MANILA -- The Philippines should recognize and harness indigenous people's knowledge and skills, which have practical uses, including in medicine, academics said at the start of an international conference on Wednesday.
Indigenous skills and knowledge risk being wiped out slowly "in a Pac-Man like fashion" by the "politics of knowledge disappearance" by the West, said Leonardo Estacio, Dean UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences. "This is a lamentable and sad reality," he said.
In medicine for example, indigenous peoples have cures, some plant-based, that have been used even before the introduction of Western drugs, attendees at the International Conference on Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices.
"There's a tendency to fix the notion of indigenous to something else. Truth truth to tell, there's a tendency to denigrate what is indigenous... It's time to realize that we are all part of indigenous," said anthropologist Ponciano Bennagen, who teaches at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
Knowledge gained from the conference, organized by the UP Manila Department of Behavioral Sciences, can be used for future research and extension programs that respond to the needs of IPs, said Teresa de Guzman, anthropologist and chairperson of the UP Manila Department of Behavioral Sciences.
Lack of knowledge on IP culture leads to inadequate or improper response by governments to their needs. Raising awareness on IPs will also protect them against discrimination, De Guzman told ABS-CBN News.
"It is high time to acknowledge the contribution of indigenous knowledge and practices especially in medicine," said Calvin de los Reyes, a health policy lecturer at UP Manila who is leading a nationwide study on profiling of traditional and alternative healthcare practitioners.
"Science can help bring traditional medicine to the mainstream while making sure that it is safe and follows health standards," he said.
The International Conference on Indigenous Knowledge, Systems and Practices will run until Dec. 6 at the Swiss-Belhotel Bluelane in Manila.