done exclusively in their own School of Living Traditions in Sitio Inhandig and in their tulugan heritage center;

Consulting nature spirits through performance of rites and for social and economic activities like marriage, planting and in conflict resolution;

All outsiders and first time visitors must observe cultural protocols for entry and acceptance. Free and prior consent process must be observed; and

Support towards Alternative Learning Systems for young and adults complemented by a scholarship program to bridge local knowledge with the modern world.

On nature/environment/biodiversity:

Respect for biodiversity. Avoid harming the kalumbata (Philippine Eagle) for doing so entails death to a member of the family or of the tribe;

Observance of respect and prudence in utilizing forest resources like trees, plants, animals and other things found inside the territory;

Protection from wanton entry and misplaced development projects in their territory; and

Community restoration and reforestation by planting native species;

On development (economic, social and physical infrastructures):

Development and improving the welfare of the tribe result from hard work, humility, cooperation and constant prayers;

Improved farming activities for food and income using technologies on agroforestry (with coffee and abaca crops), home gardens (esp. vegetable and fruit gardening), tanglad (lemon grass) production, rattan crafts and indigenous cottage industries and processing (blacksmithing, abaca and mat weaving, and wild honey marketing);

Embarking on new projects like silkworm, dressmaking and embroidery and tailoring, visitor management and tribal food catering, raising native pigs and chickens and fishponds;

Management of the Tulugan–the Mt. Kitanglad Cultural and Heritage Center as the locus of cultural and learning activities both for the tribe and outsiders. The 3-5 hectare heritage compound shall also be developed with new infrastructures like the 3D map shelter as educational and visitor center, a balaghusay or justice building, a library and heritage museum, a tribal shop, and a dormitory with tribal restaurant. The facility will be complemented with alternative energy systems like solar, wind and hydro power; and

Promote indigenous products, e.g. coffee, honey, and passion fruit, tribal arts and crafts (mats and jewelries) as their artifacts for identity and alternative sources of income;

On Traditional, Socio- Political, and Health Governance:

Establish a tribal community or barangay governed by select leaders of the tribe and enforcing customary laws and documented tribal policies;

Properly securing communities through appropriate and modest housing and availment of social services like potable water, school and tribal clinic and pharmacy (for birthing and treatment by baylans and healers), and putting up “tribal botika” as herbal medicinal store facilities; and

Build and institutionalize the tribe’s own healthcare and insurance systems through collection of user’s fees from firms operating inside the ancestral domain, merits from carbon capture, and shares from performing environmental services;


The plan attempts to maintain a balance between culture, environment and development, as the community walks on the path towards the future.

The ADSDPP is a living testament of people’s effort to balance their spiritual, survival and development needs and aspirations.

With culture, the Bukidnon’s spiritual values as the first precept, the future generations of the tribe should be able to carry out and exemplify their spiritual life. Thus, places of worship should be venerated, burial grounds be preserved, and that in every undertaking, one should seek the permission of the spirits in order to be guided in one’s undertaking.

This means sacred montane places with waterfalls should be preserved not developed for profit-oriented ecotourism projects for outsiders who would just use these sites just like any typical resort or picnic destinations.

Ideas, solutions and activities need to be consulted first with the spirits for proper guidance and acceptance.

Modern innovative designs (like in constructing the tulugan heritage center) and solutions are intuited from the admonitions, appearance and guidance of nature spirits. The signs are conveyed during the conduct of a required ritual or thereafter.

Culture is manifested in its homogenous and varied facets. Where differences occur, the practice of “sayuda” or consensus building is essential.

The tribe has the ability to develop, and the survival of their generations attest to this tenacity and endurance. According to Datu Dumapal Docenos, “development is like fixing a basket or renovating a damaged shelter, and it depends on the imagination and industry of everyone.”

Where conflict occurs within sibs, within families, within friends and neighbors and within tribes, the rule of agpangan (scale of justice) prevails. As a remedy, forms of sala (tribal justice system) are applied in simple and complex situations so that every trace of enmity, differences and mite are rooted out from everyone’s heart.

