MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/21 May) – I can find no valid reasons why the military bombed the ancestral domain of the Bukidnon tribe within the Mt. Kitanglad Range in Barangay Dalwangan in this city, on April 21. Contrary to what the military may have declared, the Bukidnons of Dalwangan are a most peaceful people in this side of the world at least. Thus they were shocked and confused when a fighter plane came and dropped those bombs on the same places that they consider sacred.
As reported by MindaNews’ Walter Balane, Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, the tribe’s chief shaman and head claimant, was in tears when she narrated the bombing incident. Having known Bae Inatlawan since 1996, I understand her grief as her people’s spiritual leader. She and her tribe take any violent incident within their territory as a transgression against their belief in spirit-presence in Nature.
For the military officials concerned, the bombing may just be a routine part of their job. But for the tribe it was a desecration of their sacred grounds. For the Lumads, sacred grounds include the burial sites of their ancestors, worship areas, and other places that hold great cultural and historical significance. To illustrate better how the Lumads have felt, imagine how Christians would react if their churches are bombed. Or think of what Muslims would do if the same thing were done to their mosques.
Worse, the military is said to be planning to make Bae Inatlawan and the members of her tribe surrender as New People’s Army rebels. If true, it would be the height of stupidity. Consider these facts and judge for yourself:
Bae Inatlawan is a member of the Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range representing the indigenous peoples. Just recently, she was appointed as Lumad representative to the barangay council of Dalwangan based on the provision on mandatory representation in the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.
Bae Inatlawan’s official functions are offshoots of her active involvement in the protection of Mt. Kitanglad and in her track record as advocate of Lumad rights. If the military doubts her credentials as a consistent partner in government programs concerning the protected area and her tribe, they can ask Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan, Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., Congressman Florencio Flores Jr., and provincial environment officer Felix Mirasol Jr.
As for me, I won’t hesitate to say that Bae Inatlawan is worth more than a battalion of soldiers the government would send to Kitanglad.
So what’s the point or real motive in bombing her tribe’s territory? We can only hope it’s not a prelude to the entry of capitalists as is happening in other parts of Mindanao. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno writes mainly on the environment, human rights and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)