HISTORY tells us that each one must undergo a transformation of the heart or spirit by shedding-off one’s apathy or be conscienticized inwardly to scale heights of spirituality as human beings are embodied spirits but such transformation must have social impact. The message is resoundingly clear: one’s transformation may produce a saint but has no effect in society unless oppressive structures and systems are changed.
Unknown to many, there is an on-going spiritual awakening in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro especially in the life of the Indigenous People, the Higaonons, whose spirituality has been touched by an amazing spiritual leader named Pastor Noli Garvida of the Christ, the Livingstone Fellowship when he began his missionary work, touching base with the Lumads some 25 years ago.
Today, there are now some 14 Tribal Churches with some 16 tribal pastors serving nearly a thousand converted Higaonons with no less than an ecological warrior leading the tribe to protect God’s vanishing creation, Pastor Roberto Cabaring. With so much passion to protect the forest ecosystem in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro, I was so surprised to discover the beautiful remaining forest in Pulang Lupa, Dansolihon when I went there to meet the United Higaonon Multipurpose Cooperative on March 24, 2018.
Yes, destruction of the ecosystems has characterized the life of our ecological people who have been living in the forests sustainably for thousands of years, relying on these billions of flora and fauna as their marketplace and pharmacies. They know what leaves to boil to cure diabetes, high blood pressure, fever or even cancer. Want to eat “Osa” or “baboy-damo”? No problem. They can hunt anytime.
Based on a Satellite Map, in Cagayan de Oro alone, the 50 thousand hectares of dipterocarp forest and all the billions of living endemic organisms are nowhere to be found having been massively logged, exploited and massacred by six logging companies. But a portion of these endemic flora and fauna in the little natural forest miraculously stand which I saw when I took the courage of traveling with Pastor Noli and colleagues after two hours of what seemed to be a never-ending uphill climb.
My curiosity on why there is a miraculous preservation was answered after dialoguing with the tribal leaders and pastors. There is this realization that our Indigenous People, as Pastor Noli would described them, are indeed special people who were once upon a time, masters of the land using it in the spirit of sharing and service, that they did not own, for how can you own something that will outlast you. You cannot own the land, the land will own you.
But powerful loggers came brandishing Timber License Agreements (TLAs) and their life was never the same again. The Lumads have lost everything including their cultural integrity because of impoverishment. Many have no choice but to dance the music of sacrificing mother earth and the people to the altar of greed and profit by becoming workers of logging or mining companies.
But one man came equipped with high spirituality believing that protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship. What is very amazing in the pastoral work of Pastor Noli with the Higaonons is that one’s spiritual awakening in following Christ goes with it serving the “least of our brethren” and in becoming stewards of God’s creation. Yes, there is enough for every one’s needs but not for every one’s greed.
It is great to know that one’s spirituality has touched thousands of lives to effect the much needed paradigm shift towards a kind of development that dignified the essence of man as created in the “image and likeness of God,” never subservient to unbridled materialism and consumerism.
When one’s spirituality is enhanced, miracles follow. In praying over a leper in Barangay Pigsag-an, Pastor Noli, to everyone’s surprise, did a Christ-like miracle of curing the sick. This was even followed by even a more biblical-like miracle of putting a dead woman back to life. Two lady Pastors in Sitio Butay, Dansolihon, had jointly prayed over a dead woman’s body who had just died after giving birth for reason of hemorrhage. After the outpouring of so much blood, breathing had stopped manifesting the leaping forward of the woman’s soul to the Great Beyond. Thirty minutes later, the dead did breathe again showcasing an astonishing miracle. To God be the glory!