A Position Letter Regarding The Tagbanua and Other Indigenous Tribes of Mainland Palawan

a Position letter regarding The tagbanua and other indigenous tribes of mainland palawan

I.                    Cultural History: Anthropological Basis
A.)   The festival and ritual practices of the Tagbanua of Aborlan, its implication to education
By: Reynaldo M. Yap Jr., 1994

Palawan is the home of eight cultural minorities Tao’t Bato (ke’ney), Batac, Pala’wan, Molbog, Mapun, Tausug and Panimusan with diversified customs, traditions, idiosyncrasies and lifestyles.
Before the arrival of the Spaniards Palawan was under the dominion of the Sultan of Sulu and Borneo who continued to hold sovereignty over the southern part of Palawan until the 19th century making Aborlan a sultanate of Sulu. A political structure formed the government of the early Tagbanuas. The Sultan was represented by a “Masicampo”, the highest ranking tribal leader or the chieftain. He was chosen from a lineage of “Masicampo”, from a particular bloodline. The whole native populace was under his rule. Everybody ran to him for problem-solving, decision making and many other cases. He also appoint the “saribangsawan”  and his panglima, maradja and their assistants.
The Tagbanuas have distinct cultural customs and traditions acquired from the people of Sulu and Borneo.  Making their cultural heritage different from the other seven ethnic tribes in Palawan. Some of the reasons for the non- acculturation of the Tagbanuas are the following.

1.       Feeling of superiority
2.       Force of tradition or demonstrable proof that the old ways was the best.
3.       Low credibility of the introducer of the new way
4.       Isolation of the people and the environmental supernatural, thereby making these ceremonies, meaningful to them as an indigenous people and to the modern Filipino since they represent authentic cultural roots devoid of any artificiality and political coloring.
In this research the author strongly recommended THAT:
a.       The culture of the Tagbanua should not be disturbed, especially the practice of their cultural heritage, their ritual and festival ceremonies. It must be preserved for the purpose of cultural posterity and Balik- ugat.
b.      To both the national government and the local government official, a nationalistic interest in the preservation of the Tagbanua culture for the purpose of tribal identity and national unity with the cultures of other Filipino ethnic groups.
c.       To the local government officials, the enactment of appropriate ordinances and proper execution to preserve the cultural practices of the Tagbanua thereby is enriching our national heritage.
d.      That the social organizational set-up which has been practiced for generations under the leadership of the Masicampo, Maradja and Saribangsawan should be maintained with certain modifications that will not be in contradiction with the general laws of our country. If there are any changes to be made, the strata of the Tagbanua should be studied and incentive be extended to the deserving one. Moreover, the character and personality of the Tagbanua tribe should be understood before new things or innovation are tried out.

B.)    Religion and Society among the Tagbanua of Palawan Island, Philippines
By: dr. Robert B. Fox, 1982 of Brunei

The Sultanate of Brunei ruled during the fourteenth to the sixteenth century CE. Its territory covered the northern part of Borneo and the southern Philippines ( of Brunei)

Fragmentary pre- Spanish records denote an early relationship between the west central Philippines, including Palawan, Brunei, and North Borneo. Brunei was an important colony of the Buddhist Kingdom of the Shri- Vishaya in the 12th Century and of the Brahman Empire of Madjapahit in the 14th Century. Although it is not known how extensive were the efforts  of the pre- Muslim Bornean Chiefs from Brunei to colonize the southern Philippines, ancient, apparently pre- Spanish manuscripts have been found in the Philippines which refer to Bornean chiefs in Panay, Mindoro, Southern Luzon, and Palawan.
The folk history of the Tagbanuwa also denotes an early relationship with Brunei. According to Clemente Bulunan of Baraki, the first Masicampo of Tagbanuwa was appointed by a surutan (Sultan)  of Brunyu, from a land called Burnay (Brunei), eleven generations ago (during the time of Bulunan in 1950).
Tagbanua society is characterized by tremendous elaboration of custom law which affects much necessary formalism and mechanisms of social control. The political and juridical powers of the hereditary leaders, which form a hierarchy headed by the Masikampu, extend through the Tagbanua world.  Tagbanua society is stratified on the basis of “high bloods” that are the hereditary leaders, the “ginuu” and their relatives, as well as most of the “babalyans” or mediums and their kin. The remaining persons form a class of “low blood”. In the past there was also a small class of servile debtors, the “uripun”, who had a slave- like status. The hereditary leaders often assume responsibilities normally associated elsewhere in the Philippines, such as “marriage counseling”. In legal conflict, the “high bloods” enjoy a marked advantage over the “low bloods” for the latter do not have any kinsmen, as hereditary leaders, to whom they can turn for legal aid.
The highest jural and political office among the Tagbanua is the Masikampu. Regardless of the Spanish origin of this term and the fact that the Spaniards had no intense contacts with the Tagbanuas until about 1872, the folk history of the Tagbanua indicates that the function of this office are at least one hundred and fifty years old and probably older.
The Tagbanua society is still stratified but the present “high bloods” have few privileges.  There is no class distinction in wealth. Some of the political functions of the hereditary leaders have been assumed by Christian Filipino Officials; moreover “low bloods” have sometimes been appointed to responsible positions by Filipino Officials.

