OCTOBER is the Indigenous Peoples Month as declared through Proclamation No.1906, s. 2009 in recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) within the framework of national unity and development.
On this month, the indigenous groups are given the venue to educate the people more about their culture, their norms, and their past. Meaning, it's all about them so that we all would understand. It is not about us, telling them to do this and that because that is what they are.
This is a dream we share with many Filipinos who are observing from the sidelines: that the indigenous peoples be given the services they have long deserved like free education and health services for them to be able to strengthen their communities on their own, based on their indigenous knowledge and ways. Not us, the lowlanders, and yes, the militant left and the centrist military.
True, the indigenous people who have been empowered by the left may truly believe that they are doing their tribes right by marching on the streets and even on Edsa to shout for their rights. But would this be the track taken by their people as they used to live?
Known for being able to settle things on their own, guided by their elders, and schooled by the norms and discipline of the tribe, the indigenous peoples have for so long governed themselves. That was until they were swept to the margins by those who raped the land and deprived them of their means of living without providing them the ways to survive -- like education and extension services for agriculture technology.
Through decades of being forgotten, they became impoverished and easy prey to the workings of the left and the right and the center.
Thus, as the country once again celebrates the Indigenous Peoples Month for the eighth time, may we find it in our hearts to truly see them as a people who has the power and indigenous knowledge within themselves to serve their people with the dignity of the tribe they have managed to hang on to despite the decades of neglect that made poverty their lifetime companions.
In short, give them what's due them: self-determination (the real one and not the one imposed on them), education that includes their ways and culture, opportunities for growth and agriculture technology that enhances their indigenous knowledge and understanding of the earth. From there, they will blossom into the beautiful people they have always been.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on October 07, 2017.
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