June 17, 2024

The Baguio City Council’s deliberation on the proposed ordinance institutionalizing the Ibaloy Festival has sparked a discussion on cultural inclusivity.

Authored by Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Maximo Hilario Edwin, Jr., the proposed ordinance seeks to institutionalize the celebration of the Ibaloy Festival every October in the city in line with the Indigenous People Month.

In February, an event called “Ibaloy Day” was celebrated to honor the original inhabitants of Baguio City. Similarly, the proposed October celebration intends to acknowledge the Ibaloys as the city’s original settlers, aligning with the IP Month.

Likewise, an ordinance authored by Councilor Arthur Allad-iw has designated Aug. 9 of every year as Indigenous Peoples Day in the city.

Allad-iw said this celebration is not exclusively for IPs but also invites non-indigenous individuals to learn more about indigenous cultures.

The ordinance mandates the allocation of P200,000 for the celebration of the IP Day. However, the said celebration remains unimplemented due to insufficient funds.

During the regular session on March 11, the city council members discussed whether it would be more beneficial to merge these celebrations into one inclusive event that encompasses all IP groups in the city.

Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Benny Bomogao raised concerns regarding the proposed festival’s “exclusivity” to the Ibaloy culture.

“Let’s make it inclusive. Each group will be asked to present something representative. This will truly make October Indigenous Peoples Month in Baguio City, ensuring that no group feels excluded. It is, after all, Indigenous Peoples Month,” Tabanda said.

Tabanda’s suggestion to transform the proposed October celebration into an inclusive IP Festival stemmed from the understanding that Baguio City is a melting pot of diverse indigenous cultures; thus an inclusive celebration would better represent this diversity.

The proposed ordinance seeks funding in the amount of P500,000 from the annual budget of the city government.

Bomogao expressed apprehension that the proposed funding may not pass audit, given the proposed festival’s focus on a specific group. He raised concerns about equity for other IP groups such as the Kankanaeys who may also seek funding for their own festivals.

“To be more inclusive, it might be better to have an IP month, a single festival for all the indigenous groups in the city. Each group could still have their own activities. This would create a truly festive atmosphere in Baguio City, akin to the Bibak Festival,” Bomogao said.

However, Edwin and other city council members said maintaining a separate celebration for the Ibaloys holds cultural and historical significance.

Councilor Isabelo Cosalan, Jr. said February 23 could not be moved to another day as it commemorates a significant historical event: the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1909 which established the native title doctrine known as the Cariño Doctrine, a landmark legal decision that has profound implications for IPs not only in Baguio City but also for indigenous communities worldwide.

He said the term “Ibaloy Day” came about because Mateo Cariño, a native who contested the takeover of his land by the American colonial government, belonged to the Ibaloy group. Therefore, the celebration of the Native Title Day was named Ibaloy Day in recognition of Cariño’s heritage.

Cosalan said Edwin’s proposed ordinance will focus on celebrating IP Month with the idea that the native IPs of Baguio, the Ibaloys, would take the lead in organizing and participating in the festivities.

The city council deferred the approval of the proposed ordinance to allow time for amendments and consultation with the National Commission on Indigenous People. – Jordan G. Habbiling