II.                  The Political Structure
-A Masicampo is the primary leader among all the traditional leaders and other non Christian cultural communities whose authority extends throughout the mainland Palawan.
-Considered as the patriarch of the IPs of Palawan, settling disputes, imposing tribal laws (adat), appointing traditional leaders (bageral), and solemnizing tribal marriages.
- It is common belief among the Tagbanuas and Pala’wan of mainland Palawan that there shall be only one legitimate Masicampo of Palawan. To avoid conflicting views to the customary laws.
- in case of death of a Masicampo or upon his incapacity, the elders among the clans of the Family with the Bloodline of Masicampo also called as the Usba e’t Masicampo will convene for the purpose of choosing among them who will be the next Masicampo. The Masicampo will be chosen by a consensus of the Usba e’t Masicampo- the council of the elders of the clan. Women, youngsters and non members of the family are prohibited to participate in the deliberation.
                                                         i.                    Maradia et Masicampo
-A position held by persons with the bloodline of a Masicampo. He also renders assistance with the Masicampo and performs other duties assigned to him by the latter.
- In case of death of the Masicampo he is tasked to gather all the council of elders (usba et’ Masicampo) to convene for the selection of the new Masicampo.
                                                       ii.                    Maradia et Manlalambay
-                 A position/ title acquired by a bageral through hierarchy and consanguinity. He must be comprehensively knowledgeable of the lambay ritual and other laws concerning thereto.
                                                      iii.                    Maradia
-                 Assists the local bagerals in settling disputes (surrugiden).
-                 This position has a broader aspect of responsibilities with respect to juridical duties to local leaders.
                                                     iv.                    Pangiran
-                 Acts as a consultant of local leaders and even among other functionaries. The position, like other noble titles he must have a consanguinity to the position itself.
                                                       v.                    Laksamana
-                 Considered as one of the high positions among the bagerals in the ancient period he is labeled as “commander of hundreds”.
-                 He is a well respected man, most especially during the conduct of surrugiden. The position is commonly inherited by hereditary succession.
                                                     vi.                    Pangandelan
-                 Appointee of a Masicampo which acts as a commissary to a certain task given or designated to him. Position acquired not by consanguinity but through the recognition of the Masicampo.
                                                    vii.                    Panglima
-                 A local leader acting as chairman among bagerals and ginuu.
-                 Decides on delicate issues in his area of responsibility
-                 Enforces the traditional laws among his constituents
-                 Acquire through hereditary succession
                                                  viii.                    Orangkaya
-                 During the jural proceedings he investigates both parties
-                 Giving analysis of the case
-                 Requires consanguinity to the family
                                                     ix.                    Satya (secretary)
-                 Keeping records of the minutes of the surrugiden/ betiara
-                 Position is acquired through designation or consanguinity
                                                       x.                    Pangarapan/ Pangara (clerk)
-                 His role is giving remarks before any meetings or council gatherings.
                                                     xi.                    Parakasa
-                 Reminding the congregation of the rules and regulations
-                 Amuses the audience if necessary
                                                    xii.                    Mudadi
-                 Acts as summon officer, brings tidings or any important news
                                                  xiii.                    Aguasil/ Agwasil
o   Like the Mudadi, he acts as summon officer and maintains peace and order especially during council meetings
                                                  xiv.                    Digadong
-                 He acts as bondsman during surrugiden/ betiara
                                                   xv.                    Saribangsawan
-                 Acts a lawyer and a law enforcer
                                                  xvi.                    Tumanggong
-                 In charge of pecuniary aspect in the political structure
                                                xvii.                    Nakib
-                 Expert in natural medicine and in charge of religious rites
                                               xviii.                    Sabandar
-                 In Charge of the labor force
                                                  xix.                    Manlalambay
-                 A designated individual deeply experienced in performing rituals i.e. Lambay et uran, lambay et init, sin atonement and lambay et ginuu.
                                                   xx.                    Babalyan/ Balyan
-                 A priest who acts as a medium to the diwata and tiladmanen
                                                  xxi.                    Taga – Iring
o    Assistant to Babalyan
                                                xxii.                    Other minor hereditary titles serves as an aide to major hereditary leaders.
All titles mentioned have a juridical capability to conduct surrugiden/ betiara except the babalya’/ balya’ and its taga- iring which is commonly held by women.
Women are not allowed to conduct surrugiden / betiara nor can give a decision  or okoman unless they were given permission or invited to attend.
To be a ginuu, he must be well versed of the adat (customary laws) practiced by the elders. If he is a bageral or a traditional leader, he must know the osol or genealogy of his family/ clan. He must be able to give fair judgement and he must act accordingly in a manner of a gentleman- a leader deserving the respect of his position.
There are no caretakers to the position of a bagerals unless he is related by consanguinity to the title. Decision making is through a consensus among the council of elders.