Cultural zones must be established inside the protected area. In this manner, community activities like establishment of tangkal (wildlife sanctuaries), ecotourism, and forest regeneration and restoration works can be undertaken without conflict with park authorities.

Continuing self-education and documentation of indigenous knowledge systems and practices are a joint learning process in maintaining unity.

Technical Working Group and Assistance; Project Development (Past and Present)

The Daraghuyan-Bukidnon community and its partner NGO, the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs (KIN), have been fortunate for the kind, generous and sincere assistance of many experts and allies—tribal kin as well as Filipino and foreign assistants who had come at different points in time and integrated with the community so as to craft, design, articulate, implement and popularize some of the elements in tribe’s ADSDPP. Among them are:

Indigenous/Cultural Experts

Edtami Mansayagan of the Erumanen Ne Menuvu tribe of Cotabato, former Officer In Charge of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), for ADSDPP Review of Accomplishments and Validation (2008).

Norma Gonos of the Mandaya tribe, Davao Oriental, former Director of Ancestral Domains Office of NCIP, for the formulation of ADSDPP following existing NCIP rules and regulations (2007).

Datu Adolino Makapukaw Saway of the Talaandig tribe of Lantapan, for guidance in dealing with government and its instrumentalities in the local governments, the DENR, the NCIP and the Protected Area Management Board (2005).

Datu Migketay Victorino Saway of the Talaandig tribe of Lantapan, for guidance in culture-based and culture-sensitive framework (1996-1997).

Tonyo Uybad and Vina Hernandez of the Mangyans of Mindoro, for technical assistance in community mapping (1999-2001).

Waway Saway and his ace students Tambuloy, Balugtu, Sultan, and Raul tribes, for enhancing the Daraghuyan youth’s talents in indigenous music and arts (2005-2006).

Datu Mansalalang Henry Binahon, for trainings in agroforestry, food security and nature farming (2008).

Datus Carmelito Montenegro (Manobo-Mamanua of Surigao); Amay Mangtankilan and Datu Pignanawan Arthuso Maloay (†) (Higaonon of Impasugong and Claveria); and Datu Mandagasi Rico (Manobo of Agusan), for their encouragement (2005-2008).

Individual Consultants, Technical Assistants

John Burkentley Ong and his team members Rey Bae, Benjie Orpilla and Dan Hernandez, for 3D mapping, and the use of GIS & GPS technologies in planning (1998-2001; 2005-2007)

Arch. Anna Maria Gonzales and protégés Paolo Aguila and Jhun Fabre of Task Force Arki of UP Diliman, for architecture and infrastructure using community design processes and the construction of Mt. Kitanglad Cultural and Heritage Center (2005-2007).

Butch Dagondon and Albert Mabaquiao of Green Mindanao Association, Inc., for advice and installation of toilet facilities up in the village (2006).

Park Superintendent Felix Mirasol and staff, for manpower and logistics support and for bridging with DENR agencies (ex. PAWB & PAWD), the PAMB and Kitanglad Mayors (1996 – present).

Ms Shirlene Sario, NCIP-Bukidnon provincial officer and staffs for their patience and guidance (2005-2009)

Dr. Antonio T. Sumbalan (†), the ever active and present PAMB consultant, for critical inputs and guidance even during off-hours (1996 -2009)

Atty. Ipat Luna of Tanggol Kalikasan, as legal adviser (2006).

Dr. Maria Mangahas of Anthropology Department of the University of the Philippines, for inputs on culture and practices vis-à-vis the lives of Ivatans and the Bukidnon (2006).

Emma van Opstal, for community volunteer service bridging the divide between the “whites vs. natives” and for designing the Bukidnon Educational Assistance (scholarship) Program (2006-2007).

Vim (and Pangging) Santos of Philippine Global Exchange, for initial market test, fair trade in promoting Daraghuyan tribal products (2006 to present).

