Monday, July 28, 2014

Blaan chieftain is new city councilor

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (23 July 2014) – Blaan chieftain Mario U. Empal (center) takes his oath of office Tuesday, July 22, before City Mayor Ronnel Rivera as the 13th city councilor being the Indigenous People’s (IP) representative to the 17th Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP). After so many years, it is only now that the IP representation in the SP has finally been realized. (GENSAN CPIO/Russell Delvo)

Mayor Rivera welcomes IP Representative to city council


GENERAL SANTOS CITY (23 July 2014) - After decades of waiting, the indigenous community here in the city finally got a representative in the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP).

On the afternoon of Tuesday (July 22) at the City Hall lobby, City Mayor Ronnel Rivera made good on his promise to provide a voice for members of the Indigenous People (IP) in the city.

Blaan chieftain Mario Empal took his oath as the official IP Representative of General Santos City in front of the mayor, city councilors, LGU-GSC employees, and different IP groups.

“I am thankful that Mayor Rivera had pushed for an IP representation in SP. We asked this for a very long time and it was only now that this was realized—when Mayor Rivera is already the mayor of the city,” Empal said.

Representatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) also witnessed and certified the legality of putting Kagawad Empal in one of the seats of SP.

According to the DILG, Section 16 of RA 8371 or The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 says that the State shall ensure that all Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) and IPs must be given a mandatory representation in policy-making bodies and other local legislative councils.

The DILG ascertained that there was no irregularity in naming Empal as the IP representative and as the 13th city councilor of the 17th SP.

This thrust of Mayor Rivera is also supported by the SP through Ordinance No. 8 authored by City Councilor Rosalita Nunez.

The ordinance outlines the need for an IP representative in the city, as well its functions and responsibilities.

In the said ordinance, Empal will have a three-year term which officially started on the day of his induction.

“I am happy that for how many years and administrations, we finally have an IP representative in the SP that will push the welfare and rights of our IP constituents,” Mayor Rivera said.

“But aside from that, I also expect Councilor Empal to also help in resolving the problems that affect the city, such as of the poverty incidence. Since he is in the SP already, improving the lives of every General should also be his utmost priority,” the mayor said.

Mayor Rivera is also hoping that the next IP representative would come from other indigenous tribes here in Gensan.
Councilor Empal assured the city mayor that he will do his role to be the voice of his fellow IPs and ICCs. (GENSAN CPIO/Ian John M. Lagare)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weavers showcase Blaan craft

MALAPATAN, Sarangani (June 21, 2014) - Blaan women showcase their mat weaving skills at the municipal grounds as Malapatan stages its annual Pakaradyan Festival. Pakaradyan means festivities which also features the richness of the culture of Malapatan. (Cocoy Sexcion for SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lang Dulay, a Tboli cultural icon

Please visit this blog on an article featuring Lang Dulay,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An article on Lamlifew

A Little Museum by a River, Among the Hills and Fields is a very good article featuring the Blaan culture as shared by the Blaan indigenous peoples group of Lamlifew, Datal Tampal, Malungon, Sarangani Province.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Blaan and nothing else

 I am half-blood Blaan and am proud of it. My Mother is a Blaan from Pomololok and my Father is one of those early settler's family of Gensan belonging to the Ilocano and Waray descendants.

My tribe's correct spelling is Blaan, NOT B'laan and definitely NOT Bilaan...the two most common words we read from publications and You Tube postings. To all my flanek Blaan, please let us start using the proper name of our tribe in every way we refer to our tribe so that we will not be mad when non-tribal folks are calling us differently just because they could not pronounce it properly. If we wanted other people to respect us, let us first show respect to our own identity...that is as basic as our tribal name. Think about yourself? Do you wanted your own name to be mis-spelled all the time? Well, just some thoughts to ponder upon.
My folks in Maligo, Polomolok, South Cotabato

Blaan Traditional Upland Rice Resource Management in Kihan


 TURNER, JOSEPHINE C. University of the Philippines Open University. March 2008. Blaan Traditional Upland Rice Resource Management: Implications to Household Food Security and Cultural Survival in Brgy. Kihan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province.

Major Adviser: Maria Helen F. Dayo, PhD.

