LUMAD. One word, one meaning, and one character. The word “Lumad” is the Cebuano or Bisaya dialect for “native.” It was used as a collective term for indigenous people in the Philippines during the post-martial law era at the Lumad Mindanaw Peoples Federation. However, is the essence of being a Lumad changing because of modernization such as shifting their beliefs to Christianity?

Today, in the modern era, there are Lumads all over the Philippines but the big island of Mindanao is the place where various and most Lumads reside. Looking back in history, a writer named Kaka Ali wrote on a blog saying, Mindanao was divided into three groups before: Lumads, Moros, and Rafus. The Lumads were the indigenous people, the Moros were the native inhabitants, and the rafus were the migrant settlers.

The Lumads had met a lot of Westerns because of the Spanish colonization in the country. During the Spanish colonial era, Spaniards called the indigenous people or the Lumads as “naturales.” The main goal of the Spaniards in the Philippines at that time was to convert the Filipinos to Christianity and gain their trust as a colony. Some of the Lumads were also part of their goal.

Because most of the people in Luzon and Visayas were already converted Christians, the Spaniards gave some of them the authority to go and reside in the Moro forts of Mindanao to teach the new religion. On the other hand, the Lumads were already mingling with the missionaries from the west during the early centuries. At that time, the Spaniards were already colonizing the Philippines.

During the 1500’s,the Augustinians, Franciscans, and Jesuits already came to the Philippines to share their teachings to the native people of the country. They reached all over the islands to spread their mission.

However, during the 1700’s the King of Spain stopped the evangelizers on their mission but Queen Isabela II of Spain ordered to resume the evangelical mission of the Jesuits at Mindanao and Sulu in 1852.

There was also a story that St. Francis of Xavier landed in Mindanao and did a mission. Hence, he was called the first apostle of Mindanao.

The history of how Christianity came to Mindanao was also like how it went through the other parts of Asia. Those are one of the reasons why early lumads were Christianized.

Janice Donato-Montalvo, a Born-Christian with a Mandaya tribe heritage from Caraga, believes that the influence of the Spaniards is undeniable. The Spaniards introduced Christianity and many believed in its teachings and principles.

After the Spaniards stopped colonizing the Philippines, some Lumads already converted to Christianity but there were still more Lumads who stayed loyal on their culture and beliefs. Now, it’s very surprising to meet Lumads who are converted Christians or have grown with Christian teachings even in the smallest barangays of the farthest places, though they still believe and practice their old beliefs from ancestors.

Would this endanger the culture and beliefs of the Lumads especially in the future?

Montalvo said, at some point, it will endanger the culture and beliefs because along with the conversion, there are changes, alternatives, and even pros and cons for embracing such. Their culture may be affected with Christian beliefs and practices which are far different from their traditions.

Other people think maybe the Lumad tradition will start to extinct in the future especially that a lot of newborns from each tribe are already being modernized in the new world.

As of now, the Lumad culture is still alive. But, what will happen to the future if the Lumads will start to embrace another culture?

There are two possible effects on this case. She said it could extinct as far as religion and faith is concerned because the lifestyle of the Lumads somehow changed. However, it could also not happen because there are still Lumad cultures that are preserved up to now because of its ancestral significance such as artifacts, costumes, houses, and the like.

The effect of this in the future is still unclear but she said the conversion to Christianity may bring changes to Lumads’ lifestyle. Other cultural components such as education, occupation, and their ability for decision-making will also be affected.

In such case, their future plans and goals are in considerations with their religious beliefs and practices. She also said such conversion is all about influence of choice, faith, and beliefs.

Christianity had been brought to the Philippines like a wave. It influenced a lot of people, even the Lumads.

But the culture and beliefs of the Lumads is still alive until now.

Even if these changes will bring a lot of difference in the future, the culture that the Philippines had once grown with would never be forgotten even if these changes influence a lot of people. (Juztine Malou M. Calizo)