Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs) - Safeguarding ICH in Non-Formal Education in the Philippines

Dates of implementation
01/01/2015 - 01/01/2020
National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA); UNESCO International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (IRCI)


  • Institutionalize non-formal learning centres or ‘Schools of Living Traditions’, for the safeguarding of living heritage.
  • Identify elements of traditional culture that are important for a community and transferring them to the young with the help of cultural masters, in a way that stimulates active participation towards safeguarding heritage.
  • Develop, implement and evaluate community-based measures to safeguard vital traditional cultural knowledge and practices from the potential negative effects of modernization.
  • Integrate non-formal learning centre lessons and programs into local school curricula for wider participation and dissemination.

The creation of The School of Living Traditions (SLT) programme was built on the affirmation of the Sub-commission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in 1995, which arose from the need to safeguard traditional knowledge and practices from rapid cultural devaluation brought about by media, tourism, formal education and religion. The identification of priorities for safeguarding was led by elders, leaders and other members of communities through a series of consultations. In this process, the NCCA provided capacity-building assistance for the mobilization of logistics and other resources needed to establish living heritage learning centres or the ‘Schools of Living Traditions’.

In 2015, the NCCA initiated the enhancement of the SLT programme, which entailed the implementation of site-specific 5-year community development programmes, to support the transmission and viability of living heritage in partnership with local communities and organizations. The School of Living Tradition was later selected in 2021 on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.

Developing the Schools of Living Traditions in the Philippines

The creation of the numerous SLTs that have been set up in the Philippines, essentially began with identifying living heritage that was important to the local community. This was followed by the development of a clear learning programme for the transmission of the same, with a possibility of integrating the living heritage into the local school curricula.

The mode of teaching in these setups is usually non-formal, oral, and with practical demonstrations. The site may vary to be the house of the cultural master, a community social hall, or a centre specifically constructed for this purpose. Through the cultural masters, the SLTs hope to create an organised structure for the better transmission and acquisition of the knowledge on ICH elements present in cultural communities. This educational model also ensures the sustainable development of the community as well as the community-led safeguarding measures of ICH. Broadly, the SLTs help in reinforcing the traditional methods of transmitting the knowledge and skills of elders and cultural masters of the community to the young learners, who may eventually take their place in the future to continue their traditions.

‘Multi-disciplinary study on ICH’s contribution to sustainable development: Focusing on education’

In 2018, the International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (IRCI), in cooperation with the NCCA, started a project titled ‘Multi-disciplinary study on intangible cultural heritage’s contribution to sustainable development: Focusing on education’. This was a result of the initial success of SLTs in the Philippines and in the hope of meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 4, which stipulates ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. This project sought to help learners, educators, administrators, cultural bearers and culture masters, to understand and acquire the value of ICH in their own community. This would also lead to better awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Developing and piloting a School of Living Traditions Guide – Buklog of the Subanen

As part of this project, multiple stakeholders, including the IRCI, the NCCA, local communities and practitioners worked together to develop a School of Living Traditions Guide. The guide seeks to clarify the development framework of community-led SLT programmes, as well as the various ways that these establishments can use, to cultivate effective mechanisms for safeguarding and sustainability.

The main focus of the guide is on the SLTs managed by Subanen indigenous communities and on the initiatives revolving around Buklog, an elaborate ritual system of thanksgiving performed for a bountiful harvest, recovery from sickness or calamity, or acknowledgement of a new leader. This ritual is the community’s strongest unifying force and is said to ensure harmony among family, clan and community members, as well as among the human, natural and spiritual worlds. While the Buklog was being passed down through SLTs even before the development and piloting of the guide, this project sought to help expand the number of SLTs and consolidate the safeguarding of the Buklog.

Most importantly, the guide provides a living document that can be used not only for SLTs revolving around the Buklog, but also for the development of SLTs centred around other ICH elements, or even the establishment of new SLTs in different contexts beyond the Philippines. The guide, published both in English and Subanen (with the aim of being used more widely by the local people), elaborately discusses the learning content, methodology and process embraced by the SLT model. It intends to direct SLT implementers to successfully conduct planned learning activities, by providing them with a step-by-step guide to formulate a SLT learning curriculum. It concludes, with the provision of 5 learning modules that comprise of concrete lessons and activities, meant to be carried out in 25 sessions over the course of a year. These learning modules include mythology, performing arts, traditional knowledge about the farming system and significant plants, the process of making wine, and the social practices and rituals of the Buklog.

The learning guide was pilot-tested in five SLTs. During this, the NCCA provided a training for the SLT coordinators and culture masters on how to employ the guidelines, which was seen as an educational tool that could help systematize their process of teaching to the younger generation.

Project Outputs

  • A guide for facilitators and local coordinators for a School of Living Traditions on the Buklog Thanksgiving Ritual composed of two parts: (1) ‘Community Engagement in Developing the Learning Guide for the School of Living Traditions’ and (2) ‘SLT Learning Curriculum and Modules in Integrating the Elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Associated with the Buklog’
  • Training of cultural masters and SLT coordinators on how to employ the guidelines.
  • Pilot-testing of the learning guide in 5 SLTs.
  • Video documenting the School of Living Traditions


The existing Schools of Living Traditions in the Philippines were further developed through the training of cultural masters and centre coordinators, as well as the production of a dedicated and detailed SLT guide. As a result, an increased interest on the part of young learners was witnessed, who raised their appreciation of the lessons and found it easier to apply the knowledge and skills that they acquired through the SLTs. Moreover, the SLT students who received the lessons provided by the project, inevitably become ideal candidates to be future culture masters of Buklog. In this regard, the SLT model is well-positioned to contribute not to the implementation of community-led safeguarding measures of the ICH, but also to promote quality education. Another principal learning outcome of the program has been the internalization of the human rights of the indigenous people by the young learners that was placed at the heart of instruction and learning processes in the SLTs.

The pilot-testing at the 5 SLTs, showed that the project contributed to positive change in the learning attitude of students, as well as the teaching attitudes and methods of the educators. For the cultural masters, the development of the guidelines served as a useful tool for teaching in the SLTs. As one of the participants shared, “I have been teaching the succession of Buklog based on the knowledge I have remembered so far, but by developing and publishing these guidelines, things that were in my head came out into a real book”.

The learning guide also proves to be a means of promoting cultural diversity, as the lessons may be integrated in formal education in other cultural communities as well. Meanwhile, in non-formal education, local coordinating teams of established SLTs elsewhere in the country (or beyond) can review their existing learning curriculum with an eye towards enhancing the transmission and safeguarding of their ICH.
The School of Living Tradition was later selected in 2021 on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.

“The School of Living Traditions is established in our place and it serves as a venue where the different intangible cultural heritage in the community are being stored, profiled, documented and preserved. It is also a venue where the profiled elements are prioritized according to the elder’s and culture master’s evaluation of assessment on the priority needs of the community. We identify the vanishing indigenous knowledge, skills and practices such as Parayaw, Ngilin, and Fa-in, which will be the basis of crafting learning guide modules and reading materials.”
  • Rebecca Alngag-Silip, Kalinga Community, Tabuk, Province of Kalinga
Young Blaan learners being taught by a cultural master of a traditional Blaan dance called Maral Tahu Read more on the element
© National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Philippines, 2020
A Subanen SLT student trying to emulate a cultural master Read more on the element
© National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Philippines, 2020

See the main page for this project here.

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