AUGUST 9 was World Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and my thoughts are about how we see the Lumads and the Moro people.
We see them as “showcases” in festivals like Kadayawan. But we kind of mangle up their culture with our modernized-mish-mash take of pop and ethnic culture.
We see the Lumads as “visitors” who come down during Christmas where they have to entertain us with song and dance in exchange of disposable goods and food. The irony that the Lumads have been guardians of our forests and farms yet they are hungry.
We see them as “ignorant” and “uto-uto” why they join rallies on the streets. Ironic that we are educated yet we our ears shut off to their cries that mining and plantations are destroying their lands, and how soldiers are driving them away.
We see them from our view. But we don’t see them from their history and struggles.
They have been striving to build schools in the past two decades, with the help of NGOs and religious groups, because our government is slow in building schools or health centers for that matter. For them, government moves fast when roads are built, but no services ever come.
They value education, because they see how the “modern world” in the form of loggers, miners, plantations have come uninvited to their doorsteps and plunder their ancestral land. Lumads see literacy as a key to make their next generation more articulate of the need to protect their ancestral land and culture.
Their foresight is as broad as view they see atop mountains. Tribal leaders mock at what corporations call development. Profits matter over preservation of the ecology. What happens when the mountains are bald? Our forest cover is alarmingly reduced to less than 10 percent of the land, with the Pantaron Range the only remaining virgin forest in Mindanao. What remains to protect us when climate-change induced storms and rains hit us?
They struggle to preserve the centuries old knowledge of preserving and balancing nature with progress. They struggle amidst threats on these schools.
Last August 9, was a mix of good news and bad news. In Surigao del Sur, 1,600 Manobos were able to return to their villages after nearly a month of evacuation. The help of support groups forced provincial officials to call for the pullout of the military. Meanwhile, in Soccsksargen, another Lumad school organized by CLANS is forcibly closed in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, and this time surprisingly by a DepEd principal. Her reason was that they will build a school in place of the CLANS school.
The Lumads’ struggle never end. But we must see this as our struggles as well. When investments and profits are favored over the growth of culture and preservation of our farms and rivers, we must be involved. That is why there is the call to #StandWithTheLumad and #SaveLumadSchools.
The World IP Day is not just about them. It’s about all of us. The diversity that connects us back to one earth.