DALWANGAN, Malaybalay City (MindaNews/18 December) – Tribal leaders from seven mountains in Northern Mindanao met here for a three-day summit, on Dec. 13-15, aimed at helping indigenous communities adapt to the impact of climate change.
Initiated by Bukidnon-Daraghuyan spiritual leader Bae Inatlawan Docenos Tarino, the summit gathered about 70 tribal leaders from indigenous communities in seven mountains in the region namely, Kitanglad, Kalatungan, Pantaron, Kimangkil, Kalanawan, Sumagaya, and Pamalihi.
“The biggest achievement so far is that the baylans (shamans) were able to hold a major ritual to appease the spirits of nature to stop disasters,” Tarino, echoing the sentiment of the tribal leaders that rituals play a big role in taming disasters, told MindaNews Saturday.
For the tribes, Tarino added, natural disasters and calamities are caused by human abuses and the only thing that can stop them is for people to unite, correct mistakes, and appease the spirits.
Tarino added that the wrath of the disasters like Pablo has become too heavy for humans.
“That is why we needed to gather together, because one or a few baylans cannot sustain the conduct of the ritual,” she said, referring to the kaliga thanksgiving ritual which lasted for a night inside the tulugan or tribal heritage center in Olanguhon.
Olanguhon, a secluded village at the foot of Mt. Kitanglad, served as the venue of the summit.
The summit covered presentations on climate change, reflections on the tribes’ situation, the value of nature and ecosystems services, and an assessment workshop on the hazards in the communities.
Among the hazards cited by the participants were landslide, flood, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruption, mining, logging, hunger, selling of lands, pest attacks, chemicals used by plantations, militarization and bombing, alleged ceasefire violations by the communist and Moro rebels [there is no truce between government and the communist rebels], abuse of sacred sites, entry to ancestral domains by non-Lumads, religions brought by outsiders, and entry of investors without free and prior informed consent.
The participants also cited “anit” or “gava” (curse) as another problem encountered by the tribes.
The Higaonons cited the quarrying for a road project in Impasugong, Bukidnon in an area called Pigtabidan (junction of rivers), which they consider a sacred ground.
Samuel Cadavos, Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office chief, told the summit that they did not grant a quarry permit to the firm.
In their responses, participants cited the need to strengthen and conserve their customs and traditions through the holding of rituals, establishment of tribal schools, exercise of self-governance and the protection of their territory, and guidance from the council of elders.
The summit also became an opportunity for tribal leaders to share notes on their respective initiatives to address the problems at their level.
Datu Djimboy Catawanan of the Manobo-Matigasalug tribe in Simsimon, San Fernando, Bukidnon said discussions about disaster and disaster risk reduction in the community level have become paramount especially after typhoon Pablo.
Catawanan heads SOLEDKI (Saamulan ne Ogpaan te Langun ne Etew alan te Keupianan te Inged) or Solidarity of People in the Community as the way to the Development of the Ancestral Land.
SOLEDKI is composed of 12 communities. In 2003, the tribe’s claim to at least 5,000 hectares of ancestral domain was granted as part of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) awarded to the Federation of Matigsalug-Manobo Tribal Councils (Femmatrics).
Catawanan said there is a need to take care of the environment “while it is still there.”
“As we go home, we bring the resolve to come up with a concrete step to address conditions of climate change in our community,” he said in the closing session of the summit.
For instance, he said, Pablo proved that Simsimon is a flood-prone area.
The Lumads added security is another problem confronting them.
Manobo Datu Ampuan Jeodoro Sulda said that the New People’s Army has issued threats to some Lumad leaders.
“Our call to the NPA is for them to be true to their claim that they protect those who are oppressed. Look at the Lumads, they are also oppressed. Respect us,” he said.
The summit secretariat said at least five tribal leaders were unable to attend due to security threats reportedly coming from the rebels.
The Lumads, however, will not subject them to sala (indigenous justice system), he stressed.
The summit, co-convened by the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, ended with an exchange of tokens among the participants.
Tarino received a hand-woven mat made of “sudsud” grass. Following tradition, she returned the favor by giving hinabol or woven abaca. She also handed most of the participants with wrist bands made of different indigenous materials.
She said the bands will protect the users from harm. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)