Understanding indigenous governance values of Cordillera
“Sino ibotos mo?” You might have been asked this already and sometimes your answer might have caused a debate.
Election is around the corner and some aspirants started their propaganda already. As a first time voter, I already feel the pressure of casting votes.
However, a session enlightened me about the things to consider when evaluating aspirants. I want to highlight concepts of indigenous governance system:
The importance of dialogue, tongtong, or kali. Back then, it was also essential to understand an individual’s perspective about an issue. Facilitating sincere dialogues not only with higher positions but also with ordinary people was important. This became a system among families, neighbors, the community, and among neighboring villages.
I observed that those involved in dialogues take it for granted. They fail to realize that it is an opportunity to have discourse with the leader and talk about the community where they belong and not merely themselves as public figures.
In indigenous setting, the sense of leadership is earned and not just inherited. The indigenous concept of being a leader is having wealth but not in terms of money. Some own vast pasturelands and livestock, which they worked hard to achieve; a product of their sweat. For this, they earn the respect of the community. Also, a leader is brave, wise, and fair.
In contrast, today’s standard of choosing leaders is based on money. Becoming a leader today is driven by the desire to become a public figure than a public servant. I am disappointed at the gradual loss of respect towards elders who are pioneers of great leadership honed by their experience.
Before, events that occur in a community can determine the accountability of a leader. I was shocked to learn that before, events that occur in a community can be used to gauge the effectiveness of a leader. For instance, a continuous invasion of pest can be a sign that leaders do not need a petition from the people for them to step down from their seats. They can interpret the occurrence as a sign to voluntarily give up their position. Indigenous leaders should be able to foresee external and spiritual factors in leading the community. They are expected to exude a strong impression towards the indigenous values of inayan or bain.
We can use these indigenous values established in indigenous communities to evaluate if the aspirants can be effective leaders.
The question now: “Dayta ba ibotos mo ket amu na nga makilapo, nasirib ken amu na iti tradisyon tayu kas maysa nga ili?” (EZRA JAMES O. FELIX)