CARAGA, Davao Oriental -- It has been almost a year since the brutal murder of Sangab's tribal chieftain, Likid Copertino Banugan, but his young successor along with the entire community is determined to keep the Mandaya spirit alive by continuing to make their culture resilient and their peace preserved.
During the celebration of the 19th Kalindugan Festival in Sitio Sangab -- one of the 13 sub-villages that comprise the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title-01 (CADT-01) in the village of Pichon in Caraga town, 26-year-old Christine Banugan, the community's new tribal chieftain, said she will do her best to fill her father's shoes as a steward of their culture.
Christine Banugan, the youngest daughter of the slain tribal chieftain, was chosen by the "mangkatadong" or Council of Elders as the community's new "trailblazing" leader. A promising Business Accounting graduate from Ateneo de Davao University, Banugan turned down job offers with attractive compensation packages to live and serve the community she holds dear.
"It is not easy to lead people, especially when you are younger than most of the people you lead. But with our community's overwhelming support, the pressures and challenges become bearable. We are united and we support each other because we share the same goals and aspirations," she said.
Despite the tragic death of her father, Copertino Banugan, who died in the hands of Communist New People's Army rebels, the young Banugan is resolved to continue her father's legacy in preserving the Mandaya culture and their natural heritage while defending the peace within their ancestral lands -- such huge responsibilities that even the most seasoned leaders admit to being arduous and challenging.
Home to more than 7,000 residents, the CADT-01 territory covers about 14,000 hectares of ancestral lands. Banugan said that among the most challenging part of her leadership here is in peace and order.
Although Sitio Sangab has its own defense system that has been guarding their lands for decades from a wide-array of adversaries -- from rebels to illegal loggers, this peace-loving Mandaya community welcomes the presence of the government's military troops that have been helping them shield their community from threats.
"We are happy because the Philippine Army has always been there behind us," she said, citing the military's role not just as stewards of peace but as a true partner in development, encouraging the indigenous people's meaningful participation in building developments in their community.