• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

Balantoy: The Host Community of Cordillera Day 2017

April 12, 2017

The host community of the 33rd Cordillera Day celebration is Barangay Balantoy (Sitio Bolo) in Balbalan municipality, Kalinga province. Balantoy is one of the 14 barangays of Balbalan, with a population of 1508 individuals. Balantoy’s subvillages are: Balantoy Proper, Bulo, Nawoy, Kilayon and Ligayan. It is inhabited by the Salegseg tribe whose indigenous socio political systems and the role of elders are very much in place in Balantoy.

Balantoy is mountainous and characterised by steep and rugged terrains. Dry months are from January to June, with the hottest months in April and May, while it rains the rest of the year. Balantoy is electrified and is accessible by ride from the provincial center of Tabuk City and the access roads of Baguio-Kalinga, Baguio-Bontoc and Bontoc-Kalinga and via Baguio-Benguet-Kalinga road.

In terms of natural resources, Balantoy has an estimated forested area of 78 hectares, with the most common forestland vegetation ranging from pine trees, fruit trees and rattan. Forest products include timber, rattan, fruits, wild mushroom, wild and cultivated vegetables, orchids, fuel wood, bamboo, tiger grass for soft broom, wild fruits and metallic resources such as gold, and copper; non-metallic resources such as gravel and sand. Forestland tenure is communal to the tribe and communities throughout generations.

Livelihood source is mainly agricultural, such as rice, banana and a few vegetables. Small-scale mining is also a source. Other crops available in the community include a variety of legumes, fruits (mango, avocado, citrus, star apple, jackfruit and banana). Coffee is still locally produced but with an observed decline in yield due to climate change.

These resources and the indigenous peoples are presently confronted with development aggression and human rights violations: a large mining application by Cordillera Exploration Inc. (CEXCI) of 15 hectares covers Balbalan, in addition to the 24 megawatt hydropower project applied for by PNOC-Renewables in Balantoy, Gawaan and Talalang, all in Balbalan. The Saltan River is one of 5 major river systems of Kalinga province, in addition to Tanudan, Chico, Pasil and Calaoan and is a tributary of the Chico River, the most extensive river in the Cordillera covering Mountain Province, Kalinga, Cagayan Valley and major tributaries of the Cagayan River.

In Balbalan, the Saltan traverses Balbalasang, Talalang, Pantikian of the Banao tribe; Poblacion, Gawaan and Balantoy of the Salegseg tribe; Dao-angan, Poswoy and Ab-abaan of the Dao-angan tribe. In Pinukpok, the Saltan traverses barangays Limos, Allaguia, Apatan, Ballayangon, Taga, Malagnat and Pinukpok junction before it finally meets the Chico River.

Balbalan is also historically militarised by troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which has resulted in various human rights violations. Among these include the extrajudicial killing of Peter Dangiwan in 2001. He was coordinator of Bayan Muna-Kalinga. A deaf farmer, Roberto ‘Ambalong’ Sabado was killed in 2006 by elements of the 21st IB. He was shot four times and sustained signs of torture. Presently, the 50th IB of the 503rd Brigade is encamped in Balantoy, sowing fear and wreaking havoc among community members.

Historically as well, the people of Balbalan participated in the anti Cellophil Struggle in the 1970s, which was a time of martial law. The Cellophil Resources Corporation (CRC) was a big logging concession owned by Herminio Disini, a crony of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos successfully opposed by the indigenous peoples of Abra and adjacent municipalities such as Balbalan.

It is with this history of resistance to plunder of the ancestral domain and human rights violations and the present pressing issues of development aggression that Balantoy will host Cordillera Day 2017.#