April 18, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

Ibaloys from all over Baguio City, Benguet, and elsewhere converged at the Ibaloy Heritage Garden (IHG) in Burnham Park to celebrate the 15th Ibaloy Day on Feb. 23.

The celebration kicked off with a parade from Session Road to Harrison Road and culminated at the IHG with the Ibaloy clans, together with the local officials of Baguio City and neighboring towns of Benguet led by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan; councilors Jose Molintas; Isabelo Cosalan, Jr.; Arthur Allad-iw; and Fred Bagbagen and Benguet Rep. Eric Yap, government and private agencies, and civil society organizations led by the Onjon Ni Ivadoy, Inc., among other participants.

Olowan, in his speech, recognized the contributions of the Ibaloy community in the building of the City of Pines.

“We owe it to the Ibaloys of Baguio and Benguet that is why we are all here today,” Olowan, a Kankanaey of Mountain Province, said.

Yap, meanwhile, vowed to support the Ibaloys in their programs for the community. 

“I will help whatever I can a long a I am here in Benguet and even if I am no longer in office,” Yap said.

National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Executive Director Mervyn Espadero, an Ibaloy himself, through an audio message, assured his solidarity with his fellow Ibaloys in their assertion of their land rights.

Espadero cited Mateo Cariño, who defended the land rights of the Ibaloys, which spurred the creation of the Native Title or the Cariño Doctrine.

The Native Title refers to the Feb. 23, 1909, United States Supreme Court ruling that recognized the native rights of Ibaloy chieftain Mateo Cariño over cattle lands, which were expropriated by the American military in 1903.

The Cariño Doctrine is being used by other countries in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, among others by indigenous peoples and aborigines to assert their rights over their ancestral lands.

“This served as the groundwork for the protection of land rights and became the guiding principles of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, that also sets the mandates and guidelines of the NCIP,” Espadero said.

He assured his support for the programs and efforts of the Ibaloys through the Onjon in upholding the integrity of these laws for the protection of not only the Ibaloys, but all indigenous peoples of the country.

With the theme, “Semek mo, Ipa’sas mo (Love in action)”, the celebration helps to continue the rich culture and tradition of the Ibaloys, who are considered as the original settlers of Baguio City.