Keynote Address: Book Launch of Panay-Guimaras Traditional Knowledge Systems for Cultural Resiliency and Sustainable Development (TKS-CRSD)

August 9, 2018

 Keynote Address of Senator Loren Legarda

Book Launch of Panay-Guimaras Traditional Knowledge Systems for Cultural Resiliency and Sustainable Development (TKS-CRSD)

August 9, 2018 | UP Visayas, Iloilo City

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to speak before all of you as we launch today the book, From the Seas to the Mountain — Panay-Guimaras Traditional Knowledge Systems, a product of extensive research and collaborative efforts to document and promote the various traditional knowledge systems in Western Visayas.

As your Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, I had allocated, under our 2016 national budget, ten million pesos to UP Visayas for this project. And I am very delighted to have supported this publication, which our present and future generations could learn from in order to promote and advance cultural resilience and sustainable development.

I thank all those who have worked so hard on this project, including: our SUCs led by UP Visayas, Aklan State University, Capiz State University, Guimaras State University, University of Antique, West Visayas State University; our government agencies, especially the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); our LGUs, and of course, our cultural and indigenous groups.

Traditional knowledge systems cover vast subjects, which include arts and crafts, music, literature, health care, agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, architecture, and biodiversity. Each of our 110 IP groups in the Philippines possesses their own traditional knowledge that has been passed on from one generation to the next, and many of us do not recognize the influence of traditional practices to our modern lifestyles.

One of the highlights of the book is the spread on “health and wellness from the sea” which enumerates some of the different species of flora and fauna found in the Panay Island that have been used by indigenous communities for medicinal purposes, such as:

  • abara, or burnt spotted deer antler, is used to take out venom from insects and dog bites;
  • dried lumot used to prevent postpartum infections;
  • snake skin is used as liniment;
  • balingkokok, a species of forest snail, is used to fight off stress; and,
  • linta is used to suck blood from boils and other skin and tissue infections.

It is important for government agencies, both national and local, to help preserve these practices, even while such set of traditional knowledge, among others, is being promoted.

Lagundi, guava leaves, and ampalaya leaves, to name a few, are plants with medicinal qualities and serve as cure for various ailments. We even use gumamela to treat sores and lesions, and sambong to help cure coughs and colds. These herbal medicines have been turned into capsules and syrups and are made commercially available by pharmaceutical companies.

We also see mainstream arts, music, handicrafts, weaves, and other products similar to indigenous designs and practices, but we do not know if permission was sought in the use of such knowledge or if proper credit was even given to them. The commercialization of these cultural products and practices has indeed created a new challenge in the preservation of our traditional knowledge systems.

In many instances, the tangible and intangible heritage of our IPs—such as their songs, dances, chants, agricultural, medicinal products, indigenous architecture, and fabrics—are being capitalized on without a strong consideration for their unique history, environment, and way of life. This prevailing discrimination and exploitation of our IPs have led to their estrangement from their own cultural identity and environment.

Our IPs are our greatest environmentalists and peacekeepers. For them, everything is interrelated, such that the people, their land, and their nature are one and inseparable.

From the Seas to the Mountain is a timely and relevant piece of publication that puts into perspective how the traditional knowledge systems of our indigenous groups, scholars and members of the academe, and public and private leaders can help protect and preserve humanity’s balance with nature—especially in light of new challenges and threats brought about by climate change and environmental degradation.

The book’s five major themes, namely: (1) Forest and Biodiversity, (2) Water Bodies and the Coastal Environment, (3) Arable and Habitable Terrains, (4) Sustainable Arts and Crafts, and (5) Environmental Rituals and Traditions, provide deeper context of the importance of our traditional knowledge systems in protecting and nurturing this balance.

The book serves as a useful reference for public and private sector leaders and stakeholders on how we can protect and conserve our environment, our natural resources, and ecosystems towards attaining cultural resilience and sustainable development within our communities.

At this day and age of globalization, it is extremely important that we continue pursuing efforts that convey the seemingly lost traditional knowledge systems of our groups. This publication serves this purpose by revitalizing the core of Western Visayas’ culture, as a way to adapt to the commercialization and fast-paced demands of our modern times.

More than just a book, From the Seas to the Mountain is a powerful tool that will certainly empower and advance the rights and welfare of our indigenous peoples. May this also encourage us to help in their growth and development as a community, without them having to experience discrimination and estrangement from the rest of our society anymore.

During the budget hearing for the 2018 budget of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) last year, I recall that Chairperson Leonor Quintayo said that their agency, in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), was working on the Culturally Adaptive Basic Education and Health (CABEH) Project, which sought to influence the DepEd curriculum by training teachers of indigenous knowledge and practices.

I have also learned that the NCIP endorsed the filing of House Bill No. 4415, on the recognition and integration of IP learning systems within the Philippine Educational System, as well as in various local government unit (LGU) initiatives. This is a welcome piece of legislation that I will certainly support when it reaches the Senate. It is only high time that we start to mainstream IP knowledge and practices into our education system.

In the Senate, I have proposed several measures to protect our IPs, such as the proposed Traditional Property Rights of IPs Act (Senate Bill No. 379), which seeks to protect the traditional cultural heritage of IPs and support traditional artists and artisans in their contributions to their respective ethnic cultures and national heritage by ensuring that their rights are safeguarded; and the proposed IP Resource Centers, which will serve as venue to promote participatory programs and projects for IPs, to effectively deliver their responsibilities under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), and to ensure implementation of their respective Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans.

I also filed the proposed Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas Act (Senate Bill No. 1185), which acknowledges the significant contribution of conservation areas managed by IPs in maintaining the country’s biodiversity as well as in climate change mitigation. Under the bill, concerned government agencies should recognize and promote IP rights to their ancestral domains and the indigenous communities conserved areas, including their right to maintain, protect and regulate access and prohibit unauthorized intrusion in such areas.

I will also continue supporting initiatives that preserve the rich and diverse Filipino heritage, culture, and arts, including the installation of Language Monuments or Bantayog-Wika, a project with the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) in partnership with my office, which seeks to identify areas where languages originated; the National Arts and Crafts Fair (NACF), an annual trade fair spearheaded by the DTI and supported by my office, that provides market for goods, clothing, textiles, and other Filipino products; and the Schools of Living Tradition (SLT), a program led by National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in preserving traditional knowledge and indigenous systems by helping teach younger generations about their traditional arts, crafts, music, and practices.

I have also initiated the establishment of the country’s first permanent textile gallery, Hibla ng Lahing Filipino, as well as the country’s first permanent ancient scripts gallery, Baybayin Gallery, both at the National Museum of Anthropology.

From the Seas to the Mountain is in line with our government’s efforts to come up with a comprehensive documentation of our IPs under the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Ethnographies (PIPES) Project of the NCIP, which seeks to gather data from all IP groups with respect to their count, location, socioeconomic conditions, and their traditional and indigenous knowledge, systems, and practices. I have also asked government agencies to partner with our SUCs to help in this conservation.

Much needs to be done, and I hope we could all pursue and even synchronize our efforts on this advocacy and realize our vision of a nation that truly honors and accepts the diversity and richness of our cultural heritage, which is the very soul and identity of the Filipino.

Thank you very much.