By Michael Umaming/NEDA-CAR

Baguio City: OIC NEDA-CAR Assistant Regional Director Florida Faculo laments the fact that in efforts to recognize volunteer practices of organizations, informal groups are usually not accounted for. What usually comes out are volunteer practices of formal organizations like Baguio-Benguet Public Information and Civic Action Group (BB-PICAG), Lion’s Club, Philex Mining Corporation and the volunteer services of big universities and colleges.

Faculo raised the issue during a forum on volunteerism here. Held at the Ating Tahanan in South Drive last March 15, 2013, the forum, attended by 73 representatives of volunteer groups, non-government agencies and government line agencies, was coordinated by NEDA-CAR with the support of the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA).

A member of the Bontoc tribe, Faculo witnessed a lot of indigenous practices initiated by tribe/community, clan and sector that are truly driven by volunteerism. An instance, she said, was the case of a drowning victim in upland Sagada in Mountain Province wherein people of downstream Bontoc volunteered to help in the search. Not contented with their assistance, the Bontoc people, after failing to find the body of the victim, collected food for the Sagada search operation, all comprised of volunteers, in their continuing search further down the river.

“This kind of volunteerism is usually not looked into, say, in the Search for Outstanding Volunteers conducted yearly during the Volunteer Month of December,” said Faculo.

The Cordillera region is indeed rich in indigenous volunteer practices. They come to the fore mostly in cases of death and calamities, major work activities like times of harvest, house constructions and also during times of celebration like wedding ceremonies.

Ubbo, ugbo or ugfo, for example, remains active in many Cordillera tribes. Some call it gamal or khamal, adduyon or alluyon. This is a cooperative exchange of labor where two or more families decide to alternate working in each other’s field. The idea is that things are done easier and faster as a group.

NEDA-CAR driver Robert Borreta, a Kalinga of Balbalan town relates the practice of pango and among in his tribe. Pango is volunteer work provided by neighbors, friends and relatives during a house construction. For the owner of the house, the expectation is for him/her to make sure the volunteer workers do not go hungry.

“In my younger years, I usually joined pango because it was an occasion to interact with relatives and meet neighbors who are willing to cooperate with your clan,” said Borreta.

Boretta said that the among is also volunteer work during occasions where the concerned family cannot do things by themselves such as in occasions of death and wedding.

Among are friends, neighbors and relatives who volunteer as dishwashers, cooks, water fetchers, food servers, carpenters (when necessary structures must be set-up), messengers, etc. “They know where to borrow items like big pots, and tents which are necessary during the events and in making sure these borrowed items are in tact. Lenders of such items do not normally ask for something in return because lending them is part of their among,” Boretta said.

“Uray ayna nga lugar, karkaro kadagiti sulsuli, ket adda ti kastoy nga tinnulong agsasabali lang ti awag (wherever you go, specially in remote communities, these kinds of practices are present – they just have different names for them),” he said.

The forum ended with the recommendation that there should be documentation of indigenous volunteer practices.