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Philippines Mountain Province Peoples’ Adherence To ‘Inayan’ Saves Nature, Good Values – OpEd


The indigenous peoples of Mountain Province, Philippines, called Igorots, or “people of the mountains,” are peace-loving, and hard-working, as exemplified by their stone rice terraces built by sheer power and brawn. Their men are known fierce warriors, who resisted Spanish, American and Japanese colonizers.

While most indigenous peoples’ culture worldwide have succumbed to modern day’s creeping globalization, eroding important cultural values, the Igorot peoples’ adherence to a centuries-old principle, called “inayan”, has allowed them to respect nature, live sustainably with their ecosystem and live peacefully with their neighbors.

According to the International Journal of Advanced Research Management and Social Sciences. “Inayan” is a lexicon in the Philippine indigenous language, which is spoken mainly by the ethnology groups inhabiting the western part of the Mountain Province covering the municipalities of Bauko, Besao, Sagada, and Tadian and the central part Bontoc and Sabangan of the Philippines.

“Inayan” means to hold back or to prevent an individual from doing something unpleasant towards others or things, living and non-living. A deeper investigation of the word in language culture indicates the word connotes “fear of a Supreme Deity called Kabunian (God) who forewarns or dissuades one from doing anything harmful to others and things.”

This concept is deeply rooted in the culture specifically of the Sagada and Besao Applai tribes. To them, “inayan” embodies all virtues and morals of tribal members –humility, truthfulness, fidelity, honesty, and commitment, among others.

In a study titled ‘Inayan, the Tenet for Peace’ by Rhonda Vail G. Leyaley, the peace loving Igorot people are influenced by their belief that they are answerable to Kabunyan (God) in whatever actions they do towards others. The strong bond of the Igorots to Kabunyan (God) inspires them to love the good they are doing towards others and their work for prosperity.

They strongly believe that it is only when everyone is in harmony with man and nature that Kabunian (God) will bring blessings to their life. For these reasons, the Igorots practice the principle of “inayan” to enjoy a peaceful life.

Reverencing God’s Creation

Dr. Caridad Fiar-od, author of’ Indigenous Knowledge Manifested in the Sense of Inayan, said “inayan” is a factor in attaining development. It is viewed as a value, belief, strategy, customary law governed in the council of elders or “dap-ay”, natural law/principle, and strategy for discipline. It is a process towards reconciling culture, love for creation, religion and education for transformation.

The protection and conservation of the communal forest systems referred as “batangan” or “saguday” of Besao and Sagada peoples is rooted on the concept, “The higher level of adherence to the sense of “inayan”, the higher the degree of love, respect, and protection of forests, she said.

Fiar-od added “inayan” is reflected in different ways as follows: a) As a value, there is justice, harmony and sharing of resources as manifested in weddings, baptism, and wakes/funerals, and other events; b) As a cultural belief, “inayan” is invoked along attainment of spirituality, peace, prosperity and abundance, either personally, morally, socially, religiously, purposely; c)As a customary law, “inayan” is invoked towards environmental protection, land use and management through community rituals/rites or ceremonies like “begnas”; d) As a natural law/principle, “inayan” is invoked in the optimistic assurance implied in the utterance “kasiyana, wadas Kabunyan” meaning “ have faith in the Almighty.”Nature will take its course.; e) As a control measure, it is a wake up call to act as a social being rather than just a human being. A social being observes ethical and moral standards for fear that consequences may happen in one’s life.

Leyaley’ study established the Igorot’s belief on the use of inayan as:

  • It is Inayan to destroy or overuse and abuse any of God’s creation because others will also need the resources.
  • It is Inayan to commit adultery because whatever actions you have done, might also happen to the children or the grandchildren might be the ones who will suffer the consequences of the act.
  • It is Inayan not to help other people because we always need others. Most especially, you must know how to help your neighbour because they will be the first people to help you in times of need.
  • It is Inayan if we don’t listen to the advices of parents and elders because they know what is best for their children.
  • It is Inayan to curse because your curse might happen to the family instead.
  • It is Inayan to say bad words against your parents most especially when they are already old and they have unpredictable behaviours because you might be worse than them when you will be of their age in the future. Another thing, according to one of the respondents, we are just counting the minutes, hours and days before they will be taken by our ,Maker.
  • It is Inayan to look down on others. You should always think of what might happen in the future. Like what if the children of both sides will get married.
  • It is Inayan for couples to fight in front of their children. The children might not show respect towards the parents.

Because of the influence of technology and the yearning for material things, the value of respect and love towards all of the creations of God is diminished. For this reason, the researcher Leyaley said, if only all peoplehas put in their hearts and mind the principle of Inayan then we will all be enjoying life peacefully.

The above mentioned definitions of Inayan corroborates Fiar-od when she said that Inayan is a community value similarly known as karma or the concept of “ you reap what you sow.” In like manner, Inayan as taboo, bad or a vilation while Fiar od summarizes all views by saying Inayan is a value, belief, strategy, customary law governed in the dap-ay, natural law or principle, strategy for discipline, biblical commandment and a process towards reconciling culture, religion and education for transformation.

The researcher recommended that the principle of Inayan be disseminated to the younger generation through the Philippine educational curriculum.

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Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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