AUGUST was the indigenous people's month. But as it was before, there is not much cause for celebration this year.
And I'm not talking here about the canceled events of Kadayawan, Kaamulan or other festivals in the cities in Mindanao that promote a commercialized or exhibit type "presentation" of indigenous peoples as motifs or dances. That's how privileged we are, and how hyped we want the Lumad to be. Lest we forget, last year's Indak-Inday sa Kadayawan drew controversy when the winning group wore G-strings that was not a representation of the Lumad culture at all.
If we want to see how indigenous peoples are doing, we have to look at the sad news in the past week.
A Lumad school in Barangay Mapute, San Fernando, Bukidnon was torn down by the paramilitary. The school was built by initiatives of an NGO Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation with the local community through funds from EU. This again shows how the state contradicts its sworn duty to provide education for the indigenous peoples.
The Save Our Schools network said that under the Duterte administration, there has been 178 Lumad schools operated by NGOs or church groups that have been forcibly closed because of the military operations that brand the schools as "rebel schools."
But the most disgusting news of abuse happened in San Marcelino, Zambales where some Aeta were tortured by soldiers during a military operation, were two Aetas were reportedly forced to eat manure by the soldiers belonging to the 7th Infantry Division. The two victims had been hospitalized and reportedly traumatized.
Such degrading acts deserve to be investigated to punish these erring officers. The indigenous coalition Sandugo said this violates the Anti Torture Law and the Division commander is liable for these acts.
Sandugo also points out that the military operations had bombed 659 Aeta families away from San Marcelino. It is said that the mining exploration of Dizon Copper-Silver Mines wanted to begin their operation in their ancestral land.
The Save Our Schools will also be honoring Lumad martyrs whose death anniversaries come on this week. Emerito Samarca, the director of Alcadev School in Liangao, Surigao del Sur was killed on September 1, 2015, and Obello Bayao, a student of Salugpongan in Talaingod, was killed on September 5, 2017.
This is a huge disparity, how city governments promote the indigenous culture, yet the Lumad schools are being destroyed, and the indigenous peoples are treated like dirt. There are still more than 300 Manobo Lumad in the sanctuary of UCCP Haran.
We should look at ourselves, do we truly think of indigenous months as mere "celebration" or find ways to empower or help make the Lumad find their self-determination and place in our nation.