By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
LUBUAGAN, KALINGA – Women, men and young people of Western Uma in this town struggle to preserve the indigenous practice of agricultural production in order to survive the threats and impacts of commercial agriculture.
It was harvest time, the second rice cropping in November last year when this writer had the chance to integrate with the community and observe their agricultural production.
The community wakes up at dawn and quickly grabs breakfast which is usually a cup of brewed coffee, rice, dried fish and sautéed or boiled water cress.
At 5 a.m, they prepare their sickle, hat and raincoat because it was continuously raining that time, and walk to the rice paddies to start harvesting the already golden rice grains. That was their routine for almost three weeks until all the paddies were harvested.
What was significant is their value for the Innabuyog/abbuyog system or the labor exchange. This is an indigenous practice where the owner of the rice paddies invites some ten people to harvest rice; he/she has to return the favor to all of them when their fields are also ready for harvest.
The community value each others’ crops and this was evident with them working seven days a week in the field just to ensure that every paddy is harvested before they get overripe.
Marites Sangdaan who was staying at home to baby sit said that they (the community) have been struggling to maintain the practice. If the practice will perish, she said they will surely suffer more the impacts of poverty. “Our harvest is not even enough for us, it will worsen when the time comes that we have to hire people to harvest our produce,” she said in the local dialect.
She added that today, a few families are already into paying labor but their rice paddies are not prioritized by the community whose majority still observe the Innabuyog, and usually their produce get overripe.
During a workshop facilitated by the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC); one night after a tiring harvest, the women shared how they were able to make the Innabuyog prevail despite the lures of cash.
Betty Belen who is one of the leaders in the women’s organization and member of the village ouncil in the area said that during community meetings and gatherings, elders always emphasize the importance of the said practice. It is their wealth as a community, she added.
According to her, the practice strengthens the community spirit, eases the heavy agricultural tasks and more importantly, cushions them from the impacts of worsening shortage of food.
Moreover, Belen pointed out the importance of organizing for the practice to prevail. One of the thrusts of the organization where she belongs which is called Innabuyog Western Uma is the continuous promotion of viable indigenous practices especially among the young people.
She mentioned that Innabuyog is practiced not only in rice production but in all their agricultural activities like cultivation of their swidden farms where they plant various crops like legumes, corn, tiger grass, bananas, and many more.
Tiger grass is the material used for sagad (soft brooms). The community is known for producing good quality brooms. Every household in the village makes some brooms to augment their income. They sell it in the town’s center or in Tabuk City and use their sales to buy household needs and to send their children to school.
Innabuyog in socio-economic projects
Lakay Billit said that indigenous practices like the Innabuyog strengthen their cooperation. And this unity that they have has led to their commendable management of several socio-economic projects (SEPs) that their organizations like Innabuyog and Ag-agama Community Organization (AGCO) requested assistance for from several development organizations.
Some of the SEPs he mentioned that are still in service are the Rice Cooperative, Botica, and mini hydro-electric power plant and distribution. These SEPs make life more manageable for them, he said.
Billit shared that they have encountered a lot of difficulties in managing the said projects but they were not discouraged. The value of Innabuyog to overcome problems was observed and has led them to ably manage their projects up to this time. Northern Dispatch/Reposted by