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By: Geanette “Chie” Galvez, Center for Disaster Preparedness

Project Manager of Pinnovation Academy

Weaving innovations and traditions can be considered an art form. The richness of the cultural heritage is embraced while boundaries are moved to creativity and purpose. Seeing it applied in projects at the Pinnovation Academy creates a harmonious blend of the old and the new.  As local indigenous knowledge is often deeply rooted in observing and interacting with local ecosystems, a different lens and perspective is provided on the ecological balance, biodiversity, and sustainable resource management. Thus, contributing to gaining a holistic understanding of environmental dynamics.  Indigenous knowledge is context-specific and considers local climates, soil types, and seasonal variations.  Therefore, interventions at the grassroots level can be tailored to fit the community's needs, leading to more effective outcomes. 

For generations, indigenous communities have survived and thrived in many diverse environments, in different areas and globally. Their knowledge covers coping mechanisms for extreme weather, natural disasters, and changing conditions. Such resilience can help community members enhance their ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges. Involving these communities in implementing activities recognizes their agency and expertise as beneficial for their very own communities.  


Local, indigenous, and traditional knowledge forms part of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) measures. This knowledge emerged from the interlinked perspectives on traditional beliefs, generational practices connected with deeper cosmological observations.  A solid physical and emotional connection between people and the environment prompted the communities to continue to apply and develop these practices through generations.  These traditional practices hold deep meaning for indigenous communities, reflecting their connections to the land, spirituality and identity wise.  

The Pinnovation Academy, a project being facilitated by the Center for Disaster Preparedness, piloted five (5) communities for the institutionalization of local, indigenous, traditional knowledge.  This aligns with the project’s evaluation that traditional knowledge is essential to community-led innovations.  Strengthening this knowledge and good practices also strengthens innovations.  The sharing/discussions were conducted with community members and local government representatives with the ultimate goal to bridge the gap in institutionalizing local, indigenous, and traditional knowledge and optimize its potential to mitigate disaster risks and strengthen humanitarian response capacities.  These five innovations are;

Name of Organization: Tanglag Women Organization (TWO)

Location: Baguio City and Lubuagan, Kalinga

Innovation: Binnadang: Piloting an Indigenous Alternative to the Emergency Nutri-Bar/Nutri-Mix

Description: Formulation and production of emergency nutri-bar/Nutri-mix to ensure nutritious relief food items during disasters through the indigenous practice of Binnadang or community solidarity

Photo Caption: Members of TWO in the prototyping of nutri-mix

and one (1) of its by-products, the polvoron or shortbread

Name of Organization: Pandan Tri-People Women

Organization (PTWO)

Location: South Upi, Maguindanao

Innovation: Lawi Fetinanaan: Indigenous and Natural Healing Center

Description: Establishment of a communal and women-led indigenous healing center and services for daily health needs and during emergency response

Photo Caption: PTWO herbal products - ointments, liniments, soaps and herbal teas. Group photo in the upper rightmost side was taken during the sharing on local, indigenous knowledge

Name of Organization: United Tigwahanon of San Fernando, Bukidnon (Tigwahanon)

Location: San Fernando, Bukidnon

Innovation: Alternative Learning Modality for Indigenous Stewards into Transformative and Operational Community/Forest-Based DRRM System

Description: Ensuring environmental protection by increasing capacity of indigenous stewards in forest guarding and DRRM

Photo Caption: Top photo – the forest guards during their forest monitoring. Left photo – the Tigwahanon leaders doing a ritual before any activity. Right side - photos of activities.

Name of Organization: Asosayon san Magagmay nga Mangingisda sa Santiago (AMMS)

Location: Barotac Viejo, Iloilo

Innovation: Tambon 2.0 Merging Two Traditional Fishing Gears

Description: Merger of stationary lift nets to make it sturdier, provide artificial fish nursery, ensure cost efficiency, higher yield, and eco-friendly fishing

Photo Caption: Top photo- testing the Tambon prototype, middle right-side photo – full view of the Tambon, Rest of the photos are community activities

Name of Organization: Samahan ng Katutubong Agta na Ikhan, Lhaman at Phisad-Phisad (SAKAILAP)

Location: Casiguran, Aurora

Innovation: Saving Indigenous Food Reserve through Policy and Planting

Description: Indigenous people-led policy development for maternal marine reserve and food banking. There is also planting of native fruit-bearing trees and mangroves.

