How do people value a cultural resource: Lessons from IP in Compostela Valley

This article is all about valuation of cultural resource.

I wrote this article because I was inspired by the tribal communities especially in giving value to the natural resources.

I remember years back when I was conducting my master’s thesis, according to one of my interviewee, I should also practice and help my own town in doing this resource valuation exercise.

Last May 2017, my former professor, mentor, Dr. Dargantes invited me to be a resource speaker for a resource valuation workshop for a group of IPs in Mindanao particularly in Compostela, Valley.

cultural resource valuation workshop
Resource Valuation Workshop with Indigenous People in Compostela Valley

This event took place just after I attended the international conference on food and environment hosted and organized by Benguet State University, in Baguio City.

Honestly, this is my first experience to be with a group of IPs and I learned a lot from them.

The activity was to introduce how to do a resource valuation. I thought of it was just simple valuation, but it turned out to me a different from what I learned.

In this article I will be dealing more about some specific topic like valuation on cultural resource not just natural resource.

This article highlights the following sub-topics:

  • Resource valuation
  • Who are these Indigenous People?
  • Economic Values or Sociocultural Values? That is the question!
  • IPs valuable resources: Why it matters to them and to us?


Resource Valuation

Alright, I don’t want to be more technical here. So, when we say resource valuation it means that estimating the value of a non-marketable resources.


Let me put it simply, what I mean is putting a value to good that cannot be found in the market place.

Resource valuation is also known as economic valuation where it is understood as putting a “pricetag” to a resource.

It is used to help bolster policy in protecting and restoring environmental services. Like in the photos below, resource valuation can be used to support anti-mining campaign from local communities.

mining area
Access road where it has presence of small scale mining


It can also be used to promote the protection of a natural resource like hot spring (below) and many others.

natural resource valuation
Hot spring in IP settlement

In economics, we classify resource according to its use and non-use values. These sums up to be the total economic values. Estimating the use values are very straightforward unlike with the non-use values where most of it are intangible.

If we say, non-marketable goods, these are goods which has no market price.

It’s not that easy to estimate goods which are non-marketable, so we have to use economic tools and analysis to elicit at these values.

But don’t get me wrong here. Like these economists (Fisher, Bateman and Turner, 2011), price and value are two different things. However, people use this two terms interchangeably.


What then is a value?

These are the benefits that we get from using a resource. If these benefits will be sold in the market, then we can have a price which can sometimes be a perfect and yet a poor approximate of a value (Fisher, Bateman and Turner, 2011).

Well, like many other theories and principles in economics, valuation especially Contingent Valuation Method has also lots of criticisms even the practitioners themselves.

In our exercise, we did a valuation of these ecosystem and socioeconomic services. After looking at their results in the identification of goods. I found that IPs considered the following attributes to be most valuable.

rescource valuation IP
Tribal leaders perform actual valuation exercise

And these attributes are the ones that they would like to give value from the economic perspective.

So, here comes the bridge in science and indigenous knowledge.

Sometimes scientists criticized indigenous knowledge but let us not underestimate it, rather support it with scientific findings.


Who are these Indigenous People?

Well, they refer to a group of people or homogenous societies identified by self-ascription and ascription by others, who have continuously lived as organized community on communally bounded and defined territory, and who have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial occupied, possessed and utilized such territories, sharing common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other distinctive cultural traits, or who have, through resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from the majority of Filipinos (RA 8371 IPRA).

Indigenous People
Tribal leaders (from center to far right)

Indigenous People are important in rural and economic development. They are in fact recognized in the National Framework on Physical Planning (2001-2030). This framework ensures the rights of the IPs to develop, control, and use lands within their ancestral domains (HLURB, CLUP Vol. 1)


Economic Values or Sociocultural Values? That’s the question!

Basically there are many types of values based on the typology according to de la Torre, (2002) and sometimes these values overlap with each other. Cultural, economic, political and aesthetic values are sometimes shaped by social forces and cultural trends.


