Message for the 49th Ifugao Foundation Day

June 18, 2015

Message for the 49th Ifugao Foundation Day
A Celebration of Cultural Heritage As Foundation of Self-Determination and Sustainable Development
18 June 2015 | Lagawe, Ifugao

It is a great honor to be part of the 49th Ifugao Foundation Day.

Ifugao is a very special place for me because of the rich cultural heritage and abundant natural resources that this province is fortunately blessed with.

My visit to one of the terrace clusters located in Bangaan was an unforgettable experience. That was in 2012. It was the first time for me to see a cluster of the terraces and I was captivated by the enchanting and picturesque landscapes. I was enthralled by their magnificence.

Today is indeed “A celebration of cultural heritage as foundation of self-determination and sustainable development”, a timely theme as we look back at the stories of our forefathers and relive the traditions they lived by in the hope that this heritage would not only be written in the history books but would be continuously practiced and preserved.

Culture defines us as a people and our cultural heritage is an invaluable asset that must be nurtured as we work towards economic and social development.

Looking back at the traditions of our ancestors, we realize how much they valued nature and culture—to be one with the community and one with the earth. Fast forward to the modern present, we find that the old ways are the very foundation that will guide us through our way to progress. The traditions of the past will allow us to overcome many of the challenges that we face today.

Rice is our staple food and it was a valuable crop even for our forefathers who would perform rituals before, during, and after harvest. The Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao is performed in four occasions, two of which are on rice-farming activities —the harvesting and weeding of rice, during funeral wakes, and in bone-washing rituals.

This cultural significance as well as the indigenous system of agriculture must be preserved and brought to the awareness of present generations so that we may have a deeper appreciation of our culture and our staple food.

Meanwhile, the traditional Ifugao houses are not only appreciated for their aesthetic value but also for their architectural design that make them resilient structures, able to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. This is even more relevant today as we experience extreme weather events caused by climate change. We hope the tradition of building Ifugao houses will continue to be passed on to succeeding generations.

Ifugaos are blessed to be the custodians of the Hudhud Chants, one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are a testament to your rich story as a people. Be proud of these treasures. I urge all Ifugaos to be environmental champions and heritage warriors.

In the Senate, we are working on measures that will empower local communities and indigenous peoples as stewards of the environment and cultural heritage.

The proposed Resource Centers For Indigenous Peoples Act will create resource centers for IPs that will serve as access centers to enhance the delivery of essential services to poverty-stricken domains and ensure protection of IP rights with due regard to their customs, traditions, values and beliefs. This major endeavor reinforces the rights of indigenous peoples to actively participate in development programs and projects.

In relation to this, we also recognize the need to determine exactly where indigenous communities are located and exactly how many are our IPs. While the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) has already included the ethnicity and ethno-linguistic variable in its national census, we need to come up with a definition of ethnicity that is agreeable to all sectors concerned. This is what impelled me to file Senate Bill No. 534 or the Ethnic Origin Act, which has already been approved in the Senate. It is my hope that we can finally acquire accurate data on our IPs and their groupings so we can adequately address their needs.

As a means to protect our indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage, I have also filed Senate Bill No. 669 or the Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which seeks to make an inventory of all cultural properties and mandates the payment of royalties to our IPs for the use of these cultural properties.

Meanwhile, the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2015 has been approved on second reading by the Senate. This bill ensures stronger conservation measures of 97 protected areas all over the country.

If enacted, local communities and other stakeholders will have the legal basis and incentive to participate in the management and protection of the areas. It will also help conserve and protect representative samples of unique, rare and threatened species of plants and animals and habitat including cultural diversity, by declaring as national parks the remaining parcels of land under the NIPAS, thus, ensuring the sustainable use of our natural resources.

In closing, I wish to stress that we are very fortunate to be blessed with an abundance of natural resources and a rich cultural heritage. I hope we do not take these things for granted and instead show our gratitude through responsible stewardship.

Again, congratulations to all of you and happy 49th Ifugao Foundation Day!