TAPAZ, CAPIZ: More than 10,000 indigenous people (IP) in 28 hinterland barangay here are pinning hope on the result of the May 9 synchronized elections, looking forward for a new leadership firm on implementing the provisions of the Indigenous People Reform Act (IPRA) of 1997.
Tribal chieftain Nida Katipunan of Barangay Aglinab said they have long been waiting for the full implementation of IPRA law and make Capiz be the first to fully implement it.
Joint Circular 001, Series of 2011 from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) empowers the IPs by providing guidelines determining the minimum number of IPs entitled to a seat in the Sanggunian Bayan, pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act 8371 or the IPRA of 1997.
The circular also clarifies certain issues and ensures uniform policy interpretation to IP communities, specially those who have identified and delineated their ancestral domain and land areas within the jurisdiction of the local government unit.
Capiz NCIP officer Jornelito Espanola said the IP representation in the Sangguniang Bayan is crucial, considering the government’s program in preserving the cultural heritage of the indigenous people and their contribution to national development.
The municipality of Tapaz lies within the central mountain ranges of Panay Island with 58 barangay, 28 of these within ancestral domain or land of the IPs known as the Panay Bukidnon.
The IP barangay – Abangay, Acuna, Agcococ, Aglinab Aglupacan, Artuz, Bato-bato, Buri, Daan Norte, Daan Sur, Hilwan, Katipunan, Lahug, Libertad, Mabini, Maliao, Minan, Nayawan, Rizal Norte, Rizal Sur, Roxas 8, Sinunod, Siya, Tabon, Tacayan, Taganghin and Wright have respective tribal chiefs and punong barangay.
The younger IP generation of Tapaz wanted participation in the mainstream society unlike their shy forbears who would shun visiting lowlanders. The younger and educated ones wanted a fair share of local governance and the development enjoyed by the lowlanders.
While batting for their share in governance, the educated IPs also wanted to preserve their own customs, culture and tradition. Among them are their famous “Binanog” local dance and “binukot” tradition.
Binanog depicts the mating hawk birds that Panay Bukidnon dances with grace, color and sound.
Binukot is the tradition of keeping young girls isolated in a hut to keep their sanctity but is slowly fading and barely practiced by the younger generation.
The Tapaz IPs have brown to fair skin, with straight black hair and spread out in the upland barangay in about 40,000 hectares of land, considered as the biggest IP communities in Western Visayas.
The communities are within the 33,000 hectares military reservation of the Philippine Army’s 3rdID.
Up in the northern portion of the mountain ranges lays another IP community in the municipality of Calinog, Iloilo covering some 12 hinterland barangay, six in Jamindan, Capiz and three in Libacao, Aklan.
Both IPs in the south and north mountain ranges are commonly known as the Bukidnons and are not considered Aetas with dark skin and curly hair.