III.                Government Intervention: Effects

A.)   Legislation

i.                     NCIP Memorandum No. 001 “National Guidelines for the Mandatory Representation of Indigenous Peoples in Local Legislative Councils”- This legislation created the position for IP representatives also called as chieftains. The exigency of passing this memorandum is for the reason that the ICCs/IPs can be represented for the deliberation of important issues like land tenure, cultural development etc. However, the NCIP memorandum no. 001 did not clarify; rather it post insufficient applicability to the Tagbanua and Pala’wan Culture despite the pure intention of the said law for the following reasons:
a)      It did not just dissolve but greatly dispersed the inherent prerogatives of the hereditary leaders by creating a position by which persons belonging to the lower stratum were chosen to occupy the seat. This greatly diminished the chance of the hereditary leaders to participate with the implementation of governmental plans and objectives ousting them from the limelight of the cultural political structure.
b)      The democratic structure of the tribal chieftains is a huge cultural meltdown since it amends the political hierarchy of the original culture.
c)       Since there was no formal consolidation done by the NCIP, many tribal chieftains occupied the position even when others don’t possess the legitimate “geral” or authority in the tribal community.
d)      A revalidation of “geral” is an expressed necessity. Traditional leaders based on a genuine cultural political structure deserve to be deputized and empowered.
In addition to the foregoing, the same memorandum states that;
Sec. 4a. Primacy of customary laws and practices. Customary laws and practices shall prevail upon mainstream mechanisms in the manner of selecting the mandatory representatives to the local legislative councils of the ICCs/ IPs. Moreover, customary laws and practices shall be used primarily to resolve disputes in the selection process.

                                       By necessary implication, during selection process the traditional political structure should be respected and parenthetically, the chieftains should give way for the hereditary leaders who possess a higher authority (geral).
ii.                  DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010- 119 mandatory representation of Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous  Peoples in Policy- Making Bodies and Other Local Legislative Councils
The issuance of the DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010- 119 is very insightful of the needs for development and protection as well as full participation of the Indigenous Community. It is legislation worth commending. However, the fear of eventual change to the genuine cultural structure will be inevitable and soon, it’ll be nothing more than a publicized history of a custom-made tradition. I believe that the applicability of DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010- 119 should still undergo extensive review and amendments- tailored so as not to diminish the functions of the Traditional leaders in the cultural history of Palawan. Also, an ample time should be given for the careful study of the NCIP Memorandum No. 001 thereby, giving the genuine cultural political structure the involvement and the opportunity to participate more responsibly to the problems of the ICCs/IPs.

