SINGING Christmas carols, setting up Christmas trees, hanging lanterns, preparing palatable foods, giving gifts and cards are traditional practices on yuletide.
The most apparent difference this Christmas in Davao City is the disappearance of nearly 48,000 lumads who come down to the city to ask financial gifts, old clothes, food items and other goodies.
That yearly occurrence started in 2007 when then Mayor Rody Duterte invited them to come down every Christmas season. Not because Tatay Digong wanted to establish a good relationship from the lumads who habitually vote in bloc, but because the mayor wanted the growing kids to learn Visayan language.
At first the lumads experienced much humiliation until anti-discrimination ordinance was imposed to support the then mayor’s call not to discriminate the lumads, instead give them due respect. The Christmas exodus happens yearly from as early as December 2 to 26.
While in the city, the lumads were prone to road accidents as they were begging on the streets. Many got sick in crowded covered courts where they were sheltering at nights, resembling to evacuees. On the 26th of December they will be sent home through government vehicles, bagging another pack of goods from the LGU. It became a culture in Davao and was only corrected recently.
Professor Ryan Christopher Maboloc of Ateneo de Davao University viewed this as a social pathology that reflects a bigger problem of inequitable development.
For two years now, Davao LGU changed the way it was for the lumads. This time the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) is the one extending the Pasko Fiesta to the lumad communities so they need not to come down to carol. It is the CSSDO that brings food packs.
In another metropolis, we heard another new and unexampled. Exactly opposite story of the Aetas who traveled from Capas, Tarlac, if only to deliver their Christmas present to the residents of Baseco, Tondo, Manila. They were clad in Santa Claus outfits, brought their harvest of about 10,000 pieces sweet potatoes, and it benefited about 5,000 recipients.
Two valuable substances I learned here. In Davao, at first the lumad experienced discrimination because they invaded the city to beg. In Manila, the Aetas were welcomed as they barged into Tondo for a gift-giving activity.
Davao City housed 13 tribes. According to NCIP it has a total certified ancestral domain of 131,003 hectares, a way vast of land compared to the 11,445 hectares of the Aetas in Pampanga yet they were able to distribute their farm products. These 16 Aeta tribes are even grappling for their rights of the land, fear to be supplanted as the New Clark City is developing in the area.
Well, it is a matter of inculcating a positive mindset. An ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Not to speak about preserving dignity, but how I wish the city government of Davao will also dispense seedlings and other farm inputs to the lumads together with other Christmas giveaways. Who knows it can spark the lumads’ interest to grow and produce a good harvest. Not necessarily to motivate them to reciprocate the city residents, but hopefully for them to enjoy for a lifetime.