Alamon: The eye of the storm

THE nation is embroiled in a literal and figurative storm these days. Apart from the twin typhoons, one of which already came and left, and another one on its way this week, there is also the veritable political storm that the new administration stirred in its wake toward the highest office of the land.

Meteorological events like these provide good analogies for the cleansing effect of strong winds that blow off the dirt and grime of our densely populated cities during storms, in the same manner that political storms also blow the lid off long-hidden social contradictions.

It is interesting to note that in the time of the political anomaly that is Duterte, there is also a clarifying moment that is historical and unprecedented in its importance.

There is said to be a stillness and a clarity in the eye of a storm and I believe we are in such moment as a nation, that is if we listen closely to hear the murmurs amid the roar and din of the political noise.

This week in UP-Diliman, as the campus and significant parts of the nation are battered by strong winds and rain, three thousand delegates from the indigenous groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao have gathered together to forge an alliance amongst themselves as members of our country’s national minority groups.

The previous years saw the rise of the lumad, referring to Mindanao’s non-moro indigenous peoples, in the national consciousness. The Manilakbayan of the past years saw the indigenous peoples of Mindanao take the pilgrimage of thousands of kilometers from the southern island to the nation’s capital in order to dramatize the issue of extrajudicial killings, encroachment of big business into their ancestral domains, and the militarization of their communities leading to their collective displacement as a people.

This time around, the lumad are now joined by the Moro and other indigenous groups all over the country as part of this year’s activity they have dubbed Lakbayan 2016, or the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungan Kapayapaan.

From October 12 to 28, they are engaged in a series of activities that are meant to convey to the Filipino public their collective situation as members of our country’s national minorities.

The pilgrimage and the coming together of the Moro and the indigenous peoples of the Philippines are dramatizations of an important historical truth that has finally come to the surface. Together, they represent the most marginalized among the Filipino people and are, in fact, facing the same issues of historical and structural marginalization. In varying degrees, these national minority groups have limited access to social services and experience militarization and the encroachment of foreign mining and agricultural expansion into their ancestral lands.

One of the important unities forged a couple of days ago is that the lumad and Moro from Mindanao, and other indigenous groups such as the Aetas, Igorots, and Mangyans from Luzon, together with the Ati and the Tumandoks of Visayas have decided to band together under the banner of the SANDUGO alliance, a throwback to the anti-colonial solidarities forged by our indigenous forefathers amongst themselves versus the onslaught of colonialism.

Forging an alliance to face together colonialism’s enduring contemporary manifestations by combating the appropriation and plunder of their ancestral lands of foreign interests often with the backing and complicity of the Philippine nation-state, is the new unity amongst our national minority groups who have come together under the Sandugo alliance.

For observers of social movements in the Philippines, this is an illuminating moment in terms of clarifying the relationship of national minority groups to the feudal and backward Philippine State. The tendency before was to appeal to the varied specificities of each minority groups’ history and struggle, when there is a common denominator that underlies these marginalized groups’ historical experience. It is high time that the conversation between our minority groups has shifted from an emphasis on uniqueness to that of commonalities. The emerging conclusion from these conversations is the agreement that what fuels their shared marginalization has been the plunder of their resources by foreign interests.

There is much to learn from the experience of our national minorities since they have launched the most fearsome models of resistance against imperialism’s past and continuing onslaught. They have actually been at the eye of the storm that is the nation’s continuing revolution against foreign domination. This paradigmatic shift bids well for the expanding strength of the mass movement during the time of Duterte and beyond.

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