IP rights advocate’s guardian says ward wished to bury her immediately

Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay (left), Bai Lita Ambuat (right)
Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay (left), Bai Lita Ambuat (right)Christine Joice Cudis/SunStar File Photo (left), Screengrabbed from Save Our Schools Network/Facebook (right)

THE legal guardian of Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, a revered advocate for Indigenous People’s (IP) rights, said that when her ward was still alive, she wished to be buried immediately so that she could not be used by her family.

Bai Lita Ambuat, the eldest niece of Bai Bibyaon, revealed in a video uploaded by Save our Schools Network-SMR on February 29, 2024, that as the legal guardian of Bai Bibyaon, she decided to bury her remains immediately according to the latter’s wishes.

Ambuat said that Bai Bibyaon told her, “Kung mamatay ako, ilibing ninyo agad ako, huwag ninyong hayaan na gamitin ako ng aking mga apo, mga pamangkin, kasi gagamitin ako ng mga sundalo at pagpeperahan ako (If I die, bury me immediately, don’t let my grandchildren, nieces and nephews use me, because the soldiers will use me to make money).”

She also shared that it is a huge transgression in the Manobo tribe to exhume a body that has already been buried because this is prohibited. She added that Rurelyn Bay-ao and Datu Benito Bigkay, the niece and nephew of Bai Bibyaon, just both want money.

“Ikaw Langlang at Benito, mga mukha kayong pera! Bakit ninyo ibenbenta si Ino? Isipin mo nang mabuti Langlang, dati ng kinukuha si Ino sa Manila, hindi siya sumama kasi nanindigan siya. Ayaw niyang umuwi sa kabundukan kasi nanindigan pa siya para sa inyo, Langlang (You Langlang [referring to Rurelyn] and Benito you all just want money! Why would you sell Ino [referring to Bai Bibyaon]? Think carefully Langlang, when Ino was asked to return home from Manila, she didn't cooperate because she stood her ground. She didn’t want to go home to the mountains because she stood for you, Langlang),” she said.

She stressed that Sabokahan IPwomen is not at fault as well as the other groups who extended their help to Bai Bibyaon, and that she and Bai Bibyaon have the right to stay in Manila because they will continue to fight for their lands.  

Meanwhile, in a statement by the Save our Schools Network-SMR, they belied the statements of Bai Bibyaon’s “self-proclaimed family” and that their claims are in opposition to Bai Bibyaon’s principles and values.

“They have belittled Bai Bibyaon's passing by reducing it to baseless accusations, red-tagging, and even unwarranted demands for financial gain and royalties,” they wrote in their Facebook post.

They said that Rurelyn, as well as other people who are showing concern for Bai Bibyaon, have abandoned the dreams of Bai Bibyaon and have allied themselves to the exploiters. They claimed that Rurelyn and the Mindanao Indigenous People’s Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL), which are organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are “traitorous individuals.” 

“They affirm the state policy of attacks against the lumad and heightened militarization of communities, which continues to this day under [President Ferdinand] Marcos, Jr. These traitors have no moral authority to claim ownership over Bai Bibyaon's memory,” they said.

Last February 23, 2024, Rurelyn together with Datu Benito Bigkay appealed for the remains of their aunt to be returned to her hometown in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Rurelyn said that Bai Bibyaon’s revenues will only go to Sabokahan and Save our Schools Network, not to her family.

Bai Bibyaon was the first and only female chieftain in the Manobo tribe's history, a respected environmentalist, and a defender of the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs). RGP

Related stories:

Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay (left), Bai Lita Ambuat (right)
Bai Bibyaon Bigkay: Lumad rights advocate, passes away at 90
Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay (left), Bai Lita Ambuat (right)
High salute to Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay!
Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay (left), Bai Lita Ambuat (right)
Kin of IP rights advocate appeal for her body’s return


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