May: Philippine National Heritage Month

I’d like to expand the popular meaning of ‘heritage’ to include ‘biocultural heritage’, defined as that which

refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples, and their biological resources, from the crops they develop to the landscapes they create. It also includes indigenous customary laws, cultural values and spiritual beliefs. This tangible and intangible heritage has been developed and sustained over hundreds of years, for the food, health, economic needs of current and future generations. Biocultural heritage is a holistic concept, where knowledge, biological diversity, landscapes and culture are inter-connected and inter-dependent. – Langscape Magazine, Issue 13, on ISSUU via IIED

(The magazine can be accessed here.)

The Banaue rice terraces along with the community that’s farming and maintaining it, as well as the beliefs and practices involved in the process is an outstanding example.

Baguio City is another, if one is well-versed with its history, evolution of it’s landscape, and pioneers. However, over the years, owing to it’s central location and designation as the region’s capital city and center of commerce, the Baguio City heritage has gradually disappeared, replaced by non-natives’ visions of the City. This is a good thing, from the perspective of economic and social integration and yes progress, but not so from the perspective of the City’s IPs.

Their ancestors founded and built the place, tilled and shaped it, taken care of it’s water and forests; but now the present generation are displaced, economically, socially, culturally, literally toward the City’s margins. This is the common story binding IPs of the world.

Tourists have wondered where or how exactly to find ‘heritage’ in the City. They’re a bit disappointed to see the traffic and concrete jungle same as back home. Locals direct them toward the shops and mountain tops. The mountain tribes’ cultures, even while their people are very much alive, are already fossilized in the Baguio Museum, and more recently in popular nooks and places such as Tam-awan Village and Mt. Pulag where tourists go to casually oohh and aahh at the “culture”.

Meanwhile, plenty of them believe that Ifugao’s Banaue rice terraces is in Baguio City, or that the Bontocs are one and the same as the Kankana-eys, which begs the question, how has the City promoted a holistic image of itself to others? Or, even to itself? What is the Baguio City heritage?

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