February 23, Ibaloy Legacy to the World

February 23, Ibaloy Legacy to the World

Last February 23, the solibaos, kalsas or gongs, and the tiktik were brought out for the 13th time. The Ibaloys brought out their tapey (rice wine), dukto (sweet potato), and butchered a black pig in celebration of the thirteenth Ibaloy Day festival.

When the Americans came to the highlands of Cordillera, they discovered pastureland settled in by a tribe of Ibaloy. The center of the place is called Kafagway where grasses called paoays grow. According to Ibaloy elder Jackson Chiday, “Paoay or paways are grasses fed to horses and cows. He said this is actually the meaning of the name Kafagway, a place where paoays grow.”

Chiday said these pasturelands were owned by a great number of Ibaloys including the Carino, Carantes, Molintas, Suello, Tagley, Piraso, Pucay, and their extended families.

Many of these native Ibaloy clans were dispossessed of their ancestral lands through American colonial legislation such as the Philippine Bill of 1902, the Land Registration Act of 1903, Baguio Townsite Reservation in 1907 and the Baguio City Charter in 1909.

Among those who were dispossessed of their pasturelands, Mateo Carino decided to bring his claim to court, concentrating on the pasture lands then called Ypit and Lubas, which were earlier converted by the US colonial government into the facility now known as Camp JohnHay. 

Unfortunately, Mateo Carino died on June 6, 1908 before the decision was made. On February 23, 1909, the US Supreme Court affirmed that Mateo Carino was indeed the owner of Ypit and Lubas, by virtue of the legal concept of “Native Title.”

Carino may not have enjoyed the victory having died before the decision was handed down and the compensation of 50,000 dollars all went to the litigation processes, he left behind a legacy of the Native Title which is now part of the laws of the land. Sadly, Carino’s grandchildren are still fighting for their right to their land.

But the Ibaloys will have another victory. During the Baguio centennial conference held last March 2009 at the University of the Philippines in Baguio, a resolution was passed that a commemoration of sorts must be done for the Ibaloys on the 100th anniversary of the city.

This resolution was heard by the City of Baguio. A council resolution authored by Ibaloy Councilor Poppo Cosalan was overwhelmingly supported by the City Council. Cosalan said the resolution 395 series of 2009 was adopted by the City council during their regular session on September 28, 2009 declaring February 23 as Ibaloy Day.

On August 16, 2010, another resolution (Resolution 182, series of 2010) was passed designating a portion of Burnham Park to the Ibaloy Organization called Onjon ni Ivadoy. This park designated as the Ibaloy Heritage Garden became the main activity center of the Ibaloys.

In 2013, the city council passed another resolution institutionalizing Ibaloy Day. The event is now part of the regular activity of the city providing annual subsidies and assistance for the celebration of this special occasion.

Last February 23, amidst the pandemic, the Ibaloys had a successful celebration that was attended by prominent clan members like Department of Education Regional Director Stella Carino, Atty. Joe Molintas, Councilor Poppo Cosalan, and all the descendants of the original settlers of Baguio. More than a century after that special day, many Ibaloys have successfully assimilated to the modern world and became prominent voices in protecting the Ibaloy Heritage. February 23 will continue to be proudly celebrated by the Ibaloys when one lowly native rancher fought for his Indigenous rights and won a battle that resonated around the world. This law now called the Cariño doctrine became the blueprint for Indigenous People’s rights acts in every democratic country. – CCT


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