Indigenous Earth Wisdom: A documentation of the cosmologies of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera
By Judy Carino-Fangloy, Merci Dulawan, Vicky Macay, Maria Elena Regpala and Lucia Ruiz
Published by Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, 2015
It was a pleasure reading Indigenous Earth Wisdom: A documentation of the cosmologies of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, put together by Judy Carino-Fangloy, Merci Dulawan, Vicky Macay, Maria Elena Regpala and Lucia Ruiz.
At UP Baguio, we are now planning an Ibaloy Studies Conference for April. We decided that the theme would be, “Surfacing Ibaloy indigenous knowledge.” Such theme is of course presumptuous. It assumes there is such a body of knowledge that is either submerged, hidden or buried that we should discover, dig out, or unearth. The book featured this afternoon is a testament that there is such a treasure trove of knowledge. This book has, in fact, overtaken us, and perhaps rendered as redundant if not irrelevant.
Aside from the stories of currently living community elders and bearers of traditions, the book puts together in one readable volume many research findings done during the past decades.
Several of such sources are masters’ theses and doctoral dissertations by both foreign and Filipino scholars, which could otherwise be gathering dust in some library corner.
Others are old publications that have become rare and are now perhaps in private collections. Still other sources are the researches done by non-government agencies that have been initiating admirable people-centered development work in recent years.
The book gives us a sampling of local knowledge and wisdom held by the Bontok, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Kankanaey, Kalinga, and Tinggiyan, among others.
In general, the book paints a picture of indigenous peoples who live close to the earth, who commune with the unseen, and who are connected to each other in community.
The book shows us that the indigenous peoples have been dependent on the fruit and bounty of the mountains. Aside from cultivated or domesticated crops, the indigenous peoples nourished and healed themselves with wild plants and food crops, each bearing fruit in its own season.
In many ways, this shows us that indigenous peoples did not need to meddle with the genetic make-up of plants and animals to provide them with instant food or all-season fruits like Chinese pears and apples, not to mention Sagada oranges that are now produced in and travel all the way from China.
The book also demonstrates that the forests have always served as the people’s pharmacy.
It was surprising to read that the native Ibaloy mining system sagaok was meant to share gold with others, and not to amass for oneself the mineral wealth of the earth.
The book also includes many stories about nature spirits that guarded streams, rivers, hills and mountains with their own diverse flora and fauna. Reading such stories made me realize that the belief in spirits must be nature’s way to prevent the people from destroying the natural flow of rivers, and the unbridled destruction of mountains and forests.
On page 72 of the book, a story is recorded on “Appeasing the vengeance of a pinading (Kalinga), as told to Lucy Ruiz. A part of the story says upon consulting a mandadawak or community priest, “The spirit said he is a pinading in the forest whose house was totally wrecked by JB’s tractor, which killed his pregnant wife and other members of his family. To avenge their death, the spirit punished JB and eventually killed him by choking, and said this was not enough and that he would also take others. A carabao had to be offered to appease such spirit.
Republic Act No. 101211 of 2010 is the “act strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System, providing for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Framework and Institutionalizing the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.”
The law recognizes “indigenous knowledge systems” as one of the basic foundations of DRRM. In the law’s Declaration of Principles, it states that the law shall
(j) Ensure that disaster risk reduction and climate change measures are gender responsive, sensitive to indigenous knowledge systems, and respectful of human rights.
In a recent article “Katutubo ba sa atin and coral reef?” in his column “Kulo at kulorum,” National Artist and KWF chair Virgilio Almario (2014) talks about his unease about the use of “coral reef” in the Philippines as though it were a foreign concept.
He says in fact many language groups in the Philippines have indigenous terminologies for it because coral reefs are part of the everyday lives of many Filipinos.
Certainly “indigenous knowledge systems” are articulated in the language of the people who possess them. This book is introduces us to the rich local vocabulary in which local knowledge and wisdom are couched.
In all, the book is right in emphasizing that the indigenous principle in relation to land is “stewardship” not “ownership.” In other words, the beliefs, knowledge and wisdom related to the earth provide logic to a lifestyle that is gentle and careful in treading on earth. It is a rational way of life that is fully aware that we are simply passing through.
But what is the use of such a book in light of current emphasis on Western science and technology that has systematically denigrated indigenous knowledge?
In a post on the Internet, Fabio Y. Lee Perez (2005) reports that during the vast 2004 tsunami, the Moken indigenous people of Thailand, and of the Gunung Sitoli on Nias Island, Indonesia reported alessercases of death and injury.
Perez states that, “It is due to their knowledge and understanding of the way of nature, and their traditional resource management practices.” Lee Perez concludes, “Although our understanding of science has increased and information technologies have become intense, we have lost our human’s primary instinct of survival. We have much to learn from the keen environmental awareness that many indigenous people possess.”
In the most recent KAPWA international conference on indigenous peoples here in Baguio, one of the speakers made the statement that the future is indigenous.
On Page 4, the authors say this book “may be of interest to people who are searching for more meaningful ways of living on the earth, as an alternative to the dominant Western paradigm.”
I would say, this book on indigenous wisdom could very well be our salvation from our own destruction.
Almario, Virgilio. 2014. “Katutubo ba sa atin and coral reef?” Kulo at Kolorum. http:// kwf. gov. ph. (accessed 15 October 2014)
Judy Carino-Fangloy, Merci Dulawan, Vicky Macay, Maria Elena Regpala and Lucia Ruiz. 2015. Indigenous Earth Wisdom: A documentation of the cosmologies of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. Baguio: Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary.
Quebral, Nora Cruz. 2012. Development Communication Primer. Penang: Southbound.
Republic Act No. 101211. An act strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System, providing for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Framework and Institutionalizing the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes. Congress of the Philippines. Passed by Congress on February 1, 2010, Approved by PGMA May 27, 2010.
Fabio Y. Lee Perez. Survival Tactics of Indigenous People.Spring 2005. http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/LEEPERFY/(Accessed 15 October 2014)