by Rex Godinez Ortega and Arnold Alamon
Exploratory talks regarding the development of barangay Rogongon through a beneficial partnership was held between leaders of Iligan’s Higaonon community and a team from the MSU-IIT on April 25, 2014 at the Rogongon Barangay Hall.
MSU-IIT Vice Chancelor for Administration and Finance, Dr. David Almarez, and other representatives from MSU-IIT: Cecile Tangian (Department of History); Arnold Alamon (Department of Sociology and of the Department of Extension); Alrey Eya (College of Science and Mathematics); Phyllis Marie S. Teanco (Legal Office); and Rex G. Ortega (Office of the Chancellor) met with members of the Higaunon Tribal Council led by Rolando So-ong, together with the Barangay Council of Rogongon led by Barangay Captain Rudy Pugoy during exploratory talks for a possible institutional collaboration between the MSU-IIT and Barangay Rogongon.
During these talks, the Higaonon community leaders made clear their intention to donate five hectares of land to MSU-IIT in an agreement to be hammered out by both parties wherein the Institute would assist in the protection and preservation of the Higaunon tribe’s culture and traditions through the establishment of something like a School of Living Traditions in the area.
This envisioned school would be similar to the ones in Lantapan, Bukidnon and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato that have greatly benefited the Talaandig and T’boli tribes living in those places.
So-ong, who is also known as Datu Diamla in Rogongon, said they need help in documenting their oral history, material culture, and living traditions.
He decried the loss of their specific identity as members of the Higaonon tribe of Rogongon as, according to him, they are now regarded by many as members instead of the Talaandig tribe in Bukidnon.
So-ong, said that they are looking forward to establishing a heritage school where the young Higaonons can learn about their culture “so that they can continue to practice and preserve it.”
Speaking on behalf of the tribal council, So-ong said that they were also willing to grant usufructuary rights over an additional 15 hectares of their ancestral domain to MSU-IIT.
A usufructuary right is a right that allows one to use and even profit from property belonging to another as long as the land is not damaged or destroyed.
The initial discussions also explored the possibility of MSU-IIT assisting deserving Higaonon youth get a college education from the Institute.
So-ong said that the Higaonon youth have difficulty getting a college education in Institutions like MSU-IIT because they cannot pass its entrance examination.
Almarez for his part said it is about time that the Institute makes its presence felt in the nearby IP community of Rogongon considering the proximity of the marginalized sector to the City of Iligan where the MSU-IIT campus is located.
He also said that there are resources of the Institute that can respond to the needs of the Higaonon community. For instance, the Department of Political science can help in codifying their system of customary laws while the Department of History can help in the documentation of their culture.
In a separate interview, Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol said that the planned development program in Rogongon is a collaborative effort of constituents of the Institute who may conduct studies to further spur its development: the environment, its flora and fauna, language and culture, the socio-economic, gender and health concerns of the area.
Rogongon is Iligan’s largest barangay with a land area of 35,555 hectares of largely unexplored hinterland bounded by the provinces of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur.
Barangay Captain Pugoy also expressed his full support to the possible collaboration between the barangay, the tribal council, and MSU-IIT. He had always respected the culture and system of political leadership of the indigenous culture, he said, and he looks forward to the benefit that the whole community will gain with the planned partnership.
The meeting ended with the agreement that the two parties would proceed in drafting a Memorandum of Agreement to be shown to the constituents of each party for consultation by mid-May 2014. for OC-OPI
The Baylan and datus of the Higaonon Tribal Council of Rogongon offering a ritual for the successful partnership of the Barangay, the tribe, and MSU-IIT. (Photo: Arnold Alamon)
The MSU-IIT team and the partners in Rogongon. (Photo: Arnold Alamon)
Vice Chancellor Almarez and Datu Diamla surveying the 20 hectares that the tribal council plans to donate to the Institute. (Photo: Arnold Alamon)