Ampaguey loves to tell how her father’s umbilical cord was buried in
what is now Baguio’s city hall. The way she tells it can strike the
uninitiated ear as coming from a deranged woman. But the 62-year-old
Ibaloi has her wits intact, and she is speaking literally.
father’s house stood there when he was still an infant and his
umbilical cord was buried underneath after a traditional midwife cut
it off from his navel. That house and the houses of other early
inhabitants of the country’s summer capital are now but a memory,
coming to life only in stories such as Ampaguey’s.
the ancestors of present day Ibaloi residents, what is Baguio today
was Kafagway, a mountaintop
community built by tribal people. Life then was peaceful, simple,
harmonious, and, as Ampaguey puts it, “characteristically Ibaloi.”
The ownership of a piece of land was proved not by a transfer
certificate of title but by one’s claim to it, which was respected
by other members of the community.
customs, says Ampaguey, allowed them to “occupy, possess, and
utilize their land as kejowan
(communal forest), binaljan
(residential area), payew (riceland),
and many others. Boundaries were by padok
(creek), bato (rock), keyew (tree).” Travel was through foot trails and commerce was
done by bartering goods.
however, changed all that. Aida Pineda, president of the Baguio
Ancestral Claimants, an organization composed of the Ibaloi, Kalanguya,
and Kankaney tribes, says colonization “dispossessed” them of
manifesto issued by the organization on the 1st
of this month recalled that when the Spaniards colonized the country,
they laid claim to choose tracts of lands for churches, convents, or
schools. All such lands became the property of the King of Spain. When
the Americans came, the lands became the property of the State by
virtue of the Regalian Doctrine. The Ibalois and other tribal people
were eased out and pushed to the fringes of the mountain community.
forward to the 20th century.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution, which provides for “respect for
ancestral lands,” brought back hope to the indigenous peoples of
Baguio. Fulgencio Factoran Jr., as secretary of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources, issued Certificates of Ancestral
Land Claims (CALCs) to qualified applicants.
706 families applied for CALCs, and by the early 1990s, a little less
than half of the applications had been approved. CALCs covered
ancestral lands ranging from half a hectare for a family to as large
as 33 hectares for a clan.
none of the CALCs became a title, or a Certificate of Ancestral Land
Title (CALT). Elizabeth Binayan, a CALC holder from Irisan, Baguio
City, says this was due to the DENR’s refusal to turn over the CALCs
to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in line with
the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), which gave indigenous
peoples ownership rights over their ancestral lands. The law, enacted
in 1997, gave NCIP the authority to process CALCs into CALTs and to
told PNI that when she and the other Ibalois in Baguio inquired at the
DENR office, they were told that the documents could not be turned
over to the NCIP because of the pending petition to declare the IPRA
unconstitutional, filed with the Supreme Court by former Supreme Court
Justice Isagani Cruz.
that the DENR no longer has any legal basis to entertain ancestral
land claims, the manifesto said, its refusal to turn over CALCs to the
NCIP “has scandalized us.”
no titles to the lands they occupy, the indigenous peoples of Baguio
have practically become squatters in the place where they and their
ancestors were born and raised. Alfonso Aroco, officer in charge of
the NCIP’s Ancestral Domains Office, told PNI, “You have a
situation where IPs have a piece of paper and yet they cannot claim
ownership of the land because these are not really titles.”
a culture like theirs, it took the Ibalois years, even decades, to
realize the importance of possessing titles to their ancestral lands.
Joseph Sacley, barangay captain of Happy Hollow, an indigenous
barangay located just outside the developed parts of Camp John Hay,
says that in their culture, it is okay if you don’t have a title to
the land you occupy. Your right to it is respected, even as its use is
shared with others. “The land is open,” he explains. “Everybody
not all of those who were allowed to share their lands were good
people. “They wanted our lands all to themselves,” Sacley says.
“We are pushed (farther away) by the city of Baguio. We are only
trying to salvage whatever little land is left to us.”
for the Igorot—a generic name for Ibalois and other tribal
people—revolves around the farm. Any activity not directly related
to the farm is deemed out of place and unproductive. “In our time,
if we went to school, our parents would tell us that it would make us
lazy. Farming was the thing,” says Ampaguey.
days, her children reproach her every time she attends a meeting of
the Baguio Ancestral Claimants. “Where are you going? How long will
this end?” her kids would ask her. “The land is not yours,
therefore, it couldn’t be ours,” they’d say.
isn’t that the youngsters have lost all attachment to the land.
Rather, it seems they are despairing that they may not be able to hold
on to it. “There is impatience, anger, and fear of losing
everything,” Binayan says, describing the current sentiments of
indigenous peoples in Baguio.
Sacley says they are determined to protect their lands. “We will
protect the area. We will stay put. We have nowhere to go. We must
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