LAGAWE, Ifugao – Senator Loren Legarda challenged the present and future generations of Ifugaos to continue leading the way in environmental, cultural and heritage preservation and protection similar to what their forefathers have done to the scenic stairway-like terraces, the uniquely-designed Ifugao houses among others.
Legarda was the guest of honor and speaker during the 49th founding anniversary of the –province here.
“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”Legarda stressed.
She underscored that the province’s theme “A celebration of cultural heritage as foundation of self-determination and sustainable development,” is timely as people 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.
According to her, 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,”she added.
Legarda claimed rice is our staple food and it was a valuable crop even for our forefathers who would perform rituals before, during, and after harvest and 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.
She asserted 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 senator claimed 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 and 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,”Legarda asserted.
Senator Legarda emphasized 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 and you should be proud of these treasures as I urge all Ifugaos to be environmental champions and heritage warriors.
In the Senate, the lady senator reported that lawmakers are working on measures that will empower local communities and indigenous peoples as stewards of the environment and cultural heritage.
She cited 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, Legarda 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, the senator 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.
On the other hand, she cited 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, Legarda revealed 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.
“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,” she said.
By Dexter A. See