(Left photo) The rice terraces of Ifugao attract tourists from around the world. (Right photo) Mr. Robert Domoguen of DA-CAR addressing the participants of the regional conference on culture and arts.

When you look at the rice terraces, you can look at it scientifically [or] with the eyes of an artist or as a policy maker or development implementer because that’s how indigenous peoples did things before” – Robert Domoguen, DA-CAR

BANAUE, IFUGAO – Domoguen’s words summarized the culture-driven development that the Cordillera is pushing for in its pursuit of regional autonomy. His message was shared during the Regional Conference on Culture and Arts in Banaue held in the last quarter of last year. The RDC and NEDA aimed to facilitate discussions on the role of culture and arts under the proposed Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC). Through development and promotion of culture and heritage, the leaders from various government and civil society organizations determined how to utilize culture in moving forward.

Tourism, agriculture, education and artistic expression are recognized areas in which culture greatly affects regional development. “Culture is at the center of our development agenda”, NEDA-CAR Regional Director and RDC-CAR Vice-chair Milagros Rimando pointed out. She added, “Culture is one of the reasons why, after all this time, 30 years or so, we still campaign for regional autonomy”.

On the importance of culture, Congressman Teddy Baguilat said, “Culture is a complex whole”. He emphasized that culture is not merely the traditional clothes we wear or rituals we perform or the songs we sing. From practices of cañao to bodong peace summits, culture is not only cosmetic but also the institutions and world views of our people. “We can promote that culture; that Cordillera way of life under autonomy”, he stressed.

However, tourism has always been the most common expression of culture in the region with the Panagbenga festival, Kalinga tattooing and Ifugao rice terraces bringing in large amounts of money and exposure of the region. Questions were raised in the conference on whether promoting culture or developing heritage should be the focus of the proposed autonomous region.

Autonomy as compromise
The draft house bill in autonomy includes several provisions that capitalize on the opportunities that culture brings through tourism. Particularly, the bill stresses the need for sustainable eco-tourism to ensure preservation of cultural heritage and protection of the region’s ecology. Thus, the bill promotes the holistic understanding of the indigenous peoples of Cordillera without sacrificing the gains which the region made through tourism.

Domoguen’s words in the conference encapsulates the very essence of this holistic view. The indigenous peoples of the Cordillera look at their reality from different lenses and see how it can all be connected.


by Marlo T. Lubguban, NEDA- SPCAR