Baguio City, as we all know, welcomes everyone. Tourists, students, scholars, artists, writers, journalists, drivers, vendors, carpenters, painters, the religious, pilgrims, and many more.
If we speak of indigenous peoples, we can safely say that the city hosts all tribes and ethnicity not only from the Cordillera but also its neighboring regions, Ilocos, Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley.
People have come and have peopled the city intended for only 25,000 people. These days, the city government places its population at around 300,000, which it blames for the urban blight that is the present-day Baguio.
The urban-poor group Ornus or Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili iti Syudad (ORNUS) has come up with coping mechanisms for the city's poor, who consider the city their home and the province their ili. While the city provides income-generating opportunities, the ili is a place to go to get additional resources like indigenous rice or ritual animals.
According to Geralidine Cacho, chair emeritus of Ornus, city dwellers from the Cordillera provinces still ask their kin to raise the needed livestock like carabao, cow or hogs that they use on special occasions like a wedding canao. The ili still supports traditional practices even when the times are hard.
While in the city, however, indigenous peoples from the Cordillera region, see the need to enhance traditional knowledge in agriculture, like their kins usually do in the ili, where people tend to regard as sadut (lazybone) someone who does not tend a pig in the yard nor who does not have a camote patch from which to gather young tops daily either for the family or the dinguen (domesticated pig or chickens).
There is a natural tendency to yearn to produce food on the table and for rituals, according to Cacho. It is entrenched in the culture of Igorots and the urban setting is not a barrier for the city dwellers to practice their culture.
Ornus in wanting to preserve the good values and in trying to arrest the seemingly disintegrating knowledge, skills and practices of Igorot families in the city, where they are forced to live in cramped spaces.
One such practice is the ayyew or the need to maximize the use of an object. This practice explains the Igorot way of planting on any vacant space such as the roadside, the pathways or narrow vacant lots between houses. It is also in the practice of planting anything that could grow and give food in an instance, like beans, which after three weeks or so could give a bountiful harvest.
Most of all, ayyew is about prolonging the life of a thing so that people could use it again and again and refrain from throwing minimizing the volume of the heap that reaches the dump trucks.
With Baguio's residential area reaching a high 61% of the total land area, the Igorot still finds a place on which to grow pechay, beans, spinach, cardis and many types of herbs that soothe many ailments including the common colds, stomach ache and sprains.
Instead of growing flowering plants that satisfy the eyes, the Igorot housewife pervently cultivates plant food. Ornus encourages the propagation of highly nutritious fast crops like camote, malunggay (moringa) pechay and the like. These crops could be grown in flower pots and may satisfy the need to beautify the city dwelling as well.
The group now ventures into vermiculture using African night-crawler worms to produce the best fertilizer and organic pesticide at the same time to address the mounting solid waste management problems at the grass-root level.
The solid waste management campaign started in 2008 as the urban poor sector's response to the garbage crisis at the time. With segregation at source as a city-wide call then, the urban poor strengthened the traditional practice of ayyew, giving food items to the pigs, dogs and chickens; saving coins from used bottles, sardine cans, tin scraps, paper and cardboard; and getting all rotting objects for the worms to feed on.
Composting with worms started in 2009. Besides turning garbage into fertilizers it also also managed animal manure disposal.
Don't you think it is about time we also learn from the urban poor experience? # Lyn V. Ramo