The Blaan indigenous peoples group of Brgy. Kihan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province had been growing diverse traditional upland rice varieties. However, there was no research done on their traditional upland rice resource management in relation to their household food security and cultural practices. The study attempted to attain the following objectives: (1) to make an inventory of the remaining traditional upland rice varieties grown by the Blaan tribe in Brgy. Kihan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province, (2) to document the rituals, belief systems, and other cultural practices associated with traditional rice varieties, (3) to identify the lowland influences that modified Kihan’s traditional upland rice farming practices, and (4) to determine the impact of a dwindling traditional rice resource on household food security and the survival of the Blaan rice culture.
Multiple methodologies such as the participatory rural appraisal technique, survey questionnaire translated into Visayan dialect, focused group discussions, mapping, community meetings and immersion in the upland rice farming communities were used in the conduct of the research. Data validation was also done with the Barangay Council, Tribal Chieftains, Sitio leaders, survey respondents and other residents in Brgy. Kihan.
 A total of 42 key farmer respondents surveyed onsite revealed that there are 108 varieties based on the Blaan farmers’ characterization. They have indigenous system of rice classification known as Mlal fali (short growing) and Laweh fali (long growing) varieties. Of the 108 varieties identified, only 46 varieties were collected and documented. The respondents also identified that there are 62 varieties that are diminishing and some 47 rare varieties are no longer found in their Barangay.
Blaan devotion to cultural ritual is closely tied to their traditional upland rice agriculture. Cultural rituals associated with their rice culture are distinct in each stage of the agricultural cycle as evidenced by different rituals that include mabah, bot tne, nlaban fali, tuke fali, pandoman, amgawe, and damsu.
Lowland influences that modified Kihan’s traditional upland rice farming practices include introduction of cash economy and paid labor, adoption of introduced hybrid rice varieties by some farmers, more farmers shifting to cash crops compounding future upland rice genetic losses, non-practice of rituals with shift to cash crops, and increased use of synthetic fertilizers. The change of mindset of the Blaan upland rice farmers affects their sense of volunteerism. Some of the lowland influences have resulted in hunger, more poverty and indebtedness of the farmer to the financier or a middleman.
            Traditional upland rice resource management in Brgy. Kihan is characterized by subsistence farming. However, current scenario of dwindling upland rice resource posed threat to their economic and cultural survival. With few varieties available and the impact of lowland influences, Blaan farmers realized that they have smaller upland rice farms and smaller rice harvest that is not enough to sustain the growing family members coping for household food security which affects the sustenance of their cultural practices.

Traditional agricultural system in Kihan

The traditional agricultural system in Kihan is characterized primarily by subsistence farming. Production is geared towards food security and other basic needs rather than market forces. The place is poorly integrated to commercial markets due to its inaccessibility and the lack of road networks to link the far flung Sitios to commercial markets. Barangay Kihan is predominantly inhabited by the Blaan indigenous peoples group. The Blaan devotion to cultural ritual is closely tied to their traditional upland rice agricultural system. The study focused into the inventory of the different upland rice varieties, understanding of their traditional knowledge on upland rice farming system, understanding socio-cultural pressures that contributed to the loss of rare upland rice varieties and the advocacy for in situ conservation of their precious upland rice varieties.

View of Sitio Banlas, the farthest community with the most farmers growing upland rice

Rice farms in yellow patches viewed from Sitio Limbunga

View of Sitio Amlitos with corn area and irrigated lowland rice
 Upland rice is a key to recovering biodiversity as a fundamental dimension of household food security among ICCs. Upland rice farming is considered as a household affair among the Blaan tribe of Brgy. Kihan. They own their land as inheritance from their parents and most farms are dominated by male farmers. Study revealed that most of the farmers are within the age range of 26-45 who had been farming for over 16 years. Respondents said that farm preparation for upland rice planting is from March to May. This farm activity synchronization is practiced for cultural pest management, thus, dispersing the pest infestation if ever they occur. The timing is also necessary for the Bayanihan system or sahul so that farmers can commit to help in another farmers’ farm. Considering their terrain as rolling to steep mountainous farms, most farmers use hand hoe to cultivate the soil. They also use dibble stick to make holes for the upland rice. These implements are efficiently used for minimum tillage in steep sloped farms. Others with not so rolling farms use draft animals like carabaos, horses, and cow in land preparation and harrowing. Blaan farmers return all farm wastes like animal manure (e.g. carabao, cow, horses, chicken), crop residues and rice straws to bring back productivity of the soil during fallow period.
Dibble stick used for planting rice during the ritual called Lamgi
2005 Upland rice research team (MSU-Science Department lead by Dr. James Namocatcat
and Professor Florence Lasalita-Zapico, Indigenous Peoples Development Program
                             staff and volunteers)with Barangay Kihan Officials and community members                                  