Two types of values

Sociocultural values

Exploring these values, I found out that there is what we call sociocultural values. These are the “traditional core of conservation— values attached to an object, building, or place because it holds meaning for people or social groups due to its age, beauty, artistry, or association with a significant person or event or (otherwise) contributes to processes of cultural affiliation” (de la Torre, M. 2002).

Spiritual Values

In addition, there is also spiritual values which “emanate from the beliefs and teachings of organized religion, but they can also encompass secular experiences of wonder, awe, and so on, which can be provoked by visiting heritage places” (Ibid).

Again there are other types of values aside from the two but I will just focus on the two since this is important in the next section of the article.

Alright, so as a resource valuation practitioner, I am faced with a challenged to introduced valuation techniques to these group of IPs regarding their natural resources.

However, the initial activity turned out to be different. It is not just about their natural resources, but also their cultural capital.

Culture is generally defined as the ways of thinking, the ways of acting, and the material objects that together form a people’s way of life. Culture includes what we think, how we act, and what we own. Culture is both our link to the past and our guide to the future. (Maccionis, 2014)

According to Turner and Willmarth, (2014), cultural and natural resource preservation are both valuable. However, in their study, it shows that respondents seemed to give more value to the protection of natural resources more than the protection of cultural resources.

Economic Values

In economic theory, values can be either use values or a non-use values. According to de la Torre, M. 2002, non-use values can be used to look at sociocultural values.

This brings me to the next section.


IPs valuable resources: Why it matters to them and to us?

In our resource valuation workshop, I was tasked to introduce to the IPs the  valuation methods. However, this seems different with what I learned back in my master’s degree.

The topic the IPs want to preserve was their culture more specifically IP settlements, burial grounds and sacred places.

As written above, non-use values can be used to look sociocultural values.  In this sense, economic valuation can then be of great help when valuing a resource from the IPs.

Looking at their scenario, one of the most appropriate tool in economic valuation for cultural resource or heritage is the choice experiment.


IP settlements

IP settlements according to the tribal leaders is a place where they have also economic activity, a source of livelihood to them. It can also be considered that it has social value where they commune with each other. The IPs outlined the attributes that they will preserve in their IP settlements is their culture. They wanted that the culture of their tribe be preserved despite the changes in their community due to economic development.

They further pointed out that their native language, clothes and beliefs (sociocultural values) are dissipating.

In other words, these IPs value a cultural resource because they have attached values to it.


Burial grounds and sacred places

IPs want to preserve their burial grounds and sacred places which have spiritual values.

To them these place are significant because it is where their ancestors were buried and it is where their believed-gods are residing.

According to one leader, if you are in the mountain, you are not allowed to crack a joke on anything there because this is sacred to them.

burial grounds and sacred place of IPs
IPs lagoon considered as a sacred place

Nowadays, with the influx of modern and western traditions. Their local traditions are dwindling.

The big question that comes to my finite mind is; how does a person value a cultural resource at the same time embrace sustainable economic development?


Why value cultural resources?

Because culture fades and changed and cultural transformation will continue. Although it is acceptable that these are part of society’s transformation, there are things that should not be forgotten.

Taken from the words of Dr. Jose Rizal,

Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.

He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.

Thus, as one of the characteristic of culture, this should be passed on and taught from generation to generation.

It is written that the commandments, the statutes that God commanded to teach us be also taught to our grandchildren.


And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9



Marta de la Torre. 2002. Assessing the Values of Cultural Heritage Research Report.

The Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, 2002.

Macionis, John J. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. ISBN 978-0-205-24291-7. Pearson

Brendan Fisher, Ian Bateman and R. Kerry Turner (2011). Environment for Development Ecosystem Valuing Ecosystem Services: Benefits, Values, Space and Time Ecosystem Services Economics (ESE) Working Paper Series. The United Nations Environment Programme

Turner, R. W. and Willmarth, B. 2014. Valuation of Cultural and Natural Resources in North Cascades National Park: Results from a Tournament-Style Contingent Choice Survey. SAGE Open April-June 2014: 1–9 DOI: 10.1177/2158244014528916



National Commission on Indigenous People for the logistic support through USAID.

Dr. Buenaventura Dargantes

Ms. Cheryl Batistel

IP tribal leaders

Kaisampalad Inc.


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