Mary Jean Cruz of Fastbooks, Inc. and Soup of the Day for budgeting and landscaping (2006-2007) workshop and in pursuing the tribes’ tanglad (lemon grass) production for essential oils.

Judyfind Abragan, for videography and campaign (2006 & 2008)

Yong Ding Li and Andrew Tay of Nature Society of Singapore, for training the Daraghuyan artists on birdwatching, bird sketching and environmental awareness (2006).

Dietmar and Vilma Schug of German Doctors Committee, for a Mothers Class (2007-2008).

Drs. Joy Mirasol, Estela Itaas, Zita Dales of the Bukidnon State University, for bridging the tribal high school scholars to Math tutorials (2007 to present).

Joy Tulang Decano and her co-teachers at St. John’s School-Malaybalay, for summer classes (2007-2008).

Edwin de la Torre and peers Joemar Obejas and JC Aquino of Inner Dance Movement, for tribal youth capability building and community theatre workshops (2008).

Ron Asignacion, for searching for the right framework for “IP OD” (2008).

Catherine de Mesa, for rendering volunteer service and for securing the Daraghuyan representation to the Bukidnon Environment Summit of 2008.

Prof. Rizal Cruz of National College for Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) of UP Diliman, for documentation of the tribe’s and KIN’s experiences in 3D mapping and GIS technologies (2008)

Beijie Tulang, Nico Cruz, Bert Vansteenkiste, Tine Meyeur & Johan Demmityre, Brian Smith, all youth volunteers for the conduct of English, Math and Science tutorials and sports (Volleyball) and creative drama workshops with Daraghuyan Tribal Youths.

Ferdinand Cruz and Lino Alvarez, for project development of Food for Upland Dwellers (2008)

Institutions, donor, agencies, groups and patrons who contributed funds to accomplish the above:

Global Environment Facility through the World Bank (GEF-WB) – learning years under the Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project (CPPAP, 1996 – 2002) which brought KIN to Daraghuyan in 1996 and to 28 other IP dominated barangays and 47 sitios (villages).

Volunteer Service Organization (VSO) – PA dialogue and conflict resolution which endorsed the Daraghuyan CADT application (2004).

Bank of Philippine Islands’ (BPI Foundation) – community agroforestry trainings (2004).

Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran for support in Bukidnon-Daraghuyan Census (2004).

Broederlijk Delen (BD) – support for monumenting, livelihood assistance, and ADSDPP workshop (2004-2009).

Oxfam Hongkong (OHK) – support for CADT final survey and validation and bridging technical assistance for ADSDPP, cross visits (2005-2009).

Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) – technical assistance including mapping of CADT, and head claimants cross-visit to Mindoro.

World Bank Grants Facility for IPs (WB) – Construction of the Tulugan known as Mt. Kitanglad Cultural and Heritage Center or MKCHC (2006-2007).

City Government of Malaybalay under the leadership of Mayor Florencio Flores, Jr. and Chief City Planner Allan Ronolo  – for service vehicles; food for community and funds for tribal uniforms, for BEAP scholars and land development activities of the around tulugan (MKCHC) (2007 – 2009).

Asian Council for People’s Culture – for bridging KIN to Broederlijk Delen and in providing the venues for Daraghuyan to learn from indigenous curriculum capacity building, (2004, 2006).

SMART Communications Inc. through Mon Isberto for donating 6 cellular phones to the Bukidnon tribe (2005 & 2007).

The Samdhana Institute – community workshops & project development (2008 – 2009).

Provincial Government through Vice Gov. Alex Calingasan and council members Atty. N. Beltran Jr. and Atty. Roland Detecio for support in Daraghuyan BEAP Scholarship campaigns and publications.

Peace and Equity Foundation for ADSDPP validation workshop (2008).

Department of Education for Alternative Learning Systems sustaining the ALS classes for Daraghuyan parents and out of school youths (2009).

Anne Provoost and friends in Melsele and Beveren for support to BEAP scholars (200

Portia Sorority or Alumni of Xavier University College of Law, my sorority sisters who sponsored some of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan scholars (2008-2010).

