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Case Story: The Impacts of Indigenous People’s Forest Guarding to the Tigwahanons of San Fernando, Bukidnon

By:  Richel Borres


After an intensive education and workshops using the ALISTO (Alternative Learning Modality for Indigenous Stewards through a Transformative and Operational Community/Forest-Culture-Based DRRM), an Innovation that integrates DRRM and Indigenous Peoples (IP) practices in forest guarding, twenty (20) trained Tigwahanon Forest Guards were deputized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as Wildlife Enforcement Officers.   Their mandate is to help the agency and the local government of San Fernando, Bukidnon, ensure that the forest and wildlife species, including the Philippine Eagle are protected, conserved, and managed. 

The innovation equipped them with skills to educate their fellow indigenous peoples about the importance of wildlife conservation. It helped them to document and monitor illegal activities. Despite being deputized and taking an essential role in protecting the environment and the key assets of the community, their services remained voluntary.

Since May 2023, Tigwahanon Forest Guards  have been traversing the forest of Mt. Anit in Barangay Kibongkog and Mt. Malimomo in Barangay Magkalungay to monitor the movement of the Philippine Eagle. The learning and awareness have inspired them to be more committed to protecting their community and habitat.  

One significant achievement so far of the forest guards and the Tigwahanon community was when they prevented the entry of miners who were geared to exploit the forest through illegal mining activities. The incident occurred in Barangay Magkalungay while the forest guards were having their workshop. The entire community became the pro-active partner in monitoring the area.  This is a concrete example of how influential traditional leaders and the community work together by sending information to the forest guards. The action produced a remarkable result.  They resisted and banned the illegal miners from exploiting the forest.

The forest was known for being rich in natural resources like gold, nickel, carbon, significant lumber and the home of the Philippine Eagle, which is why comprehensive monitoring is essential. The team agreed to conduct monitoring and patrolling once every two weeks. Aside from monitoring illegal hunting activities, the team also documented a trend of illegal logging and "kaingin" (slash and burn agriculture) activities in the upper portion of the mountain. They immediately sent the photos and their report to the tribal leaders and the Barangay Local Government Unit (BLGU) for immediate action. 

One inspiring effort of Pinnovation Academy’s Community Innovator Lovermin Villasis, being the forest guard and the local organizer, is his continuing awareness-raising efforts on forest protection, DRR and climate change. Also, the practice of early warning to the remote communities in the barangay despite the lack of resources. He organizes sharing sessions with children and youth in his barangay.  He leads the community in planting more fruit-bearing and Lawaan trees that they received from the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) in Mt. Anit covering 6 (six) hectares that will serve as the first line of protection from flood and erosion once fully grown.

On the left is Lovermin, the innovator, with fellow forest guards mandated to carry-out the job of protecting the forest. Their presence in the area resulted to a decrease in illegal activities. During Pinnovation team’s conversation with the tribal leaders and the forest guards, the ALISTO project also became a platform to revisit the traditional knowledge and practice of DRRM.

Most notable of which is the use of indigenous materials like Budyong (trumpet shell) or Bantula (bamboo with hole) for early warning.  Traditionally, an alarm is sent to the community on a possible incoming danger.  They use this device when they observe an irregular/unusual appearance of stars and moon, movement of animals, direction of air and the sounds of insects or animals.  They also use these EWS traditional devices to send an alarm when they see a "Magahat" (practice of killing due to the death of a family member) passing or when they hear news over the radio and television. 

The tribe depended on their daily life using these instruments, but the rapid development around them affected this practice. The community still uses these instruments to remind them of scheduled meetings. But they needed to be more knowledgeable about the practices of their ancestors.  The tribe is grateful that through the project they were encouraged to revive their traditional knowledge.

The patrol efforts not only monitor and curb illegal activities.  The forest guards also document the discovery of different endangered species that can only be found in their forest.  Below are the collection of photos of rare plants and wild orchid flowers during their monitoring.

With the sustained effort and dedication of the forest guards, with the support of all partners and stakeholders and the guidance from their tribal leaders and the entire community, expect positive changes to take place.  The indigenous peoples forest guarding is proven to be effective in forest conservation and management.   It brought hope and unity to the community as they now deem that through their active engagement, they will be able to achieve a safer habitat and a healthier ecosystem.


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