Babsa-ay: Lumads, we all are

"TAYO ay nakasakay sa mundong naglalakbay sa gitna ng kalawakan," chants Joey Ayala and his band, Bagong Lumad (New Native); and I'm quickly transported into a beautiful place, not so utopian. For it exists somewhere in those forests bearing the Lumad's footprints.

The Lumads' story hit the headlines on Friday; and it was one of joy and relief. "Lumad" to return home after Rody assurance, it read in the national daily's Across the Nation section.

The President told us to trust him. Our people can now return to their villages, Pasaka Lumad Confederation Chair Kerlan Fanagel said. And trust him, they did.

Good news, indeed. Good vibes too.

Indeed again, the Lumad people are in a better position to define their destiny. And Wikipedia defines "Lumad," short for Katawhang Lumad (indigenous people) as the term used to denote the group of indigenous people in Mindanao.

Having special kinship with our brothers and sisters who live in the mountains down south, surely us Cordillerans are likewise grateful and even more so, happy, for the looming reverse exodus. For we, too, are Lumads. All Filipinos, actually are (although some prefer to look "foreign"). For to us and just like to some 3, 000 Lumads, having fled their villages following the September 2015 killing of Lumad leaders, evacuation centers is not home.

It is far from it.

Home is happiness; and the village is home. Like bonfire, it's that simple and inviolate.

What chokes us witnesses is the undying irony in witnessing natives becoming refugees in their own land. Still. In lands they OWN, in lands where they roamed, before guns even reached our shores and our foothills.

What resuscitate us, thank God, are the measures being done to help us all. By "Lumads" themselves.

Due to limited experience, three Lumads first came to mind when the Lumad's story broke out. In a sense, they are interconnected, interwoven, in the continuing saga of the Lumad people: President Rody, Dr. Mike Bengwayan and Joey Ayala.

All three, in diverse ways sought to bring to light the plight of the Lumads and did something to better it: The first, for his protection and assurances. Uncle Mike, for his work in teaching Lumads farming methods, Cordillera cooking too. One day, he got ten broiler culls and served pinikpikan. They loved it, he told me another day. Ten b-culls would not suffice the next time. He also told the story of the village elder, quiet and unassuming, but wise in his ways. I hope I too could meet him soon.

As to Joey Ayala, a Bukidnon Lumad, I find it fateful that he did his first recording in 1982 in a Davao City makeshift studio. He would lead the band Bagong Lumad later on.

As the Lumads walk towards home, I hope we could walk with them. And amid the beautiful cacophony of the Kubing, Kulinting, drums, and electric and bass guitars, we can all chant, deep in the forest, under stars unadulterated by vials of hate, and unstained by blood: Ang lahat ng bagay ay magka-ugnay... magka-ugnay ang lahat.


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