Bridging Leadership Fellows Batch 1 and 2 of AIM-Team Energy Program for their donations for the BEAP scholars (2009).

Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion High School Batch ’83 for their donations to BEAP scholars.

Mactan Shangrila Hotel for various donations for the Tulugan Mt. Kitanglad Cultural and Heritage Center & Super Ferry for free freight service of these donations (2008).

And, all individuals, friends, mentors, and acquaintances who prefer to remain anonymous. Nonetheless, their names and offices had been identified for thanksgiving rituals.

Finally, an Apologia and Loving Reminder

The Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe represents one of the cultural vanguards of Mt. Kitanglad. Yet, like all indigenous peoples whose ancestry and existence are being challenged as unauthentic, its members realize that their hard work does not end with the approval of their CADT. A big celebration awaits when this CADT would soon be awarded to them in public. But having successfully gone through rigorous, heartbreaking, conflicting, complicated, expensive processes in titling their ancestral domain and in formulating the ADSDPP, the tribe is confronted with more complex and daunting tasks and questions. In many instances, critics had questioned their decision to adopt some elements of modernity as incongruous with their identity as cultural torchbearers.

A concrete example was the reaction of a city denizen upon seeing the relative elegance of the Mt. Kitanglad Cultural Heritage Center vis-à-vis other tribal structures. She sounded uncomfortable that a cultural structure that houses a bangkasu (high altar) carries some marks of modernity in terms materials and design. One who happened to have participated in the Daraghuyan’s visioning and planning activities could not avoid wondering why “modern” men and women (read outsiders) demand that a cultural marker should cling to purely indigenous elements to remain “authentic”, e.g. no use of concrete and steel. A similar dilemma faces a person who asks if the tribe can justifiably sing Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer.” Does asserting one’s cultural rights mean remaining in a state of dormancy?

Hence visitors and curious tourists are advised to leave behind their “cultural baggage” and preconceptions on how the tribe should be the moment they step into the waiting shed along Dalwangan highway and prepare to walk the Daraghuyan trail.  Allow every visit to bring out new cultural impressions and avoid verbalizing any criticism. Just take the tribe in their own terms. Wear a cultural lens or a clear sunglass; at best walk with your bare feet and smell the air of Mother Earth’s natural legacy.  Dive into the abyss of cultural experience and don’t forget to bring silver and bronze coins and white and red cloths. Those who mean to ask big favors should carry along a chicken for ritual offering. Vegetarian visitors may not worry since they can negotiate from the cultural protocol. What is important is that the shaman sees right through your sincere heart.

So asking the meaning of being tribal or indigenous is the same as asking what it means to be a true Filipino. It’s also like the chicken-or-egg debate.  The answer lies in everyone’s practice and legacy the remnants of which are both visible and invisible but whose truism can be felt from the heart.

With the infusion of cultural arts and music right into the soul of every tribal youth the Daraghuyan community is inspired to invent and reinvent their cultural icons and beatings. Images and symbols that one may see in their territory is a product of externally directed and introverted marker. Constructions on culture and identity are everyone’s prerogative and privilege. It may be that for now the rest of the majority will ogle or marvel at its uniqueness, though some are frustrated by its austerity and ingenuity. Whatever the case, don’t get lost in the obscurity of what is real and unreal. Otherwise, given the luxury of time, one can go back and search for more thick descriptions from ethnographies, history books, or narrative accounts. But convincing everyone the right of every indigenous citizen is dependent also on intention and bad faith. Can this question be posed to those who stand in the way of the people’s right to self-determination and human dignity?

Whatever it is worth, the long journey that the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe had taken in pursuing their struggle and vision for Mt. Kitanglad, like any worthy achievement, is a valid reason for a celebration. Its leaders and members must be given more opportunity to learn and re-create their world, in their own pace and understanding. Indeed they need no flattery. Nor should they be denied of their basic entitlements so that they can continue to build on from their small success.