‘Since time immemorial’ heritage sites

>> Thursday, March 9, 2017

March Fianza

Years ago, an Ibaloy family sub-clan in La Trinidad wanted to hold their reunion somewhere in the vicinity of the former Sepic Rd., the thoroughfare named after the headman of the original family of Ibaloy settlers in that place. But alas, the family had to hold their clan reunion with all the works and rituals elsewhere because of the lack of a wider space at Sepic.
Sepic road that connects Ferguson and Bokawkan roads is now fully crowded with walls of residential houses nearly abutting each other. What has to be pointed out is that the practice of indigenous ceremonies as part of a culture comes to a pause with the possibility of vanishing if such rituals are not frequently performed.
By the way, decades before the scheduled clan reunion, Sepic Rd. was renamed Roman Ayson St. through legislation for reasons that have not benefited the descendants of Sepic or the people of Baguio anyway. 
Space therefore is an important feature in the preservation of cultural rites, in addition to the availability of pigs and animals to be butchered. Minus the two, it is impossible to gather relatives and perform a cultural ritual.
What keeps the Ibaloy customs and rituals alive today are occasional events such as the death of a tribal member, death anniversary celebration of a prominent tribal member, wedding rituals and thanksgiving rites.
The most common and practical way of gathering clan members now is to schedule a reunion. This may be held anywhere depending on the choice and approval of the organizers. Financing and mobilizing such an event are voluntary and by “passing the hat” for contributions.
In exceptional reunions, a family or sub-clan agrees to perform a ritual and sponsors additional pigs and animals to be butchered. Of course, the venue would be nowhere else other than the family’s home yard. In that case, the ritual cum reunion would be performed with lesser expenses on the part of other clan members.   
Seldom do we hear about Ibaloy feasts being held now, especially in Baguio. But we still have them in communities dominated by Ibaloys where space, pigs and animals for the feast are available such as in Pico and other barangays of La Trinidad, and in the 12 other towns of Benguet. They do still perform canyaos, batbat or peshit.
So while descendants of Baguio’s original families perform Ibaloy rituals where they have permanently settled, celebrating a common indigenous ceremony for the different sub-clans such as the Ibaloy Day could not have happened without the space in the Ibaloy Heritage Garden at Burnham Park.
Relative to having open spaces for genuine cultural performances and other uses, there is need to identify and preserve heritage and historical sites in the city, in Benguet and other places.
Not that a group is set to interfere with the plans and projects of the city and of private individuals but Baguio’s physical environment has to take a break from destruction due to too much construction. It is time for Baguio’s more permanent citizens to assess the direction the city is taking.
Last January, individuals belonging to private and government organizations were invited to a discussion to identify and suggest heritage sites and places with historical value that may be preserved and maintained.
The group consisted of the Pine Cone Movement, Univ. of the Phil. Baguio, City Environment and Parks Management Office, DOTourism, DepEd, Univ of Baguio, Baguio Heritage Foundation Inc., Baguio Museum, city councilors, ancestral lands claimants and media.
They were assisted by the Baguio City Heritage Stocktaking Project Team of Chat Delos Reyes, June Prill-Brett and Rowie Boquiren who took suggestions and insights from the participants.
The free exchange that intermixed with the validation and consensus on what sites and structures to protect was very enlightening. There was already a list of sites for validation that were identified by the centennial commission, but these were private and public structures mostly built after the city charter of 1909.        
Prescilla Camdas Balacio who was all of 94, came all the way from Nangalisan to listen to the conversations that seemed to bore her. Maybe it was because she is way ahead of us, has experienced time settings we know nothing about and she has been to places we will no longer see.  
If I had my way, I would propose to mark the whole of Baguio as one heritage site. That would be the shortest way to preserving and maintaining what remains of the natural physical environment and private/public structures in the city.
The proposed heritage sites for validation and possible preservation, if I may suggest, should include structures that were built years before the city charter of 1909, and historical sites that have been there “since time immemorial”.
No one knows exactly how old is “since time immemorial” which, according to NCIP Commissioner Bas Wandag may be equivalent to around a hundred years, based on assessments and studies made by the agency.
It is also equivalent to at least three generations of which one generation is 30 to 35 years. So that in claiming that ancestral lands were continuously possessed “since time immemorial”, or that a certain place with a historical value has to be preserved as a heritage site, affiant-elders who give their testimony should testify not only on their personal knowledge but also on what has been relayed to them by those before them. Thus, “since time immemorial” should be three generations above the present generation where the affiant is identified with.


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