Bukidnon tribe to revisit landmark of traditional peace agreement

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 Apr) – Descendants of the Bukidnon tribe’s Datu Mansikiabo-Datu Mampaalong in Malaybalay City have scheduled on April 30 and May 1 a “panendan” or a ritual to commemorate the historic landmark of the traditional peace agreements at the headwaters of Tagoloan River.

The ritual will be held in a traditional gathering or “kaamulan” of the descendants who call themselves the Tagolwan tribe, one of the Bukidnon tribes originally based in Malaybalay.

The tribe has been gathering annually but this year they dubbed the event as the “Tagoloan pilgrimage.”

Retired Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Estrada, also known as Datu Lumalambong-Manlumakbaw, said in his letter to tribe leaders the event is very significant in the tribe’s assertions as Bukidnon-Tagolwanon communities based on the traditional peace agreements.

Estrada is known in the tribe and the community in Malaybalay as an “elder datu” who is also the Tagolwanon traditional boundary peace keeper. He retired as judge on April 12.

He added that the annual commemoration of the living landmarks of the tribe’s ancestral territory as indigenous peoples of Bukidnon is covered by the native titles indicating pre-colonial rights recognized and protected under the law.

Datus Masikiabo and Mampaalong are considered among the two leaders who pioneered the development of the original inhabitants of Malaybalay, according to researcher and historian Ludivina Opena. They were among the leaders of the area now known as Malaybalay when the
Spaniards reached Mindanao.

Opena said Mampaalong or Mariano Melendez was the one who was baptized by the Spanish friars and submitted to the conquerors in the erection of Malaybalay as a Spanish pueblo. He was among 31 datus who pledged allegiance to the Spanish crown.

Mansikiabo, who was later known as Alejandro Bontao, evaded conquest but was later baptized, Opena said. He is known for being a brave warrior.

The pilgrimage event, Estrada added in the letter, will be attended by descendants of the keepers of the traditional boundaries along Bayug River, Maridugao River, Pulangi River, and those from Misamis Oriental and Agusan provinces.

Estrada added that during the event, the “pasagi” or the traditional peace treaty councils will be affirmed as customary governing councils of the indigenous communities’ assertion of indigenous nationhood.

Based on the schedule of the gathering, Estrada will give an overview of the Tagoloan Tulungdanen history in relation to the on-going peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Talaandig Datu Migketay Victorino Saway will also give inputs on the presentation of the indigenous struggles and challenges on the recognition of ancestral land rights.

Seven traditional boundary keepers were scheduled to share about their views in a traditional testimonial.

Estrada’s son Burt Estrada, a lawyer, will also read the draft declaration and proclamation of “Bukidnon ownership as native title of indigenous nation.”

Erwin Marte, pilgrimage facilitator, told MindaNews that one of their objectives in this year’s gathering is to come up with a unified position on the peace process. In Estrada’s letter, they asserted that the Bukidnon ancestral territory is outside the Bangsamoro Homeland.”

This is the first time that the annual gathering will tackle the issue. In the past, the gathering is largely a tribe gathering, mostly “dang-ul” or installation of a datu, wedding, or other celebrations.

Tribe elders say that Tagoloan is the center or the origin of the Bukidnon ancestral territory. Tagoloan is from the word “tag-uluhan” or source. In the tribe’s history, it is where the “panalawahig” or ritual to honor the deity of water is held. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)