B.)    The Mainstream Mechanism

I.                    THE TRIBAL CHIEFTAINS and its organizational structure

The Tribal Chieftains was organized during the time of OSCC before IPRA Law and NCIP was created. It was through the effort of its organizer who ironically, declared himself as the provincial chieftain. That upon the promulgation of the IPRA Law and the constitution of the NCIP as its implementing arm, this organization has been positively recognized. There were neither rules nor guidelines regarding this recognition. It was not even properly consulted with the genuine political structure based on the anthropological history of the Tagbanuas. The recognition given to the tribal chieftains also instigated the discrimination to many traditional leaders, even the successions to hereditary positions was destroyed. Usurpation of hereditary titles become prevalent as has been practiced by the Provincial Tribal Chieftain himself. The term caretakers of traditional title were frequently used as justification to their position to hold on to their position as chieftains even those not having the bloodline of the title they are holding. Additionally, there was no implementation of any election process for this office (there was not even an expiration of terms) - it was a dictatorial system of government among the IPs of Palawan. The recognition of Tribal Chieftains has also spawned many great problems in the ICCs/IPs including the following:
1.       the exploitation and manipulation of many tribal chieftains especially on mining activities, specifically, the royalty share intended for the personal share of ICCs/IPs concerned within the specific location was not distributed since the sole beneficiary of the mining share were those mainstream title holders. Unfortunately, the pecuniary support to the underprivileged IPs has never been realized since it already served the personal interest of the tribal chieftains.
2.       The unwarranted claim and application for CADT initiated by the tribal chieftains become rampant since the proliferation of mining activities in Palawan. Majority of the Chieftains support mining operations in Palawan. It sometimes spawns speculations regarding the compromise being entered into by the Tribal Chieftains with the mining firms.
3.       Finally, The NCIP has issued the Memorandum 414 on August 11, 2008. Specifically, the memorandum strongly inhibit the facilitation of the NCIP personnel in the formation of the mainstream or nontraditional leadership structure and institutions through the organization of Indigenous Peoples Organization (IPOs) and Tribal Councils (TCs) supplanting the traditional set- ups of IPs/ ICCs in their respective communities.

The second and third proviso of the aforementioned memorandum states that:

In view hereof, you are strictly advised to refrain from engaging in these activities. Instead, strongly uphold and advocate for the primacy of the customary ways of the ICCs/IPs and facilitate the strengthening of community adherence to cultural integrity.
As such, traditional and socio- political leadership titles/ structures and institution shall be primarily be recognized. It shall be upheld to represent the interests and aspirations of IPs/ ICCs in their respective communities. Mainstream and nontraditional structured IPOs/ TCs and other similar mechanisms shall only play support roles to the traditional leadership structures and institutions.
Therefore, by the express intention of this memorandum it is clear that the NCIP field personnel unheeded to this memorandum.

II.            THE NCIP
The following are the sacred goals and objectives of NCIP:

The NCIP shall protect and promote the interest and well-being of the ICCs/IPs with due regard to their beliefs, customs and institutions.

As enabling partner and lead advocate, the NCIP envisions genuinely empowered Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) whose rights and multi-dimensional well-being are fully recognized, respected and promoted towards the attainment of national unity and development.


The NCIP is the primary government agency that formulates and implements policies, plans and programs for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and well-being of IPs with due regard to their ancestral domains and lands, self-governance and empowerment, social justice and human rights, and cultural integrity.

As the NCIP emerged in the Province of Palawan it has greatly participated in the matters of ICCs/IPs as mandated. The following are other concerns relevant to their office.
1.       The NCIP facilitated greatly with the recognition of IPOs/ TCs. The divide and rule process employed in the political structure of IPOs/TCs intensifies the conflict in the ICCs/IPs. The absence of formal guidelines in the selection of tribal chieftains and its structural organization is apparent and that they even tolerate the usurpation of hereditary titles by the tribal chieftains. The primary question lies whether or not the appointment of tribal chieftains or nontraditional leaders by the NCIP Personnel was valid? Is a member of the ICC/IP entitled for an election or the prerogative lies mainly on the power of NCIP Personnel? (Annex 6,7,8)

2.       Their exploit regarding this matter significantly affected the cultural political structure since it deprived the hereditary leaders the management of their respective jurisdiction, it weakened the authority of the Masicampo and significantly diminished its power. Their gross violation of the NCIP Memorandum 414 constituted the major problem of the traditional leaders and their intervention to the matters of hereditary is unethical. They even contest the succession of the Masicampo thereby deteriorate the cultural integrity of the Tagbanuas.

