WE'RE supposed to have heard the worst, but still the news that Mandaya Likid Copertino Banugan was killed in an attack waged against him by 30 armed men was most shocking.

The brutality of the death is beyond comprehension. Likid Coper was killed with a grenade after being forced out of his house under the threat that the armed men will lob grenades at his house if he doesn't. He and his brother were killed by one of three grenades lobbed at them under duress.

He was a leader who led his people to what the tribal ways are, insisting that the Mandayas may be of the same tribe but each community have their own distinction that each group must strive to preserve. The traditions, the dances, the cultures.

Nowhere in Davao Oriental, the stronghold of Mandaya people, are there very young children who know their dance footworks and moves than in Pichon village in Caraga, where sitio Sangab, Banugan's village where he led them to be legal holders of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title - 01 and made their children learn the Mandaya ways for the past 16 years.

To instill pride in their tribe, school age children from kinder to high school in CADT-01 had to wear their tribal attire every Friday, and every October they hold the Kalindugan Festival, the highlight of which are the different elementary and high school presentations of stories and dances about their tribe and their villages.

CADT-01 is made up of 13 of 18 sitios in Pichon village. The five other sitios are still dominantly Mandaya, but who have already imbibed the lowlanders' ways and did not want to be part of the ancestral domain.

But like in many instances where a leader manages to lead his people to claim what is theirs and abide by the rules of the ancestral domain that the whole tribe owns it and not one single person can dispose of it, he was the center of intrigues that drew in the interest of the rebels, who have been threatening him since last year. His strong ways were also resented by some.

They finally got him.

Here's to hoping that the pride, identity, and community spirit instilled by the leadership of Likid Coper live on among his people and that they will not be destroyed by the greedy desires of any one within for in their lands up there in the mountains of Caraga, they sit on the wealth of the earth.

Anyone who steps forward to claim responsibility over the brutal death will be accusing the dead man of crimes he was supposed to have committed. But knowing the richness of the land that his people own as their ancestral domain, we know there are more forces at play that what he will be painted to be.