Emmanuel Lerona was browsing through Google maps when he spotted a large mountainous area covered with rice paddies. He wasn’t sure what he discovered, but he had a strong feeling that they were rice terraces. He then called Flord Nicson Calawag of Katahum Tours asking for confirmation and that’s how it all started.
Last August of this year, Rexon Nodque, Chairperson of the Indigenous People’s Desk of Antique confirmed that in Brgy. Fullon, San Remegio, a very wide rice plantation by the mountainous slopes of the same village existed. Together with his team, Mr. Calawag took the 18 km. route on foot from the town proper of San Remegio and crossed five mountains to experience the rare site. And there it was, the 600-hectare taramnan, a 200-year, well-preserved tradition basking in the golden tropical sun.
Mr. Lerona, who is a faculty member of the University of the Philippines Visayas and co-founder of Panay Bird Club (PBC) also took the long, 5-hour trek. Together with fellow PBC co-founder, Ruperto Quitag, they experienced not only the beauty of the Antique rice terraces but also the warmth of the people responsible for the West Visayan wonder, the Iraynon-Bukidnon.
The Iraynon-Bukidnon is one of the two indigenous people living in Antique. Like the atis, they depend solely on the bounty of Mother Nature to survive. They were officially declared as Indigenous people by the National Commission of the Indigenous People in 2011.
It was the 1.5-hectare body of water called lake Danao that attracted the first residents of Brgy. General Fullon, the atis. Legend has it that they tried to drain the lake, but Mother Earth got mad, so she caused an earthquake and darkened the sky hence, the name “Igkadluman” which means “darkened.” This is according to Julito Bayog, 59, the tribal leader of the Iraynon-Bukidnon.
Later, the settler in the area called it Barrio Danao but after the Spanish Revolution, it was renamed to Brgy. General Fullon after the renowned General Leandro Fullon, who made the place as a hideout during the revolution.
Brgy. General Fullon
Brgy. General Fullon is is situated just beside the two majestic Iglangit Falls and Igtamoni Falls. These free-flowing bodies of water supply their “taramnan” or rice field with the much-needed fluid. It is also close to the head spring of the Sibalom River that is abundant with fresh-water fishes and shrimps. This bounty is enough for the Iraynon-Bukidnon to consider their village as the perfect place to live. Hunting is also one of their means. They set traps in different parts of the three mountains to catch wild boars and other animals roaming in the area.
Ar present, General Fullon has a population of 754 people and 128 households. Most of their houses are made of light materials. They also raise native pigs and native chickens in their backyard.
The bountiful taramnan by the mountainsides enjoys three rice croppings every year. The season normally falls in March to May, June to August and September to November. By December to February, the villages shifts to tobacco. Brgy. Captain Noli Maguad reports that the 600-hectare rice terraces can produce 36,000 sacks of clean or milled rice in a year. And one of the reasons why that the rice terraces remain hidden is that the rice they produce is kept by the villages for their consumption. They only sell a small portion only when other needs arise.
In modern society, paper money is now being replaced with plastic ATMs and virtual currencies. Among the Iraynon-Bukidnons, on the other hand, the barter system is still the primary mode of exchange. In one instance, they caught a wild boar two mountains away from the village. The meat was divided into eight parts, and each part was valued as equivalent to two gantas of rice. Of course, they are aware of money, and they have a choice either to pay in cash or to exchange the item for rice. One piglet is equivalent to 3 sacks of rice while one calf is equivalent to 3 pardo of tobacco. “This tradition is still being practiced until now for convenience,” said Ben Francisco, a former Brgy. Captain.
There are no modern health centers in the village. The residents only rely on the traditional healer to remedy their ailments. Pregnant women also seek the help of the traditional hilot if they are giving birth.
More than meets the eye
Indeed, the taramnan in Brgy. General Fullon is something to be celebrated. And the villagers are happy to know that they have one precious jewel lying in their midst.
This natural wonder, however, is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, comments UPV Professor, Jonathan Jurilla. “The Iraynon Bukidnon people and their culture are also a rich minefield. The agricultural knowledge they kept for several generations will teach us a lot about living close to nature. Their literature and artworks will also be a valuable source of Antiqueño identity” he adds. Studies need to be conducted to know the impact of this “rediscovery” not just on the tourism industry of the province but also on the welfare of the Iraynon-Bukidnon themselves. Surely, a strategic plan must be put in place to protect and preserve this valuable tradition.