Photo Caption: Testing activity in the maternal marine reserve in terms of volume and sizes of clams and shells,

Group photo - during the indigenous knowledge sharing

Sharing with these communities exemplifies Early Warning. Common observations identified during workshops with community members and local government representatives are animal sounds, animal behaviors, increase in the number or changing appearance of cosmological elements among others. Details of this early warning knowledge are summarized in the table below;

TABLE 1: Early Warning Signs for Natural Hazards


Typhoon and





(typhoon and





(typhoon, food


If a typhoon is

coming, the

chickens are

always/staying in

their nests

Heavy rain is

coming if the sky

darkens and the

clouds turn dark.

Typhoon -

Various kinds of

birds flying


Seeing cats

drinking water

Typhoon - Surfacing of

many insects, ants are

busy storing their food

A kind of bird

locally called

“Ejew” is giving

the warning


If the Flying lizard

starts to make

noise - and there

is a small frog

that responds in

the mountains,

the rain will start

to pour.

Typhoon - When

shells gather in

clusters along the

shoreline in a

pyramid shape

If the hen is

moving her eggs

to a cooler area

Typhoon - Reddish

west, darker east,

silent wind

The appearance of the blackbird warns that something bad may happen

When the water level in the river rises and the water becomes muddy in color and smelly

Drought - Earthworms emerge from the ground

If there is an increase in crickets (ray-ray) and bugs (abal- abal)

Typhoon – higher sea level (alsado),

surfacing of many land crabs (kuray) before the rising of water level

Floating logs in

the river mean

heavy rain is

coming from the


Drought - Birds

called "Tuhaw"

are always


If there is an increase in visibility of the stars.

Scarcity of food supply – animals going down from the mountain

Apart from natural hazards, during times of unrest or armed conflicts, other examples of Early

Warning signs were also mentioned by two organizations summarized in this table;



If Bruwang o terektek (a kind of bird) goes out this is a warning sign that killing will happen

Pamalawag - or a reddish hue in the dark clouds signifies a forthcoming bad event.

Mëngonoy or uncommon sound that makes people think that something bad will happen

Pamaso aso or gradually decreasing rain and sunny weather - means that something is truly going to happen, and caution is needed.

Sudden fall of tree branches or having branches of tress cut in half. The direction being pointed by the falling branch will be the place for the armed conflict.

The chirping of birds called "Tonton gusok" small birds with loud voices - when you hear their sound, it's as if something bad is about to happen, as if your ribs or spine will break.

Mëgineknek or deafening silence

Owl or Kuwago, when it hoots continuously for three (3) consecutive days, a war will occur.

Mëngol or noisy dog

When the bird called “Kuligi” or hawk cries out, it is a sign that someone died.

Mësëfak/ Sëmila

Having thunder and lightning happening at the

same time

When a dog howls, it's a sign that many already died in the war.

Mëangasa (premonition) that something bad

will happen

The crowing of a rooster in the middle of the day signifies that something will happen or someone will die.


Local, indigenous, and traditional knowledge highlights community solidarity and cooperation in times of crisis, emergencies, and disasters. For the Tigwahanons, cooperation in cleaning the flooded area is referred to by the local term "binuligay". For the Kalingas of TWO, there are many indigenous terms for community cooperation, such as “angkas, binnadang, and ipango.” For the Agtas of SAKAILAP, they have “Onglonan” for community help, which they usually do to prepare for and respond to disasters.

For warning signals, the Tigwahanon tribe has early warning devices using indigenous materials. They call these Budyong (trumpet shell) and Bantula (bamboo with a hole). Traditionally, an alarm is sent to the community on a possible incoming danger by blowing the “budyong” and hitting the “bantula”. For TWO, a distress call, “Ipakoy,” will be made through a deafening shout. “Abuyog” is a person who calls for help. This call will be responded to by “chungkas,” or someone who immediately goes to help.

The warning signals and innovations for capacitydevelopment /resilience are interweaved. For SAKAILAP, TWO, AMMS, and Tigwahanon, the innovations ensure the direct supply of nutritious food during disasters, as PTWO made health services and herbal medicines accessible.






Emergency Nutri-

Bar and Nutri-Mix

with by-products

of breadsticks,

cookies, polvoron


steamed rice cake

(puto), mixed fruits

with coconut milk

(ginataan), and

plain Nutri-mix

with water ensure

nutritious food

during disasters.

