Gateway to the Cordillera – Benguet elders recall sites in Baguio and Benguet that contribute to the Cordilleran struggle for self-determination. Being the Southern-most province of the Cordillera, Benguet has a history of resistance against Spanish colonial forces.

BAGUIO CITY – Benguet elders from the academe, local government units, civil society organizations, tourism groups, and regional line agencies gathered in Baguio for the final provincial consultation on Mapping and Marking of Historical Sites in the Cordillera on October 23. The event was coordinated by the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College and the National Economic and Development Authority Cordillera. This is the last leg of provincial consultations before the regional workshop in Baguio in November to finalize the list of sites where the markers will be placed.

UP Baguio Dean of the College of Arts and Communications Dr. Jimmy Fong presented a lecture on the local history of Benguet. Citing the 1987 Constitution as the primary basis in selecting the sites, Professor Fong emphasized that sites should exhibit the distinct historical and cultural heritage that portrays self-determination and the autonomy struggle.

The Benguet folk were quick to list sites that showcase the history of self-determination of the province. Sites that exemplified self-determination include the Battle of Tunglo in southern Benguet and the site of the Spanish Garrison in Puguis, La Trinidad. Accordingly, it is at these sites where Ibaloi warriors resisted early Spanish rule and prevented further influence in the Cordillera. However, the exact location of the Battle of Tunglo cannot exactly be identified. Elders approximate it to be somewhere in Crystal Cave going to Tuba, Benguet.

The Binga and Ambuklao Dam sites were also among the favorites for mapping and marking; a reminder of the lack of free prior and informed consent done by the national government in implementing these projects in the past. The construction of these dams were also the basis of the outrage over the Chico River dam project of the 70s.

Perhaps the most notable site is Camp John Hay as part of the property of Mateo Cariño. Mateo Cariño’s case was not just the basis of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, “it was the first legal win of Indigenous Peoples, not just in the Philippines but all over the world, especially in recognition of ancestral land ownership”, according to Atty. Harriet Abyadang of NCIP Benguet.

These sites, including those listed in other provinces will be presented during the regional workshop which will be held sometime in November in Baguio. The mapping and marking of Cordillera historical sites is a joint project of MPSPC and NEDA as part of the Social Preparation of CAR into an Autonomous Region (SPCAR) program. One of the purposes of the SPCAR program is to enhance the regional identity of Cordillerans. One of the ways of doing this is to create markers for sites in which the pursuit for self-determination was exhibited.