Villagers say they are 4th Ifugao tribe
BAGUIO CITY—The interior Barangay of Montabiong in Lagawe, the Ifugao capital town, has declared itself the seat of the province’s fourth ethnolinguistic group, and would pursue recognition to protect its ancestral domain.
Villagers say they belong to the Imuntab tribe who do not identify themselves with the Tuwali, Ayangan or Kalanguya groups of the province.
“We have our own territory, language and sociopolitical structure, indigenous practices and traditions,” said Edwin Bomolyad, Montabiong village chief.
Montabiong lies in a valley northeast of Lagawe. It is home to 986 people.
Bomolyad said over 10,000 Imuntab tribe members had relocated outside their ancestral domain. “Most members migrated to the nearby provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Isabela,” he said.
The community lays claim to about a thousand hectares of ancestral domain which are under dispute. Around 2,700 square meters of the domain, which are composed of rice fields, swidden farms and hunting grounds, have been secured by the Imuntab, Bomalyad said.
Imuntab members speak the local dialect “Mun anaad,” he said. They trace their roots to a Mountain Province community called Balangaw in Natonin town.
Bomalyad said some Balangaw hunters lost their way in the mountains separating what is now Barlig town in Mountain Province, and the Ifugao capital town, Banaue.
“These hunters passed through Kinakin to Ubung in Hingyon (Ifugao) then to Montabiong where they settled,” he said.
These are based on oral records, which do not establish the period when the hunters settled in Ifugao, he said.
Rice production is the major source of livelihood in Montabiong, which is supplemented with swidden farming and livestock raising.
Bomalyad first discussed the Imuntab’s claims on the sidelines of a June 30 forum on Ifugao energy projects and human rights concerns that was held in Baguio City.
At the forum, Bomalyad introduced himself for the first time as an Imuntab.
Informed about the claim, Zenaida Pawid, former chair of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), said the Imuntab had the right to make the assertion but the community would also need to defend its claims, particularly regarding its language.
The NCIP has documented 110 ethnolinguistic groups in the country, according to government websites.
Pawid, NCIP Cordillera commissioner, said she was not familiar with the group.
“We have no record of the Imuntab,” said Esther Nalliw-Licnachan, NCIP Ifugao director. But she said Bomolyad had informed her about their claims.
Licnachan said the rights of the Montabiong folk over their ancestral domain and other rights provided for in the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act would be recognized even if they were not recognized as an ethnolinguistic group. Kimberlie Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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