Ibaloy Day honors doctrine of native title
BAGUIO CITY—The sound of gongs competed with music from marching bands alongside 22 flower-bedecked floats in this year’s Panagbenga (Baguio Flower Festival) parade on Sunday.
The gongs were played to welcome hundreds of Ibaloy from the city and Benguet province who came in traditional attire for the Ibaloy Day celebrations at Burnham Park, which took place simultaneously with other Panagbenga events.
Tourists, who seemed oblivious to the gathering’s true intent, watched generations of families dance and have fun. Some of the men were wearing G-strings and Stetson hats, owing to the Ibaloy’s affinity with American cowboy culture.
Everyone sang songs inspired by American country music but translated in Ibaloy. Even the national anthem was sung in Ibaloy.
The event honors Baguio’s first Ibaloy citizens, Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. said in a speech.
Ibaloy families were among the first to be encountered by the Americans in Kapaway or Kafagway (the Ibaloy term for “grassy clearing”) as they set out to establish a colonial hill station, according to the 2002 Action Research Project on the status and impact of ancestral land claims in Baguio City.
The study, undertaken by Ibaloy families on the request of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said the Ibaloy families raised cattle at the center of the Benguet plateau and maintained rice fields and swiddens on the outskirts.
Modern-day clans trace their roots to a handful of interrelated families of the 1900s, among them the Cariño, Carantes, Tagley Soley, Peraso (modern records spell the surname Piraso), Fianza, Suello, Molintas and Lubos families, according to a family tree cited by the study.
But setting the day on Feb. 23 each year means the Ibaloy also celebrate the US Supreme Court ruling in 1909, which recognized the land rights of clan leader Mateo Cariño over what has become Camp John Hay, Cosalan said.
Since 2010, several Ibaloy families have been cast as villains—and subjects of lawsuits from government agencies and their own relatives—because they were granted certificates of ancestral land title (CALTs) over disputed Baguio land and reservations.
The ancestral land controversies drew national attention in 2013 when an Ibaloy family sought to stop a government project over portions of the presidential Mansion reservation that was covered by their CALT.
In January, another family that was awarded a CALT was able to acquire permission to take over Casa Vallejo, Baguio’s oldest hotel.
Cosalan did not dwell on these CALT problems except to assert that the US court ruling penned by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was issued before the colonial government enacted the Baguio City charter on Sept. 1, 1909. Ibaloy communities preceded the creation of the summer capital, he said.
Ibaloy Day was also the culminating activity of a series of seminars and workshops mounted by the group for young Ibaloy, many of whom no longer speak the language.
Families spent a few Saturdays discussing the roots and the relevance of rituals. Children were treated to rodeo tricks by “pony boys.”
Joseph Maranes, 47, said even the young could no longer relate well with horses, the animal many Ibaloy used to value next to the cattle.