Panlaoy: An ancient tradition of the Philippines

In the southern Philippines, an indigenous community known as Higaonon from Misamis Oriental province practice a forest management tradition known as Panlaoy. The tradition requires immersion in the forest, with participants observing, documenting and assessing the condition of the ecosystem and any threats to it. Guided by tribal elders, Higaonon indigenous youth volunteers known as Basbasonon (second-liners) are trained to be the next generation of cultural bearers and forest vanguards. The cohort of Basbasonon is helping to protect ecosystems.

The practice is integral to the protection of an area of recognized customary land encompassing 17,553 hectares (43,374 acres) of forest inhabited by around 10,000 people. Recognizing Panlaoy’s contribution to forest conservation, the local government has adopted and annually subsidized it since 2011 through a program called Bantay Kalasan, which enlists the help of some 80 Higaonon to conduct forest patrols and biodiversity monitoring twice a month.


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