Collective work, mutual cooperation and assistance are traditional practices of the Cordillera indigenous peoples (Igorots) especially in times of crises and disasters. With the changing times, these practices, values and other indigenous socio-political systems continue to exist in different communities but in varying degrees.
Now, more than ever, we must promote these values of inayan, ob-obbo/ ub-obfo, binnadang, gamal, mabtad and collective practices to help our communities cope with the health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We commend Mayor Gabino Ganggangan for instilling in the minds of the people of Sadanga, Mountain Province the importance of such values and indigenous socio-political systems at this time of COVID-19 crisis.
However, to refuse relief packs from the government even if the crisis lasts longer means that Mayor Ganggangan is also denying the poor members of the Sadanga communities of immediate relief. Relief food packs not only contain rice and vegetables but also groceries
It is unjust to deny relief for the poor and the needy. Mayor Ganggangan himself said that there are poor and needy in the municipality. Sadanga remains a 5th class municipality with around 8,799 residents. The people deserve economic relief from the government during this time of crisis and it is not right to deny them of this. Relief includes medical needs like medicines and vitamins.
The mayor also boasts of our traditional values and practices. One important practice that we continue to promote is collective decision-making. Is the rejection of relief packs the collective decision of the people/umili?
Plenty of other questions arise, such as: Will the rich (kadangyan) truly give out their stocked food supplies to the poor when they themselves would want to stock food? If so, is it enough to provide food for all the poorer members of the communities that are in need of food even if the crisis lasts for 3 or more months? If not, where will the municipality get these needs?
Yes, we are in a crisis. But while we strive to pursue our traditional practices of helping each other, it does not mean that we reject relief especially if there are people who are in need of these. It is true that we give what we do not need to the poor and needy. But are Sadanga people really not in need of relief?
A danger that this kind of Public Advisory poses is that it gives the impression that any mayor or politician can just declare that people within their jurisdiction do not need relief just because indigenous communities observe traditional values and practices. This is wrong and it is the people who will suffer from such unilateral actions. Decisions must come from the people.
It is also important to note that at present, most, if not all, of the remote communities in the region are no longer able to practice subsistence agriculture. Agricultural products are no longer enough to sustain the food needs of families for a full year since these are sold in order for the families to buy or pay for other needs, such as health and education