3.       Their intervention with the shares of the ICCs/IPs from the mining firms in Palawan is surprising; save the possibility that the IPOs nowadays are already becoming a mechanism for corruption and for the satisfaction of their personal interests.

4.       There is an imperative and urgent need to preserve and protect the existence of the socio-political organization of the traditional leaders and allow the office of the Masicampo to reinvigorate and re-establish its dominion over the affairs of the ICCs/IPs of Mainland Palawan. It cannot be gainsaid that the effects of mainstream organizations has brought great detriment to the welfare of the cultural communities most specially those affected by the interest of mining corporations – many anomalies has aroused throughout the affairs of the tribal chieftain organization (Annex 1) and even the NCIP Field Officers were often alleged of directly participating, controlling and intervening with the dealings of the ICCs/Ips. The selection of tribal chieftains was alleged to be fraudulent since there were no guidelines being followed.

There is an imperative and urgent need to preserve and protect the existence of the socio-political organization of the traditional leaders and allow the office of the Masicampo to reinvigorate and re-establish its dominion over the affairs of the ICCs/IPs of Mainland Palawan. To protect their traditional heritage also necessitates the empowerment of their traditional organization; further, it also implies removing the threats to its existence or those that might trample it. It cannot be gainsaid that the effects of mainstream mechanisms (nontraditional leaders, organization or institutions) has brought great detriment to the welfare of the cultural communities most specially those affected by the interest of mining corporations – many anomalies has occurred throughout the existence of the tribal chieftain organization or the nontraditional leaders (Annex 6,7,8) and even the NCIP Field Officers were often alleged of directly participating, controlling and intervening with the affairs of the ICCs/IPs. The manipulation and exploitation of some NCIP Personnel and Tribal Chieftains were so depressing in regards to their sworn responsibilities and mandate. The selection of tribal chieftains was alleged to be fraudulent since there were no guidelines being followed. Parenthetically, it is undeniable that many great opportunities were not realized by the IPs of Mainland Palawan because of these many abuses and due to their low literacy rate

D.)   Recommendations:

In behalf of the socio political structure of the IPs/ICCs of Palawan it is strongly recommended that:

1.       That the NCIP with the participation of the Masicampo organize a revalidation process for the claimants of CADT and the authority finally transferred to the traditional leaders holding a legitimate title through hereditary succession.
2.       That a Memorandum be issued deposing the structural organization of the IPOs/ TCs and restoring the authority and political structure of the traditional leaders of mainland Palawan the Tagbanua, Pala’wan, ke’ney, Batak and Panimusan.
3.       That only traditional leaders shall be entitled to occupy the seats of IP Representatives as provided for in the NCIP Memorandum 001 S. of 2009 and supported by the NCIP Memorandum 414.
4.       That there should be a legislation for the proper auditing of royalty shares of IPOs, organizing and empowering the Office of the Masicampo to have an original jurisdiction on the matter, to conduct a searching inquiry and finally forward the issue to the appropriate administrative office for review and resolutions.
5.       That the benefits and privileges of the ICCs/ IPs regarding the basic delivery of services should be carefully supervised and a percentage among all the organizational funds should allocated for education, health and sanitation of the ICCs/IPs in each community.
6.       That the executive office conducts a revamp of the NCIP Personnel especially the field personnel to break the monotony and to avoid doubts of exploitation and manipulations of IPs that results to alleged corruption.
7.       That annual conventions on municipal levels be conducted to assess the problems affecting the IPs and programs be channeled directly to its beneficiaries.
8.       That the project and programs of the national and provincial government and other institutions be brought to the knowledge of traditional leaders for transparency and proper audit.
9.       That certain percentage from the mining firms operating in Palawan be given as incentives to the traditional leaders to ensure their full participation in the development and preservation of culture and tradition of the ICCs/IPs of mainland Palawan. And;
10.   Finally, that the Office of the Masicampo be recognized in all matters involving the IPs/ ICCs of mainland Palawan in order to gain momentum in reviving the cultural integrity and participate fully in the attainment of national unity and development.
Anticipating for your appropriate action.

