Boon Award: The Center for Ibaloi Heritage and Loakan History

Remember the Boon Awards which we started last year to honor people or groups who are doing something positive for our communities? We haven’t been giving it for some time but here’s another awardee: The Center for Ibaloi Heritage and Loakan History.

Vincent Cabreza’s article below will tell you why they deserve the award. Kudos to the people behind the Center particularly in light of the following:

Baguio is celebrating its centennial in 2009 but it remains silent about plans commemorating the Ibaloi’s legacy to the city.

“Most of the historical data [about the Baguio Ibaloi] are done by people who are not from the place, so [the center has] given the community the opportunity to tell their own story and to make their own interpretations of that story,” Bahni says.

What a shame that the city is silent about commemorating Baguio’s Ibaloi legacy. Over at our other blog, we criticized the Baguio Centennial logo for being a good representation of “Baguio, the present” but not “Baguio, the past 100 years and beyond” which any kind of centennial should more particularly focus on. You can read it here.

Ibaloi fear extinction, want to tell their stories
By Vincent Cabreza/PDI

BAGUIO CITY – The summer capital’s Ibaloi community has created its own museum, stacked with photographs and memorabilia of their ancestors, to tell anyone who may be interested why they are on the verge of “extinction.”

The Center for Ibaloi Heritage and Loakan History is a living museum because the community has pledged to donate new photographs, artifacts and items to document what had transpired in their lives after each year.

The center is being hosted by the Loakan Elementary School near the city’s only airport in Barangay Loakan, about 5 km from downtown Baguio.

Descendants and relatives of Loakan’s original Ibaloi families went to the school last month to witness the museum’s very first exhibit – a historical summary of Baguio Ibaloi which was put up by Rosella Camte-Bahni for her master’s thesis in cultural production at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

Bahni, executive director of the advocacy group, Igorota Foundation, has pushed for the creation of the museum using her exhibit, saying Loakan is the perfect site to host Ibaloi memorabilia.

“In this one place, the Ibaloi were subjected to so many expropriations [by the American colonial government and the Philippine government],” she says.

She says the Ibaloi folk in Loakan first lost their farmlands to the Americans who started building roads. They gave up more rice fields so that the Americans could build the airport.

The Ibaloi lost hillsides to mining expeditions and later to the government when it decided to build the Philippine Military Academy there.

The Ibaloi also lost vast vegetable lands when the government extended the perimeters of Camp John Hay and built the Baguio Economic Zone.

Bahni exhibited portraits of Ibaloi people during the 1900s, as well as a series of photographs depicting the construction of the airport, to tell these tales.

Former Baguio Mayor Virginia de Guia looked through the photographs, searching for a high school classmate with whom she has lost touch.

Leonora San Agustin, curator of the Baguio-Benguet Museum, marveled at the artifacts that the community managed to keep intact, despite the fact that their families were slowly displaced from their ancestral homes.

A huge map has been posted at the door of the school’s library where the museum is located. Bahni says it shows just how little is left of Ibaloi lands in Loakan.

Bahni’s exhibit begins with a large photograph of old Ibaloi folk sitting beside two trees. She says the photograph was symbolic because those trees still stand outside the gymnasium of the grade school.

“Right now the fear is that the Ibaloi are getting extinct in Baguio. It is mind blowing that 55 years after that memorable picture of proud Ibaloi [they would disappear just like that],” she says.

Baguio is celebrating its centennial in 2009 but it remains silent about plans commemorating the Ibaloi’s legacy to the city.

“Most of the historical data [about the Baguio Ibaloi] are done by people who are not from the place, so [the center has] given the community the opportunity to tell their own story and to make their own interpretations of that story,” Bahni says.

4 Comments
  1. What an inspiring article! Thanks for sharing it. And it’s not just because Manang Roselle is a dear friend but because she’s one committed woman who certainly walks the talk:-)

    Well done, Manang Rose!

  2. Hi Bugan,
    It’s good to have committed people do this kind of thing, no? Inspiring as you said. Thanks.

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