BARANGAY ANDAP, New Bataan, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/15 January) — Visualizing typhoon “Pablo” as a giant who cursed the people for failing to protect Nature, the Mandaya tribe performed Monday a ritual to end the “curse” and reconcile with Magbabaya or the Creator.
The ritual, led by a female balyan or spiritual leader, Masandak Silat, took place in what used to be the center of this barangay but which is now filled with boulders after the flashfloods and landslides brought by Pablo.
A male balyan (baylan in other tribes of Mindanao) also performed a ritual in support to his Mandaya counterpart, said Allan Delideli, executive director of SILDAP-Southeastern Mindanao, one of the groups supporting the event.
Hundreds of Lumads and visitors gathered around the makeshift altar on the boulders to witness the ritual, which Datu Carlito Maligamon Alejo of the Mangguwangan tribe said is now rarely performed.
The altar held a piece of bamboo whose twigs were tied with red ribbons, a kilala plant which is sacred to the Lumads, and two bottles of beverages.
Alejo said the drinking of “biyais” or wine from “langkuas” or native ginger and sugar cane beforehand was customary to ensure unity among different tribes in performing the ritual together.
During the ritual, the woman balyan danced to the beat of a drum and chanted while holding a bundle of rice stalks.
Bruno Kumnag, a 68-year old Mandaya, told MindaNews he understood what she was saying, which was in a language being used to communicate with Magbabaya.
“She was possessed by the spirits who caused the typhoon Pablo,” he said, adding the tribal leaders were asking her not to send another typhoon.
Kumnag said the Creator was angry over the environmental destruction, and so sent the calamity that killed hundreds and made several others missing for the people to learn.
Alejo said the sacrificial white native chicken symbolized the purity of the Lumads’ intentions and their vow to protect the environment and preserve their traditions.
He explained that a white pig was killed using “bangkaw” or spear, a traditional weapon, to end the curse as it symbolized the violations of the people.
He said Pablo served to remind the people of their violations against the environment including the cutting of trees.
“The forest is a sacred place for the Lumads,” he said, adding that they used to perform rituals before cutting a tree.
“That’s why we are trying to bring back our customs and ask our people to protect Nature,” he stressed.
At the latter part of the ritual, Datu Rody Unlos, Tagum City chieftain representing the Mansaka tribe, offered a prayer to reconcile with Nature, saying it is important for the tribes to be reminded of the Creator.
“We forgot who created us… the sun…Nature,” he said in Cebuano.
Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said in an interview the message of protecting the environment was very clear in the message of Datu Unlos.
Saying it is also a challenge for the local government, he told reporters that the level of awareness of the people in the community has increased.
“They already know that climate change is a reality,” he added.
The ritual marked the 40th day since typhoon Pablo hit the municipality last December 4. It was initiated by the Municipal Tribal Council and the Mandaya leaders with support from SILDAP, KAABAY and TREES.
At least 2,000 Lumads, government officials and members of non-government organizations among others attended the ritual and a program during which the Victims’ Wall near the boulders site was unveiled.
Alejo said members of the Mansaka, Dibabawon, Mangguwangan and Manobo tribes were also invited.
The Municipal Tribal Office of New Bataan said there are about 10,000 members of the Mandaya and Mansaka tribes.
Their ancestral domain has a total area of 92,450 hectares based on Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) No. R11-NEW-0204-019 approved on May 17, 2005.
Leonora T. Quintayo, regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous People said in a text message Tuesday the CADT covers New Bataan and portions of Maragusan and Compostela in Compostela Valley, and Barangay Binondo of Caraga, Davao Oriental.
The ancestral domain was divided into five clusters each managed by a leader and a council, according to the Municipal Tribal Office. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)