Very Truly Yours,                                   



Annex 1- NCIP Memorandum No. 001 s. 2009 “National Guidelines for the Mandatory Representation of Indigenous Peoples in Local Legislative Councils”

Annex 2- DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010- 119 “ Mandatory Representation of Indigenous Peoples in Policy Making Bodies and Other Local Legislative Councils”

Annex 3- NCIP Memorandum Memorandum Order No.  414 s. 2008 “Recognizing Primacy of Traditional Socio- Political Leadership Titles, Structures, and Institutions Over Mainstream or Non- Traditional Mechanisms”

Annex 4- A Record of the Minutes of the Narra Tribal Councils Federation Inc. on April 24, 2007.

Annex 5- Related Articles Regarding the Alleged Anomalies By Some NCIP Field Personnel (Internet Source)

Annex 6- Issues re the royalty share of IP Leaders of Sitio Cacarigan, Aramaywan, Narra, Palawan

Annex 6-A Cash Voucher for the receipt of the Amount of 500,000.00 Pesos By Tribal Chieftain Sapin Ragon on July 9, 2010

Annex 6-B A Certification Issued to Chieftain Sapin Ragon by NCIP Field Personnel Ricardo O. Sanga Dated June 30 2010.

Annex 6-C A Letter Addressed to the NCIP Provincial Field Officer Engr. Roldan Parangue from Chieftain Pedro Darde for the Alleged Anomaly to the Royalty Share Received from PGMC by Chieftain Sapin Ragon

Annex 6-D A Letter Addressed to the NCIP Field Personnel Ricardo O. Sanga from the IP Leaders of Sitio Cacarigan, Aramaywan, Narra, Palawan

Annex 6- E A Letter Addressed to Masicampo Ruben C. Joya from Chieftain Malul Mausa and Chieftain Toto Cacal Seeking his Assistance with the issue involving the IP Leaders of Sitio Cacarigan, Aramaywan, Narra, Palawan

Annex 6-E A Pata’wag (summon) issued by Masicampo Ruben C. Joya to Chieftain Sapin Ragon. An Invitation for a Betiara Regarding the Issue Raised by the IP Leaders of Sitio Cacarigan, Aramaywan, Narra, Palawan

Annex 6-F A Letter Addressed to the NCIP Provincial Field Officer Engr. Roldan Parangue from Masicampo Ruben C. Joya Regarding the Outcome of the Betiara Conducted on May 30, 2011 Regarding the Issue Raised by the IP Leaders of Sitio Cacarigan, Aramaywan, Narra, Palawan.

Annex 6-G A Letter Addressed to the NCIP Legal Officer Atty. Telesforo C. Paredes from Chieftain Pedro Darde Requesting for a Clarification Regarding the Issue of Royalty Share from PGMC.

Annex 6-H A Letter Addressed to the NCIP Chairperson Zenaida Brigida H. Pawid from the IP Leaders of Sitio Cacarigan, Aramaywan, Narra, Palawan Requesting for a Clarification Regarding the Issue of Royalty Share from PGMC.

Annex 7- A Letter Addressed to the NCIP Provincial Field Officer Engr. Roldan Parangue from the IP Members of Sitio Bato- Bato, Culandanum, Bataraza, Palawan Regarding the Anomalous Appointment of Chieftain Poldo by NCIP Field Personnel Ricardo O. Sanga.

Annex 8-A A Letter Addressed to the NCIP Field Personnel Ricardo O. Sanga from Maradia Oliver B. Amboc of Barangay Isugod, Quezon, Palawan Regarding the Anomalous Appointment of Chieftain Manuel Sugan (Jan-22-10)

Annex 8-B A Letter Addressed to Masicampo Ruben C. Joya Sr. from Maradia Oliver B. Amboc of Barangay Isugod, Quezon, Palawan beseeching his advice on the matter of the alleged fraudulent appointment of Chieftain Manuel Sugan (Sept-02-11)

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