Calajo! On February 23, the solibao, the gongs and the tiktik were played once again where the Ibaloy clans heeded the call and danced in solidarity at the Ibaloy Herigate Garden in celebration of the 14th Ibaloy Day.
This is the biggest gathering of the different Ibaloy tribes in Baguio and Benguet since the start of the pandemic.
The Ibaloy Day is celebrated every February 23 in commemoration of the day that a humble Ibaloy rancher won in his land claim in the Supreme Court of the United States where the decision became the blueprint of every Indigenous People’s Rights laws across the world.
According to Baguio City Councilor Poppo Cosalan, “before the Americans came, the city was already discovered and settled in by the Ibaloys. Baguio was originally owned by many ranchers and the land that will become the city of Baguio was a vast pastureland.”
He said, “many of the native Ibaloy clans were disposed of their ancestral lands through American colonial legislation, such as the Registration Act of 1903, and the Baguio City Charter in 1909.”
Mateo Cariño decided to bring his claim to court, concentrating on the pastureland then called Ypit and Lubas, the current location of Camp John Milton Hay.
“He lost all his cases in the local courts,” said Cosalan. “He decided to bring it all the way to the Supreme Court.”
“On February 23, 1909, the US Supreme Court affirmed Mateo Cariño was indeed the owner of Ypit and Lubas, by virtue of the legal concept of “Native Land,” said Cosalan.
Mateo Cariño, however, did not live to claim his victory having died on June 6, 2008. “However, he left behind the legacy of the Native Title which now become part of the laws of the land,” said Cosalan.
Sadly, though, his great-grandchildren are still fighting to get recognition for their native lands.
Cosalan said that “it was during the Baguio Centennial Conference held on March 2009 where a resolution was passed that a commemoration of sorts must be done for the Ibaloys on the 100th year of the city.”
With this prodding, the Baguio City Council with Poppo Cosalan as the author (Ordinance No. 09, Series of 2013), declared February 23 as Ibaloy Day. Members of the Ibaloy clans welcomed the declaration and for the 14th time since the resolution was approved in 2009, the Ibaloys heeded the call Calajo! which means “come over” and gathered for one festive day for a solidarity celebration.
The Ibaloy Heritage Garden
In 2010, the Council passed Resolution No. 182, series of 2010 designating the portion of Burnham Park between the children’s playground and the city orchidarium as the site for the Mateo Cariño monument and as an Ibaloi heritage garden.
The resolution states that “it is but fitting to allocate a portion of that parcel of land that Mateo Cariño’s family once owned in recognition of his important role in the history of Baguio City and in honor of his heroic deeds.”
The Ibaloi Heritage Garden has served as a site for most of the activities of the Ibaloy community. The park also serves as a venue for reunions and meetings of Ibaloy families, and many other IP celebrations.
The Ibaloy Heritage Garden will be further developed as a garden and a native hut or avong will be created patterned after the original Ibaloy huts.
“The Ibaloy Avong must have a front yard and a back yard,” he said.
Cosalan said the existing building serving as a stage will be converted into an Ibaloy Museum. “Ibaloys don’t have a stage for their gatherings,” said Cosalan. “The stages are usually open where the people would gather around it, and we will bring that back in our celebrations,” he said.
“The Ibaloy artists will also create murals that will depict the history of the Ibaloys,” said Cosalan. CCT