The Hanunoo and their Mission to Enrich their Ancestral Domain thru Sustainable Agriculture

January 13, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

BULALACAO, ORIENTAL MINDORO – Eddie Uncay is a 47-year-old Hanunoo tribe member from Brgy. San Roque. He is an organic farmer and has been leading the community’s organization, the Samahang Pangkabuhayan sa Lagnas (SAPALA), for almost 6 years. The Hanunoo have a generation-long practice of farming and have explored and developed different farming practices, rituals, and traditions. Rice, root crops, bananas, and legumes are the primary produce in the community.

In 2016, SAPALA met MASIPAG during the Mangyan mission in the area. Since then, MASIPAG has been extending technical support for sustainable farming to the community through trainings and seed support. The tribe learned and  applied composting to ensure and maintain healthy farmland and manage pest. They also practice Diversified Integrated Farming System (DIFS) to ensure the communities have a diversified harvest and diet.

Aside from these, Eddie and the tribe continue to practice their rituals. He shared about their ritual called “bugkos” wherein they tie the rice plant to a stone, bury it at the root area, and cover the soil after, accompanied by a community prayer. This ritual aims to increase yield and has been practiced and passed down through generations.

For them, the practice of sustainable organic farming is solely to secure food for the community and their families. “Kalakhan ng aming ani ay pangkonsumo pero kung may sobra at kung marami ang nangangailan ay binibigay ito sa tribu. [Most of our produce is for consumption, but if there is surplus and many are in need, it is given to the tribe.]”, Eddie narrates.

Despite these practices, Hanunoo experiences difficulties in farming due to abrupt changes in climate and threats to their rights to ancestral land. Locally rich clans attempted to occupy their lands but failed as the tribe remained firm in asserting their rights. They also intensively practice diversified cropping and trial farming to ensure that the community has working mechanisms for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Currently, Eddie is a MASIPAG farmer-trainer. He voluntarily shares his knowledge and experience with his fellow farmers in the province. “Nasa MASIPAG na kami, mahirap na palagpasin yung pagkakataon. Kaya tuwing may imbitasyon sa trainings [ang MASIPAG], di ko pinapalampas ito kasi sayang ang pagkakataon matuto. Ibinabahagi ko naman din ito sa aming komunidad, [We are already in MASAPIG; it’s hard to pass up the opportunity. So whenever there is an invitation to train [with MASIPAG], I don’t hesitate because I don’t want to miss the opportunity to learn. I also share it with our community,]” he shared.

For Eddie, sustainable farming is a way of life that keeps their land, food, and rights safe and secured. By keeping their ancestral land productive through organic management, Eddie and the Hanunoo tribe are better prepared for the impending threat of climate change and land grabbing. For Eddie, their practice of organic farming keeps their tradition and ritual alive from one generation to another. He believes that keeping these practices will sustainably feed the community and keep their rights to protect and to develop their ancestral lands.