Ibaloys “reclaiming” Baguio: The role of intellectuals


The recognition of the United States Supreme Court of “native title” in 1909 has been recognized as a landmark decision for indigenous peoples all over the world. Also called the Cariño doctrine, the ruling honors a Baguio Ibaloy whose ancestral land would eventually be expropriated for the construction of Baguio as an American hill station, later as the Philippines’ unofficial summer capital.

Fast-forward to 2014. Descendants of an Ibaloy family reclaim the land on which Casa Vallejo stands. Built in 1909, the building was originally Dormitory 4 for American soldiers. Salvador Vallejo converted it into a hotel in 1923. Persons with fond memories of the hotel claim the refurbished building is a ‘national heritage’ and should not be the subject of ancestral land claims.

The year 2014 also saw the largest turnout of Ibaloys in and around Baguio for the celebration on February 23 of Ibaloi Day, at the government-designated Ibaloi Heritage Garden in Burnham Park. Products of colonial and national educational systems, Ibaloy professionals and intellectuals played key roles in the institutionalization and implementation of such activities.

Despite their breakthroughs for recognition nationally through certain constitutional provisions, and internationally, are indigenous peoples now trapped in the discourse of nation?