THE City Government of Davao is set to choose its indigenous peoples mandatory representative for the City Council. The term for the Ata ethno linguistic group, which is represented by Hon. Berino L. Mambo-o Sr., was within the period of January 2012 to January 2015.

Brief background about Ka'gan people: Ka'gan or Kalagan is an Islamized ethno-linguistic group located at the Davao region. They are the only Islamized indigenous people who are originally from Davao area. There are limited data available about the history of the Ka'gan.

Unlike the Tausugs, Iranuns, Maranaws, or Maguindanaons, the Ka'gan people lack cultural identity. They are associated with the Tagakaolo, which are an indigenous people in Mindanao that mostly embraced Christianity. The Ka'gan shares the same language with the Tagakaolo, Mandaya, Mansaka and Kamayo. These languages belong to the Austronesian and Malayo-Polynesian language families.

According to our Ka'gan expert Bai Sonya M. Vicente, the word Ka'gan came from the word "ka'g" which means "to warn" and "to inform someone" (like "Ka'gasi Joseph", which means "Inform Joseph."

How this word evolved remains a "mystery." However, according to oral traditions of the Ka'gan, their early civilization is situated at "Bawiy" (which is now the Mayo river in Mati City, Davao Oriental). In Bawiy, the branches of "maa'bong trees" are tied up with "binaningnamu'saa" (yellow kerchief), which means this is a territory of the Ka'gan people. This area was guarded by "Ul-loy" (male) and "Baul-loy" (female). They were believed to be the first Ka'gan people living in Bawiy. They conduct their rituals for their gods and goddesses below the "maa'bong tree". In front of the "maa'bong" tree is the "lii'maw tree" (a native variety of a pomelo tree) where women to clean their hair and scalp used its extracted juices. Their tarasilal/oral genealogy dates back even before the advent of Islam and continue during the Islamic age, Spanish, and American time. We lack time and space to discuss this thoroughly.

We are still in the process of properly documenting the Ka'gan oral traditions. Hopefully, we can properly document this for the present and future generation of Ka'gan.

What is indigenous peoples mandatory representation (IPMR)?

According to Atty. Jesus B. Doque IV, Director III of the Department of Interior and Local Government, "Republic Act 8371, otherwise known as the "Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1991" which was approved and signed into law on 29 October 1997, provides that the Indigenous Cultural Communities / Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) have the right to participate fully, if they so choose, at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies through procedures determined by them as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous political structures. Said law recognizes the policy of the State in affording the indigenous peoples communities adequate in the local sanggunians at all levels."

The minimum requirement as defined by the local government for the mandatory representation states that, each candidate must be a natural born Filipino citizen, a registered voter, an IP by blood and recognized leader in an ancestral domain/land or resettled community, and is knowledgeable of customary ways of which he or she is a member.

The guideline also provided that the candidate must be a leader who stands for the well being of the IPs, who has a vision and works for their welfare, protects and preserves the IP culture and traditions, cares for the protection of the environment, who has honor because of his or her performance and achievements, and knowledgeable of local legislation.

The guidelines also stated that the representative must be non-partisan and can "read and write."

"The guideline, which was developed through consultations with the IP stakeholders, also provided that nomination and confirmation of a mandatory representative is the exclusive right of the IPs in their respective territory without prejudice to their customary laws and practices". (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

As of now, there are eight known applicants for the IPMR for the City of Davao for the Ka'gan ethane-linguistic group. They are as follows: Deputy Mayor Nicanor Mohammad; HalilaSudigar; Joel Bustamante; Mike Apadan; Larry Cabaguio; Larry Lapitan; UstadzJanorBalo; and Mr. Pandadagan.

I believe that the IPMR is a good opportunity for us to resolve the problem in Mindanao. I discussed in my previous work that "most people in Mindanao ask this question, "what is the reason or, what are the reasons for the conflict in Mindanao?" Until now no one seems to know the answer. Even the antagonists are at a loss. Some of the ready answers usually given are lack of economic opportunities, land conflict, religious persecution, lack of self-government, and so forth".

Those problems however cannot be disregarded. However, the one singularly important and indispensable problem is the inability of the subject peoples to continuously manage, define, or administer their affairs according to the ways and means that they -- like their ancestors -- practice.

In short, this is primarily a question of cultural autonomy. And this is not to say that we subscribe to the view that culture should be static. No.

Culture, like all human affairs, should be progressive. But a nation or an ethnic group must and should be allowed to develop its culture on its own terms, unhampered by legal or institutional obstacles. The Ka'gan in Davao City and in the Davao region is given a big opportunity today. I believed also that the Ka'gan people must be empowered to conduct its affairs according to its own cultural norms and practices. It should be allowed to retrace its steps and, once more, move forward as a culturally autonomous entity within the Philippine State.

Lastly, "a culturally satisfied people are a politically stable people. And a politically stable people are a peace-loving people."