WHEN the late chieftain of the Higaonon Tribe of Cagayan de Oro City, Fausto Orasan known as Datu Sandigan, was passionately advocating and protecting the integrity of the environment in the uplands against illegal loggers and miners, he was killed after seven attempts to his life. On the seventh attempt, his residence in Pigsag-an was rained with bullets by these armed men who, as narrated to me by Datu Sandigan himself, were even brandishing their high powered guns, shouting while walking in the streets at 2:00 o'clock in the morning not to follow the good Datu or else, they would also be killed. Miraculously, he survived but not the on the 8th attempt in the mining area of Tuburan during his watchful visit as he was then a volunteer to report to the "Task Force Kinaiyan," which I am heading to stop these illegal mining activities as embodied in the "Writ of Kalikasan" issued a year before by the Court of Appeals.
His life was taken away by the assassins' bullets in that Saturday afternoon of September 13,2014 in his efforts to stop the degradation of the environment where the Higaonons are now living who were before inhabitants of the city but now have been pushed to live in the hinterlands.
Why must Datu Sandigan sacrifice his life for Mother Earth? Perhaps, those who are viewing the planet as private property for enclosure of the commons to satisfy their profit motive that have already captured the mindset of all governments, institutions, universities and even religious groups, Datu Sandigan, for giving his life for God's creation, is crazy. That was how we were perceived before when we were lying in the streets to stop the illegal flow of logs in the 90's.
The truth is what Datu Sandigan had dedicated his life for Earth Democracy for justice, sustainability and peace which seemed to be too alien to a world that has been deeply buried in so much materialism and consumerism. No less than the world known environmentalist and a physicist Dr. Vandana Shiva, a professor in a University in Canada mentioned to me when she was visiting us during the heights of our direct action against logging through human barricades together with Datu Sandigan and the IPs in the 90's that what the Indigenous Peoples are advancing worldwide is Earth Democracy which is both an ancient worldview and an emergent political movement for peace, justice and sustainability. She said that "Earth Democracy connects the particular to the universal the diverse to the commons, and the local to the global. Native American and Indigenous cultures worldwide have understood and experience life as a continuum between human and non-human species and between present, past and future generations. An 1848 speech attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe captures this continuum."
"How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If you do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red men. This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites our family. All things are connected."
Earth Democracy is the awareness of these connectedness and of the rights and responsibilities that flow from them. This is what our Indigenous People are advancing as exemplified by Datu Sandigan. Indeed, all species, peoples, and cultures have intrinsic worth. It is the firm belief of that Indigenous People that all beings are subjects who have integrity, intelligence, and identity not objects to ownership, manipulation, exploitation, or disposability. No humans have the right to own other species, other people, or the knowledge of other cultures through patents and other intellectual property rights.
Today, the Indigenous People (the higaonons and maranaos) are very much bothered as their ancestral domain is now the subject of interest by the LGUs nearby to convert a very wonderful holy ground into tourism site for money rakings. In their letter to me, they expressed such alarm, to wit:
"Kaya naman kaming mga Tribung Hig-onon at Tribung Maranao ng Barangay Lantud ay nagkakaisa upang maisa katuparan ang kagustuhan ng aming mga ninuno para sa kapakanan naming lahat hanggang sa darating pang henerasyon, kong kaya kami ngayon ay maninindigan upang bawiin ang aming karapatan sa pamuno sa aming teretoryo na linalapastangan ng mga taong nasa posisyon. Sa pamamagitan ng aming coop na Igpanuyadug sa Abaga Ta Bayud Agriculture Cooperative at sa tulong nga lahat ng ahensiya hanggang sa National Government lalong lalo na sa pinaka mamahal naming Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte inaasahan naming mga tulong, babangon kami kasama ang basbas ng aming mga ninuno at sa biyaya ni Magbabaya!"
Yes, we must recognize the rights of the Indigenous People as soon as possible as they have categorically stated in their position paper: "Gagawin namin ang lahat mapangalagaan lang ang aming kalikasan sa loob ng aming ancestral domain dahil pinaglaban ito ang aming ninuno sa loob ng ilang siglo kaya handa rin kaming pumatay at handa rin magpakamatay upang ipaglaban ang aming karapatan sa loob ng aming teretoryo."
By the way, the newly formed cooperative is headed by a very brave warrior and brigade commander of the North Eastern Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the 6th Special Force Unit, Sultan Abdul Ayunan Amoran. With him are some five battalion commanders and 1,400 MILF combatants.
Indeed, Mindamora Falls is the manifestation of the Unseen Being, the creator. Can there be a more amazing site on earth than the radiating two-story waterfalls flowing amidst the backdrop of the green scenery of blooming trees and flowers and above are flocks of birds hovering and dancing to the music of the wind in harmony with the music emanating from water falling, Yes, just like Datu Sandigan's stand, "It is where Magbabaya is that is worth dying for."