Ata tribe holds reconciliation rituals with former rebels

Healing and Reconciliation between Ata Indigenous Cultural Community and Former Rebels "Pakig uli sa maayong kabobut-on tali sa ATA Indigenous Cultural Comnunity ug sa mga Former Rebels paduloong sa malinawon ug malamboon nga katiliingban" held at Brgy Malabog Gym, Sitio Balanban, Malabog Paquibato District Davao City Wednesday morning, April 24.
Healing and Reconciliation between Ata Indigenous Cultural Community and Former Rebels "Pakig uli sa maayong kabobut-on tali sa ATA Indigenous Cultural Comnunity ug sa mga Former Rebels paduloong sa malinawon ug malamboon nga katiliingban" held at Brgy Malabog Gym, Sitio Balanban, Malabog Paquibato District Davao City Wednesday morning, April 24.Arjoy Ceniza/SunStar Photo

MEMBERS of the Ata tribe and former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) marked the end of the cycle of violence in Paquibato and conveyed their commitment to usher in lasting peace within their communities in a reconciliation ceremony in Barangay Malabog on Wednesday. 

The ceremony had the theme “Reconciliation of goodwill between the Ata Indigenous Cultural Communities and the Former Rebels towards a peaceful and prosperous society.” It was led by Indigenous People Structure (IPS) Executive Council Member Tumanuron Datu Boyson Anib, Malabog Barangay Captain Jessielito Areja, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Eastern Mindanao Director Atty. Elisa Evangelista-Lapiña, Peace 911, officials from the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces, former rebels, and other public officials.  

To foster lasting peace in the once conflict-ridden area of Paquibato, the reconciliation program allows for former rebels to make amends and establish goodwill with the indigenous communities. 

During Wednesday’s program, a ritual was conducted symbolizing reparations offered to the indigenous people and the vanishing of any ill will between them and the former rebels.

“Kaming mga Ata, usa sa mga buhing timaan nga kitang mga Pilipino padayon nag-amuma sa atong kultura sa kalinaw. Bisan pa sa mga kadaot na nasanatian tungod sa insurhensiya, wala mapukan ang among paglaom na makabatun og kalinaw (We, the Ata, are one of the living signs that we Filipinos continue to nurture our culture of peace. Despite the damage caused by the insurgency, our hope for peace remains),” stated Anib.

The Ata leader further explained that though the historical grievances of their communities against insurgents must not be forgotten, these must not be allowed to get in the way of mutual aspirations for peace and progress for future generations in Paquibato. 

A ceremonial cutting of ‘uway’ or rattan was also performed, with one end of the rattan held by members of the local government unit and the other by the former rebels and the indigenous peoples. This ritual is emblematic of the partnership between the local government with the indigenous people and the former rebels to instill peace, trust, and cooperation among all stakeholders in Paquibato District. 

Alias Jose, a former leader of the NPA, echoed the sentiments of peace from the Ata leaders and voiced his regrets and shame over the terror and bloodshed they unleashed upon the indigenous groups in Paquibato. He also reiterated his and his fellow former rebels’ commitment to support peace-building efforts in the area. 

“Kami sa Peace 911 ug sa City Government of Davao, under sa leadership sa atng halangdong mayor si Sebastian Duterte, padayon nga musuporta sa mga inisyatibo sa tanan (We in the Peace 911 and the City Government of Davao, under the leadership of Mayor Sebastian, continue to support initiatives from everyone),” declared Lawyer Jonah Presto, Peace 911 focal person and Deputy Chief of Staff of the City Mayor’s Office.

“Sa kapulisan, sa kasundalohan, sa IP, and even sa FR, padayon mi maminaw sa inyohang mga molo, sa inyohang mga inisiyatibo para mapadayon nato ang kalinaw diri sa Paquibato (To the police, the army, the IP, and even to the FRs, we continue to listen to your insights in order to perpetuate peace here in Paquibato,” she added. CIO

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