THE Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women joined the Lumad people, indigenous groups & various sectors in commemorating the life of Lumad woman leader and ancestral domain defender Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, who passed away last November 20, 2023. Bai is remembered by all for her fierceness, passion, and courage in defending the ancestral domain of the Ata-Manobo in the Pantaron Mountain Range.
Around 94 years ago, Ligkayan Bigkay was born in the Pantaron Range in Natulinan, Talaingod, Mindanao to Matigsalug-Manobo parents. Her honorifics “Bai” and “Bibyaon” were added when she became the first woman to be selected as chieftain in the Talaingod Manobo tribe, as she was recognized since youth as a reliable mediator in her community.
“We join countless others in honoring the long and courageous life of warrior chieftain and revolutionary hero of the masses Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, who has been at the forefront of the Lumad struggle since the 1980s. She was essential in uniting Lumad villages in Talaingod in triumphant resistance against excessive logging by the Alcantara & Sons company in 1993. Her tireless efforts are at the root of so many victories in the struggle for land, environmental justice, women’s rights, and education for Lumad children,” said Amihan National Chair Zenaida Soriano.
“She helped build more than 50 Lumad schools and learning centers in Pantaron through the founding of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon council after the Marcos dictatorship. For her, ensuring the youth was literate was key to giving them power to defend their ancestral domains and rights from predatory companies and the government.”
Throughout Bai’s long and courageous life, she challenged feudal and patriarchal customs, and paved the way for Lumad girls, women, and LGBTQ to stand against the plunder of their ancestral domains and the mass displacement of their people. In her final days, Bai said, “When I leave here, I will become a guiding light for you all. Don’t give up, but continue the struggle.”
Responding to this, Soriano said, “Bai will truly remain a guiding light for generations. Her legacy is one that assert their ancestral domain against land-grabbing private companies, against the terrorist AFP that continues to bomb Lumad communities, and the fascist, pro-imperialist Marcos-Duterte regime. Despite the state’s attacks against Lumad schools and teachers and the red-tagging of IP rights defenders like Bai, they will never dim the light of the Lumad youth who will take up the mantle of intergenerational struggle to defend their ancestral home.”
To honor Bai Bibyaon's legacy, we encourage all peasant and indigenous women to take up the task of advancing rights to land, right to self-determination and women empowerment, by educating within the ranks, uniting into solid mass organizations and movements, and holding concrete actions. At this present time, we are all faced with the chronic crises brought about by the semi-feudal and semi-colonial system, it is more imperative "To Be Bai Bibyaon," and emulate her life of struggle for national democracy and liberation.