What is development?

JilGilbert Hoggang is a trained veterinarian and has been on staff at ARI since 2008. He prefers to go by “Jil” and his main duty is to manage the pig section, but as is the case of all ARI staff, he contributes in many diverse ways to the community and to the training program as a whole. He is of the Ayangan Tribe of the Ifugao Indigenous Peoples of Luzon Island in the Philippines and he first came to ARI as a participant in 2004. Gilbert’s home village was relocated by the Philippine government due to the construction of a hydro-electric dam. The government began negotiations with the elders of the Ayangan villages in 1972. In 1982 all the villages started to move and Jil’s family was the very last to leave the area in 1987. The following is taken from Jil’s Morning Gathering sharing given in October of 2012.

We have a lot of amenities in the community. We have almost everything, I remember thinking. I compare to what I see now. The forest is like our supermarket. Why? We get fruit there. We get vegetables there. It becomes also our hardware store. We have wood, many kinds. We have vines. Rattan we call them. Very good.

In the community, we do not need money to get the things we need.

The river is another supermarket because we can get a lot of fish, different kinds of fish. You can get crabs there during season. And then on the bank of the river I get also feed for our cattle. The grass is very nice in season, very nice grass at the banks of the river where we cut. The river also becomes our washing area. Of course, we do also take a bath in the river.

The only difference in my community is that it is free. It is free. Here, when you go to the supermarket, when you go to the department store you need to buy. In the community, it’s free. All of us can go to get something, unless you violate some rules in the community that you should not do when you go to the forest, like cutting something without using it. So the difference is, it’s free. We do not need money to get the things that we need.

Jil's prior work was with indigenous tribal people in the Philippines.
Jil’s prior work was with indigenous tribal people in the Philippines.

Sharing of the work in the community, it’s very very nice when I see it. The community, I can see when I carry the rice wine. All the community people line up for harvesting rice, because by hand, we do the cutting by hand. And they start singing, from here, one old lady will start and they follow her, while moving. It is very nice, and then I pass by their backs and I leave the cup of rice wine, and at the end when I reach the last person they start another song. And they finish the harvesting. It is, for me, it is fun. Very fun. We share all the work the same. I also have my share. During farm work, sometimes my older brother will tell me, “Oh, please go and help our neighbor Arthur, because they are going to plow the field.” So I go, and then during our farm work also in my family, also of course Arthur will come to help us. And another community also comes. So I think it is what we are doing now in ARI, sharing the work.

We have traditional laws in the community. One is called “taboo.” That is very difficult to implement now. Taboo means in the community, when they say, “Do not do this.” “This is not good.” “It is bad if you will do this.” It’s absolute. No question. You cannot ask why. We just believe what the elders say; that it’s not good to do that. It’s bad to say this. Then we follow. The children follow. When they say, “Do not climb that kind of tree. Do not eat fruit,” no way! If you climb that, “Mah! I saw you, you climbed!” Then you have to go down immediately, because “I will tell the elders that you climbed the tree.” Then nobody will climb until the day that the elders will say “Ok, finished.” Then we can climb and we can get the fruit. There are many more policies and traditional laws that we have in the community. Without any outside help, the community will do. We do rituals – in marriage, in sickness, in thanksgiving and many other activities. It’s part of the community.

We share all the work. It’s fun.

That’s the situation I can remember before. Then suddenly the big change came in our community. Construction of the big dam project came. Several government people came and they said, “A dam will be constructed.” We were situated between two big rivers that became one and we were here in the center. At the end of that river, the government built a dam for a development project. It was a big development project for the Philippines, for the people in Luzon, that would produce electricity and would irrigate a thousand hectares of land in some parts of Luzon. So that was the purpose of the dam. A consultation process came. It started from that. I saw already the nervousness of the people. Why? What will happen? What is that dam? Many people did not understand actually. At a young age, maybe I was in grade four, I could not fully understand, except they said they will close. They will build a big wall and the water will be impounded and will come here. That’s what I understood.

Jil applied techniques learnt at ARI such as rice husk charcoal.
Jil applied techniques learnt at ARI such as rice husk charcoal.

The consultation process lasted several years actually. Then all the communities accepted. Ours was just only one from ten communities that would be submerged by the reservoir of the dam. During all the consultation processes so many conflicts also came. The armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines came also to convince us, the community [to fight against the government]. And the government groups also came to convince us to accept the project and to move out from the community, to leave our community. Quite, very difficult in the community. Then many actually wanted to fight. They did not like to move from the community. But after all consultations with the 10 groups, the last resort was to move out from the community, to follow the government. So we moved out from the community. We went to the resettlement site.

Then in the new community, I found out everything is in a pattern. Pattern means you have to follow things. It is in pattern. The houses are built straight like this. The roads are straight like this, so it’s uniform. Most of the laws and policies in the new community are made by outside people. It is not the community. We are not involved in the policies that we are following. The law also defines the leaders. There are general criteria, qualifications that do not include the unquantifiable qualities of the leaders in the community. Most of the elders are told, “oh, sorry, you cannot join the leadership,” because they do not know the parliamentary procedure – “With us, with this situation of the community, I therefore…” “I second the motion.” “Objection, your Honor!” Then, the elders cannot participate in that style of leadership. The elders are very quiet on the side. The leadership is taken by young people.

I saw the death of customs and traditions. We lost a lot.

And then a new way of life comes. Big change, very fast change. Faster, the life of the community becomes faster. More money is involved already in the community. Buying and selling is the system. Entertainment is paid for. It’s not free. If you go to movies in the city you have to pay. If you buy a bicycle you have to pay. Everything you have to pay. No sharing then, because everybody in the community does not have much. People begin to be individualistic. You have to be individualistic. No sharing, because money cannot be shared. Not much. We have not too much money to share. Then I saw the death of the customs and traditions of the community. We lost a lot. I do not see them anymore. Very new. Then our elders are very fast also to die. I observe, very fast the elders die, one by one, one from each other, including my grandparents.

So sometimes I was wondering, what is the development we need that will fit to the people? What is the learning from ARI that will fit to my community? How will I be able to make use of this learning in my community? But it is a continuous learning actually for us.