Philippines indigenous community honoured by UN

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific
Members of the Ifugao tribe who were honoured today at a special ceremony in the Philippines Senate. (Photo: UNISDR)
Members of the Ifugao tribe who were honoured today at a special ceremony in the Philippines Senate. (Photo: UNISDR)

MANILA, 9 October 2015 – International Day for Disaster Reduction arrived early today in the Philippines. Globally, the Day is marked next Tuesday on October 13 but the Philippines Senate today took time out to celebrate the Day’s theme of community and local knowledge for disaster risk management.

The Ifugao community in the Philippines today became the first community to be recognized as a champion for disaster risk reduction in recognition of the role that their indigenous knowledge of the environment plays in preserving what is often described as the 8th Wonder of the World, the spectacular 2,000 year old Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.

Representatives of the Ifugao community were honoured at a special ceremony in the Philippines Senate, Manila, for keeping their traditions alive and preserving environmental practices which build resilience to disasters.

The 2,000 year-old Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are a UNESCO world heritage site and an example of how a key theme of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – the use of local knowledge in disaster risk management – can be implemented.

“The Ifugaos’ love for their heritage and dedication to preserving their traditions are important elements of maintaining the harmony between man and nature. Their formula for resilience is embedded in their culture and age-old traditions and needs to be preserved,” said Senator Loren Legarda, UN Asian Champion for disaster risk reduction.

She was speaking at a ceremony organised at the Manila Senate as part of the Summit of Conscience for the Climate to promote the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December.

Representatives of the Ifugao community: Ifugao Province Governor Denis Habawel, Dr. Serafin Ngohayon of the Ifugao State University, and the Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo) received today a certificate of resilience from Senator Legarda and Mr. Jerry Velasquez, UNISDR Head of Advocacy, who presided over the ceremony.

“The challenge today is to keep the young generations working in the rice fields as they are more interested to find a job in urban areas. We have created some schools of living traditions to sensitize children from the early age and we do a lot of awareness raising. We managed to keep our traditions alive for 2,000 years and we hope to maintain them for another 2,000 years,” said Province Governor Denis Habawel.

The Manila ceremony is a forerunner of many events which will take place around the world to celebrate the International Day for Disaster Reduction, which is dedicated this year, to the recognition of local, traditional and indigenous knowledge as a vital asset in building the resilience of communities and nations.

“We are pleased to honour the Ifugao efforts and to make them champions for disaster risk reduction. We hope that their experience will inspire the rest of the world and encourage governments to ensure more disaster resilience in the future,” said Mr. Velasquez.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted last March in Japan recognizes the importance of community-level engagement in disaster risk reduction and local knowledge as an important complement to scientific knowledge in disaster risk management.

The 30 minute ceremony was followed by the performance of the Hudhud Chants, which symbolize special episodes in the life of the Ifugaos such as sowing and harvesting of rice, funeral wakes, and bone-washing rituals.

You can support the International Day theme of Knowledge for Life by signing up to our Thunderclap announcement which will be released on the day through this link

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