Tribal burial site to be declared a nat’l cultural treasure

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 April) – The National Museum is set to declare a sacred tribal burial site in Bukidnon a national cultural treasure, a Lumad rights advocacy group today said.

In a statement, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LCR) quoted National Museum curator Angel Bautista as having said the centuries-old Apu Mamalu burial site in Barangay Mikasili in Damulog town is third on the list for approval.

The two other cultural sites on the top list are the Maribojoc Church of Bohol and the Manila Metropolitan Theater in Manila. Both are classified as important cultural properties as defined in the National Cultural Heritage Act of 1999.

The imminent declaration came in the wake of a proposal to build a mega-dam in southern Bukidnon, which will submerge at least 23 Manobo villages.

Wilmar Ampuan, a Manobo leader said the proponents of the dam project are doing social preparation without respecting the traditional processes of the Lumads.

He welcomed the impending declaration of the burial site as a cultural treasure as a move that will help in preserving the Manobo culture and home. He said their culture forbids burial grounds from being transferred or desecrated.

Apu Mamalu was the supreme ancestor of the Manobo, T’duray and other Lumad tribes of Mindanao. His brother, Apu Tabunaway, embraced Islam and became the ancestor of the Moro tribes.

Oral tradition says Tabunaway was a skillful forest gatherer and recognized as the Datu while the latter led the fishing chores in the village, including the burial place.

The Manobos occupied the lower valley of the Pulangi River in what is now Cotabato City. In the 14th century, the Muslim missionary Shariff Kabungsuan arrived and propagated Islam in Mindanao. Tabunaway was converted into Islam faith while Mamalu chose to retain his Lumas beliefs.

Mamalu then moved to the highlands of the Pulangi River because he did not want to be converted. The Mamalu clan then became known as the Manobo, while the Tabunaway clan became the Maguindanaos.

Tribal leaders from way back then believed that Mamalu was buried in a Stonehenge-like formation, with hundreds of burial rocks, near the bank of the Pulangi River. (MindaNews)