December 7, 2022

With the recent earthquake and typhoons that hit the Cordillera, the role of indigenous knowledge systems on disaster risk reduction management takes center stage in an upcoming research.

University of the Philippines Baguio Professor Wilfredo Alangui said due to the complexity of the problems on natural hazards that the locality is facing, there is a need to consider other forms of knowledge in approaching hazards.

“There’s a growing recognition of the role of indigenous knowledge in responding to many issues and concerns, and it’s happening internationally,” Alangui said.

Alangui, together with Asst. Prof. Ruth Tinda-an, is spearheading the establishment of a landslide knowledge management center for the Cordillera.

The center will be under the Knowledge, Training, and Resource Center (KTRC) of UP Baguio, which is an existing information hub with materials on climate change and disaster risk reduction management.

It is jointly funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Cordillera with P3,158,472 and UP Baguio with P2,350,000.

Alangui said part of the project will delve on the indigenous knowledge systems around soil stabilization, disturbance, and restoration.

He cited stonewalling or kabite as a good example of indigenous knowledge, which has been used in the region in stabilizing the soil.    

The research would involve discussions with IK experts in the communities particularly on best practices as regards to disaster management. 

“The beauty of the IK component of this project is that we might be surprised by the knowledge that is there that could enrich what we are doing,” he said.

The project would cover two barangays and one municipality per province of the Cordillera, mostly in areas that are landslide-prone. 

During the initial reconnaissance of the project in one of the barangays in Tublay, Benguet, the residents looked for the direction of the plants for signs of an impending disaster.

Paanong mag-iiba ang direction ng plantseven when wala pang nangyayari sa lupa? Signs sa kanila iyon, those are the things we are looking for kasi baka may practices and concepts and knowledge that could help predict the danger of landslides,” he said.

The indigenous knowledge to be gathered would complement the other science-based parts of their project.

The center would also gather other best practices of indigenous knowledge in DRRM offices in other parts of the world.

“If we see that the indigenous knowledge system and practices are working then hopefully the people who are involved in policy or in crisis-management might see if they could adopt the particular practice,” he said.

Alangui said the project began on Sept. 1 and has a one-year time frame for the indigenous knowledge systems and practices component. The landslide knowledge management center is expected to come out with an online database of information on landslide risks, management, and mitigation; a publicly-accessible resource center of library of books, journals, primers, researchers and other education materials; a popularized education materials on landslide mitigation; and training modules for communities, local government units, and the academe. – Ofelia C. Empian