Easter re­flec­tion: the wounds of Lu­mads

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION - (tyvelez@gmail.com)

Dur­ing the Holy Thurs­day Mass at the Manila Cathe­dral, two Manobo chief­tains were among the twelve in­vited by Car­di­nal Luis Ta­gle to re­ceive the Catholic tra­di­tional wash­ing of feet. Min­troso Mal­i­bato and Kaylo Bon­tu­lan, from Ka­pa­long and Talain­god, re­spec­tively, joined ten other people that in­clude mi­grants, po­lit­i­cal refugees and a pri­est who was hostaged dur­ing the Marawi Siege.

Car­di­nal Ta­gle re­minds the Catholic people of Pope Fran­cis’ New Year’s mes­sage of con­cern for refugees and mi­grants all over the world. With proxy wars and ag­gres­sion against nat­u­ral re­sources hap­pen­ing, tribes, race, in­dige­nous peo­ples and even states are crum­bling.

This mes­sage is a re­minder to look with con­cern on the plight of the Manobo tribes where Mal­i­bato and Bon­tu­lan live. Theirs is a com­mu­nity dis­placed by counter-in­sur­gency since Noynoy Aquino’s time and up to the present era of Mar­tial Law in Min­danao.

Another in­dige­nous leader who was sup­posed to be in­vited to the Mass was Datu Isidro In­dao from Ki­tao­tao, Bukid­non. But since he was tagged among the many in­dige­nous lead­ers in the DOJ pe­ti­tion as a “com­mu­nist ter­ror­ist”, he opted to skip the event.

Min­troso re­cently lost his brother, 23-year old Gar­ito, who was shot by the para­mil­i­tary in their vil­lage in Barangay Gupi­tan. Their other brother De­lio nar­rated that Gar­ito was warned re­peat­edly to “sur­ren­der”.

Min­troso and most of his vil­lage mem­bers have been bawkets or in­ter­nal refugees in UCCP Haran for three years be­cause of the threats from the para­mil­i­tary. This is also the same story for Bon­tu­lan’s vil­lage in Talain­god.

Their tribes evac­u­ated in 2015, and their num­bers swelled up to nearly 800 in UCCP Haran. Most of them have de­cided to re­turn, tired of be­ing evac­uees and braved the threats of the para­mil­i­tary. But still, many have come back to the evac­u­a­tion cen­ter.

Ev­ery now and then, they re­ceive word of their rel­a­tives, and school teach­ers be­ing ha­rassed in Talain­god and Ka­pa­long. There are re­port­edly more evac­uees com­ing down as sol­diers are la­bel­ing them as NPA and forc­ing them to sur­ren­der.

They have been called many names by the mil­i­tary, and by the gov­ern­ment’s so­cial me­dia trolls. “Sub­ver­sives”, “ba­yaran”, “NPA sym­pa­thiz­ers”. This is dis­con­nect to how city folks fancy their cos­tumes, dances and tra­di­tions. But most of all, this is dis­con­nect to how Lu­mads, the col­lec­tive term of the 18 in­dige­nous tribes in Min­danao, see them­selves.

A Manobo in Haran bak­wet asks: We de­fend our an­ces­tral land from plun­der and plan­ta­tions. But what do they call us? Why are they forc­ing us to sur­ren­der?

These ques­tions call for us to re­flect at the state of things in Min­danao. As Car­di­nal Ta­gle washes their feet, we are re­minded there are his­tor­i­cal and so­cial wounds that the Lu­mads are suf­fer­ing from that we need to heal.

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