This is also a

potential item for

the regular feeding

program for


A farm in a

secluded forest

area serves as

a food source


disasters. This

area is only

accessible to

the tribe's

members and

is maintained

by the tribal

head, locally

called “datu.”

The merged

fishing gear

ensures fish catch

even during heavy

rains and strong

winds, as the

innovation also

serves as a fish

sanctuary as they

get fed and live

within the

structure of the

fishing gear. The

fishing gear was

tested as sturdy

and could

withstand storms.

The House of

Healing made

health products

and services

accessible to far-



These products

are also being

distributed as

relief items during

disasters through

the organization’s

participation in

relief operations.

The Maternal

Marine Reserve

innovation ensures

nutrition for

pregnant and

lactating mothers.

Likewise, the


members access the

Food Bank

innovation during

heavy rains and

typhoons as they

cannot go to the sea

and tend to their



Sharing local, indigenous, and traditional knowledge and innovations did not end in conversations. Local community partners and stakeholders committed to bringing the information on early warning systems and innovations to local DRR mechanisms;

  • PTWO - the head of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) is committed to integrating local, indigenous, traditional early warning signals into the ongoing enhancement of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan.

  • Tigwahanon – local knowledge on early warning was included in their innovation; the enhanced Indigenous Forest Guarding Module and is already in its final testing. This module will be lobbied to be included in the curriculum of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which may still be a long process but will have a concrete impact on the replication of the innovation nationally. In addition, Bantula will be strengthened as an Early Warning System (EWS) device that will be integrated to transmit warnings through handheld radios.

  • AMMS—The organization will lobby for a local ordinance to protect the merged fishing gear from intrusion and disturbance.

  • TWO—The innovation can be included in the feeding program for children and will be promoted through the Barangay Health Workers. The representative of the CDRRMO suggested that if the innovation passes all required government testing, the CDRRMO will procure the Nutri-mix while the organization will be invited to cook in the evacuation centers. This will also strengthen the practice of community cooperation or “Binnadang.”

  • SAKAILAP—the representative from the MDRRMO committed to pushing for the inclusion of the local, traditional, and indigenous early warning signals in updating the barangays' Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plans. This will be done after a series of sharing sessions patterned after the sharing conducted by the Pinnovation Academy for all sub-villages (sitios) and villages (barangays).

Indigenous knowledge challenges today's dominant narratives. It promotes social justice and counters historical marginalization and exclusion. When valued, this knowledge contributes to a more equitable society. Cultural respect needs to be fostered for inclusive and impactful initiatives, contributing to sustainable development.

Community-led DRR and CCA innovations sprung from local, indigenous, and traditional knowledge. Good practices in the communities were integrated and utilized in developing these innovations. There are experiences in which local, indigenous, and traditional practices were revived and strengthened during innovation development. In some contexts, this knowledge is merged with technology to adapt to changing needs in a more complex situation due to climate change.

During the sharing, observations related to climate change were also discussed as a common challenge in the communities. There are the increase of army worms, grasshoppers, black bugs and rats. Extreme weather resulting to heatwaves and flooding affecting the seasonal calendar in agriculture and poor yields/harvest. There are also observations on the rising sea level, fewer fish catch and presence of new kind of fish.

Reflecting on the sharing with the pilot communities. There lies a natural connection, weaved carefully by recognizing and respecting traditions, and at the same time, introducing innovations to preserve and sustain these traditions. There is mutual growth in local, indigenous, traditional knowledge and community-led innovations. Thus, institutionalizing both means a stronger sustainability strategy. In the long run, innovations will become part of the good practices and will be used by more people.

The Center for Disaster Preparedness through the Pinnovation Academy and its other intertwined projects and programs would continue to advocate for the institutionalization of local, indigenous and traditional knowledge. More opportunities would be tapped to continue the conversations with communities and government units/agencies; deepening researches; documentation; partnership with the academe and experts would be explored. Indeed, local, indigenous and traditional knowledge is integral to the process of harnessing the inherent power of the communities, the power of those most affected by the crisis – to find, develop, and sustain their local solutions.

(Pinnovation Academy, a community-led DRR, CCA innovation project in the Philippines, has a

total of 20 community partners, implementing local innovative solutions across the country)


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