High genetic diversity of traditional upland rice in Kihan

Upland rice patches of Sitio Katnog, Kihan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province


The survey and semi-structured interviews among the 42 upland rice farmers with indicated that there is high genetic diversity of traditional upland rice (108 varieties) identified in Barangay Kihan, a significant indicator of traditional agricultural system. They traditionally classified their upland rice varieties as Mlal fali (short growing) and Laweh fali (long growing). This indigenous system of rice classification is based on farmers’ characterization. Among the 108 varieties, three varieties were favored by most of the farmers to be planted are larangan (79%) as it can be planted all year round, fitam kwat (64%) due to its high yield and manabang (55%). The seeds they have at present are handed down from their forefathers, some from the Barangay Council and Government program like UDP existing in the area, some are from barter and labor exchange to other farmers. Choice of particular variety either for food or for seed banking is based on reasons related to palatability (nutritious) and fragrance, high yielding, resistance to pests and insects, drought resistance, storability and fast growing varieties. On farm conservation of local varieties is an existing strategy for food security among the Blaan tribe. It is also a potential strategy for genetic conservation in Brgy. Kihan because varieties those farmers manage continue to evolve in response to natural and human selections. The evidence of many Kihan farmers’ selections in rice field indicates continuing process of maintaining rice varieties that specifically fit their own needs and local conditions. Moreover, respondents revealed that the diversity of other crops (57 species) categorized into vegetables, root crops and fruits in upland rice farms served different purposes. Most crops are used for household consumption especially the root crops, some are believed to be alternate hosts for pests, some for medicinal value, some to prevent soil erosion. Some are cash crops that are sold to the local market. The incorporation of wild resources and high diversity of other crops in their upland rice farms formed a livelihood strategy among the Blaan farmers. 
Click HERE for other traditional upland rice varieties photos.Photos of the different varieties were taken by Cocoy A. Sexcion.

Traditional upland rice and cultural heritage preservation

Almugan, bird of omen among the Blaan tribe

Blaan women play vital role in upland rice farming

Bot tne ritual during the first Upland Rice Festival of Kihan back in 2005

Lamgi, a re-enactment of the upland rice planting
Traditional upland rice as a common cultural heritage is deeply ingrained in the belief systems and practices of the Blaan in Kihan. Their traditional knowledge is transferred from one individual to another individual (Emery, 2000).Traditional upland rice farming practices and cultural beliefs are distinct in each stage of the agricultural cycle. During the planting season, the farmers invoke the help of Dwata or Meleh through a ritual called mabah. The message is revealed through a wild fruit dove called almugan making a pleasing sound that must be heard through the left ear. This is to determine the suitability of the area for upland rice planting considering the position of the blatik (stars) known by the Blaan as samkyab and tubong. This is an illustration of a world view from an experience-based relationship with family, animals, places, spirits and the land (Emery, 2000). The Blaan have an elaborate ritual of ‘bot tne’ symbolizing the desire to have a good harvest. Planting is a major role done by the women. Their planting is initiated by chanting lamgi of slow to fast tempo while dibbling and placing rice seeds called bne right into the tiny dibbled hole. This is joyous and fun as old folks exchange lamgi chants. The most important variety in any upland rice farm is the mlikat lagfisan strategically planted in the middle of the rice field. This variety is considered to have the power and strength to protect the upland rice farm and give intellect to those who eat from it. During the harvest, an elaborate ritual of tuke fali is done beginning pandoman (thanks giving ceremony), amngawe (exchange of chants), and finally damsu (offering). Rice harvests vary with respect to the size of the farm, number of varieties planted and crop losses due to pest infestation. Their upland rice harvest is allocated for consumption of the household, seed keeping, payment for farm labor, for celebration, gifts and some reserved for special occasions. Those who have big farms and excess harvest sell their upland rice to the local market. The upland rice for consumption is dehulled manually by big mortar and pestle producing different color of rice, some are red, black, yellowish and some are brown .Different varieties produce different rice texture and aroma when cooked.