TIMPUYOG: The Indigenous Way of Preserving Environment

Kapangan is well known for its Amburayan river along with many natural wonders such as Bdais forest, Cantampan rice terraces, Camp Utopia and Mt.Dakiwagan. Throughout time, these became tourist destinations of the municipality. While Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are doing their job to preserve and protect the environment, an indigenous way of preserving it is being practiced at Balakbak, Kapangan throughout generations.

Danis B. Herman of Development Communication, Benguet State University conducted a study on how the community of Balakbak practicestimpuyog in preserving their ‘be-be’ or their school and community heritage park.

‘Be-be’ is the kankana-ey term of pine tree coined by the community. Because the area was planted by pine trees, they gave the name ‘be-be’. Peter Begawan Sr., one of the key informants of the study was taught at Balakbak Elementary school in 1997. When he saw the community’s potential work in maintaining the ‘be-be’, he gave the name School and Community Heritage Park to the area in 2005.

Timpuyog is the practice in which people help each other, working together completing a task. This practice can be applied in any type of work such as in rice fields, building a house, garden, etc. The practice is done voluntarily with the will to help others. In return, the owner or the person being helped feeds the people who helped him.

The Environmental Role of Timpuyog

Timpuyog as a practice of helping each other became the practice of helping the environment.

Relayed by the study, this was first done by the Balakbak Women’s Club when they supported the project of former Barrio Captain Julio Bolislis in 1963. The group went to ‘be-be’ together as a group to plant pine trees. This became their tradition since they planted trees until it grew. Along with this, they also participate in timpuyog to water the plants and weeding the area.

Pupils also of the school participated as they plant and clean the ‘be-be’ as a mini forest during the “Global Competitiveness Through Ari-based School-Community” project in 1997.  Also, they use this practice in school cleaning activities such as BrigadaEskwela, tree planting, cleaning the area for their commencement exercise. This was continuously done throughout time.

The Process of the Practice

Firstly, the leader or representative of a group sets a date and informs the community about the work to be done. This includes tasking or scheduling, and grouping of people.

Before starting the implementation, an elder leads a prayer asking for permission to the unseen spirits of the area that they might hurt while cleaning.

When lunch break comes, again a prayer is uttered as a thanksgiving and asking of strength to God. Also, this includes calling the spirits around to come join the food break.

When a group is done, another group continues the work the next day and goes on until all the work is done.

Timpuyog Along With Beliefs

Along with this practice are the beliefs people carry which they respect their environment. One of this is the ‘inayan’ beliefwhich people follow. This means not doing anything bad to the environment and even to people. By this, people tend to ask permission to the unseen spirits before they cut trees so they will not be disturbed and harmed.

Another is the belief of the presence of a ‘tumongaw’. This refers to the unseen spirits that live in the trees, rocks, rivers, and forest places. Also is the belief of the presence of spirits or fairies that lives in the trees. With this beliefs, people are frightened to cut trees or do something wrong in the forest.

These indigenous practices and beliefs have been effective in protecting their environment. With all the effort being done with the work, people benefit from the significance of such practice. A spring had become their source of water since they started cleaning the ‘be-be’. Aside from this, the bond between people was built stronger as they work together for the preservation of the environment. With unity, their force in protection and preservation has been strong and effective for a decade and more.However, the sustainability of this practice is being challenged. The enthusiasm of the members is declining thus, resulting to decrease in members participating in the practice.

“Gapu ti timpuyog atleast makitam nga ada ladta cooperation ti tattao ijay ili mi (because of timpuyog atleast we can see that there is still cooperation with people in our community)”, said Claudette Krayle Palayao, a resident of native of Kapangan, Benguet. One of the challenges she said is the building of dam in their community. A lot of residents dislike the idea. Through timpuyog, together they fight for their environment’s sake. //Denden Aliman Pagatpatan

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