Public Schools Not Ready to Teach Indigenous Culture

Public schools in the country are not ready to teach indigenous customs and traditions, according to a retired school official.  However, informal schools called the School for Living Traditions are being conducted to teach the youth about the indigenous practices of their forefathers.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

KAPANGAN, Benguet (224 kms north of Manila) – Public schools in the country are not ready to teach indigenous customs and traditions, according to a retired school official, during the first cultural festival here.

Barangay (village) Balakbak’s Benedicto Gaplaew, retired education district supervisor, said our teachers may be interested in teaching about indigenous culture to students but the schools are not ready for this.

Gaplaew said that there is no book which discusses about indigenous peoples and there are no ready instructional materials to use in schools.

“Teachers, themselves, are not aware,” he laments.  He said he had been proposing that traditional culture and arts be included in the curriculum but his proposal still has a long way to go.

Gaplaew belongs to the Kankanaey tribe of Kibungan (234 kms from Manila). He taught in Brgys. Pungayan and Paykek here, then went to teach in his home town from 1958 to 1994. From Kibungan, he was transferred to Bakun where he served the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS, now the Department of Education or DepEd) until 1997. He returned to Kapangan and became officer-in-charge to the position of district supervisor before eventually retiring.

Passing on to the youth

Gaplaew now coordinates the School of Living Traditions (SLT) for Kankanaey culture, with the Kapangan Ibaloi and Kankanaey Indigenous Peoples’ Organization as beneficiary.

“We want our youth to learn our traditions and customs so we teach them the traditional way to use indigenous clothes, the dances and songs, even the rituals, which are still relevant to this day,” Gaplaew said.

According to Gaplaew, the cultural masters synchronize the SLTs with the schedule of schools as much as possible. “When they dismiss the students, we do our sessions. When the classes are on a break, we use the schools’ facilities,” he added.

Three Schools of Living Traditions (SLT) highlighted the first Anitap festival here Tuesday last week, with a commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as keynote speaker.

NCCA Commissioner Domingo A. Bakilan, in his speech, announced the release of P50,000 ($1,034.98 at the current exchange rate of $1:P48.31) for each of the SLTs on bokoh preparation, Ibaloi performing arts and Kankanaey performing arts.

Bakilan chairs both the NCCA Committee on Northern Cultural Communities (CNCC), which covers the indigenous peoples in the North, and the Sub-commission on Culture, Traditions and Arts (SCCTA), which covers 110 indigenous peoples from the Ivatan of Cagayan in the north to the Tausugs of Sulu in the south.

The three schools are in their pre-SLT stage, according to Bakilan. Each includes 15 out-of-school youth who would undergo trainings and orientation for 36 days. After the pre-SLT, the groups would be expanding to include 15 more each, with funding of P250,000 ($5,174.91) for a longer period – up to three years of extensive training on culture and the arts.

Flour from root crops

According to Josephine Wandang of Brgy. Gadang, bokoh, a traditional food in many Benguet communities, is a type of flour made from camote (sweet potatoes), kamoteng kahoy (cassava), and saba (cooking bananas).

Thinly sliced camote, kamoteng kahoy or saba are sun-dried and finally pounded to make flour.

The flour powder is then put through a special kind of winnowing basket the locals call yakayak, to separate the fine flour from the lumpy one, which has to be pounded again. The flour lasts for four to 10 months, as long as it is very dry. Locals use this to make pastries or native cakes, which sustain them for the rest of the year while waiting for another harvest of rice and root-crops.

The SLT on Bokoh-Making will benefit the youth of Brgy. Gadang.

Ibaloi and Kankanaey performing arts include the teaching of customary values, rituals and way of life in songs and dances.

Indigenous music and traditional instruments will also be part of the training of the youth, Gaplaew said.

Bakilan noted, “We are ashamed to wear the ba-ag (G-string) without the underwear.”  In the SLT, children will learn to wear their clothing properly, he said.


The Anitap Festival, the first cultural festival in Kapangan, focused on the tree from which a wooden set of musical instruments called tallak is made. Anitap, or macaranga cumingii, still grows abundantly in Kapangan.

Old women say they prefer to gather the anitap for firewood because it is not heavy on the kayabang, a
native basket carried on the back by a head strap.

Another elder, Brgy. Captain James Bokilis, who did some research on the tallak said the anitap tree still grows and forms the forest cover of Benguet.

The tallak was named after a native of Palina in the boundary of Bakun and Kibungan, Tallak Bayno, who created the 14-piece musical instrument.  Students from Palina introduced the tallak when they studied in Balakbak in 1938.

Since then, the tallak has been popular among Benguet folk. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. I for one believe that if no one stands for our culture to be written as the concern of the school officials that no books could support the teaching (indigenous culture) …. then when will we start? Before we loss our identity… and become stranger to our own culture.

    Gaplaew's move have given us the inspiration.

  2. Ready or not i'm more concerned on the stain left by Colonialization that is very clearly embedded in our educational system for which up to this date promote Discrimanation towards indigenous people.

    Correction must be done first before teaching indigenous culture to schools or else big chuncks of non-indigenous populace will see it as just another. . . .

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