Saturday, May 25, 2019

Cerna: My son’s lamentation


SINCE my first article was published, many of my IP friends and family members also expressed their desires to contribute their write ups. This only shows that there are indeed emotions, sentiments and feelings that have long been kept in the closet. So allow me please to start with my first born, Linnaeus Ferdausi G. Cerna, to quote:

"IPs – long forgotten, continuously forsaken ...

Let me just start by justifying the topic that I have chosen to discuss. Since the colonization of the Spaniards, the IPs have already been subject to pejorative remarks and even to the demonization of their culture. IKSP or Indigenous Knowledge, Systems, and Practices have long been disrespected as it was the strategy for letting the people come and pray together in the house of God. In fact, the terms aswang and manananggal have been made up in order to discourage people from going to the mountains; and as if the IPs weren’t victimized enough, these branding of women also diluted the culture of respect for the females of our society (i.e. babaylan, binukot) who then wielded cultural, spiritual, and sometimes politico-economic prowess.

To add salt to the wound, historical revisionism placed us in an impossible position to acknowledge, let alone appreciate, the resistance that the IPs and the Muslim brothers and sisters made during the colonization period. It was as if the presence of colonizers were normalized. Is this a romanticization of our hospitality?

And in the process of the government trying to redeem its image to the IPs or even just for photo opportunities, we have inappropriately reached out to the indigenous communities – not with a helping hand but with a profiteering one.

With all that has been said, the student had come up with the three poignant issues that continue to beat the already battered IPs.


A Bo’e (a female counterpart of a Datu from the Obo-Manobo of Kidapawan) once told me that she was asked if the people of her tribe still had tails. This can be viewed as a show of ignorance but can we really blame the uneducated Filipino if mainstream media portray the IPs only wearing their bahag?

Just like many uninformed, miscontextualized, and unsubstantiated institutions, the ideological state apparatus (e.g. church, school, family, media, etc.) provide mystery and misdirection in lieu of context and grassroots primary data. The common millennial Filipino is not imbibed with the culture of curiosity for deeper knowledge yet, so we need to address this problem in the simplest and basic way possible.

First we need a revamp in our education system – where teachers would integrate IKSP in health, science and technology. There is no need for a dichotomy when it comes to addressing health or food procurement for example, since both modern and traditional practices can be both used in a parallel manner, as deemed appropriate.

Furthermore, we need to understand that all of us are tribespeople. Traditional, semi-cultured, and fully enculturated are the types of tribesmen and tribeswomen. It just so happened that some were converted to Christianity and have abandoned their cultural roots. So it is up to us learned students to be the bridge. There shouldn’t be tribo and hindi tribo anymore as it breeds antagonism and even struggle between the two factions. After all, at the end of the day, we are all Filipinos and we must exhaust our efforts for the development and progress of our country, with no group left behind.


There is no more bitter word than this, in the context of Marx with respect to the effect of capitalism to the working proletariat. But this word is used in the IPs plight in forwarding its interest to the executive, judiciary, and legislative wings of the government. Aside from the onerous and almost not-practiced IPRA law, there is no more act that protects the IP. We beg to ask the question – were they even consulted in the first place?

The judiciary side of the government sees the autonomy of the Sharia Law. With that train of thought, there also needs to be an acknowledgement of the customary laws of the IP – in order for the assailant and the victim to be properly brought to justice, as the IP community sees it fit. This can be done through lobbying of concerned parties and congress people.

The legislative, is of course, not only limited to the lower and upper house but also stems to the SB members and barangay kagawads. There is poor or even no consultation happening between IPs and the government, and this breeds misunderstanding and perhaps anger towards the opposite party. It is therefore imperative for the lawmakers, ordinance makers, and municipal order makers to consult first all the sectors that are present among its constituents in order to ensure a more populist and dialectic approach in law making, all the more if the municipality is dominated by IP communities.

The executive, probably the most important wing in ensuring that the IP has the rights, is often the culprit of withholding these rights. The National Democratic Front’s view of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is that it should be abolished for it does not truly represent the IPs and that it also acts as conduit for corruption and graft (2017 draft for Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reform). I believe that the leader of this country should rub elbows with all its cabinet members in order to impose a call for action or a team that is concerned with IP requests – much like the IP Desk of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The IPs should never be alienated from the decision making and resource allocation.


Filipinization is different from Nationalization as the former can be a loophole for a Filipino (or in our reality, a Chinese-Filipino) to still be the one exploiting his fellow countrymen when he seizes the majority of the power of the market. Corruption and greed are arbitrary, so what can we do?

Let us stop and look at what is truly happening to the IPs here in our country. Hundreds accounted, and possibly thousands if we include the unaccounted for.

Companies continue to exploit the IP communities by foraging the ancestral domains through large scale mining and logging. Paramilitary groups emerge when these companies give “royalty shares” such as cars and jewellery to trusting Datus. The question is do they really need these?

Agusanon Manobos (to the knowledge of the student) have been given the duplicitous choice between P500,000 and 2% royalty share – of course the Datus would opt to see the former as the better option, but they do not know that billions are garnered every year. The P500,000 pales to the billions that the company gains. Let us look at it as a) an exploitation of the low education of the tribal leaders and b) the irony in the billions that these companies reap but only given 2% tax as stated in the Mining Act of 1995.

The problem is structural. When the state does not strong arm its investors and the market, it no longer holds its power in filtering what is right and appropriate for its people. Therefore, we need to listen more to the people and act for the marginalized. See the progress of the economy not dissociated with the command of the state. Most importantly, there should always be discourse and bipartisan talks between the state and its stakeholders to truly hear what they have to say."


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