Putting premium on the environment
There is a deeper sense that drives Calamian Tagbanua in avoiding sacred places and implementing taboos other than showing respect for an ancient belief that has been passed on from generation to generation.
Their customary traditions have been tied to strict and sustainable regimens designed to protect the environment, the single most important aspect of their survival.
From preventing illegal fishing methods to avoiding catching juvenile species until they reach maturity, from keeping some marine areas sacred for cultural rituals to keeping their island clean – all these have been strictly enforced by the elders to promote long-term conservation of biodiversity and sustainability.
Other key factors that help the tribe maintain control and balance include keeping the population low and maintaining an economy that functions for subsistence, not exchange.
Members that dare to break their cultural rules are subject to disciplinary measures, such as corporal punishment and use of bamboo stocks.
These efforts, combined with a high-quality map and management plan, entitled the tribe of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).
CADT granted them autonomous right to 24,520 hectares, comprising 7,320.0516 hectares of the island and 16,958 hectares for the ancestral waters around its coast.
This initiative has put the Philippines on the world map of conservation as the first government to recognize ancestral water claims.
And the Tagbanua has become an inspiration to indigenous communities especially those with similar claims here and outside the country, including those in Maluku, Indonesia and the Torres Straits of Australia.
The World Conservation Organization also recognizes Coron Island as a community conserved area because its strict conservation rules and forbidden/sacred lakes and beaches are considered equivalent to its management category: Ia, Strict Nature Reserve and Category V, Protected landscape/seascape.
[Photos: Jacob Maentz. Jacob is a freelance travel, culture and documentary photographer based in the Philippines.]